Written by Katie Smith
Driving into the quaint town of Dillsboro, NC, you’re sure to notice the Victorian-style white inn on the corner of Highway 441 and Haywood Street. The Jarrett House has been standing prestigiously in this location since 1884, then known as Mount Beulah Hotel named by its original owner, W.A. Dills (founder of Dillsboro). Dills originally built the hotel to accommodate the growing influx of railroad guests and was the area’s first railroad hotel accommodation. Over its almost century-and-a-half long existence, residents in Dillsboro have always been able to count on the charming draw of The Jarrett House to bring tourists to town, helping to earn Dillsboro and Sylva a spot on almost any list when you search for “best places to visit in Western North Carolina”.
Ownership has changed only a handful of times, likely contributing to the consistency in maintaining the establishment’s well-earned reputation. The Beulah Hotel was sold to Frank Jarrett in 1890 and was rebranded as “Jarrett Springs Hotel” and eventually finding its present name The Jarrett House – a place where guests gathered for fine dining and exquisite lodging. In 1975, the inn was acquired by the Hartbarger family, who later purchased The Dills Home next door and have incorporated it as an extension of The Jarrett House. This change of hands brought a face-lift to the inn when the original Victorian-style front porch was removed and replaced with a New Orleans-style cast iron porch, plus several minor upgrades. Guests could expect grandiose rooms with vintage décor complimentary of the buildings historic infrastructure, and visitors to the restaurant came to know and love family-style meals that left guests full-on southern-style delicacies.
Over the last several years, The Jarrett House has felt the wrath of the roller-coaster economy. Not quite a year ago, The Jarrett House hit the auction block during the COVID-19 pandemic. After a two-month bidding war, Sylva native Chris Ellsworth came out victorious and is in the process of developing his vision for the future of The Jarrett House. Ellsworth graduated from Smoky Mountain High School in 1991 and is now a resident of Marietta, GA – making weekly visits to Dillsboro to work on the property. He has experience in working with dilapidated properties and has big plans to restore The Jarrett House to what it was at the height of its glory days.
Already facing hurdles like the high prices of building materials and supply shortages around every corner, Ellsworth has noted that this process will likely be more drawn-out than he’d planned. Residents are eager to see what’s in store for the historic building, and the impact it will have on the tourism community in the town of Dillsboro. The current climate likely means a slow process to restore this masterpiece, but as the old saying goes – “Good things come to those who wait” – and this renovation is certainly going to be worth that wait. Soon enough, community members will once again be able to book rooms for their guests to stay and enjoy delicious meals through the open doors of The Jarrett House.