Colonial Inn’s fate decided tonight

Aug. 06, 2014 @ 09:56 AM

The 176-year-old historic Colonial Inn may be cleared for demolition tonight following a Hillsborough Historic District Commission meeting.

The inn has been the subject of numerous lawsuits, fines and petitions since Francis Henry purchased it at a 2001 foreclosure auction for $410,000. Henry petitioned the Historic District Commission in June, requesting he be allowed to demolish the structure at 153 W. King St.
Hillsborough Town Planner Stephanie Trueblood said the sole purpose of the hearing is to evaluate Henry’s request and the commission will approve it, deny it or approve it with conditions.
“The job isn’t to consider all the outcomes for the building,” Trueblood said. “It is to simply look at (Henry’s) one-page narrative.”
According to the meeting agenda, Henry’s requesting to demolish the inn, leaving a grassy lot.
If the request is approved, Henry will still have to file for demolition permits from Orange County Building Inspections and/or Environmental Health, Trueblood said.
Henry declined to comment for this story.
In 2003, the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources granted the Colonial Inn with Statewide Significance, meaning it is of importance to the state and “deserves recognition and preservation as part of North Carolina’s heritage,” according to a letter from Jeffrey J. Crow, a state historic preservation officer.
Because of this designation, the Historic District Commission has the power to deny a property owner’s request for demolition. Trueblood said the Colonial Inn is one of 21 structures in North Carolina with Statewide Significance, and the only one in Orange County.
Without the significance, the commission could only delay the request by one year, Trueblood said.
The commission’s decision tonight will be based solely on evidence presented to it at the hearing, according to the meeting agenda. The meeting is at 7 p.m. in the Town Barn, 101 E. Orange St.

1838: Isaiah Spencer built the inn, initially known as the Orange Hotel.
1921: W.L. Foushee purchased the inn for $1,000, christening it the Colonial Inn.
1921-2001: The space changed ownership several times, becoming known for its restaurant in the 1960s.
2001: Francis Henry purchased inn at foreclosure auction.
March 2004: Town filed suit, began fining Henry $100 a day under demolition-by-neglect ordinance.
April 2004: Henry put building up for sale for $1.7 million.
2007: Henry made rezoning request, but withdrew it a year later because of neighbors’ opposition.
2008: Town again pursues fining Henry after finding repairs not made.
June 2014: Henry files request with Hillsborough Historic District to demolish the inn.