Local News

Owner, Hillsborough reach agreement on future of historic inn

Posted May 10

What was once the longest-running hotel in North Carolina might be revived if its owners can decide how to save the Hillsborough landmark.

— Town officials said Wednesday that they have reached a deal with the owner of the former Colonial Inn in downtown Hillsborough and have dismissed their eminent domain action to forcibly acquire the historic building.

The Colonial Inn, which historians say was built in 1838, survived the Civil War and entertained guests as notable as the late actor Paul Newman for generations. But it has been closed for more than a decade, has become a rundown eyesore and was condemned in 2015.

Officials cited public safety concerns in pursuing the eminent domain action against the owners of the decrepit inn, at 153 W. King St. Under eminent domain, government is allowed to take private property and compensate the owner.

A mediator last month brought the two sides together, and Hillsborough agreed to drop its court action if the property owner immediately puts the inn up for sale. If a suitable buyer isn't found in the next 11 months, the town can resume its eminent domain proceedings for expedited acquisition of the property.

"We agree on many of the important things," Mayor Tom Stevens said in a statement. "Specifically, we all want to see this important structure in Hillsborough restored and put to some use. I greatly appreciate the cooperation from (owner) Francis Henry in finding a way forward toward that goal."

"It was good to see Mayor Stevens and Mr. Henry get to sit down and talk about the inn," Matthew Suczynski, an attorney for the owners, said in a statement. "After all these years, it was encouraging to see how much everyone involved cares for the inn and wants it to be restored."

Henry, a Chapel Hill businessman, bought the inn at auction in 2002. Three years ago, local officials blocked his attempt to demolish the building.

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