A historic building known as the Colonial Inn has hope for a future after the Board of Commissioners in Hillsborough, North Carolina voted unanimously to begin eminent domain proceedings. Hillsborough is known as one of the most historically important towns in North Carolina, and the former inn is one of the most important structures there, holding sentimental value for many residents. Due to its rich history, preservation experts believe that the former Colonial Inn building is a good candidate for restoration and adaptive reuse.
The former Colonial Inn dates back to 1838 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The two-story building stands a block off of Hillsborough’s main street with architectural elements, including a beautiful two-story piazza, paired chamfered posts, and a sawnwork upper balustrade. The structure was also granted statewide significance in November 2003 by the State Historic Preservation Office. The office designates structures of importance to North Carolina history and requires authorization from the local historic district commission for those structures to be demolished. The designation allows the Hillsborough Historic District Commission to deny applications for demolition of those structures.
The town has wrestled with issues involving the building for over a decade. Most recently, public safety concerns were brought to the forefront as a result of disrepair under current ownership. The inn has received numerous demolition by neglect complaints from neighbors in addition to several fines for not making timely repairs related to flood damage from a collapsed ceiling, as well as structural damage to the building’s front and southeastern portions. The last straw came in July after the owner was caught burning material in the fireplace, drawing attention from the town fire marshal that ordered an evacuation, banning everyone except licensed contractors from entering the property. Amidst growing concerns of the building's condition, the town unanimously voted in October to begin eminent domain proceedings.
Prior to their decision, the town contracted with a team of development professionals from the Development Finance Initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in January 2015. The consultants worked alongside the town to determine which types of public participation may be necessary to renovate the structure and return it to use. They proposed a possible reuse program that consists of using the second-floor primarily for office space, while the first-floor would be reserved for restaurant and banquet space. The team stressed the need for public or philanthropic support in order to make the $2.9 million redevelopment work feasible.
To what lengths should a town or city go to preserve cultural property? What historic buildings have been repurposed in your city?
Credits: Images by Rachel Eberhard. Data linked to sources.