outside bee hotel
Building history

The Story Behind The Bee

Connected today as Danville’s premier boutique hotel, The Bee is made up of two beautiful historic buildings in the City’s River District. These two buildings at 117 South Union and 123 South Union have a historic relationship to each other as the two early headquarters of the Danville Register and the Danville Bee, the major newspapers in the City that merged to become the Danville Register and Bee in 1989.

117 South Union, or “Old Bee” housed the original offices of Danville’s preeminent presses. These first offices were built circa 1899 with a basement press, ground floor and second story offices. When its nextdoor neighbor, the Masonic Temple, burned in 1920, the Register and Bee offices moved down the street, leaving the Old Bee to a number of commercial ventures from a furniture store to a grocery. In 1939, the building underwent extensive renovation in a completely new use as a segregated movie theater “The Dan.” The streamlined moderne style facade that replaced the original brickwork of the Old Bee remains today.

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A circa 1939 photograph of the segregated Dan Theater, which placed a modern facade over the original brickwork of the Old Bee. Image courtesy of Jonathan Hackworth.

Across the City’s South Union Street Park stands the stately “New Bee” at 123 South Union. Built in 1921 as the James A. Rorer Memorial Building, the New Bee served as the second offices of Danville’s presses. The distinction of its design heralds the golden age of the newspaper business, which flourished from the 1920s through the 1990s.

The Register and the Bee stayed in family hands throughout the twentieth century, first presided over by Rorer Abraham James (1859-1921). James was not only a newspaper man, but also a lawyer and state politician who served as a delegate in

Virginia’s state house and senate and as a Democratic United States Representative. When James died in 1921, his son, Rorer Abraham James, Jr., (1897–1937) took over the family business. James Jr. died suddenly in 1937, leaving the newspapers to his then seventeen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. By twenty-one, Elizabeth Stuart James Grant (1920-1990), was president of the business, but left day-to-day management to her husband, Walter L. Grant (1920–1972), who was the publisher for the newspapers beginning in 1945. Mrs. Grant was an active force in Danville’s preservation movement, and was instrumental in saving the birthplace of Lady Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor, a Danville native who was the first woman to sit in the House of Commons in England. Mrs. Grant was also a force to be reckoned with; after a family squabble in the 1970s, Grant had the press vacate the South Union New Bee and built offices and a production plant at 700 Monument Street, the present location of the newspaper. The offices at South Union then stood vacant for over forty years.

Until 2020, when “The Bee” reimagined the 1921 newspaper building and its 1899 predecessor as a new boutique hotel for Danville. There are 47 suites, some complete with full apartment amenities, and a beautiful roof deck on the upper level of New Bee. We’ve retained and revitalized as much of the historic fabric of the building as possible. You’ll notice the original wood floors in the halls of the Old Bee, an original spiral staircase that ran from the press room to the editor’s office on the third floor of the New Bee, and many other elements such as the “Rorer A. James" inscription on the front facade, and the intricate polychrome terra-cotta design on the front portico ceiling and two front display cases. Above the front entrance into the South Union Street lobby of the New Bee, the original newsboy figurine welcomes new guests into the building that once stood for, and participated in, Danville’s growth and development. We’ve reimagined these existing historic features with modern finishes and amenities that complete the look and feel of the River District boutique hotel you see today.

A 1963 photo of the New Bee. Located across the City Municipal Building, the offices of the Register and Bee oversaw the Civil Rights protests in Danville that crescendoed in the summer of 1963. On June 10, white police and deputized city workers violently attacked peaceful protestors outside the Municipal Building and the Register and Bee building. Forty-seven people were injured that day, a day which is now known as “Bloody Monday.” (Image courtesy of the Danville Register and Bee)

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An image of the New Bee, as featured on the owner, Rorer A. James Jr.’s letterhead in 1930. Courtesy of the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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