November at Hill House
The year 2014 has been good to Hill House. It has been my third year as innkeeper, and revenue grew wonderfully, which I guess means we are doing something right. Guest reviews have been heartening and I stay amazed at the Likes that come in on Facebook from my occasional posts.
There were two big behind-the-scenes jobs this year. One was replacing much of the antiquated piping system both in the crawl space and under the front yard from the street. The other was refurbishing the walls and floors in the Hideaway Suite, making it much more plush and romantic. Early in 2015, we’ll be replacing carpet in the four guestrooms that have it and adding central air conditioning to Hill House’s downstairs. Also a new website with some long-needed new photos should appear early in the year as well.
Assistant innkeeper Eva Kalos moved into her second year at Hill House this fall, and Luke Costlow and Carey Jackson both came on in autumn as, respectively, Hill House assistant innkeeper and resident manager. Part-timers Tyler Mack and Helen Evans round out the staff.
What’s perhaps the most surprising thing about this work for me? Perhaps it’s how faces can blend together. Before I greeted 50 people or so every week, I never imagined that I could forget a face. But it happens too often, I’m a little ashamed to admit. Secondly, is probably how genuinely good I feel when guests leave and I hear in their voices how much they enjoyed their stay with us.
Happy Holidays All,
David Raphael Smith, Hill House Innkeeper
October at Hill House
Holly and Sumner from Charlotte start out the month and the morning on Hill House's porch.
Later in the month, when it cools down, breakfast comes inside.
Warm afternoons on the porch last all month
But toward the end of the month, late afternoons and evenings move inside also.
Halloween night things very much cooled off.
Jaclyn and Juan Carlos from Atlanta and Atlanta via Medellín have breakfast to themselves.
September at Hill House
Alen and Judith toast, Katie and Jordan relax, and all chat together on the Hill House porch.
Torrey and Kelley smle on the morning after their wedding
A cold snap brings breakfast inside at Hill House. Check out the empty plates and more empty plates. The toasted croissant with the creme and berry filling always is popular.
Return guests Leslie and Pax and Scott and Sharon snag the two tops for breakfast.
August at Hill House
Some partners at Hill House in August like to sit across the table from each other. Others where they can bump elbows. Which are you?
This was Dusty's and Ashleigh's second visit to Hill House. Ashleigh says they want to stay in all the rooms eventually.
Some groups of four at breakfast are family, like Carrie, Melodie, Shawn and Brian on the left. Others are newfound friends like Mike, Sherrie, David, and Kathy in the center, and Elise, Erika, Melva, and Tammy on the right.
Kim seems a little more skeptical than daughter Kristen, don't you think?
July at Hill House
Ben and Corie love the Camera, Agreed?
Kathryn, left, and Izzy, right, say No to Facebook
Things Get Lush and Peaceful in July
May at Hill House
Hideaway Renovations Proceed
A stupendous amount of painting and a new tile on the bathroom floor in the Hideaway Suite took up much of the month. Now only new carpet remains.
TV System Is Fully Operable
All five broadcast stations and free Netflix and Hulu Plus programming are now available in Hill House guest rooms and the parlor. Yesterday, guests could watch the French Open Mens Final and the Tony Awards in the parlor.
Parents and Friends of Bride and Groom Stay at Hill House
The wedding party stayed elsewhere and let the older generation savor the peacefulness of Hill House.
Same Table, Different Sundays
Robyn and Stefan from Washington, DC., and Joel and Jason from Birmingham swap stories, as well as do Miki and Jon from Charlotte, and Leslie and Rick from Cincinnati.
April at Hill House
April was so busy at Hill House that we almost didn't have time to take photos. The reservations map above looks almost as full as October. The 170 roomnights scored in April almost doubled the 87 from April 2013. The secret -- low, low rates.
One thing we did find a little time for was spring planting. The decimated maple in the front yard came down over the winter and has been replaced with a dogwood. Nothing new in the two other shots, just a re-emergence of what guests have loved in past years.
March at Hill House
Women and International Guests
One week in mid-March Hill House, four of the seven occupied rooms at Hill House had lady guests: mother & daughter, single traveler, church buds, and partners Kelly and Emily above on the left. The next weekend, saw Leslie, Thach, and Mom Carol joining Naren, Malvika, and Mom Rehka for breakfast.
Staff Photos Finally
Eva Tauras-Craig (soon to be Kalos) began working at Hill House in September and Vanessa Bourgeois (right) in December. They are the assistant innkeepers, who ensure everything gets done during the course of the day. Tyler Mack did begin working in March as a gardener/general assistant. Sometimes, the camera can just get put on hold weeks at a time.
Winter Chores Winding Down
The Hideaway Suite, part of which was wallpapered in February, was painted in March, and a broadcast antenna was erected on the roof. Some fine-tuning to bring in CBS correctly is still necessary, but when completed, Hill House guests will have a combination of broadcast channels and ROKU channels, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime.
Diana and Mike Return
They visited Hill House from Greenville a little more than a year ago and liked it so much came back again. Mike's an accountant, born and raised in Greenville, and Diana, a chemical engineer from Colombia (yes the country). Two of the nicest people you'll meet.
For the past year, paintings of local artists have hung in Hill House's second-floor, contemporary loft suite the Hideaway Gallery. They are now in the process of coming down as part of an ongoing decor plan that on and off, will take up most of the first half of 2014.
In January, Innkeeper David finally decided on the wallpaper shown below. In early February, it will cover the walls, including the cantilevered slopes, in the sleeping wing of the room. Next, a professional will select wall treatments for the sitting area, bath, and dramatic stairwell. When completed, all Hill Housers hope it will be the most romantic guestroom in all of Asheville.
December Gatherings, Parties Brighten Hill House
Groups from The Kellogg Company and the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County came to Hill House the first half of December. Kellogg's Greensboro distribution office took the entire inn the first weekend of the month, and the PSABC held its annual Christmas party -- more than 100 people from 5-7 pm on Dec. 12.
The second half of the month saw a lot of family groups (Phyllis, thank you for your Meyer lemons) and as the New Year approached a lot of festive couples. New Year's Day breakfast, predictably, saw a lot of water glasses refilled.
Crowds and Weather Cool Down in November
Hillhouse guests are as eclectic and exciting as Asheville is. From honeymooners, international travelers, new retirees and old friends re-connecting, each group is an wonderful mix of personalities.
If you're unhappy with the new ROKU TV boxes in the guestrooms, this is the crowd that unanimously wanted them.
Fall flaunted itself on the maples trees lining the property this November.
Snow usually just melts in Asheville, the grounds dusted with snow for Thanksgiving Week was a lovely surprise.
October is the Busiest Month in Asheville
People pour into Asheville by the thousands in October to see the foliage, congregate downtown, and enjoy the cool mountain air. At Hill House, when occupancy is running near 85%, it's a constant effort to make sure the rooms are thoroughly cleaned, breakfast standards are upheld, and that we stay polite with difficult guests, many of whom are just passing through.
Among our favorite guests in October were three sisters and their two cousins, all from Minnesota, who get together every year. The sister in white in the middle "is not Sarah Palin," the rest of them assured us. Here they are finishing off breakfast on the first weekend of the month.
There's not a lot of time in October for bringing new things into Hill House, but we do need to ensure our menus have variety. On the left, along with grits and shrimp gratin is a mango-jicama salad that we introduced in October that was very popular. On the right, is Hill House's tried and true baked apple pancake.
This is Cliff and Marianna from Charlotte who were at Hill House in late October. This was their first time in a bed and breakfast, and they stayed in the Jackson Room. Here they're waiting breakfast. Note that breakfast is inside, unlike earlier in the month when we were still serving out on the porch.
Here are Joe and Nikke from the outer northwest Atlanta suburbs and Peter and Dianne from Charleston awaiting breakfast at the main dining room table late in the month. Peter got the incredible photo below of this big bear cub who wandered onto the rear of the Hill House property late one afternoon with his mother and sibling.
September Wedding, Return Guests & Surprise Guests
Carrie and John just moved from Kentucky to Portland, Maine, for a new job. But because families were spread throughout the South and Midwest and because they would like to live here one day, they chose Asheville for their wedding. They took the Hideaway Gallery suite in the property rear, and family took the Pisgah Apartment downstairs from it and two rooms in the main inn. Wedding was at 1:00 under the Hill House hemlocks, and the reception wrapped up around 4:00.
Nice to Know that a Lockout Doesn't Deter Hill House Guests
Last fall Brian and Michelle from the Charlotte area visited Hill House and stayed in the newly commissioned Hideaway Gallery suite. So newly commissioned, in fact, that a lock-from-the-inside-only-type bedroom door lock had still been left on the inner door. After a night on the town, Brian and Michelle arrived home and had to wait another hour until a locksmith showed. Guess in its own way though it was romantic, because last week they returned to the same guestroom (now with an appropriate lock).
That's them on the left having breakfast with the sisters Crain.
Scenes from the Hill House Bistro
Does the group on the left look hungry? Slow oven that morning. Jason and Chelsea from metro Atlanta, in the middle, celebrate the first morning after their engagement. And on the far right, that's Julia and Michael from Kentucky on the right, on their third visit to Hill House over 10 years.
That's our baked apple pancake, served more than once in September, and our own cherry tomatoes, which Nat swears he didn't plant in the herb garden.
And the Surprise Visitors.....
Well, it was past midnight and very dark, so next-door neighbor Doniel, when his barking dogs awoke him, wasn't able to get a photo of Mama Black Bear and her two cubs. But he says they sauntered up and sat on the Hill House porch for awhile, and then went ambling down Hillside Street. It was a Monday night, so, thankfully, likely no neighbors or guests were stumbling home from downtown after one-too-many.
Return Guests Highlight August at Hill House
With so many other interesting places to go in the Southeast, like Charleston, Savannah, and hundreds of miles of Atlantic and Gulf beaches, Hill House doesn't see a lot of repeat guests. The majority of Hill House guests tell us that it's their first time in Asheville, to say nothing of their first stay at Hill House.
That's why the second weekend in August was such a surprise when four rooms were filled with previous Hill House guests.
That's Lauren (far left) and Perry (far right) of Charlotte in the photo, after their marriage at Hill House in August 2012. They came back this August for their one-year anniversary, sans children however. Last year, it was Lauren who did the planning. This time around, however, Perry took care of the reservations.
Adam, Elizabeth, Zev, and Jonah of Roanoke also made an August return, both to attend the Laugh Your Asheville Off comedy festival and see their eldest son (older brother) Yuri again. Yuri, who's a private chef, prepared breakfast on Friday the 15th, much to the delight of his family.
Bruce and Meredith of suburban Chicago, came to Hill House for the sixth time that weekend, visiting their son. And Noelle from Raleigh was back again, bringing her son Jack, also a guest, back to Asheville for the start of the fall semester at UNCA.
Other August Hill House Scenes
Tyler from Raleigh gives a hand to Chris and Jill's dog (from northern Virginia), while his partner Payal looks at her tablet
A lot of younger guests shared moments at Hill House in August.
Diane and son Matthew from New Orleans (rear of photo) were in Asheville visiting their daughter/sister, and sit on the porch awaiting breakfast, chatting with the Whites from Greensboro and the Lloyds from Athens.
July: Independence Day amid the Monsoons
July is one of the months when little new gets done around Hill House, because it can get so busy that we’re all just treading water to stay afloat. This July was complicated a little by especially heavy rains (almost Asheville’s wettest month ever) that postponed some outdoor work on the yard and garden. However, the wet weather did have one surprisingly great effect – the rains didn’t allow for any of the stagnant ponds mosquitos need for breeding to develop. So, Hill House’s porch has been mosquito-free all summer.
The downpours, which actually began in May, were heaviest over the July 4 weekend, putting a little damper on Hill House’s cookout, which got restricted to the front porch. Guests Rusty and Lonnie from Louisville, after having their whitewater rafting trip cancelled, and then getting stuck in traffic at the Biltmore Estate because part of the entry road had washed away, decided to leave a day early. But truth be told, no one seemed to mind the monsoons terrifically. A lot of people come to Hill House to relax, and it was the perfect weekend for that.
July actually was three different “seasons” for Hill House. There was the spurt of the July 4 weekend, although every single guest chose to come early on Thursday instead of Wednesday night, unlike the typical weekend. Then there were the days on either side of the 4th holiday, when business was sluggish. And then there was the second half of the month, when it seemed guests were checking in and out at high speed.
July also was the first full month that David lived offsite and that Katie (with help from Joe with whom she lives in the Cottage) took principal responsibility for life at Hill House after 3:30. That means that Katie, who unlike David is an Asheville native, will likely check you in, pour your wine, and tell you about a good restaurant or a good hike.
Assistant innkeeper Nat spent much of July sleeping outdoors at electronic music festivals and Crystal, Hill House’s other assistant innkeeper, made it down to Lake Keowee with her husband and grandchildren a couple of nights.
Hill House got to know Lars and Rekke from Denmark, who were doing a driving tour of the southeast. Daniella and Vladir, who just moved to Atlanta from Brazil, talked a good spell after breakfast one morning about Latin America economic and social issues with Al and Mary Linda from Atlanta's suburbs. Christiana, finishing up her first year at Harvard Med School, graced the DrHumor with Stockton of Wake Forest Medical School. And Steve and Sean, although unable to pull their seminar together, still met up in Asheville to enjoy Hill House and good times.
Perhaps the best news of all – Hill House gross income in July was up 5% over July 2012.
Meet Our Guests
Noelle and Jack give a breakfast smile.
Jack goes to UNCA and they stayed with us for the first time about a year ago, when Noelle had driven over from Raleigh to pick Jack up. Noelle spent her first night by herself, and about 3:00 am, the pipes in the wall of her room started to clang, as they do every couple of months for some mysterious reason.
She thought someone might be trying to break into Hill House with a sledgehammer, and she said she pulled the covers up over her head. Jack got a half-price room the next night (dorms had closed), and the two of them now have a home away from home in Asheville.
John and Margaret Say "I Do" at Hill House
Saturday afternoon, May 18, about 40 people gathered on the Hill House lawn to watch Hill House guests John and Margaret marry. Among those in attendance were Margaret's two daughters and their companions and John's son and his companion, all also Hill House guests. Hill House assistant innkeeper Nat Allister provided the sound system and helped Margaret program the music. Friday afternoon and Saturday morning there were lots of cards on the porch and some watching of home movies....
Meet Our Guests
The Arlington Six meet the Simpsonville Two. It was three days of Little Switzerland, ziplining, and the Biltmore for Mary Margaret, David and Anne, and Lynette, Bill, and Sarah, family friends from Arlington, Va. They talked a lot of NCAA basketball with Mike and Erin.
Meet Our Guests
Can we say Engaged? Tom and Christine (on the loveseat) celebrate their engagement with friends on the Hill House porch. From Massachusetts and New Jersey, the couple with the big smiles now live nearby in Seneca, SC, where he teaches high school and she works for an energy management firm. If you look real closely, you can see the ring on Christine's hand resting on Tom's knee.
Who Remembers Bailey?
New Mini-Split AC/Heating Units This Week
Like any property, upgrades are always on the Hill House agenda. This week, February and March's profits are flowing back in to Hill House with a new 4-zone, mini-split cooling and heating system.
Gone will be the wall heaters and the window a/c units in the Battery Park, Kress and Arcade rooms and the Hill House office/bodega. The new wall units are mounted high and temperature and ventilation is controlled remotely.
What's next? Perhaps the carpet in Arcade, Biltmore and Drhumor rooms...
Meet Our Guests
Joe and Linda, from Arkansas, sharing their honeymoon with Hill House. It was their first time in Asheville, and of course they went to the Biltmore Estate. Also took Hill House's Romance Package of champagne, chocolates, and roses. I can't say who looks more blissful
Hill House's previous owners Bill and Terry Erickson wrote this week to let me know that Bailey, the Golden Retriever that was such a vital part of Hill House for many years, has passed on. They sent this video testament.
Meet Our Guests
New Yorkers Rafael and Danielle take a late-morning breakfast at Hill House and give us a hello. Rafael is a photographer and Danielle a model. Work brings them down to Charlotte for a few months, and they say they hope to be able to get away to Asheville again.
Meet Our Guests
More New Yorkers (kind of) Alex and Sanette graduated from Duke last year and went to the Big Apple for jobs at a tech consulting firm and as a reporter for a major business newspaper. Sanette was down in Durham on Friday to receive a journalism award from Duke, and then they just had to come to Asheville. Nat, who prepared the croissant french toast for breakfast, says to notice the clean plates.
Meet Our Guests
Cara and Burt spent three nights with us this month, the last time they anticipate having this kind of freedom for a few years, because, well, it has something to do with Cara and 7 months. Burt is a sports marketer for his alma mater in the NC Triangle. Anthony there in the background wasn't going to let the chance to be on the Hill House blog get by him.
Christmas at Hill House
Best of the holidays to everyone!
Hill House's First Retreat of 2012
A Richmond, Va., outsourcing automation consulting firm brought six executives from offices around the Southeast to Asheville and Hill House this past Tuesday. They arrived after lunch, started off in the dining room, took the meeting out to porch and the 75-degree weather around 4:00, and finished off back in the dining room after breakfast the next morning with a couple of team-building specialists from Charlotte who drove in for the day.
"Wonderful experience," said Jim M., who organized the meeting.
For corporate groups, Hill House offers 20% weeknight discounts on the first night and 33% off on all subsequent nights.
Hill House Hosts a Small Wedding
Last weekend Lauren and Perry said "I Do" on the Hill House with their five children from previous marriages and Lollie the Cat witnessing.
Champagne ("It tastes like 7-Up," said 10-year-old Sam) and a catered dinner on the porch followed the late afternoon ceremony.
"It was exactly as I had hoped," said the Andie McDowell, look-alike (well, with red hair) bride.
Full House over the Weekend
Here are Brian, Jen, Karen, and Adam enjoying their Junior Citizens (Under 30) discount. Friends from college days at U Miami, Ohio, Brian and Jen now live in Cincinnati and Karen and Adam in Greensboro.
Susan, Elaine, and Sue also were college friends, but perhaps not as recently. They met on their dorm floor in their first at University of Michigan. Susan now lives in Grosse Pointe Park, not far from Ann Arbor, Elaine is in Houston and Sue in suburban Atlanta.
Benjamin says "Mama, I'm getting in this photo no matter what."
The Princess Bride
"Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die."
Mandy Patinkin, the actor and singer known well for the line in the heading from the movie The Princess Bride, and his wife of 32 years Kathryn Grody spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at Hill House. Honeymooners Nina and Dorian who shared Sunday morning breakfast with the New Yorkers who are spending time in Charlotte shooting the TV series Homeland in which Mandy stars with Claire Danes, were suitably thrilled. Mandy and Kathryn did sit for a breakfast photo, but our camera gremlins stole it. Here's a Homeland photo of our guest.
22 for Breakfast
Hill House had its busiest weekend of the year, seating 22 for breakfast, all on the porch. And morning yoga rolled on. Between four and seven guests, almost every morning.
The photo below is Marianne and Ellen, college roommates in Illinois who last saw each other 38 years ago, and made a facebook reunion and caught up at Hill House.
This is Scott and Kristin from Savannah, catching up on their reading before breakfast one morning.
And this is Chad, Luiza, and Jake, of suburban Charlotte, in the same place after breakfast. (Jake, with help, finished his breakfast.)
Meanwhile, Katrina and Tonya, opted for Chinese Checkers in the parlor after breakfast and before they returned to Raleigh.
Morning Yoga Debuts
After a few weeks of hesitation, a few guests finally took the 7:30 am morning yoga opportunity. Three on Saturday, and then a fourth joined on Sunday. The weather cooperated, being about 60 degrees both mornings. Big thanks to Asheville Yoga Center instructor Meghan Ganser.
New Life at Hill House
My name is David Raphael Smith, and beginning last week I became the third proprietor of Hill House. I've had three previous careers, as a commercial real estate appraiser, a journalist, and restaurant waiter. Thank heavens my assistant innkeepers Matthew Williamson and Crystal Barnwell are here to tell me what to do.
I have no big changes planned for Hill House. It's been so lovingly cared for during the past eight years by Terry and Bill Erickson that there's no need for anything dramatically new. I'm sure as I get my feet wet, I'll start tinkering around the edges here and there. But I feel very fortunate to have come across the opportunity that Terry and Bill have developed.
The Ericksons first grandchild arrived last year in northern California, where they and their daughter lived together for many years. They're moving back out West, to Prescott, Arizona, near where Terry's parents and a number of brothers and sisters live, and where they'll be able to savor some well-deserved free time. Bailey and Maisie tell me that everyone is looking forward to the southwestern climate, but that they're going to miss all the attention that Hill House guests give them.
Hope to see some of you readers soon.
A Message from Terry and Bill:
The past 8 1/2 years at Hill House have been incredible, and it has been an honor to have you as guests and friends. While we are excited about our new adventure, it is bittersweet to leave the Inn and the Asheville area. It has filled us with a lifetime of memories.
Our granddaughter, Katelyn, will be 1-year old next month and we are looking forward to being a bigger part of her life. Of course Bailey and Maisie will take good care of us, and are anxious to get settled in their new home.
We will miss seeing each of you, but hope you return to Hill House soon to start new memories with David and his staff. Come and enjoy their delicious new breakfast entrees and afternoon snacks! Hill House will always be a special place, and we thank you for filling the Inn with warmth, laughter and hugs.
A Very Busy Month
- February In Asheville
- January in Asheville
- December at Hill House
- December in Asheville
- Social Hour at Hill House
- Concierge Services at Hill House
- Hill House's Neighborhood
- Hill House Gatherings
- Breakfast at Hill House
- Asheville North, South, East & West
- Bicycling in Asheville
- Downtown Asheville and B&Bs
- Asheville's River Arts District
- Gay Lodging in Asheville
- Magical Montreat
- Asheville Green Dining
- The Official World of Asheville B&Bs
- What Asheville B&Bs Can and Can't Do
- Hill House Operations
- Negotiating a Room Rate at a B&B