Captivated by stories of opera singer Jenny Lind, the French general Marquis de Lafayette and other notable visitors, Mark Guth and his late wife were drawn to the old Canton Hotel.
“It’s been here for over 200 years,” Guth observed. “Several famous people have either stayed here or visited here during that time.
“That just resonated with us.”
In 2014, the couple moved in.
Their new home was in bad shape, and they did numerous renovations, adding flooring, plumbing, electricity and insulation.
A new kitchen was added to the hotel and every bedroom now has adjoining bathrooms.
Improvements were also made to a guest house that was not part of the original structure.
The couple enjoyed many family gatherings in the old hotel, a lot of Christmases and Thanksgiving get-togethers in the home that was originally known as The Red Brick Inn.
Guth’s wife died three years ago, and he says it’s time to move to another project somewhere.
The former hotel that he has called home for the past eight years is now on the market, listed by Lake Homes Realty in Benton for $729,000.
Broker Daniel Richardson, who specializes in resorts and second homes, notes that the Canton Hotel is a neat part of Trigg County history that a lot of people probably don’t know about. He had been a game warden at Lake Barkley, driven by the old hotel and never realized what he was seeing as he drove by.
Placed in 1980 on the National Register of Historic Places, the old hotel was built by Abraham Boyd around 1798 to 1804.
According to Richardson, Boyd was a businessman in Nashville who supposedly saw a spot on the Cumberland River that he liked.
It was one of his dreams to start a hotel.
In its early days, the place was bustling, with steamboats arriving from Nashville unloading cargo and passengers in a community that at that time had around 2,000 residents.
Canton then was as big as Nashville.
A mural on the wall of the hotel foyer painted by Nell Broadbent showcases its earliest days, highlighting the Cumberland River, the Canton Hotel in the background and the steamboat B.S. Rhea that used to dock at the old hotel.
The hotel continued to operate until 1932 and counted among its guests President James K. Polk, along with Lind and the Marquis de Lafayette, who was a key figure in the American Revolution and helped secure funds for the war.
It originally slept 13 people and included a tavern and jail in the basement of the hotel.
Boyd, Richardson said, had hoped to make Canton the county seat of Trigg County.
The broker surmises that perhaps Boyd thought that having what was possibly the first jail in the county would make the process of becoming the county seat an easier task.
The jail today is a mechanical room that houses the duct work for the old hotel.
The adjoining tavern is long closed, a sign on the hotel proclaims, although it served as a speakeasy during the days of Prohibition.
Canton Hotel was owned by the Futrells from 1897 until it ceased operating as a hotel in 1932.
They lived there until their deaths, Richardson said, and at some point the hotel was bought by Trigg County residents Bill and Mildred Jones.
Mildred Jones is the grandmother of current Trigg County Circuit Court Judge Jamus Redd.
Redd’s family owned the hotel for 70 years.
Early newspaper articles share how Redd, when he was a senior in high school, helped get the old Canton Hotel ready for public tours.
From 2004 to 2014, the hotel was owned by the Ecksteins, a Florida family who in turn sold the 200-year-old hotel to Guth and his family.
Mark Guth and his brother-in-law Ken Lasseter currently own the hotel, and Guth says it was its history that initially caught his family’s interest.
The Guths, who lived in Dallas and later Nashville, were looking for lake property and discovered the old hotel at Canton online.
It was in need of repairs when they got it.
“We had to basically build a house within a house,” Guth says of the improvements.
He sees potential in the old hotel, which now boasts 3,400 square feet, five full bedrooms, each with its own bath, an additional two half bathrooms, kitchen, den and living room.
“It could be anything,” says Guth, who envisions possibilities that could include a wedding venue or a bed and breakfast.
“But it’s also a great family house,” he adds, recalling all those holiday gatherings.
Richardson notes that there are not that many 200-year-old properties around “in that good a shape” that people are living in,” he said.
“It’s in such good shape for being over 200 years old,” the real estate agent observes.