An internationally known brothel, the Sunset Lodge, founded about 1936, was located in a white frame house adorned by neon on U.S. Highway 17 originally three miles south of Georgetown’s limits. The business was reportedly encouraged by business leaders, including Tom Yawkey, a Massachusetts millionaire who owned a resort home near Georgetown. They wanted to divert the attentions of workers building the International Paper Company mill at Georgetown from their local women.
The lodge’s past is cloaked in legend and myth, but researchers generally agree that the clientele included servicemen, merchant seamen, college students, millionaires, and reportedly members of Yawkey’s Boston Red Sox baseball team, which passed through en route to spring training in Florida. State legislators were also frequent visitors.
Hazel Weiss, who was said to be a former schoolteacher and was born Hazel Bennett in Indiana, owned Sunset Lodge for most of its life. She retained doctors to ensure that her employees were disease-free. According to Georgetown residents, Weiss was the largest yearly donor to the major organized charity in Georgetown. A reporter said that she ruled her business with an iron hand, refusing to tolerate drunks or rowdies and insisting on standards of behavior and dress.
Sunset Lodge developed such traditions as the baseball stopover, the dispensing of Christmas funds to deputies and patrolmen at Thanksgiving, the spring week when the lodge was open only to state legislators, and Hazel’s birthday party, when Georgetown’s socially elite (men only) were invited.
Sheriff Woodrow Carter closed the lodge, which had been protected by officers and granted anonymity by the press, in December 1969. Weiss moved to Charleston and then returned to Indiana, where she reportedly died in the 1970s. The structure housing the business burned in the late 1990s.
Leland, Jack. “Sun Sets on Sunset Lodge.” Charleston News and Courier, December 24, 1969, p. A9.
Pierce, Robert A. South Carolina and Me. Columbia, S.C.: State Printing, 1992.