Historic hotel's contents for sale

The stately, five-story Vance Hotel in downtown Statesville welcomed millions of visitors from 1922 to 2008. It also served for a time as a retirement home, hosted several major movies and, according to some local folklore, may have been haunted.

But now, with new plans on the horizon, the unique contents of the now-vacant building - which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places - are up for sale.

Thomas Wilson, the owner of the 72,000-square-foot building, will offer restaurant and banquet room furniture, paintings, kitchen utensils, tapestries and many other items in a massive liquidation sale from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day next Sunday through Sept. 24.

From 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today there is a pre-sale walk-through to allow inspection of the many items. Virtually everything that's been inside the hotel will be on display.

Proceeds of the sale will be split between Wilson and a church in south Statesville.

Wilson acquired the hotel in 2008 from its former owner, Cecil Stallard, who bought it in 2003 and kept it open until fall 2006. Caretaker Wade Ikard said the hotel is under contract for sale.

Stallard and Ikard have both heard that a bar, restaurant and banquet facility are among the new owner's planned uses. Both declined to identify the new owner or provide other information on future plans for the old hotel at Front and Center streets.

Ikard spent most of Labor Day weekend doing an inventory of what's inside.

The list shows more than 1,000 items for sale. Among the more valuable and historic pieces are the paintings that adorned the hotel lobby and hallways since it opened 88 years ago.

One painting, portraying a small girl, has played a role in a strange story about the hotel.

According to some local historians, late one night many years ago, a young girl got into a dispute with her mother and bolted from their hotel room. Wearing an expensive, beaded dress, the girl went to sit by the hotel's swimming pool, to have a moment by herself. Then she decided to dive in. The weight of the dress pulled her to the bottom, and she drowned.

Since then, people have reported seeing a young girl near the hotel, dripping water from head to toe.

Since the drowning, Ikard said, visitors would come to the hotel around Halloween to check things out. The staff would move the painting, which is for sale, to the lobby to "add to the atmosphere," he said.

Ikard could not verify that the girl in the picture was the one who drowned, but he confirmed that a drowning occurred at the pool years ago.

And the legend lives on.

"When the movie crew was here with George Clooney in 2008 shooting the movie 'Leatherheads,'" local historian Nancy Davis said, "there were phone calls for me, the librarians and other historians, because the crew swore they kept seeing this wet girl in the hotel."

Iredell County's 2007 property revaluation listed the hotel's market value as $926,000. Some of the artifacts inside, however, may be priceless, Stallard said.

"Quite a few of the items, such as pictures, mirrors and kitchen utensils, stem from the original opening in 1922," Stallard said.

When he bought the hotel, nearly a dozen weddings and banquets were already booked there. He kept it open until all the events had been held.

The hotel hosted many famous people during the three years it was open under his watch, Stallard said, including former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole and Buffalo Bills star quarterback Jim Kelly.