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Colonial Inn owner may be fined

Posted November 5, 2008
Updated November 6, 2008

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— The Hillsborough Historic District Commission on Wednesday declared The Colonial Inn to be undergoing "demolition by neglect," a move that allows the town to fine the owner if repairs aren’t made.

The inn has long been a fixture in Hillsborough, and persistent rumors have British Gen. Charles Cornwallis and his troops staying there during the American Revolution. But the Colonial Inn was actually built in 1830, too late for that to have happened.

“It’s one of those places where people think fondly of and remember when they came to eat here in Hillsborough,” Alliance for Historic Hillsborough spokeswoman Elizabeth Read said.

Now the building, at 153 W. King St., has rotted wood, broken window panes and peeling paint.

Wesley Woods has owned a supply store up the street from the Colonial Inn since the 1970s. When times were good, the inn was a “big drawing card” for Woods’ store, he said.

“It’s a shame that it’s sitting up here all this many years, and they haven’t done anything with it,” Woods said.

The inn closed in 2001 and was auctioned off the following year to Chapel Hill businessman Francis E. Henry. At the time, Henry said he planned to restore and reopen it.

In 2004, the town sued Henry after town leaders said hardly any repairs had been made. The suit was dropped in 2005 after Henry made additional repairs and agreed to give the town a $2,500 grant to promote preservation incentives.

On Wednesday, town planning staff said Henry had applied for permits to fix the building, but no work has started.

WRAL was unable to reach Henry for comment.

Henry did accompany Town Planner Stephanie Trueblood and Orange County Building Inspector Don Knight on a tour of the property on Aug. 22, according to town documents.

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  • teacher-mom Nov 6, 2008

    I hate to see that the Colonial Inn is having a hard time. We have stopped there several times when we used to go iceskating. The atmosphere was lovely and the food was too. I hope they can turn it around. I do not think the man should be fined if he cannot afford to make repairs; he needs some help.

  • belabeth Nov 6, 2008

    I was raised in Ohio and some of my fondest memories are of eating at the some of the many old Inns across the state. The food was excellent and many of them would sell antiques as well. I have eaten at the Colonial Inn and wondered why someone couldn't put some money into it, get a good chef and turn that place around. Surely there is room for restaurant with good American cooking? Williamsburg manages.

  • chickentender63 Nov 6, 2008

    Well, of course there is going to be some form of asbestos in this building, especially around the furnace system and possible vinyl flooring. It used to be used as a backer on linoleum years ago.

    Then you have to factor in the lead based paint that will be in this building.

    Yes, this building will be full of headaches for whoever is the one lucky enough to undertake the project. But, if it was easy, we would still have all of the historical buildings around, and everybody would call themselves a restoration/historical preservation expert/contractor.

    It sounds like that may also be one of the issues at hand here. It sounds as though the owner bought this property and maybe thought he was going to paint it and sell it for a 2 million dollar profit, and it just doesn't work that way.

    Historical preservation is a whole different story than rehabbing that 1970's brick ranch down the street. Maybe he was watching a little too much "Flip This House"

  • thefensk Nov 6, 2008

    Of course, given its age and with that the reality that perhaps dozens of other restorations have been done in the past, there are likely big headaches in store for anyone serious about it.

    One thing I wonder about when I see a place sitting dormant this long is how much asbestos might have been used in past repair work and past restorations. People were asbestos happy 30-60 years ago.

  • chickentender63 Nov 6, 2008

    Justin,

    I would be willing to throw in 300,000 dollhairs as well to get this thing going.

  • Justin T. Nov 6, 2008

    I would like to join in the restoration effort. My serious offer is:

    300,000 dollhairs

  • chickentender63 Nov 6, 2008

    "I'm not sure how this works, and it is only a suggestion, but since the RE market is not doing him any favors at present, could he not donate - or sell the home for like $1 to a non-profit group - and then write-off the remainder as a loss on his taxes? That way, the structure could be restored through special funding accounts and every body ends up happy with the outcome of the property without anyone going bankrupt from all the repairs and restoration expenses. Just a thought..."

    It's a good thought, but not really practical probably in this case. It depends on if he has a mortgage against it. If you is still paying on it, and can't pay it off, then he would not be able to deliver clear title.

    If he owns it outright, it may be possible, but would need the advice of a very good CPA. I don't know if he could deduct that large of loss at one time.

  • My5cents Nov 6, 2008

    If the town of hillsborough was able to use the money they collect from all the speeding tickets they pass out the building could be restored on no time.

  • IHave1-2 Nov 6, 2008

    I'm not sure how this works, and it is only a suggestion, but since the RE market is not doing him any favors at present, could he not donate - or sell the home for like $1 to a non-profit group - and then write-off the remainder as a loss on his taxes? That way, the structure could be restored through special funding accounts and every body ends up happy with the outcome of the property without anyone going bankrupt from all the repairs and restoration expenses. Just a thought...

  • chickentender63 Nov 6, 2008

    "Yeah, you serious inquirers, wait till you hear what they want for it. Don't hold me to the numbers, but I remember reading that it was purchased for low 6 digits (300K?) and they HAD wanted to sell for low 7 digits (2.5M?)... and it had done nothing but sit. Don't know what they would let it go for now."

    Ah, hate to tell them though, that ain't happening! He needs to consider an offer from a serious investor or the town to "dump" the property and all his liabilities that go with it. At this point, he should consider himself lucky that he doesn't have high 6 figure fines assessed against him and get out while he can and just break even if he can.

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