Historic Hillsborough inn could soon see new life
Posted May 14, 2015
Hillsborough, N.C. — What was once the longest-running hotel in North Carolina might be revived if its owners can decide how to save the Hillsborough landmark.
The Colonial Inn, which historians say was built in 1838 – a weathered sign that hangs from the West King Street building says 1759 – survived the Civil War and entertained guests as notable as the late actor Paul Newman for generations.
Now a report, authored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government, provides several options on how to fund the building's restoration.
"It just saddens me to see a wonderful structure like that deteriorating and not being put to good use," said Hillsborough resident Becki Stirman.
Town Commissioner Eric Hallman said he favors the idea of having the inn's owners work with the town to turn the property into restaurant and office space.
"We would love the public-private partnership. It is clean and everybody wins," he said.
Hallman said it also makes more financial sense for investors, who would spend about $3 million to renovate the property.
"At the end of the day, based on a fully rented commercial space, it is only worth about $2 million, so there is a million dollar gap in there," he said. "No private investor, or single individual can make that work."
Donations would also be necessary, Hallman said.
Bob Johnson, president of the Colonial Inn Preservation Association, said he’s ready to start fundraising.
"What our proposal is, is to partner with the owner on a...who knows what percentage, we are suggesting a 51-49, partnership," Johnson said. "So once the thing was up and renovated and generating profits we would share the profits 51-49 as well."
Dale Helsabeck, a member of the owners group, said the group has begun to digest the report.
"At this point we are asking people to bear with us as we digest the report and plan a way forward that works best for us and the community," he said.