A Snapshot History of The Mast Farm Inn
A Snapshot History of The Mast Farm Inn • "So Much More… The world renowned Mast Farm Inn of Valle Crucis is nothing short of a handcrafted masterpiece of North Carolina Folk Art". ~ Emma Johnson
Joseph Mast walks from Pennsylvania and settles much of the land that is now Valle Crucis, North Carolina. In 1810 Joseph Mast’s son David, builds the two-room log cabin which now sits facing the main house at the Mast Farm Inn. Three generations reside in this cabin, and like most of the Valle Crucis residents, the Masts raise corn, grain, sheep, cattle, and food for the family. Now called the Loom House, this original cabin is widely believed to be the oldest inhabitable log cabin in the state of North Carolina.
David’s son Andrew begins building the main farm house and Andrew’s son, D. Finley Mast, completes it in 1896. In 1900 – Finley and his wife, Josephine, also known as Aunt Josie, begin to make more additions to the house, and begin to operate the property full-time as both a farm and inn. Over the next 20 years, five different symmetrical additions are completed, ultimately comprising thirteen bedrooms and one bathroom.
When President Woodrow Wilson’s daughter, Jessie, is to be married, Josephine Mast gathers neighbors to help weave spreads and rugs for Jessie’s room in the White House. The president’s family is so impressed by the work they redecorate the room around the weavings. Some of Josephine’s weavings are in the Smithsonian. Josephine used the “Loom House” to make all of her weavings and was very well known for her outstanding work.
The Masts had by now built 16 different buildings as part of the old mountain farmstead all of whom have survived to this day. Most of the buildings in the meadow were used for livestock, storing hay, and grain and for tobacco curing. Finley and Josephine Mast have two sons, Joe, the son who stayed on the farm, is blind by the time he is a young adult. Joe would attach string between the buildings in order to find his way around the farm. Later, with typical mountain ingenuity, he abandoned the strings and created his own personal system for getting from place to place on the farm.
Joseph Mast and his wife Edna run the inn until the 1950’s. The main house is often so full that Joe sleeps upstairs in the loom house to make room for guests. After Edna passes and Joe becomes ill, Edna’s maid Nell, and neighbors, The Yates Family, help take care of Joe. In 1964 Joe Mast moves out of the main house and passes away in 1969. Joe and Edna did not have any children and no one in the family steps in to carry on the tradition of the inn. The Inn closes to the public and stays furnished but closed for the next 20 years.
The United States Department of the Interior evaluates the property. The departments’ representative writes “The numerous buildings that make up the Mast Farm, each expressive of its function, represent vividly the wide variety of operations necessary to a self-sustaining farm complex. The weaving house is particularly interesting, both because “it is an example of log construction which reached its finest development in North Carolina,” and because it was the original dwelling around which the farm grew up. With this building as a nucleus, the farm illustrates the progression of an enterprising pioneer family from this rude early house on a small homestead to a larger, more comfortable house, the seat of much larger land holdings. This complex includes one of the most complete and best preserved groups of nineteenth-century farm buildings in western North Carolina.” The farm is placed on the National Register of Historic Places at that time. In 1980 The Paul Lackey family buys the property from Joe’s heirs and begins renovations to re-open the Inn, but are unable to properly renovate and repair the hand-crafted over two centuries old property.
The Lackeys sell the inn to Francis and Sibyl Pressley who rescue the old homestead. They first renovate and move into the Loom house, then begin the painstaking process of renovating the main house, and other buildings using traditional mountain construction craftsmen. In 1985 the Pressley’s re-open the inn; first the main house to guests and later renovated the granary, blacksmith shop, and the woodwork shop. Years of meticulous work result in the facility today which earns the Gertrude S. Carraway Award of Merit from the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina. The Pressley’s serve family style food, with one meal on the menu each evening. In 1996, Francis and Sibyl Pressley retire as innkeepers and sell the inn to the Schoenfeldt family which carry the Mast’s tradition of hospitality into another century and introduce fine dining. Over the next 10 years they enhance the Inn, meet the high-standards, and criteria required to become a Select Registry Inn.
On January 31st, The Schoenfeldt’s retire and sell the inn to the Deschamps family. On February 1, 2006 the Deschamps purchase and assume management of The Mast Farm Inn. They relocate full-time to the Valle Crucis community en-masse; nine members of the family move to Valle Crucis after having lived in Paris, London, Switzerland, Manhattan, Petionville, Laboule, Coconut Grove, and North Carolina. In April 2006, they began extensive and in-depth restorations, renovations, and improvements. Since 2006, The Deschamps family have continuously invested, restored, renovated, and enhanced the modest rural estate, grounds, micro-farm, inn, rooms, cottages, barn, and added new special event capabilities as well as new cottages.
The Inn begins to win numerous awards for customer service, lodging, and dining, and begins to take on iconic status as a treasured North Carolina institution. One guest coming back after many years now says of the Inn: "So Much More… The world renowned Mast Farm Inn of Valle Crucis is nothing short of a handcrafted masterpiece of North Carolina Folk Art". In 2008, the Restaurant reverts back to the single farmhouse meal format but at a whole new level of "Sophisticated Southern Organic Gourmet Farm-To-Table Fine Dining" after 10 years as an à la carte restaurant. In 2010 and 2011 the Inn receives numerous culinary awards and distinction: The restaurant Simplicity at The Mast Farm Inn is selected from among hundreds of fine dining restaurants in North Carolina for ”The Best Dish in North Carolina Award”. The Best Dish in North Carolina Award, Top 10 in 2010, 2nd Place in 2011. Best Dish is North Carolina’s Official State Restaurant Competition presented every year by The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and sponsored by Our State Magazine.
The Mast Farm Inn of Historic Valle Crucis, North Carolina is inducted into Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There are only 330 Historic Hotels of America hotels in America, among which The Waldorf-Astoria, and only 8 in North Carolina, among which Pinehurst and The Grove Park Inn. Martha Stewart Living, in the August 2012 edition, includes The Inn in "The Best List" of 34 Best Hotels, as Best Hotel, and Best Food & Drink, and Best Southern Fare: The Mast Farm Inn of Valle Crucis North Carolina.
As The Mast Farm Inn celebrates it 223rd year since Joseph Mast’s settlement in Valle Crucis, and we celebrate our tenth year being its owners and stewards, brief snapshots become increasingly difficult. So much has been done, accomplished, added, and enhanced that it boggles the mind a bit, and we are hard pressed to condense or even see milestones as it is a daily history built with the same hard work it took to manage a family farm in the 1800’s. There is still room for Jeffersonian America in America. In the last ten years we have invested and reinvested in the Inn as much as it cost us to purchase 10 years ago. It is twice the size in terms of land, surface and buildings, all the while conserving its exact same innate style, character, and spirit. We have renovated the buildings, room, cottage and cabins, the farm, the estate, we have added 6 acres to the estate. Working hard, and keeping it simple… It’s not too bad a life, come visit.
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The Mast Farm Inn is an award-winning historic country inn, in the Valle Crucis Historical District of North Carolina, which has been welcoming guests since the 1800s. The Mast Farm Inn is a Historic Hotels of America hotel, a Select Registry Inn, and is on The National Register of Historic Places.