Newspaper articles and testimonials from as far back as 1887 reference the healing waters of the spring on the Ellerbe Springs Inn property. One could assume that the Indians that traveled through the area knew of the springs.
Ownership of the property now known as Ellerbe Springs can be traced back to 1790, when the land was purchased by William Webb. The property passed through several owners before it was purchased by Capt. William Farr Ellerbe in 1820. In 1850, with well over 1,100 acres, his son, Col. William Thomas Ellerbe, built a hunting lodge. After Col. Ellerbe passed, the property was used extensively - as a private school and for public events such as July 4th celebrations.
On July 19, 1905, the "Ellerbe Springs Company" was formed, comprised of T.C. Leak, R.L. Steele, and W.M. Covington. The purpose of the company was to "build, erect, construct, manage and occupy building for hotel purposes, dwelling houses, apartment houses and other structures ... to fit and conduct places of amusement ... to sell mineral water and to bottle and ship the same." The hotel was designed by H.E. Bonitz of Wilmington, NC, and built by A.D. Dumas.
The Ellerbe Springs Hotel opened on July 6, 1906. There were 30 rooms in the new hotel. After T.C. Leak passed away in 1913, his son, T.C. Jr. took over operation of the Hotel, and made many improvements, including construction of the dam to create the 5-acre pond, the swimming pool and adjacent walking paths.
On July 4, 1922, Governor-elect Cameron Morrison chose Ellerbe Springs as the location for his "Welcome Home" speech. Mr. Morrison, a native of Richmond County, had attended school at the McAskill School which had been located at Ellerbe Springs. Approximately 6,000 people attended the picnic that year.
In 1932, the property was sold to Dr. & Mrs. Donald MacIntyre, who opened the Ellerbe Springs Restorium This venture only lasted two years, before the property was sold to Richmond County. It continued to be used for public events with the schedule expanded to include the Fall Harvest Festivals. In the late 1930's, the property was also used for Richmond County 4-H camps, and as a Girls Residence Center operated by the National Youth Administration (NYA). In April 1940, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited Ellerbe Springs for a luncheon and gave a speech in support of the NYA.
In the mid-1940's the property was sold to the Central North Carolina Council, Boy Scouts of America, who enjoyed it for 10 years. The property then sat vacant for many years.
In 1969, Ellerbe Springs was sold to Harris McRae. He and his wife, Nancy, took 3 years to renovate the Dining Room and construct a new camping area. For more than 40 years, Ellerbe Springs would be known for its fine dining and comfortable lodging. After Harris McRae passed away in 1985, his daughter, Elizabeth William Harris, stepped in and, under the watchful eye of the National Register of Historic Places, completely renovated the Inn. The extensive restoration project reduced the number of rooms to 14, each with a private bathroom and individually-controlled heating and air conditioning. Throughout the Inn, the decor was reminiscent of the early 1900's. When renovations were complete, it was the first time since 1925 that Ellerbe Springs was open and operated as a complete hotel. In 1990, the McRae's decided to sell Ellerbe Springs.
In October 1991, the Inn re-opened with new owners J. Neal Cadieu and his wife, Joanne. Under management of Beth Cadieu Diaz, more public events were added - including Easter Egg hunts, July 4th pancake breakfasts, and Murder Mystery weekends. It was during this time that the McAskill House was relocated from a neighboring farm to add its charm to Ellerbe Springs. In 1999, the Inn was sold again.
Between 2000 and 2011, Ellerbe Springs continued to operate as an Inn and Restaurant. However, business declined, in part due to construction of a highway bypass that redirected traffic away from the small Highway 220.
In 2013, the Inn was sold again, to Mark and Donna Buckeridge. In 2015 it re-opened as a Bed & Breakfast and a place for private and public special events. A family-friendly restaurant will open in the Spring House in the fall 2015, and in early 2016, the first phase of a campground will open, with 3-point hook-ups for RV's and plenty of tent camping.
Our thanks and appreciation to J. Neal Cadieu, Jr., for his book "The First 175 Years of Ellerbe Springs", and for sharing this special place.