By Bree Collar, Sentinel Staff Writer
The magic of Christmas starts later this at Inola Blue Ridge with a myriad of activities brightening the holiday season starting Friday, Nov. 29 and running through Sunday, Jan. 5.
Developer Rick Skelton and Susie Council in sales and marketing, both serve as town founders renovating, reengineering and redesigning a piece of property spanning across a colonial style village off Blue Ridge Drive.
Inola, which means “black fox” in Cherokee, showcases a historic replica found in Williamsburg, Va. that was once Merchant’s Hope owned by visionary Hoke Thomas Jones Jr. in the 1980s.
This holiday season Skelton and Council are opening their doors at Inola to the community for the holidays from noon to 10 p.m. daily to participate in a diverse selection of activities.
Dates and selection of activities include:
• Opening Weekend, Friday, Nov. 29: Santa and Mrs. Claus visits until 6 p.m., Yule Log Celebration at 7 p.m., carriage rides, ice skating and illuminated maze and Christmas lights;
• Nov. 29 – Jan. 5: Ice skating daily, illuminated maze and Christmas lights;
• Saturday, Nov. 30: Santa and Mrs Claus visits, carriage rides, ice skating and illuminated maze and Christmas lights;
• Sunday, Dec. 1 : Ice skating and illuminated maze and Christmas lights;
• Saturday, Dec. 7 and 14: Santa visits until 6 p.m., carriage rides, ice skating and illuminated maze and Christmas lights; and
• Dec. 2-6, Dec. 9-13 and Dec. 16-20: open 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Holidays at Inola Blue Ridge are cash free events requiring debit cards and credit cards for food and beverage purchases, ice skating and carriage rides.
Skelton said Jones had a degree in history and music and for whatever reason was infatuated by Colonial Williamsburg.
Jones Jr. inherited the land from his father Hoke Thomas Jones Sr. who purchased Blue Ridge Telephone Company in 1951 and Jones Jr. ran for a time.
Jones Jr. created Merchant’s Hope bringing in the town architect from Williamsburg in 1983. A lover of history, Jones Jr had an exact copy of the George Wythe estate designed.
Wythe was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and law professor for Thomas Jefferson. He had the nicest house in Williamsburg with outhouses, kitchen buildings and garden houses meticulously designed as an exact copy.
Skelton is taking buildings including the Wythe House and Wetherburn’s Tavern with the help of builders Tim Wheat and John Soave and turning them into accessible locations to stay the night for onsite weddings and events.
The designs for the village went to identical measures creating the exact pattern of a crack on the right side of the fireplace that is in Wetherburn’s Tavern.
His goal in designing Inola Blue Ridge is to see what works for the town, integrating it into the county so that it fits the needs of the community as a nice place where people want to live.
“Without me doing much to the place it already feels good, so I’ve got to have a light hand in the design. I can’t give it a heavy hand or it will go badly,” Skelton said.
A variety of homes, a living area of 55 and older, concert venue, vineyard, orchard, hotel and business center are all elements Skelton would like to eventually incorporate.
Down England Street that runs through the town from the Wetherburn to the Chapel, a string of retail shops will eventually develop where the “Lion and the Unicorn” currently sets (an old general type store), an old post office, stalls for horses and a blacksmith shop.
What Jones Jr. kept private and cut off from the community for quite sometime. opened as an authentic restaurant for a short time with peasant, boar and root vegetables with authentic tastes to 1750 food. Individuals in Jones time at the restaurant were in costume and eating by candlelight. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church held their annual Christmas Bazaar at the location for a number of years.
The land passed from former owners Reuben Jones and Lowell Jacks eventually going up for auction.
By bringing in updated features and designs, Skelton hopes to bring a new Urbanist way of living to Inola Blue Ridge. “I want to make this a living town, think of it like the town you grew up in–or wish you’d grown up in,” Skelton said.
For now the holidays are approaching and Skelton is opening up Inola for the community to get involved in the home he now calls Inola Blue Ridge.
For more information visit www.inolablueridge.com.