Monday, March 25, 2013

Jimmy Carter's Inn

Obscure inn boasts room fit for president

When we went to visit the Jimmy Carter Museum and farm in Plains, Ga., we were surprised to learn there are no motels in this small town. We asked a museum attendant where we might stay, and he gave us directions to the Historic Inn and Antiques Mall, a complex he said had been renovated by Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter.

When we arrived at the inn, Jan, the hostess, informed us that Wayne had mispronounced Rosalynn's name; it is pronounced as two words, Rosa Lynn, those being the names of two of her ancestors. Jan said she had frequently traveled with Rosalynn during the campaigns for the presidency.

Despite the large number of visitors to Plains, it has remained too small a town at 700 people to warrant a regular motel or hotel. This concerned Jimmy Carter, who felt the area should have some place for visitors to stay. In 2000, the Carters undertook the creation of the Historic Inn. He decided that a large empty storage area above several shops could be turned into rooms for a bed and breakfast. Using his skills as a carpenter and his experience working with Habitat for Humanity, he designed the area. With help from prisoners, seven rooms and a living/dining area were constructed. Six of the rooms rent for the same price, and the presidential suite costs a little more.

Rosalynn helped design the d├ęcor of the rooms, each around a particular decade starting with the 1920s. Jan said every room is a history lesson and encouraged us to examine each one before making our choice. The rooms are large, complete with a sitting area with couches, desks, telephones and bookcases of the period and period-appropriate books and magazines. The '30s bathroom has a claw-foot tub, and the '40s room has twin beds, which were in fashion during that era. The only thing that didn't fit was the modern television sets. The mod '60s bedroom, with its colorful red and white accents, met our mood for the evening. We were surprised to find that only one of the other rooms was taken right then, but Jan said their existence is not well-known, and tourists usually make arrangements to stay in the nearby town of Americus.
Some visitors make special arrangements to stay at the inn so they can attend Sunday school classes at the Plains Baptist Church, taught by Jimmy Carter when he is in town. We were told we would need security clearance to attend. There are also some specific rules of conduct; never applaud and only take pictures at the opening, when Carter gets in front of the mike.

We had dinner at the family restaurant where Carter often has coffee in the morning. He maintains a highly personal relationship with the people here and continues to be interested and involved in local activities. I found it interesting he could keep these intimate relationships given the security team that stays here to protect him. Our impression is that when he is not traveling, he is probably living the most "normal citizen" lifestyle of any of our former presidents.