175-year-old Hillsborough inn faces demolition

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) –  A Hillsborough building with 175 years of history could soon come down board by board.

The Colonial Inn is far from what it was when it was built in 1838.

Read the history of the Colonial Inn“It’s a place where people have celebrated good times. It’s a place where they’ve had comfort in times of sorrow,” said Scott Washington, assistant director of the Orange County Historical Museum.

Those times continued into the 1900s after the Colonial Inn survived the Civil War.

“Oh, it was wonderful. The creaking floors and the good food. I even have ‘Authentic Southern Recipes from the Colonial Inn,’” Washington said.

The Stroud family owned the inn around the time of the Civil War.

Legend has it the inn was saved from looting Union troops when Mrs. Stroud displayed her husband’s Masonic Apron. A Union soldier who was a fellow Mason spared the building from destruction.

But it may not survive the latest battle brewing in Hillsborough.

colonial inn 2“Maybe we need a masonic apron to drape outside now,” Washington said.

Jim Parsley lives near the Colonial Inn and said the condemned building is “like a dead person that can’t seem to be buried.”

The current owner of the inn Francis Henry has filed an application with the Town of Hillsborough to demolish the building.

Henry bought the inn in 2001 for $410,000 at auction. Ever since 2003, there have been complaints followed by litigation with the town about the inn.

The stadium where the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s women’s lacrosse and field hockey teams play is named after Henry.

The application calls for volunteer workers to remove the structure and keep the pieces. The owner plans to turn it into a grass lot after demolition is complete.

The application estimates it would take no more than six months to tear apart the inn once work begins.

The town is scheduled to hold a hearing on the demolition application on Aug. 6.

Talk of demolition comes as the town plans to meet about the background of the property and discuss any actions going forward.

A joint session of the town and historic district commissions will meet July 14 at 7 p.m.

Recently the fire department responded to a smell of natural gas at the building. Since then, the town has investigated what steps would be necessary to have utilities disconnected form the property.

“There’s a lot of anguish about this, I think, on all sides,” Washington said.

Parsley said he would like to see the owner go ahead and do something with the property.

Henry declined comment on the property.

“It’s a history that will always be here, whether the inn’s here or not,” Washington said.

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