By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
It truly is the “merry, merry month of May” …. at least at the Graceland Inn in Elkins! The Graceland Restaurant has been closed since July of 2014 but is celebrating its grand reopening this month.
If you’ve never visited the Graceland Inn, it is worth the trip! The historic mansion is the former summer home of U.S. Senator Henry Gassaway Davis and is named after his youngest daughter Grace. The home was designed by the renowned architectural firm of Baldwin and Pennington of Baltimore, MD and construction began in 1891. The historic landmark features massive towers and bays, large gables, wide porches, lavish hardwood paneling, beams and hand-carved columns, large stained glass windows and imported Delft tiles surrounding its library fireplace.
Graceland was gifted to Davis & Elkins College in 1941 by the West Virginia Presbyterian Education Fund, and until 1970, it was utilized as a men’s residence hall. Restoration began in the early 1990’s and the Inn received its first guests in 1996.
Although the restaurant has been closed to the public for nearly two years, the Graceland Inn has continued to offer lodging for guests, and because of its beauty and elegance, even visitors to the Inn always love to tour it, appreciating its rich heritage and the charm of its antique and Victorian reproduction furnishings.
Now, taking guests’ suggestions under advisement, the Graceland Inn Restaurant is once again welcoming the public. Their reopening this month is featuring a staggered schedule, introducing returning special features a little at a time.
It all began on May 4th when Graceland hosted a Surf & Turf Evening. This will continue on the first Wednesday of each month (from 4:30 to 8 p.m) with varying surf & turf selections each month. On May 6th, dinner service resumed on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 9 p.m. This was followed by a special Mother’s Day Brunch on May 8th from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. … and Sunday brunches returned on May 15th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
If the weather cooperates and the late-arriving April showers that have plagued May finally give way to better weather, the Veranda is scheduled to reopen for lunch every Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Graceland Inn sits atop the campus of Davis and Elkins College and dining on the veranda offers not just an inviting ambiance but a picturesque view of the city below as well.
Executive Chef Melanie Campbell has been entrusted as the General Manager of Graceland, and her chef’s toque is just one of many hats she wears! “Chef Mel” as she is called, is beginning her 15th year at D&E, and in addition to General Manager and Executive Chef, she is also Associate Professor of Hospitality Management. She stated that the 38 students in the hospitality program receive very personalized attention and can opt for either a Bachelor of Arts or an Associates Degree.
“The students help in all aspects at Graceland Inn and at its restaurant. From food preparation to service, and even marketing, they are involved. Graceland is a laboratory for our students in the hospitality field; it is an internship where they gain valuable work experience,” Chef Mel explained.
As the Graceland Restaurant reopens, Chef Mel says they will not employ a structured menu; it will be flexible.
“We are kind of focusing on the ‘farm to table’ theme and incorporating local produce,” she added. “Our menu will be creative from week to week, but we are always open to special requests and our guests’ suggestions and favorites.”
Chef Mel added, “We are so excited to be reopening the restaurant to the public! We want those who come here to feel welcome … to enjoy their meals and this historic structure … and know they can take a tour at any time. We truly look forward to helping out guests make some beautiful memories!”
Executive Chef Melanie Campbell is aided by two other cooks and is also assisted by Shane Jones, a 2015 graduate of D&E’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program, who oversees catering, conferences and the hotel.
Graceland is also available for weddings, reunions, parties and meetings. Chef Mel noted that lots of weddings are being planned for this year, and Graceland’s catering continues to be enhanced.
Plan a special evening and visit the Graceland Restaurant soon … dine outdoors on the veranda when the weather warms and take in the breathtaking view. Graceland Inn reflects all the grandeur of its historic past!
For reservations, call 304-637-1308.