A Brief History
reprinted from the Washington News-Reporter, March 7, 2002
Patrick Fitzpatrick, a Catholic from Armagh, Ireland, moved from New York City to Lexington, GA, in 1840. John H. Fitzpatrick was born in Lexington in 1843. In 1844, the family moved to Washington where Thomas M. Fitzpatrick was born in 1856.
The Fitzpatrick brothers, John and Thomas, were conducting a highly successful mercantile business known as T.M. Fitzpatrick & Brothers, in Lancaster, SC, when the worst fire in Washington-Wilkes history broke out on June 11, 1895.
As a result of the fire, the buildings occupying the land where the Fitzpatrick Hotel is located were destroyed. The Fitzpatrick brothers returned to their hometown of Washington and began construction on the hotel.
On March 20, 1899, the Washington Chronicle reported that "Mr. John Fitzpatrick was here on Saturday looking after the magnificent new hotel he is building, and also inspecting the elegant furniture which is being received. Our people are very much gratified that he has made up his mind to add such an ornament to our town and will always show a high appreciation."
The Fitzpatrick brothers installed the first telephone system in Washington in the hotel. They also owned the first telephone company in Washington. The system was later sold to the Dyson family who still maintain control today.
An advertisement in the Chronicle on November 14, 1899, made clear that T.M. Fitzpatrick & Brothers was very much in business using the ground floor of the hotel as display space for the sale of dry goods, men's furnishings, and groceries.
The advertisement declared, "We have got the grandest old county and town upon God's green earth, so let us all pull together and make it the garden spot of the South. We return here after an absence of 30 years. We were told time and time again that Washington was dead; that we could do no business. Was your prediction correct? No! A thousand times no! Our three large stores are always crowded. We are doing twice the business we anticipated."
In the same year, an account in a larger newspaper calls T.M. Fitzpatrick & Brothers the largest business firm in Wilkes County, grossing $100,000 a year. (Remember, this was in 1899).
John Fitzpatrick died in 1907. Thomas Fitzpatrick died in 1911. John was unmarried. Thomas had a wife and one daughter, Marie Fitzpatrick, was is the mother of Mary Fortson Darby and Mildred Fortson Anderson, both of whom live in Washington.
Thomas Fitzpatrick's death threw the family's affairs into chaos since he did not have a will. A complicated lawsuit, filed by his sisters, eventually led to the sale of the Fitzpatrick Hotel in 1914 to Mrs. Alice Hynes and her daughters. The renamed it Columbus Inn and operated I until 1922 when it was sold to the rivals of the Fitzpatrick brothers, W.T. Johnson and Company.
Once again the name changed to the Washington Hotel and this it stayed until 1951.
Marie Fitzpatrick told of living in a suite of rooms on the hotel's second floor. Here she would watch the "young men" of Washington from the second floor of the hotel's turret. Her main interest was Lawrence Fortson, whom she married after her father's death.