The deed to one of the oldest buildings in Hillsborough may be changing hands as the municipal government drops eminent domain proceedings against the owner of the Colonial Inn.

A settlement was reached last month regarding the historic hotel that opened in 1838 on West King Street and operated for over 130 years before falling into a state of disrepair.

Real estate mogul Francis Henry is now permitted to sell the property that he bought at a town auction in 2002, with Mayor Tom Stevens having endorsed the anticipated sale.

“They’re going to put the Colonial Inn on the market; we have withdrawn the eminent domain request, and that means it’s free and clear for private ownership to come in,” relayed Stevens. “The main thing we want to see is this property restored.”

The agreement also stipulates that the municipal government may reinitiate its efforts to acquire the property if a sale is not made within a reasonable amount of time.

“The town does have an option to refile the eminent domain; we have one year to do so,” he noted. “We’re certainly going to hold off on that until that year is up.

According to Stevens, this solution is agreeable to all parties involved, as it keeps both Henry and town officials from having to spend undue amounts of time in court.

“I think all parties would love to see some kind of settlement — which is what we have — in lieu of a really nasty court battle, and I think this is a very good compromise,” he opined.

Stevens also recounted the details surrounding an unorthodox clause in the settlement contract that requires both parties to speak publicly on local media outlets that include WCHL.

“[They] just want to be able to sit down together [with us] and go to media outlets and mentioned [WCHL] specifically,” he explained. “We said, ‘Well, of course; we’re happy to do that.'”

The Colonial Inn was purchased by Henry for $400,000, but appraisers at UNC-Chapel Hill estimate that the property needs renovations that may cost over $3 million.

Prospective buyers will be required to take the property through a zoning process before closing on it, as it currently retains its classification as a residential building.

Photo by Helen Woolard.