Even with the charred Pearson mansion still standing on its grounds, plans to transform the historic Richmond Hill Inn into the Oshun Mountain Sanctuary are under way. OM Sanctuary, a nonprofit organization, held a press conference on Friday, Aug. 5, to talk about plans for the site and give a tour. OM Sanctuary purchased the historic property for $4.5 million with plans to raise $5 million more before it opens as a wellness-oriented retreat center. The group, in partnership with RiverLink, announced the purchase on Aug. 1, and according to Shelli Lodge Stanback, OM Sanctuary board chair, a business plan with conceptual drawings will be complete within the next few weeks.
But, she also says there’s plenty of work to be done. In March 2009, the Richmond Hill mansion burned to the ground in an arson that remains unsolved. Built in 1889, the mansion overlooked the French Broad River and had once been the home of congressman Richmond Pearson. According to court documents, the loss was valued at $7 million. Though Stanback says the inn has seen plenty of difficult times, the OM Sanctuary will honor its history through a book with pictures and stories about the site. “There’s really not much of the Pearson house left, unfortunately,” says Stanback. “We’re going to clean it up.”
Once the inn gets some maintenance and renovation work completed, there are plans to build a movement center, spa, life-enhancement center, and a new welcome center. According to Stanback, OM Sanctuary should not only be a tourist destination, but a nearby place where locals can go to relax, listen to a health lecture, or take a class. “For a lot of people in Asheville who travel away to go to a place where they can stay and have more of a wellness-oriented experience or have the programs available, now they can stay home and come here,” she says. “It’s really important that we start teaching people how to slow down and know what wellness means for them.”