Don and Kim Cason are no strangers to hospitality and innkeeping. Before becoming the current innkeepers of The Esmeralda Inn and Restaurant of Chimney Rock, North Carolina, they were innkeepers (for over ten years) at Eight Gables Inn of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The couple thoroughly searched twenty-two different properties and kept coming back to The Esmeralda. Now they call it home and welcome guests from all over the world to visit. They revealed some of The Esmeralda Inn’s fascinating history.
The Esmeralda Inn built originally by Colonel Tom Turner in 1891 and opened for business in 1892. Turner named the Inn for the book Esmeralda by Frances Hodges Burnett (author of The Secret Garden), written while she was staying at a nearby inn. A play, based on the book, enjoyed a year’s run on Broadway.
Tragically, a fire burned down The Esmeralda Inn in 1917. Rebuilt on the original foundation, the location of the Inn was Esmeralda, North Carolina since a post office was at the Inn in 1917 and where Thomas Turner, son of Colonel Turner, served as postmaster. The post office discontinued in 1926. Later, the town’s name changed to Chimney Rock (after one of its most popular tourist attractions).
When Hurricane Fran (along with a 200-year flood) hit North Carolina in 1996, the people who lost their homes stayed at The Esmeralda Inn. The Esmeralda Inn was higher ground than the land of most local flood victims, so the Inn took those people in and provided water, showers, and lodging for several months.
After the flood, lumberjacks salvaged huge wooden logs floating down the river, separating the good ones from the bad. Unfortunately, a second fire to The Esmeralda Inn occurred in 1997. This was just a year after Hurricane Fran and, remembering the inn’s generosity, the local community pulled together to help rebuild the inn.
They used about seven hundred of the best logs to rebuild the inn. The logs were split (and partially hollowed out) to fit around new steel beams. The steel-girded new structure appears to be made entirely of wood, but owners Don and Kim Cason are confident that this steel reinforced structure, along with added sprinklers, will prevent The Esmeralda Inn from ever burning down again.
A local Asheville artist volunteered his time to work on the stunning staircase. He wove Laurel Vine throughout the banisters. Two stones from its former structure cap the bottom sides of the rugged stairs.
The hardwood floorboards in the Lobby were from the original dance floor, constructed by Hollywood in nearby Lake Lure, North Carolina, for the famous movie, “Dirty Dancing.” Hollywood has filmed other movies such as “The Last of The Mohicans” and “Firestarters” in this local area as well. In fact, the inn became a favorite hideaway for famous film stars, including Clark Gable. Speaking of films, the script for the movie Ben Hur was finished in Room #9 of The Esmeralda Inn.
A more recent addition, the historic mantel (not pictured above) came from Indiana. Since it matched the right time in history, it shipped to The Esmeralda Inn. Part of their chandelier comes from a wagon wheel of an old stagecoach. The Esmeralda Inn was formerly the first stagecoach stop in the area.
A historic photo in the Esmeralda Inn Lobby depicts a car driving up the massive front steps of the Inn to allow President Franklin D. Roosevelt to enter in his wheelchair. This was before the convenience of handicap ramps. The Esmeralda Inn now provides wheelchair access.
Many modern day notables also stay at the Inn, but out of respect for their privacy, Don and Kim Cason do not disclose their names. However, given its consistently high reviews and previous well-known visitors, there is always the possibility of meeting a famous guest at The Esmeralda Inn.
Owners Don and Kim Cason (and the whole Esmeralda Inn team) have a deep desire to serve every guest that walks through their doors. Along with their attentive staff, they anticipate needs ahead of time. The Casons enjoy their family-run bed and breakfast inn. Kim’s sister is the talented pastry chef, her sister’s husband is the executive chef, and her nephew is the Sous chef.
Each morning guests delight in a gourmet full hot homemade breakfast. The Esmeralda Restaurant is open to the public for lunch and dinner and offers exclusive wines and local craft beer. Don Cason said that The Esmeralda Inn sold out of tickets for the last Thanksgiving Dinner. They served about two-hundred people at three different times that holiday: noon, 2 pm, and 4 pm.
The bistro lights on the deck of the restaurant are romantic when they shine at night. We highly recommend their juicy steak as well as their fresh caught grilled salmon. From our outdoor table, we could see the famous Chimney Rock. In view, a gorgeous little waterfall trickles down the huge stones. The lush landscaping is evident everywhere the eye can see.
Exiting the restaurant and taking the elevator leads to the open second floor. It boasts a high ceiling with view of the main level below. In addition to two guest bedrooms (each with private balconies), this floor has a huge game room. Kim Cason, not only has a background in hospitality, she also has a talent for interior decorating. This is especially evident in her selection of décor throughout the inn.
Kim’s choice of pictures hanging on the walls in the game room gives the room a classy look.
- Dice framed
- Pool ball painting
- Royal cards framed
- Poker hand rankings
- Albert Dawson clocks
The game room features:
- Wrap around couch with ottoman in view of a huge flat screen television
- Round Scrabble high table with dictionary with two high-back chairs
- Telescope for viewing the night sky or the pool and landscaping by day
- Checkers and chess set on a round table with two high-back chairs
- Red Billiard table with balls, triangle, sticks, chalk
- Poker table with poker chips and cards—it even has cup holders
- Foosball table
- Air hockey table
Connected to the game room is a little kitchen with a dumbwaiter to receive food from the kitchen on the main level. The Esmeralda Inn often hosts events such as corporate groups (companies will rent the whole inn), local fundraisers, and elegant weddings (with up to 75 people).
The room just past the game room on the second level is a multipurpose room. A large roundtable, with leather executive chairs around it, is useful for companies who book the entire inn. This area also has a privacy screen and fits up to two spa tables for couples’ massages. Their spa is ideal for anniversaries and marriage retreats.
We recommend going outside at night. There is a stone patio with an outdoor fireplace for roasting marshmallows and making S’mores. Next to the outdoor fountain, there is a fifteen-person hot tub with jets and lights. There are towels available outside for your convenience.
Speaking of towels, it may seem like a little thing, but I just loved the little black washcloth with the word “makeup” stitched on it. I am sure this has saved their white towels from cosmetic stains. The bathroom even had an adorable black bag hanging up labeled “hairdryer.” It worked well to dry my hair after it got wet from using their relaxing hot tub.
All Esmeralda Inn rooms come with:
In addition to enjoying the amenities at The Esmeralda Inn, the greater Chimney Rock area offers many activities and attractions for guests to experience.
- Championship Golf
- Fly Fishing
- Horseback Riding
- Rock Climbing
- Water Sports
- White Water Rafting
- Zip Lining
- Asheville: art, Biltmore Estate (with its great architecture, gardens, history, winery, shops, and tours), lively music, shopping
- Bat Cave: local jams and crafts, nature conservancy, old cider mill, working cider mill
- Black Mountain: historic downtown with great galleries, majestic mountain views, and elegant shops
- Blue Ridge Parkway: access in Asheville (about 30 minutes from The Esmeralda Inn)
- Chimney Rock State Park: hiking, family activities, rock climbing, scenic views
- Dupont State Forest: hiking, breathtaking views, waterfalls
- Flatrock: home of late poet and writer Carl Sandburg, Playhouse State Theatre of NC, rainbow row
- Hendersonville: annual NC Apple Festival every Labor Day Weekend, dining, main street shopping, summertime music and events
- Lake Lure: boat tours, canoe and kayak rentals, swimming
- Mount Mitchell State Forest: highest point east of the Mississippi with gorgeous views of the Blue Ridge Mountains
- Pisgah National Forest: cradle of forestry
The Esmeralda Inn is a proud member of the North Carolina Bed and Breakfast Inns (NCBBI) Association as well as an elite Select Registry member inn.
Nestled in the rocky woodland setting, The Esmeralda Inn stands out as the jewel of Chimney Rock. Guests will continue to visit The Esmeralda Inn for its unique amenities, beautiful scenery, and welcoming hospitality. In their restaurant, the wall has a saying written on it, “May all who enter as guests, leave as friends.” Thank you, Don and Kim Cason as well as the entire Esmeralda Inn team, for a wonderful experience. As many have written in your guest book, “we will return and next time our visit will be longer!”