A Chic Tennessee Small Town
PRESERVING SMALL TOWN AMERICA
In 2007, Rhode Islanders Michael and Kathy Dumont rescued this architectural piece of history from the wrecking ball. As a developer, Michael has always had a passion for preserving historical buildings and homes. Starting with renovations of lofts in Boston, to an award winning restoration of a 1756 Sea Captain’s home in Rhode Island, Michael honed his gift of “hearing the space.”
“A vision comes to me, and I see the space as she was meant to be,” says Dumont.
It was natural he would restore a mid-1800’s, dilapidated farmhouse on their farm in Tennessee. Then, buying and restoring the all-but-forgotten 1939 hotel in the middle of town seemed like a piece of cake.
“We’d never been in the hotel or restaurant business – besides eating at a lot of nice restaurants,” jokes Kathy.
The Dumont’s tackled this business first as a restoration project — and then were met with the challenge of running it, when the operator who originally made the deal got a job in another state. Their backgrounds in real estate and finance seem like an odd match to the hospitality business, but “Kathy has always loved to entertain – and makes everyone feel welcome and at ease. She knows how to throw a great dinner party,” says Michael. So they dove in.
Restoration went well. The narrow-planked oak flooring was stripped of its 70s-era, multicolored shag carpeting and refinished, along with restoration of the original period tile floors and tubs in several bathrooms. Art decor door hinges and doorknobs were salvaged.
The warm, brick walls were exposed, and one can imagine those brick-layers working in 1939, with good, old fashioned sweat and pride. The huge, broken windows were replaced, and when you open them now, you can still smell the grass and trees of this small Southern town.
The Commodore Café, originally opened as Staley Café with a jukebox in the corner, then later a Western Auto store, has been transformed into a casual and artsy eatery.
“We serve traditional Southern favorites, plus a few unique dishes,” says Kathy. “As often as possible, we use fresh, local ingredients, including eggs from our farm!”
In addition to local and regional flavors, the restaurant is known for live music performances for diners on Friday nights. From platinum record holders to songwriters who have written number 1 hits, the Commodore has become a great place to showcase vast area musical talent.
Along with the hotel’s rebirth, Linden’s downtown street scape got a makeover, and more businesses started moving into downtown. There are only two vacant storefronts, where there were ten before this started. Courageous shop-keepers are reviving historic buildings and opening unique stores.
There is even summertime “Music on Main Street” annual concert series. As hotel owner Kathy Dumont says, “We’ll keep restoring, renovating and improving here. We are dedicated to making it work in Linden.”
The Dumont’s have continued restoration work in Downtown Linden and in 2015 acquired and restored two additional historic buildings. A couple of doors from the original hotel, The Miss Berdie’s Boarding House has been well received by guests. These two historical buildings feature oversized rooms and two beautiful lobbies. Some rooms have exposed brick walls, original tin ceilings and kitchenettes.
In 2018, a new project has been completed in the Neighboring town of Clifton, TN. Along the banks of the Tennessee River, the Commodore Inn at Clifton is a meticulously restored Victorian Bed and Breakfast. Following a two and one half year restoration, the property is a fabulous testimonial to 19th century workmanship with 21st century amenities.
COMMODORE HOTEL HISTORY - THE BANK STORY
The bank was purchased on July 27 1904. One and one half lots, known as the Dr. F. A. Cole town lots, were purchased from Milton S. Jones and his wife Ellen. The purchase price was $1,000., by two notes, the initial note being $650.00 and the second note of $350.00. These notes were signed by John W. Wiggs, President, and James E. Smith, Cashier of the Bank. This property was located on the south east corner of the public square in Linden.