By Dave Russell
The Jarrett House and the adjoining Coach’s Restaurant sold at an Oct. 26 auction, but no one has the front door keys yet. Upset bids on the iconic properties have ownership in limbo.
The 136-year-old inn and 90-year-old restaurant building sold for $120,000 to the highest bidder on the sidewalk in front of the Justice Center that Monday.
Mohamed Darar of Morrisville was listed on court documents as the buyer. He co-owns Titan Construction Services, LLC.
Upset bids work like this: The clerk of court holds the sale open for 10 days in case of an upset bid. Another bidder can come along with an additional 5 percent of the sale amount and take the property. Another 10-day cycle would then start.
Titan put down a deposit. To upset that bid would require $6,000 over that amount within the 10-day period.
Chris Ellsworth of Marietta, Georgia bid $126,000 on Nov. 2.
Four days later, Erika Mathis of Tuckasegee placed a bid of $132,300.
Ellsworth responded on Nov. 13 with a bid of $138,915.
Original bidder Darar of Titan bid $150,000 on Nov. 17.
The next day Mathis jumped back in with $157,500.
Ellsworth offered $200,000 on Nov. 24.
Titan came back with $225,000 on Friday, Dec. 4, the last day in that 10-day window.
As of Monday, Titan is in the lead. A new upset bid would have to go up by $11,250 for a total of $236,250 by Dec. 14.
Ellsworth is a Sylva native and Smoky Mountain High School graduate.
“I’m very connected to Sylva,” he said. “I’m a bit of an opportunist, I look for good deals, and I have a lot of vision and creativity.”
Figuring out why the building is leaning would be the first order of business, Ellsworth said.
“There are a lot of options, like ripping off the front of it and putting up a brand-new replica of the Jarrett House,” he said. “There’s the idea that we’ve floated of tearing the whole thing down and rebuilding a replica of the entire building but updated to modern times. There are a lot of options, but we definitely want to get it back going again. One way or another, back to the Jarrett House the way it once was. Even if I don’t get the Jarrett House, I hope someone does something good with it. It’s got a ton of potential.”
Darar’s vision is not very different.
Titan recently completed a renovation of the 182-year-old Colonial Inn in downtown Hillsborough, said to be the third-oldest hotel in North Carolina.
“We’ll come into Dillsboro and be willing to restore this building like it should be and make it a destination like it should be,” Darar said. “We’ll bring it back up to code and update everything.”
Mathis is part of Mathis Landscapes, a landscaping company in Glenville. She did not respond to phone messages.
The current tax value for the inn is $1,100,110, according to the website of Iron Horse Auctions who handled the initial auction. Delinquent taxes total $46,702.59.
The 2,537 square foot restaurant has a tax value $525,420.00, with $22,694.73 in delinquent taxes.
Before its sale at the Justice Center Iron Horse warned of mold.
“There is currently a moisture issue in the main inn building and a mold report is located in the documents section,” the website warned.
Photos of the buildings’ interiors on the Iron Horse website (www.ironhorseauction.com) show some damage and debris. Others show antique beds with quilts and other vintage pieces of furniture.
The property is one of 20 Jackson County sites on the National Register of Historic Places. That would not necessarily stop a new owner from bulldozing it, however.
Under federal law, the listing of a property in the National Register places no restrictions on what a non-federal owner may do with their property up to and including destruction, unless the property is involved in a project that receives federal assistance, usually funding or licensing/permitting.
Dillsboro founder William Allen Dills built the institution in 1884, naming it “Mount Beulah Hotel” in honor of his youngest daughter.
Located near the railroad, the inn attracted waves of summer visitors coming to Western North Carolina. Dills sold the hotel in 1894 to R.H. Jarrett & Sons of Franklin.
Frank Jarrett took over management and renamed the establishment Jarrett Springs Hotel to capitalize on a growing tourist trade by promoting a small spring behind the building.
Though it was touted for mineral content, tradition holds the inn’s popularity and reputation rested more on his wife’s deftness as a country cook than spring water.
The Jarretts’ hotel, now called The Jarrett House, was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.