published Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

DeSoto's Mountain Inn Restaurant back in action

Shane Grider, a member of the DeSoto State Park Lodge maintenance crew, shows some of the worst wind damage caused by high winds on March 18. Officials hope repairs to the lodge and restaurant are complete by late this month.
Shane Grider, a member of the DeSoto State Park Lodge maintenance crew, shows some of the worst wind damage caused by high winds on March 18. Officials hope repairs to the lodge and restaurant are complete by late this month.
Photo by Ben Benton.

More than three months after high winds slammed into DeSoto State Park, the mountaintop facility east of Fort Payne, Ala., edged back toward normalcy with a regular menu Friday night at its Mountain Inn Restaurant.

DeSoto Park Lodge manager Lynn Scruggs said the restaurant reopened its dining room Friday after providing carry-out service for lodge guests over the past few weeks.

Scruggs said the kitchen returned to operation first, and the last repairs to the dining room interior were made Thursday. The porch and deck areas and some of the guest rooms still are being repaired, she said.

On March 18, storms damaged nearby Fort Payne High School and spawned a tornado that slammed into the park almost without warning. Park staff said the storms swept over the mountain out of a blue sky.

Park Superintendent Ken Thomas said a few days afterward that the restaurant took the hardest hit, although about half the guest rooms were damaged.

"We're going to be able to serve in the main dining room, but we'll have to keep the porch and deck areas closed," Scruggs said late last week.

Scruggs said crews have been working hard to get the park back in shape, including repairs to the roof of one of the 1930s-era stonework cabins and several rooms in the section of the inn that has a rocking-chair porch.

"Next Friday night starts our seafood buffet," she said. "We usually get over 100 people. Friday night is our big crowd."

Scruggs said the buffet attracts local residents as well as guests.

"People should know that our other cabins are open and do have motel rooms that were not damaged and the kitchen and restaurant is back to a full menu service," she said.

The oldest parts of the lodge, like many of the park's stone structures, were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Most of the "modern" parts were built in the 1970s.

Scruggs said that years back, the park staff didn't know what the restaurant was called; it was just part of the inn. But they found in storage an old sign that said "Mountain Inn Restaurant," so they put the sign up on the park's eatery.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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