Information • History • The Mast farm dates from the late 1700s, when Joseph Mast traveled to the mountains from Randolph County, North Carolina, where he was born in 1764. His father John had settled there after emigrating from Switzerland via Pennsylvania. Joseph is said to have traded his rifle, his dog, and a pair of leggings for 1000 acres of fertile Watauga River Valley land. The first house, a two-room log cabin, was built around 1810 and remains today as the oldest inhabitable log cabin in North Carolina.
The farm and family prospered through the 19th Century, and Finley and Josephine Mast built the first part of the farmhouse in the 1880s. Around the turn of the century, the Masts began offering meals and rooms to tourists, enlarging the house to accommodate the growing number of guests. By 1915, the inn had 13 bedrooms and one bath. It was called “The Mast Farm” or simply “Aunt Josie’s and Uncle Finley’s.”
Aunt Josie Mast, besides running the house and managing the vegetable garden and dairy, was a master weaver. She turned the original log cabin into a loom house and became celebrated for her coverlets, rugs, and handbags. Some of her coverlets are in the Smithsonian today.
Uncle Finley and Aunt Josie’s two sons did not continue the inn after their parents’ deaths. Joe, the younger, who was blind, lived in the house until 1964, when ill health forced him to move away. After Joseph Mast died, the house stood empty or was briefly rented.
In 1984, when Francis and Sibyl Pressly bought the property and did a masterful restoration.
The Pressly’s outstanding hospitality and service became regionally renown in very short order. Along with the purchase, restoration and reestablishment of The Mast General Store by John and Faye Cooper, this greatly contributed to the rebirth of Valle Crucis as a hidden treasure of the Blue Ridge. Once again, The Mast Farm Inn became a favored destination for visitors to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
In June 1996, the Pressly’s retired and the Inn changed ownership when Wanda Hinshaw and Lyle Schoenfeldt, a professor at Appalachian State University, with daughter, Sarah, moved back to Wanda’s home state from Texas.
Wanda’s sister, Kay Philipp, with her family had made Watauga County home for many years. Kay and Wanda were sister Innkeepers, just as in the old days, when Josie’s sister, Leona, had worked with her at the Inn. Interestingly, Kay and Wanda are natives of the same Randolph County where Joseph Mast’s family lived in the 1700s.
On February 1st 2006, eight members of The Deschamps, Russo & Siano Family relocated together to The Valle Crucis community having purchased The Mast Farm Inn.
They converged to Valle Crucis after having lived in Paris, London, Switzerland, Manhattan, Laboule, Coconut Grove & North Carolina, as they they had purchased The Mast Farm Inn, and The Taylor House Inn, also in Valle Crucis owned by Marie’s Brother Bernard Russo & His Wife Tessa. The Deschamps have owned, since 1996, what used to be a historic girl’s camp, Camp Glenlaurel, on The Blue Ridge Parkway at Gooch Gap in Little Switzerland. After ten years of twice-yearly visits and family vacations in the area they decided to relocate here full-time. A common occurrence with many visitors to the The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.
The Mast Farm was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, as “one of the most complete and best preserved groups of nineteenth century farm buildings in western North Carolina.” Thanks to inspired restorations and good care, The Mast Farm Inn welcomes visitors today as it did a hundred years ago, providing gourmet meals, historic lodging, and memorable weddings in a beautiful setting.
Key Dates & Milestones
Joseph Mast walks from Pennsylvania and settles much of the land that is now Valle Crucis, North Carolina. In 1810 Joseph Mast’s son David, builds the two-room log cabin which now sits facing the main house at the Mast Farm Inn. Three generations reside in this cabin, and like most of the Valle Crucis residents, the Masts raise corn, grain, sheep, cattle, and food for the family. Now called the Loom House, this original cabin is widely believed to be the oldest inhabitable log cabin in the state of North Carolina.
David’s son Andrew begins building the main farm house and Andrew’s son, D. Finley Mast, completes it in 1896. In 1900 – Finley and his wife, Josephine, also known as Aunt Josie, begin to make more additions to the house, and begin to operate the property full-time as both a farm and inn. Over the next 20 years, five different symmetrical additions are completed, ultimately comprising thirteen bedrooms and one bathroom.
When President Woodrow Wilson’s daughter, Jessie, is to be married, Josephine Mast gathers neighbors to help weave spreads and rugs for Jessie’s room in the White House. The president’s family is so impressed by the work they redecorate the room around the weavings. Some of Josephine’s weavings are in the Smithsonian. Josephine used the “Loom House” to make all of her weavings and was very well known for her outstanding work.
The Masts had by now built 16 different buildings as part of the old mountain farmstead all of whom have survived to this day. Most of the buildings in the meadow were used for livestock, storing hay, and grain and for tobacco curing.
Finley and Josephine Mast have two sons, Joe, the son who stayed on the farm, is blind by the time he is a young adult. Joe would attach string between the buildings in order to find his way around the farm. Later, with typical mountain ingenuity, he abandoned the strings and created his own personal system for getting from place to place on the farm.
Joseph Mast and his wife Edna run the inn until the 1950’s. The main house is often so full that Joe sleeps upstairs in the loom house to make room for guests. After Edna passes and Joe becomes ill, Edna’s maid Nell, and neighbors, The Yates Family, help take care of Joe. In 1964 Joe Mast moves out of the main house and passes away in 1969. Joe and Edna did not have any children and no one in the family steps in to carry on the tradition of the inn. The Inn closes to the public and stays furnished but closed for the next 20 years.
The United States Department of the Interior evaluates the property. The departments’ representative writes “The numerous buildings that make up the Mast Farm, each expressive of its function, represent vividly the wide variety of operations necessary to a self-sustaining farm complex. The weaving house is particularly interesting, both because “it is an example of log construction which reached its finest development in North Carolina,” and because it was the original dwelling around which the farm grew up. With this building as a nucleus, the farm illustrates the progression of an enterprising pioneer family from this rude early house on a small homestead to a larger, more comfortable house, the seat of much larger land holdings. This complex includes one of the most complete and best preserved groups of nineteenth-century farm buildings in western North Carolina.” The farm is placed on the National Register of Historic Places at that time. In 1980 The Paul Lackey family buys the property from Joe’s heirs and begins renovations to re-open the Inn, but are unable to properly renovate and repair the hand-crafted over two centuries old property.
The Lackeys sell the inn to Francis and Sibyl Pressley who rescue the old homestead. They first renovate and move into the Loom house, then begin the painstaking process of renovating the main house, and other buildings using traditional mountain construction craftsmen.
The Pressley’s re-open the inn; first the main house to guests and later renovated the granary, blacksmith shop, and the woodwork shop. Years of meticulous work result in the facility today which earns the Gertrude S. Carraway Award of Merit from the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina. In 1996, Francis and Sibyl Pressley retire as innkeepers and sell the inn to the Schoenfeldt family which carry the Mast’s tradition of hospitality into another century. Over the next 10 years they enhance the Inn, meet the high-standards, and criteria required to become a Select Registry Inn.
On January 31st, The Schoenfeldt’s retire and sell the inn to the Henri & Marie-Henriette Deschamps family. On February 1, 2006 the Deschamps purchase and assume management of The Mast Farm Inn. They relocate full-time to the Valle Crucis community en-masse; eight members of the family move to Valle Crucis after having lived in Paris, London, Switzerland, Manhattan, Laboule, Coconut Grove, and North Carolina. In April 2006, they began extensive and in-depth restorations, renovations, and improvements. Since 2006, The Deschamps family have continuously invested, restored, renovated, and enhanced the modest rural estate, grounds, micro-farm, inn, rooms, cottages, barn, and added new special event capabilities as well as new cottages.
The Inn wins numerous awards for customer service, lodging, and dining, and begins to take on iconic status as a treasured North Carolina institution. One guest coming back after many years now says of the Inn: “So Much More… The Mast Farm Inn of Valle Crucis is nothing short of a handcrafted masterpiece of North Carolina Folk Art”. In 2010 and 2011 the Inn receives numerous culinary awards and distinction: Simplicity at The Mast Farm Inn is selected from among hundreds of fine dining establishments in North Carolina for ”The Best Dish in North Carolina Award”. The Best Dish in North Carolina Award, Top 10 in 2010, 2nd Place in 2011. Best Dish is North Carolina’s Official State Competition presented every year by The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and sponsored by Our State Magazine.
The Mast Farm Inn of Historic Valle Crucis, North Carolina is inducted into Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. There are only 330 Historic Hotels of America hotels in America, among which The Waldorf-Astoria, and only 8 in North Carolina, among which Pinehurst and The Grove Park Inn. Martha Stewart Living, in the August 2012 edition, includes The Inn in “The Best List” of 34 Best Hotels, as Best Hotel, and Best Food & Drink, and Best Southern Fare: The Mast Farm Inn of Valle Crucis North Carolina.
As The Mast Farm Inn was awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate Of Excellence for each of the last five consecutive years, The Mast Farm Inn was inducted into The TripAdvisor® Hall of Fame. As The Mast Farm Inn celebrates it 224th year since Joseph Mast’s settlement in Valle Crucis, and we celebrate our tenth year being its owners and stewards, brief snapshots become increasingly difficult. So much has been done, accomplished, added, and enhanced that it boggles the mind a bit, and we are hard pressed to condense or even see milestones as it is a daily history built with the same hard work it took to manage a family farm in the 1800’s. There is still room for Jeffersonian America in America. In the last ten years we have invested and reinvested in the Inn as much as it cost us to purchase 10 years ago. It is twice the size in terms of land, surface and buildings, all the while conserving its exact same innate style, character, and spirit. We have renovated the buildings, rooms, cottages and cabins, the micro-farm, the estate, and we have added 6 acres to the estate. Working hard, and keeping it simple… It’s not too bad a life, “Make Your Own History” at The Mast Farm Inn.