Local News

Hillsborough panel rejects request to raze historic inn

Posted August 6, 2014

— The Historic District Commission on Wednesday rejected an application to tear down a rundown building in the middle of Hillsborough.

The Colonial Inn is a historic landmark that has entertained guests as notable as the late actor Paul Newman for generations. But it has been closed for more than a decade and is now a rundown eyesore, with rotting wood, peeling paint and a weed-choked sidewalk.

Chapel Hill businessman Francis Henry, who bought the inn at auction in 2002, filed an application in June to demolish the inn, allowing volunteers to scavenge most of the wood from the building.

The plan has rallied support for the inn from Hillsborough residents, who see the Colonial Inn as an emblem of the history-saturated town.

"There's such a collective history and sense of community around that inn," said Chip Millard, a Hillsborough native who spearheaded the effort to save the building from destruction.

Historians say the Colonial Inn was built in 1838, although a weathered sign that hangs out front of the West King Street building claims it dates to 1759.

Henry hasn't responded to repeated requests from WRAL News for comment. He initially promised to restore and reopen the inn, but he became embroiled in a legal dispute with the town over the lack of changes to the building, which racked up code violations as it continued to waste away.

State officials have deemed the Colonial Inn a site of statewide historical significance, and Hillsborough planner Stephanie Trueblood said the Historic District Commission will have to consider that designation in weighing Henry's application.

"They have additional authority under state statutes to deny a demolition request," Trueblood said.

The commission is a quasi-judicial panel, and a majority of members would have to favor Henry's application for any demolition to take place.

Many townspeople said they would like nothing more than to see a deep-pocketed investor buy the old inn and renovate it.

"Everybody that has lived in Hillsborough at one time, or lives here now, feels that it's a visual symbol of hospitality in this town," Millard said. "I just can’t envision walking down King Street ... and not seeing that there.”


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  • Fanny Chmelar Aug 7, 2014
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    "Everybody that has lived in Hillsborough at one time, or lives here now, feels that it's a visual symbol of hospitality in this town," Millard said. "I just can’t envision walking down King Street ... and not seeing that there."

    Your community, start a kickstarter or something. I love when people want something done but wait for someone else to do it. Wait, I don't love it. I just don't understand it.

  • solarcableguy Aug 7, 2014

    This type of effort is what is needed to save this Inn:


  • solarcableguy Aug 7, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Completely agree! If he agreed to restore the building then that is what should be done. I don't care for tearing down historical buildings too much. Progress can go on without that having to happen these days. If he was never intending to truly restore the building then he should have sold it to someone that was serious about it instead of letting it deteriorate.

    We have become too much of a throw away society. I would like to see some semblance of the history of this country restored and preserved for future generations.

  • Susan Harward Aug 7, 2014
    user avatar

    I have lived in Hillsborough all my life. I even worked here as a waitress many years ago. However, why not tear it down and build a new restaurant or Bed and Breakfast. I don't see tourist flocking to Hillsborough to gawk at this bldg. More likely to walk fast past it in case it falls in on you. It is an eye sore and needs to go. They had great Cornwallis Yams!!!

  • Scott Mace Aug 7, 2014
    user avatar

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    I'm not saying that the Hysterical society doesn't make things difficult; only that it was no secret to anybody in the area (plant the wrong flowers in your flowerbed one time). Henry is "local", and I find it hard to believe that he missed all of this in the course of acquiring this property. If the hysterical society truly prevented even the most basic of repairs, then get it out in the open so the citizens of the town can direct their ire in the right direction.

  • 68_dodge_polara Aug 7, 2014

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    "They won't give him permission to fix the termite damage without wood from the 20's"

    If the town is going to make such crazy expensive requirements the town needs to come up with the money to meet them. Maybe go ahead and let it continue to rot.

  • streetglide Aug 7, 2014

    but do agree with words below, that the town kind of dragged thier feet getting involved, should have done this about 4 or 5 years ago and done something,.. leave it to the politicians !!

  • streetglide Aug 7, 2014

    why can't this generation do what the last did not, "preserve our history". Once gone, it will only be a "NEW" building built, and it takes a long time to make something old.. remember,, build it and they will come, "it's a fact", build it nice and you will have more than you can manage.

  • Matt Price Aug 7, 2014
    user avatar

    Realistically, it's not going to be bought by someone with deep pockets and renovated. The histerical commission in Hillsborough fixed that.

    They won't give him permission to fix the termite damage without wood from the 20's, and they won't let him fix the plumbing.

    So what makes anyone think they are remotely interested in doing anything with that building but watching it Rot until it falls - is a symptom of a neurotic mentality that plagues Orange County.

    The shoppes of Daniel Boone are the same way. There is so much rot you can see right through the floor to the outdoors - but the Histerical commission won't let them fix it.

    A sign of activism gone nutzo.

  • Bill Gibson Aug 7, 2014
    user avatar

    Sounds like the Prince Charles Hotel & Mr. Chen in Fayetteville, only on a smaller scale. Deep-pocketed investors are welcomed, until they can't afford to make a profit due to regulations and then they are demonized. Just take the Grinch Song and substitute the current owner's name. If Hillsborough residents want it, then let them buy it an renovate it at tax payer's expense. See how quickly it comes down then. *Could it be a museum?