Gracehill Bed & Breakfast: A Townsend Treasure
Gracehill Bed and Breakfast is on top of the Smokies.
Innkeeper and owner Kathleen “Kathy” Janke captures the possibility of 365 sunsets a year from her inn with 360-degree views. From her mountaintop, guests gaze across woodlands that stretch to the horizon, seemingly without end.
“Gracehill is the highest house in Blount County,” says Kathy, who takes pride in the award from Inn Traveler magazine for “Best Scenic View from a B&B in the United States.”
Guests won’t doubt her claim after they experience her driveway. From Townsend, the drive is a steep series of curves, but the rewards are great, not only for the view, but also for the four guest rooms, fanciful gardens, and kind-hearted hospitality.
Kathy came to Townsend from Chicago. She and her mother, Marilyn Janke, left the Windy City, roamed across the United States and Canada for 17 months, and landed in Townsend, where they purchased Little River Village Campground. They managed the campground, a cabin rental operation, gas station, convenience store, and deli business for 10 years. Then it was time for a change. Kathy worked part-time as a bookkeeper and landscape designer, and began construction on their house.
A dynamo, Kathy spent 14-hour days stacking mountain stone, painting, wallpapering, laying tile, and shopping for furnishings. Even with the assistance of her brother, Mike Janke and his wife, Traci, the building project, on the summit of Little Round Top Mountain, presented many challenges. Kathy was able to open in 2000 after nearly three years of construction.
The inn has won 20 different awards. Kathy is a regular contestant in culinary competitions, and she has put her years of experience in landscaping to good use. Her talents as an artist cross over into interior design. Many antiques, paintings and collectibles come from her family collection or were gathered during her travels through Africa and South America.
With an atmosphere that resonates elegance without pretention, the living and dining rooms on the main floor are thoughtfully furnished for relaxation and conversation. Kathy, an avid reader, knows where reading lights and chairs need to be.
Hostess extraordinaire, Kathy does more than open her home to guests. She prepares an elaborate, ever-changing breakfast of coffee cake or pastry, fresh fruit and a main course. With 10 sets of china, Kathy creates a different look every day of a guest’s stay. Frequently, guests choose to eat their generous breakfast on the expansive veranda where they enjoy panoramic vistas of the Townsend valley and Chilhowee Mountain range.
Guest rooms are equal measures welcoming and soothing. They take their names from movie titles, showing Kathy’s preference for classics starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck.
Key Largo is furnished in Eastlake burled walnut antiques. The light-infused room features a sweeping fabric drape above the sumptuous bed. Kathy suffused the bath with the seaside hues of aquamarine and flamingo. A guest can sit in a plump upholstered chair for views of the mountains or exit the room to the main veranda.
Rich, saturated colors confer a sense of romance in Casablanca. Air circulates by a palm-leaf fan. Oak antiques, a tapestry, and African-motif accessories add intrigue to the ambience. Guests can go through double French doors to the veranda.
The soft colors and luxury fabrics in Spellbound envelop guests in tranquility. This intimate room, furnished with handsome antiques and a chandelier, has several special features: fireplace, two-person whirlpool, and separate steam shower. Double French doors open to a private balcony that overlooks a fern- and flower-fringed waterfall.
An artful mix of pattern, texture and color, Roman Holiday is resplendent with Italian antiques, fireplace, collectibles, and marble bath. This guest room is handicapped accessible. Windows give views of the rose garden and forest filled with wildflowers, mountain laurel and rhododendron.
Rates at Gracehill are $260-300 based on a two-night stay (slightly higher in October).
From its perch, the inn provides easy access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is within a short drive to Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Maryville. Gracehill joins a varied and extensive list of accommodations that have long made Tennessee a destination for B&B-hoppers. The Bed and Breakfast Association of Tennessee has more than 40 properties, with about 30 properties located in East Tennessee. They range from large estates, such as Whitestone Country Inn, to single cabins and family homesteads. Gracehill is also listed as a member with the Smoky Mountain Bed and Breakfast Association.
What’s your favorite B&B in Tennessee? Share your thoughts in the comments!