So many times on our summer excursions, we jump in the car and just go, not really knowing what we will find along the way. On the day that my mom, my daughter, and I headed for Harrodsburg, we knew exactly where we were going. I had had a conversation with my dad a few weeks earlier about a historic building found in Harrodsburg that I had never heard of before. It was because of his recommendation that I decided we would visit Harrodsburg and I built our day around that stop. In my two previous posts I covered our first two stops of the day, Morgan Row and Old Mud Meeting House. Once we finished visiting those locations, we were headed for Beaumont Inn!
Let’s start from the beginning…
Greenville Institute, founded in 1835 near Greenville Springs in Harrodsburg, was a flourishing college under the leadership of Dr. Samuel Mullins. In 1845, a three story brick Greek Revival style building was built on a piece of land atop a hill on the outskirts of Harrodsburg, and the Greenville Institute relocated to the new building.
Greek Revival Architecture – The Details
“In the first Daughters College Catalog issued for the school, the true Greek revival style building was described as “an elegant brick mansion, 80 by 52 feet, three stories high, well ventilated, built with hollow walls to prevent dampness in the rooms, and secured by a metallic roof and other means against liability to fire, and most ample dining room, kitchen, and bathroom, completed at a cost of $10,000 and now prepared for the accommodation of 100 pupils.” Six white Ionic Columns made of solid, round-edged bricks and covered with cement support the two-story front porch. The walls of the building are 18 inches of solid brick with ventilating spaces; all bricks were fired here on location. The ceiling on the first floor is 11 ½ feet high, the second floor is 10.5 feet high, and the third floor is 9.5 feet high. Many of the windows contain the original hand rolled glass panes. The original windowpanes in the bedrooms show proof of engagements, dear friends, and their own names and dates that were cut out by students’ diamond rings.”
-From Beaumont Inn website
Becoming Daughters College
In 1855, the college was sold to John Augustus Williams, first president of the University of Kentucky (originally Bacon College). He and his father, Dr. C. E. Williams christened the school Daughters College in memory of the three young daughters John and his wife had lost to very early deaths. John wanted to take the students under his wing and treat them as his own “daughters.” The school was to be “collegiate in the domestic wants of girls away from their parents.”
The school was a success from the very beginning bringing prestige to the area. Students flocked to the school, enrolling 150 students from 15 different states. Even during the Civil War, the school continued to educate through the sounds of distant artillery.
Students were educated in courses such as Algebra, History, Philosophy, Anatomy, Grammar, Astrology, and more. To learn more about the courses taken, and rules governing the girls of the school, click here.
Room and Board and Christian Training
"It is assumed, in the system of education at this college, that every student is to become a teacher and trainer of youth, either in the capacity of mother, or in that of a professional teacher." Students who learned under President Williams, "receive[d] from him and his faithful helpers an education, unique in its simplicity, unsurpassed in its Christian training, and unexcelled in its type of womanhood. -Biographical Sketch of John Augustus Williams, 1887 “the whole expense of a young lady, including charges for board, fuel, light, washing, medical attention, collegiate instruction, home instruction, use of library and apparatus and vocal music, will not exceed one hundred and sixty dollars per annum, or for one collegiate year. Drawing, Painting, Needle-work, Piano, Guitar at an additional cost of fifty dollars per annum. At the same time, the student may receive further instruction, if she chooses, in the practical business of house-keeping. No charge will be made, except for the ordinary rates of board.” -From “Memorial of J. K. Rogers and Christian College”
Passing the Torch – Beaumont College
Due to failing health, Williams sold the college in 1894, to Colonel Thomas Smith, but Williams would not sell the name “Daughters College” to him. So, the name was changed to Beaumont College. (The story is told that Smith’s wife realized as they were coming up to the college that it sat on the highest point in Harrodsburg. She chose Beaumont as the new name as it meant “beautiful mount” in French.) Smith remained Beaumont College’s president until his death in 1914. The college then struggled financially as it began to fight against public schools of the time. In 1917, the doors of the college closed and the property was divided into tracts, and put up for auction.
From College to Inn
After the college closed, Annie Belle Goddard, alumna of Daughters College, and her husband, Glave, purchased the building and about a 1/2 acre of land around it. The Goddards turned it into a 31-room inn and restaurant which opened in 1919 as Beaumont Inn. The property has remained in the family ever since! The Dedman family, descendants of Goddard, now run the Inn. The property has continued to grow over the last 100 years, adding the Greystone House, Bell Cottage, and Goddard Hall to their facilities.
Expansion and Updates
In 2003, Harrodsburg’s laws changed allowing Beaumont Inn to acquire a liquor license. The Dedman family began turning the original carriage house into The Old Owl Tavern, a casual bar and restaurant. The design exposed the limestone foundation and oak beams original to the building.
In 2009, the family transformed the old meeting rooms and private dining room into the Owl’s Nest, an English style pub, allowing guests to relax in a cozy atmosphere at the end of the day.
A Place in History
- Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
- Oldest family-operated country inn in Kentucky
- 2015 James Beard Foundation America’s Classic Award
- numerous national hospitality and food awards
- one of the top culinary destinations in the country
- an official stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
As we drove up the hillside, I tried to imagine what it looked like in the 1800s, as I always do with historic places. It had to have been a very impressive and amazing site when you arrived at the top of the hill. I am certain is was wooded and very scenic at the time. I can imagine the awe as the 3-story brick building with its massive columns came into view. I mean, it’s extraordinary today!
We arrived a few minutes before The Owl Tavern (Beaumont Inn’s casual restaurant) opened. We had plans for an early dinner and we wanted time to explore the property beforehand. While we really wanted to have dinner in the historic dining room restaurant, I had checked the website prior to our visit and learned that it was not open due to COVID.
We parked the car, took a quick walk of the grounds as planned, and stepped into Beaumont Inn. From the exterior, it was really hard to know what to expect. The interior was exquisite. The deep red carpets, dark wood trim, and elaborate chandeliers took my breath away. It was like stepping back in time. My mom, my daughter, and I took a look at every inch of the building (that we were allowed to explore 😉). Every space within the Inn was cozy and welcoming. The halls, stairways, and meeting spaces were lined with history; from furniture to framed newspaper articles to display cases full of memorabilia. The Beaumont Inn made me want to stay! I couldn’t help but take a billion photos. Check them out below!
And then there was food!
We left the Inn through a side entrance and walked across the parking lot to the lower level entrance of The Owl Tavern for an early dinner. This space was just as cozy, comfortable, and welcoming as the Inn. The menu was incredible, the food outstanding, and the service was superior. My mom enjoyed the Classic Beaumont Inn Hot Brown, my daughter enjoyed the Creole Alfredo Linguine with chicken, and I enjoyed the Pulled Pork Nachos. I was so into the experience, I failed to take any photos, other than when dessert came. No, we didn’t have room for dessert, but it was Kern’s Kitchen Derby Pie! Let’s be real, if there is Derby Pie, you always have room, and if you haven’t tried Derby Pie, you absolutely must when given a chance!
I absolutely loved this visit. Beaumont Inn is gorgeous! I enjoyed seeing how the college building functions as an inn today. I think that it fits the building well. I also think it’s very apropos that this historic building functions as an inn and tavern, when so many of our early historic building were originally inns and taverns. While we did not stay the night, I do believe it would be a very enjoyable experience. We did not get to see any of the rooms, but if the rest of the building is any indication, the rooms are likely cozy and welcoming too! If given the chance, I’d suggest staying the night, and if not, you need to stop in long enough to enjoy a meal at the tavern. I hear the food in the dining room is to die for, so when it opens, we will be visiting again! Do make sure to check their website for their days and hours if you are planning on eating. The Old Owl Tavern is not open daily and the hours are for dinner only.
I highly recommend that you visit this hidden treasure. It is one I had not heard of or come across in all my searches for historic buildings in Kentucky. I am so very happy that my dad mentioned it to me this summer or we would have missed an amazing experience.
Next up, another tavern and inn, but this one is located in Bardstown, KY!
Until then, Happy Travels!