LLR Books

The Lake Lure Inn

Any visit to the Lake Lure Inn cannot long avoid two subjects: ghosts and “Dirty Dancing.”
Ghost stories are to be expected in a historic inn known for its period authenticity, especially one built on the shore of a man-made lake that submerged a small town, its church and school intact.
“They say if you’re out on a boat in the middle of the night, you can hear the church bell ringing,” says Patrick Bryant, the inn’s event and catering manager.
The ghost of “Dirty Dancing” star Patrick Swayze has yet to appear at the inn, but guests can stay in the room where the actor slept while the 1987 movie was being filmed nearby.
The Swayze suite, with its extra large Jacuzzi and kitchenette, is a favorite with brides, Bryant said. The inn hosts more than 100 bridal parties a year, many couples choosing to tie the knot in the lakeside gazebo owned by the town.
The inn’s unique character extends well beyond its Hollywood connections and its spirits, with much of its architectural detail intact, the Southeast’s largest collection of music boxes in the lobby and countless other antiques and artworks filling every nook and shelf.
The property’s comforts even attracted F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald for a summer, before they relocated to Asheville, where Zelda died. They stayed in a room with a panoramic view of the beach and the cliffs beyond the far shore.
Their suite, like Swayze’s, is now marked with a brass plaque. “I always wondered what he was penning at the writing desk that overlooked the lake,” Bryant said.
Famous guests
The Lake Lure Inn was built in 1927 by visionary developer Lucius Boardman Morse and his partners, who were also instrumental in building the dam that created the lake.
Morse bought the small town of Buffalo — which he emptied and flooded beneath 100 feet of water — and the surrounding lands for about $5,000. The Morse family owned and operated Chimney Rock Park, just up the road, until 2007, when it became a state park.
A wall in the inn remains dedicated to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who visited twice during World War II, when the facility was dedicated to R&R for returning soldiers. Calvin Coolidge and Emily Post also stayed at the inn, as well as the Fitzgeralds.
In the 1980s, the inn was to have been a filming location for “Dirty Dancing,” but the town of Lake Lure found the story too risqué, so the hotel served only to house the cast and crew.
In addition to its Swayze Suite, there are the Jennifer Grey Suite and two re-created free-standing bungalows, Johnny’s Cabin and Baby’s Bungalow.
Hidden history
Some of the inn’s rich history remains present but invisible — and not just in ghost form.
In 2005, a porte cochere was added to the front of the inn and the former porch was enclosed to create the Moose & Goose lounge and the Powers dining room. The addition covered up the 78-year-old sign over the entrance that declared “Lake Lure Inn, 1927.”
A replica sign was created for the new porte cochere, but “the original moniker is still hiding out” behind the addition, said Patrick Bryant, the inn’s event and catering department manager.
There’s also a tunnel, long closed off but never filled in, that connects the inn to the companion arcade building across a parking lot, where El Lago Mexican restaurant will soon open.
“They used that (tunnel) to transport famous guests from the hotel to the restaurant” of the time, out of the sight of fans, Bryant said.
The inn’s current management is dedicated to keeping its period authenticity above ground.
“We debated for about five minutes a couple of years ago about switching to an electronic key system,” Bryant said.
They decided to stick to old-fashioned metal keys.