Colonial Inn

Rain may have soaked the grounds, but it didn't dampen the spirit of the grand opening of the Colonial Inn on King Street in downtown Hillsborough.

If there ever was a symbol of perseverance, strength and heart, it may be the Colonial Inn, which has, dating back to it’s less-than-exact first years, weathered wars, depressions, recessions, hurricanes, boom times, closings, decay, questionable additions and, yes, a pandemic. Just notches on its centuries-old floors.

Another symbol of perseverance, strength and heart would be the group of people who spent the last three years pushing and sometimes dragging the historic building through a mammoth renovation, even as they navigated the coronavirus and all that came with it, on their approach to the finish line. 

The day finally came to show off the newly polished diamond, and even the rain came out to see it sparkle. Inside, dozens of masked people shuffled through and around six-foot buffers to prepare drinks and delectable local cheeses and other prepared snacks. Outside, soup was being made from a mixture of day-long rain, sod and dirt. A large tent provided shelter as two of the inn’s owners quickly towel-dried chairs for visitors awaiting their chance to tour the Colonial. It was an all-hands-on deck kind of day.

Temperature checks, face coverings and strips of blue tape on the floors added a new set of memories for those walls. General Manager Elise Tyler, who was an everyday fixture at the inn during renovation, greeted the first group of visitors — limited to 10-at-a-time. Tyler provided stories about the history of the Colonial Inn and about the renovation process. She also promoted potential uses for each room as event space, meeting areas, weddings, brunch; relaxing with a glass of wine or cup of coffee. And, of course, a comfortable place to stay the night. 

Tyler has been tireless and said she hasn’t slept. “It’s all coffee right now. I didn’t sleep last night. I won’t sleep tonight. Maybe Sunday night,” she said.

Televisions throughout the building provided slideshows with before-and-after photos. While the group was led from room to room by a tour guide, a sanitizer brought up the rear, wiping down all surfaces between groups. 

In the bar — the building’s oldest room — Rutland Tyler served drinks to guests and spoke about the food offerings that will be available at the inn, including Sunday brunch and dinners. Even gloomy weather was no shade for the bright, grand event space. Artist Jane Wolfgang was on hand to sign prints of her magnificent storytelling painting “The Spirit of Lot 15,” of which the original hangs in the lobby. 

Umbrellas out and rain hoods up, the tour traveled across the new patio area that connects the main building to the annex, where most of the guest rooms are. The rooms are refreshing and serenely  furnished. The beds have a magnetic appeal, with rich, deep blue throws. The showers are huge. The Honeymoon Suite elicits smiling eyes and “oh yes” comments from the tour members. The jetted hot tub room with a large, flat-screen TV renders the rest of the room almost unnecessary.

The tour ended on the balcony facing King Street. It is the most recognizable feature of the Colonial Inn, and it has been lovingly preserved and fitted with rocking chairs. 

The glorious return of the Colonial Inn is worth safely celebrating in these trying times. The inn is proof that pandemics and difficult times don’t last, but the efforts of a community to preserve its history, does.