History of Retreat on the Lake

formerly Mull’s Motel – Hiawassee, Georgia

Like most things, our little motel has a history. This history starts on January 5, 2023. Well, maybe we should say that’s where this story starts… This is when we met Gale Stanley and learned more about this Hiawassee, Georgia, downtown gem. Gale’s great great grandfather was involved in building the Craftsman style home on Rice Street in 1925. This home is still standing today and may possibly become part of the Retreat on the Lake “footprint” of places to stay on the property. (More on that another time.)

The Rice Street house, (now known as Rice Street Retreat) was eventually sold to a gentleman named Ray Hedden who eventually built the motel in 1958. The original motel was block construction, one story and a total of six rooms, with an office. Later additions were added to the second floor, so the entire first floor is part of the original motel. It was believed to have been originally named the “Hedden Motel”.

In the 1960s the “Hedden Motel” was sold to Gale Stanley’s father, Fred Rhinehardt, and was renamed to the “Blue Mist Motel” by Fred’s wife Hazel. Fred Rhinehardt also happened to be the owner of Chatuge Motors, at the time, which had been located near Hiawassee Hardware. Hiawassee Hardware has since expanded to take over the Chatuge Motors property. Nightly rates for a stay at the “Blue Mist” ran about ten dollars ($10), per room, per night. Mr. Rhinehardt added a second floor, private residence, to the motel in the late 1960s. (Evidence of this space was uncovered during the 2022/2023 renovations and was published on the Motel’s Facebook feed on Tuesday January 3rd, 2023. In the photo, the original first story roofline was evident and the exterior wall of that first addition could be seen above that roofline. The exterior paneling was still painted the blue color the “Blue Mist” was known for.) This addition was initially meant to be a personal residence for the Rhinehardts.

In the late 1960s, according to Gale, Mr. & Mrs. Rhinehardt got into a tiff over Fred’s purchase of the Rice Street house, apparently without the knowledge of Hazel. Gale received a concerning call from her mother, where Hazel expressed her discontent with the recent purchase. Gale drove to Hiawassee to try to help ease the situation. After the long day, the drive and the whirlwind of thinking her parents were possibly beyond reconciliation, unbeknownst to Gale, she became a successful family mediator, ultimately resolving the tiff by making bacon and eggs for everyone, so they could at least disagree on a full stomach. That did the trick, and the Rhinehardts agreed the purchase of the Rice Street home was not such a bad idea after all. Initially, Hazel never had the desire to move into the Rice Street house. However, in 1972, Fred Rhinehardt suffered a heart attack in the private upstairs residence, eventually passing away. Shortly afterward, Hazel wound up selling the motel to the Donald & Darlene Mull and moving into the Rice Street home, which she ultimately admitted to Gale, was the best purchase decision Fred ever made. Hazel wound up loving that home. This sale of the “Blue Mist Motel” occurred in the early 1970s.

In the late 1970s, the Mull’s added the remainder of the second floor to the hotel and changed the private residence into motel rooms. In total, four more rooms were added and the private residence was converted into three separate rooms, now giving the motel a total of 13 rooms with an office. For much of the time, Darlene’s mother, Cordie Woods, ran the motel for the family. (On a curious side note: Darlene Mull and Gale Stanley are cousins.) After Cordie Woods passed away, the daily operation fell back to Donald & Darlene, until Mr. Mull passed away in 2017. The Mull’s owned the motel, nearly 40 years, running it as the “Mull’s Motel”, until early 2020, when the COVID pandemic hit. The motel sat vacant for about two years, with one failed attempt to lease the operations to an individual, until North Georgia Premium Properties, LLC acquired the motel in November of 2022 and began renovations.

During their ownership, the Mulls received many famous guests. Most of these guests were musical artists or other performers who came to town to perform at the Anderson Music Hall. An example of one of those guests was Sammy Kershaw, which came to light from a Facebook follower. The photo he signed and left with the Mulls is posted on our Facebook Timeline. The “Mull’s Motel” was even mentioned in the book “A walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson, 1998.

Many changes are being made to the motel during the current renovation and upgrade of 2022/2023 by North Georgia Premium Properties, LLC. The facade of the motel is being left mostly intact and true to its original history, as NGPP received it, however all of the interior spaces are planned to be fully upgraded to be “premium affordable” accommodations in Hiawassee, Georgia. At the time of this writing, the motel is one of only three hotel/motels in the city limits of Hiawassee, Georgia and the only one with direct lake access to Lake Chatuge, including a dock. Expansion plans are in development for the west side of the property, which overlooks the lake. The property is planned to be more than just a place to stay, but rather a place to relax and enjoy the four-season activities Hiawassee, Georgia has to offer. Hopefully, “Retreat on the Lake” will continue to bring years of pride and enjoyment to Hiawassee, GA and those who visit.