#TBT: Orton Hotel

Orton Hotel on Fire, January 21,1949 (Photo: Cape Fear Museum)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — In 1888 the Orton Hotel was built in Downtown Wilmington. The hotel was perhaps the grandest in the city until it burned down in 1949.

After the fire all that was left of the hotel was the laundry, the pool hall and the barber shop, which was all in the basement.

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Orton’s is the oldest continuously operating pool room in the United States.

The building is rumored to be haunted. As the story goes, a guest at the hotel was on his deathbed at a nearby hospital and his brother came to town to be with him in his final days. The brother is said to have decided to use the hotel room the night of the fire without telling management. Weeks after the debris was cleaned up, the brother’s burned body was found face down on a mattress in that hotel room.

Other guests were evacuated during the fire. At the time it was reported that there were no fatalities, however it seems that several undocumented guests, like the sick man’s brother, died in the flames.

Another young victim of the fire was a tugboat hand who some said they say going into the hotel that night, but was never seen again. In the cleanup process workers found a part of his skull, but only about a third of his body was recovered. Today there is still a lot of speculation about what happened to the rest of his remains.

The only parts that remained of the hotel was a basement which during the 1980’s was made into two basement pubs. The ghosts of the two men who died that night in the fire have been rumored to still be there today. Folks have reported balls on the pool table move without being touched, disembodied footsteps and voices, and toilets flushing themselves. Some have even said they saw a full bodied apparition who has introduced himself as Bill, which is the name of the brother who died in his hotel room. Some even say he will excuse himself to attend to business on the fourth floor, although today the building is only one story.