Francis Marion Hotel ballrooms get makeovers
Charleston's "Grand Dame" is now even more fit for a ball.
The historic, 88-year-old Francis Marion Hotel, locally owned and operated by FMH LP, recently completed refurbishment of its 3,600-square-foot Colonial Ballroom and its 3,010-square-foot Gold Ballroom with new color schemes, lavish new drapery and carpeting.
The Colonial Ballroom off the grand lobby, which once served as the original formal dining hall when the hotel opened in February 1924, has been reappointed with soft pastel colors and finishes. The original ornamental plaster and wood-paneled wainscoting and 20-foot ceilings with decorative tobacco motif crown molding remain, just with 21st century touches.
Even the massive columned-flanked marble fireplace stands out more with the lighter, serene colors, according to a hotel statement.
As for the Gold Ballroom, it boasts refreshed gilt crown moldings and egg and dart fresco at its 24-foot ceilings. With varying shades of tan accented with chocolate brown, the ballroom's new colors include a pale blue ceiling, a nod to the old Charleston tradition of sky-blue ceiling paint to keep evil spirits away. The original musician's balcony provides a stunning overlook to the ballroom's new decor.
The stately hotel at King and Calhoun streets is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Stock on the block
The TARP is coming down at Charleston's biggest homegrown banking institution.
The U.S. Treasury Department today is expected to sell its entire stake in First Financial Holdings as early as today. And it will mark the first time the federal government will use an auction format to unload bank stocks it acquired during the 2008 financial meltdown.
First Financial is the owner of First Federal of Charleston, the oldest and largest bank based in the region.
Treasury invested $65 million in the company in late 2008 under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. In return the government received a "preferred" class of stock that pays a 5 percent annual dividend. The rate jumps to 9 percent in less than two years.
Most of the big banks that took TARP money have already bought back their shares from Treasury. The remaining 361 lenders in the program are mostly smaller institutions. The government is now itching to exit as many deals as it can. That it's turning to an auction is probably no coincidence, given that it's a big election year.
Treasury said it has recovered a total of $259 billion from TARP compared to its investment of $245 billion. So future proceeds are gravy.
Banks that took TARP money had to agree to restrictions on executive pay, dividends, stock buybacks and management severance packages. If the stock is sold to private investors, those go away.
With all the thugs around the world, an armored car is a good investment for diplomats, the military and private industries trying to protect themselves.
That's where Streit USA Armoring steps in.
The Canadian-rooted company with a factory in North Charleston equips vehicles piece by painstaking piece with armor plates. Last week, it achieved a milestone.
After nearly five years in business, the company upfitted its 500th armored vehicle.
With primary offices in the U.S., Canada and the Middle East, the company's local production facility sits beside U.S. Interstate 26 near Aviation Avenue. But it won't be there long.
The 30,000-square-foot Fain Street factory and its 32 employees churn out 10 to 14 bullet-resistant vehicles a month on its single production line, but by late this summer, Streit USA Armoring plans to expand, add two assembly lines and eventually 40 new employees to its payroll.
The auto armorer will leave the leased building where it has bullet-proofed about 125 vehicles a year since 2007 and will build a new, 75,000-square-foot, $5.8 million facility on eight acres along Palmetto Commerce Parkway beside the Daimler van assembly plant.
The company is led by Guerman Goutorov and Charleston business partner Eric Carlson.