Frank Jarrett bought the inn in 1894, just in time for an explosion of tourism in the mountains. Visitors from flat, hot places began flocking to inns in the mountains to escape the summer heat. Jarrett discovered a sulphur spring on inn property, and changed the name of the inn to the Jarrett Springs Hotel to take advantage of the notion that sulphur waters had restorative powers.
The fame of the inns' food grew under the guidance of Jarrett's wife, "Miss Sallie", whose fried ham, redeye gravy and buttermilk biscuits were the stuff of dreams. The Jarretts owned the inn until Frank’s death in 1950, and its reputation for good food and lodging lived on; current innkeepers Jim and Jean Hartbarger acquired the inn in 1975, and brought with them a strong commitment to the Jarrett House tradition.
The Hartbarger's two sons, Scott and Buzz, and their wives Mary and Sharon, now help keep the inn.
The Jarrett House is one of the oldest inns in Western North Carolina, a throwback to the days of the horse and buggy and the wood-burning passenger train. Well-girded by generous porches to accommodate dozens of rocking chairs, it was built for the "comers and stayers."
William Allen Dills, who founded the town of Dillsboro, built it just two years after the coming of the Western North Carolina Railway in 1882. He named it for his youngest daughter, the late Mrs. Beulah Dills Weaver who was born next door in the family home now owned by her daughter, Mrs. Alice Dills Weaver Turner. He called it The Mount Beulah Hotel. At the same time he gave the mountain facing the hotel the name Mount Beulah.
Once he opened his wayside establishment, it became the official dining place for passengers and employees of the railway. The passenger train from Asheville stopped here 20 minutes at noon for dinner and the number of passengers requested reservations for dinner was telegraphed ahead from Balsam, a custom that persisted for many years. Mrs. Minnie Dills Gray, another daughter, recalled in her "History of Dillsboro" that Dillsboro got its start as a tourist town in 1886 when the hotel got its first summer visitors. There were two women from Edenton who spent several weeks here that summer.
"They were the first women to be seen here that smoked cigarettes," Mrs. Gray said, "and they set the countryside agog and gave zest to the neighborhood gossip." By 1894 The Mount Beulah Hotel was catering to summertime "comers and stayers" from far and wide.
Then in that year, Dills sold his hotel so that he could devote more time to his many other interests. R. Frank Jarrett of Franklin, who become something of a legend in his own time, took over the place, changed its name to The Jarrett Springs Hotel and touched it with legend. This was at a time "the springs" were in their heyday here in the mountains and folks flocked into the watering places to partake of their minerals. Never one to miss a drumbeat, Frank Jarrett discovered during negotiations for the Mount Beulah that there was a beautiful sulfur spring at the rear of the hotel that bubbled up into a soapstone basin.
To capitalize on it, he made it part of the name of the hotel and over the spring he built a summer house encircled by seats where his guests could go and sit and sip the waters that were reputed to give a body new vigor. But it was not the waters that gave the Jarrett Springs Hotel its fame and legend, but the food served up country-style by the innkeeper's wife, "Miss Sallie." He was so busy with outside interests and with writing poems and songs and operettas, that he left the operation mostly to "Miss Sallie." But he did cure his own hams and he worked out a process of curing that made them famous and caused folks to spend a day's travel just to eat them.
The fried ham went to the tables in great platters along with red-eye gravy, hot buttermilk biscuits, sourwood honey, homemade butter and, in season, fresh vegetables right out of the garden. At every meal, the platters kept coming to the tables and caused strong men to weap - because they couldn't eat as much as they wanted. "Mister Frank" used to say that if a guest ever had to ask a waitress to bring more ham the meal was on the house. Nobody ever heard of it happening.
He operated the place until his death in 1950 and then his heirs sold it to W.B. Faw, a hotel operator from Gainesville, GA. He rechristened it The Jarrett House. Six years later he sold it to Mrs. Beverly DeVault. She ran it for a short time and then sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Silvis and Miss Florence Harris whose great uncle, the late C.J. Harris, pioneered mining operations in this area and opened up the first kaolin mine.
The Lowes acquired it in 1960, and now Jim Hartbarger has bought it. In all the years, it has never lost its reputation for good food, and the Hartbargers intend to maintain that recognition.
"Just as it's been from the beginning," Jim said, "country ham and red-eye gravy and hot biscuits will be the hallmark of that spacious dining room that seats 125 guests. "But we'll also serve fried chicken and trout which also have long been a part of the menu." "This is an age of nostalgia," he said, "and I want our guests to relive some of the old things that brought the first visitors to our mountains."
Reprinted Courtesy of John Parris
The inn was named to the National Register of Historic Places ninety years later, March 1, 1984.
Dillsboro is now a village of 200 residents, known not for mining and logging, but for fine artists and craftsmen. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad makes Dillsboro its home base, and carries hundreds of thousands of excursion passengers out of the Dillsboro depot each year.
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