After a fire destroyed Richmont Inn’s rustic lodge last year, owners Jim and Susan Hind weren’t sure what the future held for the site of the lodge, which overlooks Rich Mountain and Dry Valley in the Smoky Mountains. In consoling them with a saying from 17th-century Japanese poet and samurai Mizuta Masahide – “Barns burn down; now I can see the moon” – their daughter Angela inadvertently gave them a new philosophy, and a plan for how to move forward. On the site of the old lodge, the Hinds built a new chalet, honoring the natural beauty of the mountains as well as their own heritage.
“When we heard the Japanese saying, and looked out to see the unspoiled mountain view from the spot where the Chalet now sits, we knew that we would overcome the fire and create another dream in its place. Each time I look out at the mountains, I think about this saying and how you must look for the good in every situation,” said Jim Hind.
Today, the Chalet at Richmont Inn sits perched on the mountainside, complimenting the style of the Inn’s main building, a 10 room cantilever barn, and completing the quaint Appalachian village that consists of the Cove Café, the inn, gift shop, woodshed, potting shed and outdoor chapel. One of the only remnants of the old building is the Chalet’s front door, which was designed and built by a local craftsman, Wade Richardson of Mountain Sage Woodshop. The door was fashioned out of huge timbers from the loft of a local barn and strap hinges made by a blacksmith. The design of the Chalet incorporates posts made from the property’s fallen trees and even harbors Resurrection Ferns, which burst to life in wet weather from their dry, dead-looking dormant stage.
The Chalet also adds flexibility to the facilities at Richmont; while the Inn caters to couples looking for romantic getaways, the Chalet is designed with amenities for small business groups, corporate retreats, church and social groups and family reunions.
“Richmont, and the new Chalet, provide a level of luxury and service that is hard to find,” said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau. “You can tell when you visit the Inn or the Chalet that extreme thought and care that have gone into every detail of the facilities. It’s truly a gem for Townsend and Blount County, and we are proud of this showcase property that Jim and Susan have painstakingly created.”
Along with the new building, the Hinds have also adopted a green program at Richmont to help protect the natural resources that their guests come to enjoy.
Efforts include Energy-Star appliances; water-saving showers and toilets; replacement of many cleaning agents and chemicals with non-toxic, environmentally safe products; fluorescent bulbs and light timers; and a recycling program that includes composting of scraps.
“By encouraging the re-use of linens and towels by our guests, we have reduced our laundry detergent and water use by 25 percent,” said Hind. “We have also reduced our paper towel usage by 90 percent by turning stained and damaged towels and napkins into cleaning cloths.”
Richmont also uses local and organic meats and produce when possible, in addition to preparing foods from scratch to eliminate preservatives and extra packaging.
“This not only ensures a level of quality to our guests, it helps the environment by lessening the use of pesticides and the carbon footprint because the food doesn’t have to be shipped from other areas,” said Hind. “We strive to educate employees and guests about the natural and cultural heritage of East Tennessee, and how incorporating a few simple steps into their lives, both here and at home, can make a world of difference.”
The Chalet’s Great Room, which can accommodate 20-25 people, has a vaulted ceiling and expansive windows with sweeping mountain views. Original art, photographs of the Smokies, and a large hunting scene tapestry adorn the walls.
“While the room includes a mixture of cultures and furniture styles, it has the charm of today’s European chateau in the Swiss Alps,” said Hind.
The Conference and Dining room can seat up to 12 people, and upon request, a resident chef is available for wine and dinner.
The Chalet’s four suites are designed to honor American, English, and French styles, with two suites directly off the great room, and the remaining two on a lower level of the Chalet.
The Stickley Mission-Style Suite is a tribute to American design, with Tiffany-style lighting and the colorful geometric shapes of Frank Lloyd Wright’s stained glass complimenting the mission furniture.
The Kensington Suite is furnished with designs from two well-known British names, Paul Burrell and Charles Spencer, the Ninth Earl of Spencer, brother of the late Princess Diana. Burrell, a personal footman to Queen Elizabeth and butler to the late Princess Diana, fashioned the room’s headboard to resemble the gate at Kensington Palace where both he and Princess Diana lived. Other furnishings come from the Althorp Living Collection, with replicas of furniture found at Althorp, the ancestral home of Lord Spencer, who the Hinds had the opportunity to meet.
“My grandfather had been the chauffeur for the wealthy Duke of Portland in the midlands of England in the early 1900s,” said Hind. “I am proud to honor this heritage, and it was truly inspiring to meet Paul Burrell and Lord Spencer and get their input in the design of this room.”
The Provence and Bordeaux Suites, named to honor two of France’s most popular regions, have French country themes with décor that exemplifies relaxing, sophisticated living. Most of the furniture and accessories come from France or have French design and bring romance and character to the rooms.
“We designed the chalet so that from the sitting area in each suite and in the great room, there is an unspoiled view of the Smokies,” said Hind.
Guests at Richmont are treated to a made-from-scratch breakfast and a candlelight dessert each night, featuring the Inn’s signature treat, Crème Brulee Kahlua, created by Susan Hind grand-prize winner of a Gourmet Magazine recipe contest.
“Richmont is more than a job—it’s our dream, and over the past 20 years we have put personal touches of ourselves into making it a reality,” said Hind. “We decorated the lodge—hand picking all of the original artwork, each piece of furniture and all of the small details that went into making it a unique experience for our guests, which made it an even harder loss.”
“It’s been a labor of love to create the Chalet, and I’m happy to say it has grown into another retreat that we are extremely proud of, and that I know our guests will enjoy.”
Richmont Inn is located at 220 Winterberry Lane in Townsend. For more information please call Susan or Jim Hind at 865-448-6751 or 1-866-267-7086 or visit www.richmontinn.com.