Roses and raspberries, July 23

07/22/2014 12:00 AM

07/21/2014 3:08 PM

Raspberries – and you could see these coming – to Colonial Inn owner Francis Henry who has let a Hillsborough and Orange County landmark decay and now wants to demolish it altogether.

Henry has asked the town of Hillsborough for permission to raze the nearly 200-year-old structure. And while contrary to legend, George Washington did not sleep there, the inn with its stately second-story balcony and front porch’s columns has been host to untold generations who visited and celebrated there.

As for history, one story that is true tells of how the wife of innkeeper Henry Stroud fought the looting of the Inn by the Union army during the Civil War by hanging her husband’s Masonic apron out a window for the Union offices to see. The building, and its contents, survived.

Except now, of course, it may not.

Henry’s name is familiar to longtime readers because they have been reading this story a long time, virtually since Henry purchased the property in 2001.

In 2008, the town of Hillsborough cited him for demolition by neglect and gave him a list of repairs, some of which he made. But three years later, in 2011, he was back with a request to tear down part of the inn and make a home for himself out of the rest. The town said no. The next year the town found Henry living there anyway and condemned the house for building code violations.

Henry has received offers but says no one’s met his price. The town has fined Henry but not put a lien on the property because he most likely can’t pay for the repairs which could reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.

But here we think the town may be missing an opportunity. A state preservationist suggests the town could consider exercising eminent domain, essentially taking the property for the public good.

Money is tight, always, and we applaud the caution. But the inn, if restored, would provide a healthy return on investment, as visitors flock to the reminder of what makes Hillsborough unique.

The inn, in fact, could benefit all of Orange County. Perhaps the town and county could consider jointly taking it on, marshaling volunteer labor and expertise to bring it back to its former grandeur.

Demolition or not, if local governments do nothing, the inn will be lost.

And that plucky innkeeper’s wife will have waved the apron for nought.

Roses to the ArtsCenter for mounting its strongest collection in years for its annual “10 by 10 in the Triangle,” and that’s saying something.

The summer tradition may no longer boast “10 minutes, 10 plays, 10 bucks,” but at $12 to $16 a ticket is still your best bet for a teriffic night out. The plays are funny, insightful and surprising, and the direction and cast are top-notch.

Everyone has moments that shine in the fast-moving performance, and the actors break the fourth wall without ever losing a step. Stand-out roses to those involved in the second act’s “This is Not a Play” by Charles “Chas” Belov, a side-splitting tour de force for its two well-matched performers, and “Lost in Thought” by Christopher Lockheardt, a dramatic telling of love lost but not forgotten, with a moment of animal ferocity that shocks.

Congratulations to Jeri Lynn Schulke, director of the ArtsCenter Stage.

And if you’d like to help your community arts space, now is a great time. A matching grant this summer will double your donation if the ArtsCenter can raise $15,000 this summer. Please email mailto:development2@artscenterlive.orgor call 919-929-2787, ext. 213 for more information.

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