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Boone Tavern Hotel is open after extensive makeover

Recently, hundreds of community members and dignitaries gathered to celebrate Boone Tavern Hotel's reopening after more than a year of renovations.

Boone Tavern Hotel

The event drew individuals from an array of travel and convention industries. Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo and Berea Mayor Steve Connelly expressed their approval for the project and applauded Berea College’s investment in the College Square as an important business hub for the Berea community.

"The purpose of the gala event was to display the hotel and restaurant’s renovations and its business/conference-hosting capabilities to potential clients who might help the tavern expand beyond the traditional focus on tourism alone," says Larry Shinn, president of Berea College.

Boone Tavern Today
During the past century, Boone Tavern has expanded to meet the changing needs of the traveling public. Over the years, the 25 original guest rooms have grown in number and include modern facilities to ensure comfort without infringing on the historic beauty of the hotel.

The recent renovation of Boone Tavern Hotel was viewed by Berea College trustees as an important contribution to the economic sustainability of the College Square business district as well as an economic enhancement to the city of Berea. The environmentally focused renovation is consistent with the historical values of Berea College, in preserving Appalachian cultural and natural resources, and its contemporary commitment to sustainability.

To prepare historic Boone Tavern for its next century of service, a substantial, ecologically-friendly renovation was completed in 2008-09 that preserves and enhances the historic character of the Hotel and provides amenities today’s travelers expect. The “green” renovation was designed to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification; giving Boone Tavern the distinction of being the first LEED- certified hotel in Kentucky. The on-going operations of the hotel are eco-friendly as well.

From top to bottom and inside and out, the architectural design of Boone Tavern’s renovation incorporated many aspects that improve guests’ comfort and the environment too. For example, a specialized roof system and the landscaping of the hotel are designed to minimize heat island effect (a term describing the result of buildings and paved surfaces that attract and retain more solar heat than undeveloped or rural areas).

One goal of the renovation is reducing annual energy consumption by 17.6%. To accomplish this, the renovation included installing increased insulation along exterior walls and between heating/cooling zones; improved energy-efficient heating and cooling systems; use of Energy Start lighting; heat recovery coils to capture energy from kitchen wastewater; and light tubes on the third floor to provide natural light and reduce lighting needs during daytime hours. Windows throughout the Hotel have energy-saving, low-emissivity glass.

A special natural lighting feature is in the “new” Skylight Room. This area of the Hotel was the original dining room, which formerly had skylights. Now, energy-efficient skylights replace those that were covered over decades ago, bringing daylight into an otherwise windowless interior area.

Throughout the Hotel, decorative finishes have used low VOC paints, adhesives, and carpets to minimize “off-gassing” of ozone and other air pollutants from newly applied materials. The renovation also has resulted in increased ventilation to improve fresh air circulation throughout the building. Boone Tavern is smoke free, both inside and within 50 feet of the outside of the hotel.

Guests who have previously visited Boone Tavern will see a lot of what they remember from the “pre-renovation” days of the Hotel. Selective demolition preserved and reused a majority of the building’s structure. For example, much of the beautiful woodwork was retained or moved and reused elsewhere in the Hotel. More than 75% of construction and demolition waste was recycled or reused in other buildings. Many of the “new” construction and renovation materials in the building were made regionally from recycled products.

Not only has the renovation been green, but the ongoing operations give attention to eco-friendly details that help the hotel and the college meet is commitment to plain and sustainable living. Orientation for hotel staff and on-going training emphasizes the importance of green practices. To encourage employees to use alternative transportation to work, the renovation included staff shower facilities, changing rooms, and bike storage.

Fine dining has brought Boone Tavern much of its national acclaim. The new menu offers a welcome blend of selections that feature traditional and creative southern cuisine. The Restaurant and kitchen at Boone Tavern, as a “Kentucky Proud” member restaurant, use locally- and Kentucky-produced foods, many of which come straight from the Berea College farm and greenhouses. Rather than just sending food scraps to the dumpster or down a garbage disposal, restaurant waste goes to the Berea College Farm for composting.

Evidence of green operations can be seen from the time guests arrive. Preferred parking spaces are provided for low emission vehicles. A charging station serves electric vehicles. Step on mats at the entry doors reduce dust coming into the hotel. Guest rooms have individual temperature controls for energy-efficient heating and cooling units. Rooms (and offices) have lights that shutoff automatically when unoccupied.

Guest rooms have a mix of new and “recycled” fine handcrafted hardwood furniture made and refinished by Berea College Student Woodcraft over the past 100 years. Potable water is conserved by using low volume toilets and water saving faucets and showerheads. Amenities in the guest bathrooms are natural products that are free of petrol-derived ingredients and packaged in low weight containers to reduce waste.

The Hotel features a towel and linen reuse program, and laundry facilities use phosphate-free detergents. Paper supplies throughout the hotel use post-consumer recycled products. Administrative operations have reduced internal printing; instead using of e-mail rather than printed documents whenever possible. Paper, plastic, and aluminum materials are recycled in partnership with Berea College’s Recycling Program.

Bio-friendly pest controls and approved “green” cleaning products are used throughout the hotel.
The hotel offers a “green tour” of the facility for guests, showing them what they can do to help the environment when they return home. To further encourage guests to go green and to reduce carbon emissions during their stay, Boone Tavern provides bicycles for guests to use while shopping at local galleries or visiting the campus.

The history of Boone Tavern
Boone Tavern Hotel and Restaurant was built in 1909 at the suggestion (some would say insistence) of Nellie Frost, wife of Berea College president, William G. Frost. Until then, guests of the college had been welcomed into the president's home for lodging and meals. However, as the reputation of Berea College grew, so did the number of guests that Mrs. Frost received, reaching a total of 300 guests in one summer, prompting the idea for a College guest house. Boone Tavern Hotel has been hosting visitors of Berea, Kentucky ever since.

Construction of Boone Tavern began in 1907 based on designs by the New York architectural firm of Cady & See at a cost of $20,000. The building, made of bricks manufactured by students in the College's brickyard, was constructed by the College's Woodwork Department. Boone Tavern began as a two-story flat-tin-roofed hotel of 25 rooms strung out over storefronts on Main Street. It was to be a block of buildings that would house the Post Office and be a fully modern hotel, complete with electrically lit rooms.

The college’s Prudential Committee voted to name the hotel “Boone Tavern.” The "Tavern" portion of the name derives from the historic definition that refers to a public inn for travelers rather than the more modern definition related to the sale of alcohol. “Boone” refers to the Appalachian explorer, pioneer, and hunter. According to an article in the Berea Quarterly, Daniel Boone"... performed his chief exploits in the immediate vicinity. Boonesborough itself is northwest of Berea in the same county, . . . Boone's Pinnacle is in our own forest reserve east of Berea . . . The redoubtable hero must have slept many times within a mile or two of the tavern which bears his name."

Boone is perhaps most famous for his exploration and settlement of this region of Kentucky after blazing the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap into central Kentucky. Before the end of the 18th century, more than 200,000 people entered Kentucky by following the route marked by Daniel Boone. During the past century, thousands more people have followed his route and made their way to the historic hotel named for him.

To equip the newly-constructed hotel, the college’s Prudential Committee voted to “procure suitable and substantial furnishings.” Howard Taylor, the college Bursar and first manager of the Hotel, furnished and decorated the rooms with college-made cherry furniture. Rates were set at $2 a day for room and meals. The first patrons to register at the hotel came to visit the College in September, 1909. When the Tavern opened it was judged “an instant success and promised to become one of the hostelries dear to tourists and visitors in the South.”

Throughout its history, Boone Tavern has seen many renovations and expansions. As soon as the spring of 1910, a third-story addition was proposed “if it would yield income to justify the expense.” Architect Cleveland Cady again provided the plans for this third floor addition which brought the hotel to its present height. Two adjacent storefronts on the north side were purchased by the college which allowed for an expanded the dining room with new windows in the summer of 1911. Running water and baths were added to “thirty of the best rooms” during the summer of 1915.

Boone Tavern’s success owes much to its prominent location on the College Square in the heart of Berea. Built on the old Dixie Highway that led from Cincinnati into the deeper South, the hotel’s strategic location at the intersection of the campus and community helped this historic hotel and restaurant become a popular destination with the traveling public coming to enjoy recreation and the beauty of the mountains from the beginning of the "automobile age."

The considerable traffic from thousands of guests during its first 100 years required periodic renovations and expansions. A new dining room was expanded into and absorbed some of the retail space that in turn opened onto the new lobby. Other additions included a Tea Room and a gift shop that could be entered from Main Street.

Richard T. Hougen, who became manager of the hotel in June 1940 and served the college until 1976, did much to enhance Boone Tavern’s reputation. During his tenure, Hougen (cooperating with the Kentucky Restaurant and Hotel Association) developed Berea College’s program in Hotel Management, considered to have been the state’s first such program. Under Hougen’s management the tavern underwent a half million dollar renovation from 1953 to 1955.

As part of this “homespun” modernization, furniture produced by students in Woodcraft and hand-woven fabrics from the college’s Fireside Industries were installed in the Hotel. This renovation included 14 new rooms (bringing the number of guest rooms to seventy-five), an enlarged dining room, a new two-storied columned west entrance facing traffic from the newly routed US 25, a new fully equipped kitchen, storage room, walk-in refrigerator room, new heating and air conditioning, and internal fire escapes.

The hotel underwent further renovation and refurbishing on two later occasions (1988 and 1994-95). During the latter, guest rooms were enlarged and combined to create only 57 guest rooms with new baths. In recognition of its significance, Boone Tavern was designated a “Historic Hotel of America” in 1992.

Much of the appeal of Boone Tavern comes from the Berea College students who for decades have made up about 80% of the hotel and restaurant staff. That tradition continues. Students provide guests with friendly service in the hotel and dining room, are required to work at least 10 hours per week as part of their educational and labor experience. While carrying full academic loads at this remarkable college that is nationally recognized for excellence, students learn job skills, develop work ethic, and earn money for room, board, and books. Students pay no tuition, thanks to the generosity of donors who support Berea College's mission of providing a high-quality education for students primarily from Appalachia who have high academic potential and limited financial resources.

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