Photos, memories sought from Waynesville's boarding house days

By Vicki Hyatt | Aug 30, 2014
The Gordon Hotel in Waynesville in the 1940s.

Former Waynesville Mayor Henry Foy is on a mission.

He has research almost completed on a book he is co-authoring with local author Ann Melton, but he need photos to accompany it.

The topic is boarding houses and hotels in Waynesville. Photos have been collected from many of the more well-known establishments, but many private homes were used to board guests, as well.

The topic is one Foy knows well — he grew up in a boarding house. Foy was 6 when his father died, and only 19 months old when his grandfather passed away. His grandmother and mother made ends meet by operating a boarding house.

“We’re sticking just with boarding houses, not places that took in roomers,” Foy said, noting that boarding houses offered not only a place to stay, but three meals a day.

“And they were hearty meals, I might say,” said Foy, now 90. “Breakfast might include oatmeal, fresh fruit, grits, eggs and bacon. People who weren’t staying there would pay 35 cents to eat.”

The noon meal was the large one and would include fried or baked chicken, green beans, potatoes or items many would now think more appropriate for the evening meal. A lighter supper such as oyster stew, liver and onions or hamburger steak was the dinner fare. Dessert was always served. Non-guests who reserved a spot could eat for 50 cents or 75 cents, depending on which meal they chose.

“They were good meals,” Foy remembered, adding some guests stayed just several weeks, but others stayed on for the summer. “Sunday dinners were the best.

The home formerly operated by Foy’s family, the Herren House at 94 East St., is still open for business and operates as a bed and breakfast. Before his family took over, it operated as The Savannah. The Foy family operated the boarding house from 1918 to 1930.

Foy remembers it as a gracious home with six rooms that were rented out, mostly in the summer and fall. The family shared a small area during the season, but got to more into the “plush quarters” during the winter months.

“We lived differently in those days,” he recalled. “It was a decent living. What you made in the summer carried you through the winter.”

Foy and Melton have a list of 68 boarding houses in Waynesville, though Foy said there are likely fewer since different names many have been used during different decades. The list includes 15 hotels, many of which are long gone.

Melton said Foy is the most knowledgeable person of downtown Waynesville around.

"That why I was so thrilled and considered it such a privilege to work with him on the pictorial history of downtown Waynesville because I learned so much," she said. 
The two are again working on a project that will preserve vital history in the town.

"It's his book," Melton said. "I'm just helping. He has talked about doing this book for years and we’re finally getting it done. Hopefully, people will come forth with the information we need."

Foy and Melton are encouraging Waynesville families who may have photos of places that could have once been used as a boarding house or hotel to contact them so the history of the house can be captured. Any family stories or written documents about the period when the structure was used for guests would also be welcomed.

To contact Foy, email him at Melton can be emailed at