Charleston-area attorney purchases Woodlands Inn
09 / 01 / 2010
Johnny Linton and family buy acclaimed property from Sheila C. Johnson
Salamander Hospitality retained to manage South Carolina’s First Five Star and Five Diamond hotel
Summerville, SC (September 1, 2010) – Local Attorney Johnny Linton and his family today purchased the highly acclaimed and decorated Woodlands Inn. The Linton family bought the 11-acre property, which is located just a few miles from their Summerville home, from Virginia-based Entrepreneur Sheila C. Johnson. Terms were not disclosed.
Linton will continue practicing law full time at Duffy & Young, LLC, on Broad Street in historic Charleston. Johnson’s Salamander Hospitality company has been retained to manage the hotel, which is one of only six properties in the United States to hold the Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond ratings for both lodging and dining. Just last month, Woodlands was ranked as the fourth finest hotel in the United States by readers of Travel + Leisure.
Linton, an accomplished trial lawyer and graduate of Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, and the University of South Carolina’s School of Law, began conversations earlier this year about buying the restored 1906 mansion and returning the property into local hands. It is the first time since the building was converted into Woodlands in 1995 that it has been owned by a South Carolinian family.
“I am passionate about the role Woodlands plays in Summerville, the Charleston area and the state of South Carolina,” said Linton, who has been a club member at Woodlands for 15 years. “There are many exciting plans that we are developing with Salamander Hospitality and General Manager Casey Lavin, and it is an honor to actively participate in the culture and history of the region. I would like to expand on Mrs. Johnson’s recent efforts to make Woodlands more approachable. My wife Pam and I are excited to work with the wonderful staff responsible for Woodlands’ many accolades, and we are committed to retain the quality and service levels for which the property is renowned worldwide.”
Linton has lived in Summerville for over 20 years with Pam, and has three children: McLane Harrington, and newly arrived granddaughter Emma Grace Harrington; John Jr.; and Abigail. The Linton family has been actively involved with many of the town’s philanthropic causes, including the Summerville Kitchen Tour to benefit Children in Crisis, the establishment of the Freedom Reigns program at Pinewood Preparatory School, the Coastal Community Foundation, Trident United Way, the Summerville YMCA and Habitat for Humanity. The family is currently helping found the Ambassadors of 1847, an organization devoted to enhancing and embracing the Summerville community.
During Johnson’s four-year tenure as owner, Woodlands was completely refurbished and updated, including the addition of Pines, the inn’s new casual dining option. It also retained and gained numerous awards given by the country’s most esteemed travel organizations and publications.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as owner,” said Johnson. “When Johnny outlined his vision for Woodlands, I felt compelled to carefully consider his offer. Ultimately, my team and I felt that this historic property belonged in local hands, and we look forward to combining our management expertise with a highly respected and involved member of the Charleston area community.”
Within the next few months, Linton and Salamander Hospitality plan to undertake several new projects, including:
- Launching a Woodlands Culinary Academy, where participants will immerse themselves in all aspects of gastronomy featuring indigenous cuisine and Charleston’s rich history
- Establishing an off-premise catering operation to take Woodlands’ Five Star culinary excellence into area residences and venues
- Naming each of the hotel’s 18 guestrooms and suites after famous South Carolina people and places
- Implementing an artist-in-residence program with local artist Rick Reinert and other outstanding artisans
- Creating year-round social and cultural events, like the recent community oriented July 4 festival
- Expanding the Club at Woodlands, a private club started in 1996
Linton also plans to investigate the possibility of establishing an Artisan’s Village on Woodlands’ grounds to celebrate local culture and heritage, and building an amphitheater to host plays, Summerville’s Community Orchestra, workshops and act as a community gathering place.
“It is rare in my experience to see such an alignment of interests between a buyer and seller in a hotel transaction,” said Bill Moeckel of Moeckel & Co., which represented Linton in this transaction. “The trust, mutual respect and commitment to the shared vision for the future of Woodlands Inn under Johnny’s stewardship and Salamander’s management were indeed refreshing.”
Summerville Mayor Berlin G. Myers, who used to serve as a tour guide around Woodlands’ grounds during his formative years, said “I am grateful to Ms. Johnson for her ownership of Woodlands over the last four years. My memories of the property stretch back 80 years, and I’m delighted that one of our own residents will continue the hotel’s tradition of excellence. Even with an incredibly successful past, I’m confident that its best years lay ahead.”
And, Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr., said he was excited to see Linton, who he has known for decades, bring his own unique brand of southern hospitality to Woodlands’ Five Star experience. “I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying Johnny and Pam’s company many times, and sought his counsel and advice on important matters. Woodlands and the Lintons are a perfect fit.” said Riley.
Woodlands Inn currently has a development agreement with Woodlands Village, LLC, whose principals include members of local developers J.L. Woode, LLC, and the I’On Group, LLC. Woodlands Village owns 31 acres surrounding the hotel.
“We are excited about the Linton family’s purchase of Woodlands and the additional value a local owner brings,” said Vince Graham, founder of the I’On Group. “We are delighted that Salamander Hospitality will continue to manage the property and continue to expand on Woodlands’ already stellar reputation, and we look forward to continuing the partnership we have forged over the past four years.”
For more information about Woodlands Inn call (800) 774-9999 or visit www.woodlandsinn.com.
Woodlands will hold an invitation-only gala to celebrate the Linton family’s new ownership on Friday, September 10 at 7:30 p.m. The event will benefit the Ambassadors of 1847, about which more details will be unveiled that evening.
Sheila C. Johnson will be the featured speaker at a commemorative event on Saturday, September 11 at Pinewood Preparatory School in Summerville. The event, which is part of the school’s Freedom Reigns program, will start at 8:45 a.m. and is open to the public.
About Woodlands Inn
Located in the charming village of Summerville and just a short drive from historic Charleston, SC, Woodlands Inn, a Salamander Hospitality property, is an immaculately restored 1906 classic revival mansion set amidst parkland grounds. It is one of only a handful of properties in North America to hold the Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond ratings for both its accommodations and dining room. In 2010, it was also ranked by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine as fourth finest property in the US and Canada. The inn features 18 guest rooms and suites, a country guest cottage, a day spa, croquet lawn, red-clay tennis courts, a temperature-controlled swimming pool, unique meeting facilities, golf privileges at nearby area courses, and a short drive to the region’s renowned plantations. The Dining Room at Woodlands is widely known for its innovative and sophisticated version of New American Cuisine and the use of fresh local foods to create a nightly menu with a Lowcountry influence. Woodlands is a member of the Preferred Boutique and Historic Hotels of America programs. For more information call (800) 774-9999 or visit www.woodlandsinn.com.
About Salamander Hospitality
Salamander Hospitality is a privately owned and operated company based in Middleburg, VA, just outside Washington, D.C. Founded by entrepreneur Sheila C. Johnson in 2005, the company manages and develops hotels, resorts and inns that reflect the authenticity and character of their surrounding environment. The portfolio currently includes the recently renovated Innisbrook resort near Tampa, FL., host to the PGA TOUR Transitions Championship every March and the LPGA Legends Tour Open Championship in November; Woodlands Inn near Charleston, SC, which is one of only six properties in North America to hold Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond ratings for both accommodations and dining; and the under-construction Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, a 340-acre equestrian-themed resort located near Washington, D.C. Salamander Hospitality also operates Market Salamander, a division of gourmet prepared food markets with locations in Middleburg and Innisbrook, and Salamander Touch, a boutique lifestyle store in Middleburg. For additional information, call (540) 687-3710 or visit www.salamanderhospitality.com.