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Friday, July 19, 2013

Minding the Gap

We have had a Gap Year, and what a year it has been!
Selling Normandy Farms in Colorado was one of our water shed moments this past year. With that experience and a partnership nightmare, we had, come to believe the worst in those we did business with. It was better for us to be “on strike” rather than deal with the looters who would like moral permission from their victims. We have discovered lots of takers and few givers, and so we decided to lay low, resolve our situations and investigate what in the world to do. We way too young to be on strike forever, but also way too seasoned to believe in or rely on anyone but ourselves. 
We investigated many choices in the past year, traveling as far as Chile looking for a place that would be conducive to ending our strike. We had intense interest in Ecuador, the least socialist of our choices besides the United States.  Sometime ones travels both far and wide lead back to a place closer at hand. And so, as we sought to move ahead on other projects, we discovered where the heck Tallulah Falls is. We were drawn to the “Grand Canyon of the East” and the surrounding area in the mountains of North Georgia, as we progressed on our daughters decision to attend Tallulah Falls School.
While traveling in the area amongst the many lakes, rivers, natural beauty and of course the rainiest area east of the Mississippi River we discovered unique towns, friendly people and fine Georgia wineries. While exploring and investigating in April we happened upon a new challenge and lifestyle in a gap in the mountains of Georgia, not far from the North Carolina and South Carolina borders. We discovered Georgia’s oldest Bed and Breakfast Inn was in search of new owners and a new direction.
The York House Inn, located in Rabun Gap is nearest Clayton Georgia and Franklin North Carolina. The York House is Georgia's oldest Inn, listed on the National Register of Historic places. The farmhouse itself dates to 1846 and was constructed from Chestnut logs, then covered with pine plank siding. The logs are unique as American Chestnut trees were killed off in blight in the 1920s. Chestnut beams and the original dove-tailed log construction can be viewed in the gifts area and in the former servants quarters, now refurbished, on the lower level. In this area of Georgia, farming was the primary goal, with the York farm producing barley, corn and rye. Originally the Inn was purpose built to house workers for the railroad and then catering to travelers or boarders on the Tallulah Falls Railroad.
During its early history the Inn was described as “the large ideal country home with a farm run in connection with the house where all kinds of fresh vegetables are raised: chicken and fresh meats daily, milk and butter in plenty”. Amenities included “tennis court, mountain spring water, large verandas, shade trees, free access to grape, plum and apple orchards and a new system of hot and cold waterworks and bathrooms on each floor.”  The York House Inn was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The Inn was accepted to the Register for its evolution from log cabin to Victorian Inn, landscape architecture making use of the aesthetic features and natural setting, it’s significant association with railroad commerce and finally due to the Gibson and York family significance in local politics.      
The York House design reflects similar hotels of the day, however most examples of the “Resort Era” were located in town square areas and not rural adaptations. Most are long gone. The landscaping and building orientation and well known two story porch make for excellent views of the Little Tennessee River Valley.  Railroads have long been a part of Rabun County history, and therefore, that of the York House as well. The York House and its long gone dance pavilion were a community gathering place. The Gibson and York family members were active in local politics The Inn has hosted famous guests, including Walt Disney and Joel Chandler Harris. Also, scenes from the films Deliverance (1972) and the Great Locomotive Chase (1956) and The Great Train Robbery (1903) have been filmed here.    
So leaving what life remained in Colorado, we will be relocating to The York House Inn in August.  We will be making excellent use of our hospitality training in our pre-re opening plans as we look forward to acclimating to our new surroundings while undertaking a series of upgrades. We will be adding such wonders of the 21st century as new heating and air conditioning systems, adding both natural gas and city water to our well system. We will also develop a complete website, reservations, property management system and global distribution systems. We are hard at work on new marketing materials required of a fine Inn. We will complete these nitty gritty items in short order as we also update each of the thirteen guest rooms, and enhance the hospitality of the parlor and dining area and porches. We have a terrific meeting and social area, both inside and out, so small social or business groups and certainly weddings will be drawn to the York House Inn. Kitchen duties include developing our new complete breakfast menu while also getting very excited about Georgia wines and hor d oeuvres to accompany them and a monthly food and wine dinner series. 
The natural wonders of our own 4.5 acre forest complete with pre-civil war spring house will certainly only enhance our appreciation for the mountains of North Georgia. There will be no resting under the Georgia Champion Norway Spruce trees, the largest tree specimen of their kind in Georgia, at the front of the Inn, nor playing on our own shuffle board court.  Future plans include not only the future bar area, but also restoring the York House Inn one acre garden. The garden will allow for tons of tractor fun as it has been grown over for over fifty years. Renovating the farm will restore one of the significant self-sustaining elements to the York House and guests. Restoring the orchard and providing organic foods will return the York House Inn to its original characteristics.              
So as all can see, our year is not just a gap year but also a leap year as we embark on yet another way of life. We hope you will all keep in touch with our updates and we look forward to welcoming you on your travels to our little slice of country in Georgia.
Stan and Christine Penton
The York House Inn
416 York House Road

Rabun Gap, Georgia 30568