Boone Tavern Hotel of Berea College
During the summer of 1908, Nellie Frost, the wife of Berea College President William G. Frost, provided lodging and meals at her home for some 300 guests. It was time, she told her husband, to build a guest house for the College's visitors.
The suggestion became a reality in 1909 when what was to become the historic Boone Tavern Hotel was opened. Built on the old "Dixie Highway," and named after early Kentucky explorer Daniel Boone, the historic Boone Tavern Hotel & Restaurant is prominently located on the College Square in Berea, Kentucky.
Owned by Berea College and operated with student workers, Boone Tavern features 63 elegantly designed guest accommodations furnished with reproduction Early American furniture made by Berea College Woodcraft. The hotel offers private meeting rooms and provides free guest parking.
A well-trained staff, including the general manager and chef, oversee the hotel and dining room. Berea College students are also an important part of the staff as they work 10-15 hours per week in the College Labor Program that provides employment in 130 other departments and work areas across campus. Students earn money for books, room and board at the College - but 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.
From the windows of its main dining room, a number of Berea College's academic buildings are visible to Hotel guests. But it's the dining itself that has brought Boone Tavern much of its international acclaim for traditional and creative southern cuisine. The landmark Boone Tavern Dining Room offers historic menu favorites like "Chicken Flakes in a Bird's Nest" developed by Richard Hougen, the late innkeeper. Evening meals offer an array of delightful and creative appetizers, salads, entrees and desserts developed by award-winning Executive Chef Jeffrey Newman. Other historic menu favorites served at Boone Tavern include "spoonbread" - a "must-have" signature item of Boone Tavern dining and the dish that inspired an annual community-wide three-day festival in Berea every Fall.
Boone Tavern has been cited as a centerpiece of Kentucky's tourism industry and recognized for its long-standing tradition of excellence in the hospitality industry. In 2003, Boone Tavern Hotel & Restaurant was presented with the Duncan Hines Excellence in Hospitality Award by the Kentucky Tourism Council. The award is named for America's earliest restaurant critic and Kentucky native, the late Duncan Hines, whose name is still associated with excellence in fine dining. For much of the twentieth century, Hines helped shape America's restaurant standards. His publication, Adventures in Good Eating was the country's foremost restaurant guide for three decades and included Boone Tavern in every issue. The Kentucky Tourism Council states, "Boone Tavern has been a hallmark in the hospitality business for nearly a century. After all these years, it continues to be a favorite destination."
In 2009, to coincide with its centennial year, Boone Tavern was extensively renovated to meet the changing needs of the traveling public by including modern amenities to ensure comfort without infringing on the historic beauty of the hotel. The recent eco-friendly renovation made it the first LEED-certified hotel in Kentucky, as recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
Boone Tavern was awarded recognition by Southern Living magazine as “One of the South’s Best Hotels and Inns” for 2015. The honor is part of the magazine’s annual “Best of the South Travel Awards” that cites top destinations for lodging, dining, and other travel-related entertainment across the South.
Notable hosted guests of Boone Tavern including Henry Ford, Calvin Coolidge, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the Dalai Lama. Boone Tavern, a member of the Historic Hotels of America, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Guest Historian Series
Read more about the history of Boone Tavern Hotel, as told by Historic Hotels of America 2014 and 2015 Historian of the Year Stanley Turkel. Excerpt is taken from his latest book Built to Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi (AuthorHouse 2013).