Hale Springs Inn to welcome first overnight guest since 1998

Jeff Bobo • Jul 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — After all the delays and a couple of false starts, the historic Hale Springs Inn today will welcome its first overnight guest since closing in 1998.

On Sunday afternoon the facility’s new innkeepers, mother and daughter team Kim and Amy Cason, hosted an open house for members of the Rogersville Heritage Association, which purchased the 185-year-old landmark in 2003.

The inn’s storied and often frustrating renovation is officially complete, and visitors were invited to visit the kitchen, bar, dining room and all nine suites that are ready for occupancy.

But diners will have to wait a couple more weeks to sample cuisine from the inn’s much-anticipated restaurant, named McKinney’s Tavern after the local attorney who built the one-time stagecoach stop in 1824.

Although the major kitchen appliances have been installed, they’re still waiting for some of the smaller items on order to arrive, such as plates, glasses and silverware. Kim Cason said she anticipates the restaurant opening around mid-August.

The mother and daughter team brings more than a decade of bed and breakfast experience to the Hale Springs Inn, as well as some specialized training.

The Casons operated the 19-room Eight Gables Inn in Gatlinburg for 11 years before coming to Rogersville.

Aside from the hotel and restaurant, the Casons will market the Hale Springs Inn as a venue for special events, weddings, receptions, company retreats, parties and other large gatherings.

Amy Cason graduated from Carson-Newman College with a degree in family consumer sciences focusing on interior design, and for the past three years she’s been planning and designing weddings across East Tennessee.

Saturday night the inn hosted a wedding reception for 150 people, so it’s now open for major gatherings as well as lodging.

“We can coordinate everything from the flowers to the cakes — everything A to Z for weddings,” Amy Cason said.

Kim Cason said the Hale Springs Inn won’t be a hotel where guests should expect a basic lodging experience. Each of the suites is filled with antiques, some of which date back to the inn’s beginnings. There are three suites named after the former presidents who stayed there: Andrew Jackson, James Polk and Andrew Johnson.

Kim Cason said every guest at the Hale Springs Inn will receive presidential treatment.

“Hale Springs Inn wants to be known as a first- class hotel with superior service and hospitality, and what we want to do is anticipate the guests’ needs before we’re asked,” Kim Cason said. “We just want to help Hale Springs Inn be the best property in the Southeast, and our goal as a management team is to have it be rated three or four diamonds by AAA.”

Aside from giving RHA members and some other local dignitaries a chance to see the completed inn, Sunday’s event also gave chef Brad Daniels an opportunity to introduce himself to the community. He was trained in Savannah, Ga., and said he specializes in Southern comfort food “with a twist.”

“I take food that people are familiar with, good side dishes, and put a different twist on them so it’s recognizable to people, but it’s in a different light,” Daniels said. “It doesn’t take a lot to take something that’s good and make it better if it’s seasoned properly and you use fresh ingredients from the local farmers markets.”

Daniels added that diners will notice the Savannah influence on his menu.

“It’s the Low Country influence — the shrimp and grits,” he said. “Also mixed with the African-American influences: okra and tomatoes, soul food. It’s all intertwined in Savannah.

“It’s going to be very recognizable things like pork chops and steaks. A little bit of seafood. And there will be a different menu of the bar with a little bit lighter fare.”

And lunch will offer specials as well as traditional soup, salads, sandwiches and pastries.

Among the dignitaries visiting the inn Sunday was Rep. Mike Harrison, R-Rogersville, who helped the city of Rogersville and the RHA secure more than $1 million in state grant funding for the renovation project.

Harrison said the inn looks great, and he’s waiting patiently to enjoy his first meal at McKinney Tavern.

Rogersville Mayor Jim Sells also attended the event and told the Times-News that the end result of the renovation exceeded his expectations.

The inn’s Web site is up at www.halespringsinn.com, and although the site is still under construction, it does offer some sample menus and contact information for making reservations and scheduling special events.

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