Mimosa Inn’s golden years reviewed at PCHA meeting

Published 6:37 pm Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mimosa Inn owner Jim Ott reviewed the property&squo;s history with Polk County Historical Association members Tuesday at the inn. The inn now is situated on about three acres and has 10 boarding rooms upstairs and a restaurant.

Ott displayed many historical pictures of the original inn on the site, which later burned. Pictures included dirt roads that were some of the best of the times. The Mimosa Hotel at that time had three stories and 50 rooms. Tryon also had Oak Hall Hotel, which was even larger than the Mimosa.

&dquo;Tourism was substantial and people would stay for weeks at a time,&dquo; Ott said.

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Ott described the Mimosa Inn at the turn of the century as one of the largest employers in the area and as a self-sustaining property, with greenhouses and growing its own beef and vegetables.

The main road used to come what is now the rear of the property. Ott showed old brochures for the Mimosa Inn and maps and a train schedule detailing how to get to the Mimosa.

&dquo;Tryon was a real big deal in its day,&dquo; Ott said.

He said the inn had different operating times over the years, sometimes being advertised as seasonal, open from December until May, and sometimes being advertised as open year round. Ott also said at one time the inn advertised rates between $3 and $5 per day.

The Mimosa Inn property began more than 200 years ago when 90,000 acres of land was deeded to John Mills. The Mills homestead was established on the current Mimosa Inn site. Columbus Mills inherited the estate and built a plantation there for wayfarers. In 1885, the Mills home was one of only four farmhouses that could be referred to as &dquo;plantations&dquo; in Polk County.

Following the Civil War, Columbus Mills sold the estate to Leland Reid McAboy, and it was then known as the McAboy house. When McAboy died, Reese H. Bell bought the house and renovated it. In 1903, Aaron French and William Stearn purchased the property and named it the Mimosa Inn because of the many beautiful mimosa trees that grew around the grounds.

French brought in his nephew, Roy, who was an architect and planned a major facelift of the old house, which added plumbing, heating and a hydraulic elevator. The casino was built in what was then the rear of the hotel, which now serves as the main inn that can be seen from Hwy. 108.

When the renovations were finished, the Mimosa Inn was known as the most modern hotel in Western North Carolina. Each floor had a bathroom for the ladies and one for the men.

Ott said the original inn and the entertainment building existed together for 13 years.

In 1916, the inn burned to the ground, leaving only four fireplaces standing. Stearns rebuilt the former casino, giving it 12 bedrooms, 12 baths, two lobbies and a dining room large enough to seat 100 people. &bsp;

Ott showed residents who attended the gathering Tuesday the wood in the inn&squo;s newest addition and how the floor was made out of the old bowling alley wood.

In the Mimosa Inn&squo;s golden days of the early 1900s, horseback rides and nature walks were availalbe as well as tennis courts. A nine-hole golf course was also built where Skyuka Road is today.

The inn had several owners between the 1930s and 1975 and in 1977, the inn went to public auction and was purchased by James Anderson Nelson of Greenville, S.C., and his wife, who used the home as a private residence and displayed their collection of antiques. Over time, the property has been split off and sold. It formerly included a few houses that were used throughout its history. The property now includes the main inn and a guest house in the rear.