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Exploring Kentucky | Home Away from Home

Harrodsburg’s Beaumont Inn is the epitome of Southern hospitality

By Katherine Tandy Brown

The Beaumont Inn dates back to the mid-1800s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Beaumont Inn dates back to the mid-1800s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Whether you’re a meeting planner in search of the perfect location for a corporate retreat, the chosen friend honing in on a spot for a girlfriends’ getaway, the mom or dad in charge of finding a Kentucky stay-cation for your next family trip, or a desperate soul in search of a few days’ break from the busyness of life, the Beaumont Inn can easily fill the bill.

Set atop a hill overlooking downtown Harrodsburg, this venerable, classic Greek Revival hostelry blends a delicious mix of historic tradition, contemporary refreshment and pure Southern hospitality.

“We’re not a hotel or a motel,” says manager and fifth-generation innkeeper Dixon Dedman. “We’re not a stop on the interstate. People don’t come here to grab a bite, grab a room and get back on the road. They come to unwind, relax on the front porch, enjoy dinner and take a stroll around the property. There’s a certain feel about the inn. I hear it all the time…it’s a sense of home that guests feel.”

Kentucky’s oldest family-operated country inn, this National Register of Historic Places treasure will celebrate a century of innkeeping in 2019. Spreading 33 acres, its grassy, parklike grounds support 33 different species of trees and include three buildings: Goddard Hall, Greystone House and the Main House. Many of the 31 guest rooms contained therein are furnished with original antiques. Each building expresses a distinct period of the heritage of the family.

Splendid in its Southernness, the three-story inn itself boasts a two-story front porch supported by six white Ionic columns, 18-inch walls made of solid brick fired on the property, first-floor ceilings that are 11½ feet high, numerous original hand-rolled window panes, and spacious parlors, where college belles once courted their beaus. Parlor cozies include crystal chandeliers and mirrors from the old Galt House in Louisville, Empire and Victorian furnishings and a mahogany Steinway grand piano.

For those looking to chill, the 1920-era Bell Cottage now houses the new Kentucky Spa. And you can beat the summer heat in the inn’s 1950s pool.

Lodging rates include a full Southern breakfast. You might choose cornmeal batter cakes with brown-sugar syrup, though every item on the menu is divine. After all, in 2015 the inn garnered a James Beard Foundation America’s Classic Award, an Oscar of the food world. For decades diners have raved about its corn pudding, yellow-legged chicken and two-year-old Kentucky-cured country ham brought to maturity in the inn’s own aging house. Not to mention fried green tomatoes with homemade pimiento cheese. Oh, my!

Expanded dining options include the main dining room (seasonally), the Old Owl Tavern and the Owl’s Nest. Sunday brunch is an event not to be missed.

Originally a women’s college built in 1845, the gracious property was purchased by a former student and her husband – Annie Bell and Glave Goddard – who turned it into an inn in 1918 in response to the demand of returning students who wanted to visit their alma mater. Pauline Goddard Dedman followed her mother, who was followed by her son and his wife. Dixon is the son of current owners, C.M. “Chuck” and Helen W. Dedman.

For corporate groups, the main house has one meeting room that can accommodate up to 24 attendees and a breakout room for 20, both with wireless internet, dedicated technology and, of course, that luscious food. The inn can arrange tours of area horse farms and of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail if attendees want to get out and see the area. Business travelers can unwind at two bars: The Old Owl Tavern is a bar and grill restaurant serving fine wines, spirits and draft beer; the Owl’s Nest is an English-style pub with a 62-inch plasma TV for big-time sports-viewing.

Named for the Dedman family’s Kentucky Owl Bourbon Whisky that was distilled along the Kentucky River before Prohibition, the Old Owl Tavern, which serves 75-plus bourbons, was selected as one of Bourbon Review magazine’s “Top 80 Bourbon Bars in America” in 2017 and “Top 75” in 2016. Last year, the inn unveiled its new bourbon-tasting room, where Dedman conducts private bourbon tastings for up to 16 folks who want to know more about bourbon, talk about bourbon or try different bourbons. The room also showcases information about his family’s distilling history.

“Distributors have been good about allowing me to get my hands on a lot of really rare bourbon,” Dedman says. “You can sample here without all that driving to different distilleries.”

Should you be able to tear yourself away from the bar, dining table and porch rockers, downtown Harrodsburg is but a short stroll. Remarkably, this town of 10,000 has five walkable National Historic Districts, some with lovely, bunting-draped homes. Nearby Old Fort Harrod State Park features a replica of the original 1774 fort, the first permanent settlement west of the Alleghenies. And in the summertime, Ragged Edge Community Theatre produces outdoor plays under the stars.

A wide array of day trips are available for guests. A short drive away, award-winning Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is pure historic, fascinating fun. You can watch the horses run in April and October at beautiful Keeneland Race Course, just 30 minutes down the road in Lexington, and tour gorgeous Thoroughbred farms while you’re there.

The best part…after a day reveling in Central Kentucky, you get to “come home” to Beaumont Inn.

“Some people have been coming for 35 years or more,” says Dedman. “We try to know what room, what dining table, what server they prefer, what they like for breakfast. We’re a family-owned and operated company. Our guests are like family visiting us and that’s the way we talk to our team about how we approach hosting guests.”

To become a part of The Beaumont Inn’s “extended family,” call (800) 352-3992 or go to beaumontinn.com.

Katherine Tandy Brown is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected]