The jingle from the old Heinz ketchup commercial is playing over and over in my head: “Anticipation…is making it wait.” Since the onset of the pandemic, I have been waiting for our beloved Graceland Inn to re-open. I am so happy to report the anticipation has been worth it and the wait is over.
The beautiful and iconic mansion, built by Senator Henry Gassaway Davis, is once again welcoming patrons for overnight stays as well as serving delicious meals in the restaurant now named “Yonder.” As announced a few months ago, Davis & Elkins College has begun a relationship with well-respected chef Dale Hawkins and his company, Fish Hawk Hospitality, which is now managing the Inn and operating the restaurant. The Graceland Inn is accepting lodging reservations for its ten rooms and suites and is serving both lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. From personal experience, I can attest to the delicious cuisine and unmatched ambiance.
Fish Hawk began as a catering business in 2005 and added its first restaurant on Main Street in Buckhannon in 2015. Since that time, they have grown to include The Coop in Buckhannon, a location in Morgantown, and now Yonder at Graceland Inn in Elkins. As for the restaurant at Graceland, the menu is grounded in Chef Hawkins’ philosophy that great food begins with great respect for the land and its offerings. Each dish that emerges from his kitchen tells the story of the Appalachian terroir, featuring fresh produce from nearby farms, flavors of the season, and a touch of Dale’s culinary artistry.
Graceland Inn is a treasure for Davis & Elkins College, Randolph County, and the state of West Virginia. In 1893 Senator Davis completed construction of the 16,000 square foot home on a prominent high point in the Randolph County mountains. The mansion, the centerpiece of a 360-acre estate, is a sophisticated expression of Queen Anne Victorian architecture. The exterior is constructed of native sandstone and the interior is exquisitely decorated in native hardwoods, namely quartered oak, bird’s-eye maple, cherry, and walnut. The Senator named it Graceland in honor of Grace, his youngest daughter. In 1939 the house was acquired by the West Virginia Presbyterian Educational Fund and donated in 1941 to Davis & Elkins College.
Having fallen into significant disrepair and facing possible demolition, the mansion underwent extensive renovation in the 1990’s and, thankfully, was restored to its former grandeur. Over the past several months, further work has been completed to “spruce up” this gem overlooking the town of Elkins. Recent renovations included interior and exterior painting, repair of the front porte cochere and rear veranda, and the installation of a new kitchen. The result is a continuing source of pride and a destination for tourists, campus visitors, and locals alike.
Guests arriving by carriage in the 1890’s, students living in the mansion in the turbulent 1960’s, and future guests of the Inn in the months ahead, all share one thing in common. Within this grand old home, for those that sit in silence and take the time to listen carefully, they will hear a faint cacophony of voices. Those conversations of bygone eras reverberate from the wooden walls. They remind us all of those that have journeyed to this special place.
Thankfully, the journey continues….
Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College