Built as a hotel in 1920 by William and Nora Lee Calhoun, the Inn was a state-of-the-art structure for its time.
It featured ten-foot ceilings, plaster design walls, heart pine hardwood flooring, five wood-burning fireplaces, transom windows down the main hallway and over 3,000 square feet of covered porches. As stories tell, the Calhouns would bring their guests from the train depot – two blocks away – in horse-drawn carriages.
William Calhoun was a descendant of former Vice President John C. Calhoun. Born in 1882, William first worked as a caretaker for a closed down copper mining company in the Hazel Creek area west of Bryson City. While there he met young Nora Lee Davis from Bryson City, who was teaching school at Wayside. They married in 1907, and a few years later opened a general store and post office where the Ritter Lumber Company was operating in the nearby small town of Medlin. When Medlin exploded into a 'boom town,' their store became very successful and they built a home for their family, which then included two young daughters. In 1919 they decided to relocate to Bryson City and built the Calhoun House. (Both Medlin and Wayside are now underneath Fontana Lake, and Hazel Creek is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.)
After William's death in 1929, Nora Lee continued to be a socialite of the town, having grand parties in the house's spacious yards. Sometime in the 1930s, Nora Lee converted the Calhoun House into apartments for the men working to build Fontana Dam.
William and Nora Lee's daughters, Verayle Calhoun Franks and Inez Calhoun, were both active members of the community. Mrs. Franks was a member of the committee to form the area hospital and became the hospital's first administrator. The house stayed in the Calhoun family until around 1995.
Renovation and preservation
In 2006, Edward and Shirley Ciociola purchased the Calhoun House and began an 18-month adventure to restore the home back to its original grandeur.
With the help of their daughter Kelly, they began by removing carpets and linoleum five layers thick, and thousands of pounds of dated building materials that did not fit the character of the historic home. As original moldings and doors were removed, they were saved and returned to the home at the completion of the project.
The result is a magnificent restoration where guests feel like they have taken a step back in time while still enjoying all the modern amenities of brand new plumbing and electric with modern appliances, Jacuzzi whirlpool tubs, Corian counter tops and central air & heat in every suite.
The finished home is a sight to behold. A stay at the Calhoun House Inn & Suites brings comfort, interest and enjoyment to every guest who wants to feel the true excitement of visiting in the Great Smoky Mountains. It is cozy. comfortable and convenient.
The location of the original stairway that lead downstairs in the 1920s can be seen in the kitchen of the Toy Box Suite. It shows an area of different flooring that was used to close up the opening in the 1930s. It had been covered by five layers of linoleum and a 1939 newspaper at the bottom.
All the original heart pine flooring, present throughout all the suites, has been sanded and refinished.
The flooring patterns provide some evidence of the original hotel design and layout. The hotel's original main hallway can be seen in the closets of the Orient Point Suite, Toy Box Suite and Movie Gallery Suite and the bathrooms of the Orient Point Suite and Toy Box Suite.
The original doorway at the end of the hotel hallway (long covered by paneling) has been restored with an original door frame (including the transom window) in the living room of the Movie Gallery Suite, where it now houses shelves of vintage cameras, projectors and pictures of actors and actresses from the "Golden Era" of Hollywood movies.
The original transom windows (long covered by paneling) have been restored and can be seen in some of the closet and bathroom doorways. They provide a unique, indirect light source for the rooms and an ambiance of days gone by, as well as further evidence of where the original hotel hallway was located in the Calhoun House of the 1920s. Some still contain the original 1920 glass.
The original plaster design walls and ceiling can be seen in the Prairie Edge Suite living room and the Orient Point Suite bedroom. These two rooms, along with two of the closets, were actually a large sitting room in the original hotel where guests could gather in front of a large wood-burning fireplace.