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After 60 years, Springs Inn closes

The Springs Inn, a landmark in the city for 60 years, has closed, and the property is for sale.

Public relations manager Cheri McMullin said the motel closed Nov. 23. The popular dining room known for its Southern-style cooking had closed in January.

The 7½ -acre property with 207 motel rooms and suites at 2020 Harrodsburg Road is priced at $850,000 per acre, or $6,375,000 for the entire property.

A building on Mitchell Avenue is not included in that package, but "it is negotiable. I am willing to sell it," said Cynthia Mulvihill, one of the current owners.

The Springs Inn property sits at the busy intersection of Harrodsburg and Lane Allen roads. It's across from Turfland Mall, which has also seen some of its major anchors — most notably the Dillard's and Dillard's Home stores — close this year.

The inn's closing does not reflect a decline in business, McMullin said, but rather a desire by its present owners, Mulvihill and her mother, Janet Jordan, to do other things.

About the closing, Mulvihill said, "I have very mixed feelings. It's a relief to me personally, but I'm sad, too." She worked as general manager of the motel for 16 years. Her grandfather, R.T. Jordan, was the last individual to purchase the sprawling motel.

"The restaurant and motel business tie you down, especially the restaurant. You work long hours," Mulvihill said. Since the Springs closed in November, "We get our weekends off. We can do some traveling. Yes, it's nice," she said.

Some of the motel and restaurant furnishings have been given away. "We're working with several charities to give them things they can use."

Mulvihill said she doesn't have strong feelings about whether the Springs should remain a motel or the buildings be razed and the property redeveloped. "At this time, we are very open-minded about that."

Real estate agents have told Mulvihill that, "more than likely," it will not be continued as a motel.

Urban County Councilman Don Blevins Jr., who represents the 10th district, said he was not concerned about that stretch of Harrodsburg Road becoming a blighted area, even with Turfland Mall struggling and the motel closed.

"That is very, very prime real estate," he said.

Blevins and Anthony Wright, in the city's economic development office, have contacted the owners of Turfland Mall, the Rubloff Development Group, to offer assistance in redevelopment of that property. "We just don't want to see it sit vacant for 20 years," Blevins said.

The Springs Motel opened in 1948, built by Tracy Neal and his wife, Hazel. It was renamed the Springs Inn in the 1980s.

Urban County Councilman Dick DeCamp, head of the city's first Historic Commission, said, "It was always considered one of the early good motels we had in Lexington."

Even as newer hotels and motels were built, because of its proximity to Keeneland, the Springs remained popular with people in the horse industry when they came to town. "Over the years it stayed a very nice motel. They always seemed to be making improvements," DeCamp said.

The dining room was popular for its hot Browns, prime rib, fried chicken and Southern-style green beans.

"My grandmother is still going around town looking for good green beans," Mulvihill said. "You know the kind, good and salty, cooked with country ham for about two days."

It became a favorite dining spot of Wayne Smith, former senior minister of Southland Christian Church, soon after he came to Lexington in 1956.

"The staff was friendly, and the atmosphere was just so pleasant," Smith said.

And he loved the way the chef could cook a steak. "They knew what 'rare' meant," he said.

Betty Murphy and her late husband, Wendell, who owned the Avis Rent A Car franchise on South Broadway, liked to eat dinner there on Saturday nights, then go into the Spring Tide Lounge to dance or listen to music.

The lounge had live music on weekends until last year, Mulvihill said. The Spring Tide closed in January, along with the dining room. "I hated to see it close. We had so much fun there, " Betty Murphy said.

Many people who enjoyed the lounge still complain to Mulvihill when she runs into them. "They say, 'won't you reopen so we can come and dance,'" she said, chuckling.

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