[caption id="attachment_173941" align="alignright" width="300"] Joel Kirby (left) and Jay Burriss.[/caption] Joel Kirby and Jay Burriss gaze out the windows of the spacious sunroom in the newly renovated Saluda Inn. From
Joel Kirby and Jay Burriss gaze out the windows of the spacious sunroom in the newly renovated Saluda Inn. From that vantage point, the inn’s owners can see the past, present, and future: In the distance stand breathtaking mountains, eternal sentinels that preceded the 143-year-old inn by eons. Beneath the windows, a sprawling Grand Lawn beckons guests to venture outside and enjoy the moment — say, a crisp fall evening. The manicured space also hosts wedding receptions and other outdoor celebrations, a nod to the future.
Built in 1880 as a private residence for Dr. E.B. Goelet, Saluda’s first doctor and druggist, the Queen Anne-style dwelling was enlarged and converted into The Charlton Leland, a magnificent inn, in 1914. During the same year, Colonial Revival elements were added to the building. As Saluda became a popular summer destination, the prominent inn took its place as the city’s grande dame of lodging and maintained that reputation into the ’50s.
After that, the building served as an inn sporadically under the Saluda Inn moniker, but it gradually began to lose its luster. Even as neglect took its toll, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, a recognition of its glorious past.
By the time Kirby and Burriss — who lived in Greenville, South Carolina, but had a mountain getaway home in Saluda — came on the scene in 2020, the historic inn was destined for the wrecking ball. Its exterior was covered with clumps of overgrown brush and kudzu, the wiring and plumbing needed overhauling, and the building had to be professionally sanitized. After the men purchased the structure that summer, family and friends gave them fair warning. “They all told us, ‘Y’all have lost your minds,’” Kirby says. Undaunted, they began the arduous task of restoring the inn to its former glory.
They cleared away the brush, uncovering that gorgeous sunroom view of the distant mountains, and installed an elevator to make the inn fully accessible. Then came the fun part: designing, furnishing, and decorating the rooms.
Kirby and Burriss consolidated the 18 guest rooms into a dozen, allowing for larger accommodations, each with its own bathroom, kitchenette, and California king-size bed outfitted with luxury linens. Beyond that, each room is “drastically different,” Kirby says, with custom fabrics and window treatments.
Throughout the inn, the furnishings pay tribute to its history. Most of the bathrooms, for example, feature hex-tile flooring, which was in vogue in the late 1800s, when the house was built. Goelet’s original apothecary is on display in the wine cellar, and the original ladies’ writing desk from the lobby can now be found in an upstairs bedroom. The refurbished inn reopened in May 2022, adding a new chapter to the property’s story.
Now, the formerly condemned building is an asset to the community once more — one city official even called it the “phoenix of Saluda.” Unlike the phoenix of myth, though, the inn has risen not from ashes, but from North Carolina kudzu.