The Jeff Is Back
The first guests at the new and improved Jefferson Inn stayed Sunday night.
The guests were a couple from Charlotte who had stumbled upon the Jefferson Web site. The verdict: Thumbs up.
"The first guests said they loved it," General Manager Dan Fix said. "They said they'd be back."
The inn opened Saturday. The restaurant, bar and courtyard are still being renovated. Fix said that he hopes the restaurant will be open in late March.
The Jefferson's opening marks the end of a yearlong, multi-million-dollar historic restoration. Curtis Dean, the owner, and Fix had hoped to be open Nov. 2, but got held up by work on the elevator and some other mechanical issues.
"I'm very excited," Dean said.
The inn closed in 2002 to allow for a renovation by the previous owners. Some work was done, but the previous owners stopped work when their business selling DirecTV satellites in Southern Pines began to fail.
The building sat vacant and fell into a state of disrepair.
Dean, a Raleigh resident, acquired the property in mid-2005. The building required extensive architectural and engineering work to satisfy the town, and state and federal historic preservation officials.
It took until January to satisfy the historic preservation agencies. After obtaining permits, Dean began the renovation. He turned 22 rooms into 15, including several suites. The total renovation cost between $2 and $3 million, Dean said.
The rooms have flat-screen televisions and luxurious down-filled duvets over Egyptian cotton sheets. Dean said that the size of the rooms, up to 600 square feet, is his favorite feature.
Because the building is so old and was originally two buildings that were joined together -- Fix said you can feel the bump in the carpet where they meet -- most of the rooms have unique features.
"It gives it character," Fix said.
The new owners were able to salvage two clawfoot bathtubs.
"The previous owner took 20 of them and threw them out the window," Fix said, running his finger along the edge of one of the refurbished tubs. "I think it came out pretty nice. This is a 100-year-old tub."
Fix and his wife were actually the first people to stay in the new incarnation of the Jefferson. They stayed there on New Year's Eve, which was their anniversary, in a second-floor room with bay windows that overlooks downtown Southern Pines.
Though Fix lives only a few blocks away, he said it felt like being on vacation.
"It was like being in another city," he said.
The phones have been ringing, Fix said. Several guests have made reservations. The inn has received some calls from people interested in holding wedding receptions. One woman has booked the entire hotel for a weekend. All this without advertising or getting the Convention and Visitors Bureau involved.
Interest from local residents has been high, too, Fix said. Many people have been walking in and asking simply to look around.
"All I do is give tours," Fix said. "I'm happy to do it. Most of the locals won't stay here unless they are looking for a getaway. But we do want them to recommend us."
Many of the people who've come in have shared stories about the Jefferson -- meeting their wife or husband there, getting married there, Fix said. One person told Fix that Dwight Eisenhower stayed at the Jefferson. He hasn't been able to confirm the rumor.
"Everyone has a story abut the Jefferson," Fix said. "It's been a really neat experience."
During the height of tourist season, the largest room will go for $280 a night, but some of the smaller rooms are much less expensive. A guest could get a room for $100, Fix said. The average is about $175, which is subject to change, based on seasonal and economic factors.
John S. Reynolds, a native of Jefferson, N.H., initially constructed the Jefferson as a winter home in 1901.
It later encompassed the Hayes News Depot Building, which was one of the oldest structures in Southern Pines and had to be rolled to its current location on logs.
The Reynoldses then opened their home to the public as The Jefferson Inn. They subsequently acquired the electric shop next door, adding it to the inn, and capped the three structures with a third floor.
During the recent renovation, most building systems had to be completely replaced, including the entire electrical, heating and cooling, and plumbing systems.
While all of the walls are in the same locations as before, the woodwork, tin ceilings and other details having historic significance have been restored.
According to Dean, the goal was to create an environment in which guests could experience the history and lifestyle of the pristine town of Southern Pines while basking in comfort and service rivaling the nation's top boutique hotels.
The inn will offer everything from golf packages to wine tastings. Fix said that there is one guest in particular that he's looking forward to welcoming.
"I haven't seen the ghost yet," he said. "I'm hoping to someday."
Matthew Moriarty can be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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