Community News Tearoom breathing life into historic Dent House

Community News Tearoom breathing life into historic Dent House

January 3rd, 2018 by Myron Madden in Community East Hamilton

Polly Claire's offers 27 loose-leaf teas imported from London. (Contributed photo)

Polly Claire's offers 27 loose-leaf teas imported from...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Business name: Polly Claire's

Namesake: Owner Rashelle Stafford named the tearoom after her daughters, Polly and Claire. The girls, now 17 and 18, work as servers there on Saturdays, often hosting etiquette lessons and corporate talks for visiting groups. Their brothers, Lance and Grant, also lend a helping hand and can occasionally be found in the kitchen washing dishes. "And those poor guys don't even have a sandwich named after them," Stafford quipped.

Date opened: September 2016, years after a two-year stay in London imbued Stafford and her daughters with a love for afternoon tea. "We just decided to take the tea parties that we had around our dining room table and expand it a little bit," the mother said.

Located in: The historic Dent House at 6178 Adamson Circle. Built by railroad contractor Jarrett Dent in 1854, the Bonny Oaks icon is the last standing plantation home in Chattanooga. Over the last 163 years, the building has served as a bed-and-breakfast, a wedding venue and an extension for nearby Chattanooga Church, from which Stafford bought the home. Despite its many reincarnations, the facility is still best remembered for its 90-year stead as the Bonny Oaks Children's Home.

Aesthetics: After purchasing the historic locale, renovators worked hard to return it to its former glory. They put in marble flooring and a grand foyer, and they installed chandeliers and windows that matched the 1850s time period. Still, the team was careful to keep everything that was original to the house intact, meaning guests can walk on the original hardwood floors, examine the hand-hewn fireplaces and see the waves in the hand-blown windows left untouched over the last century.

Amenities: The restaurant has seven large rooms used as dining rooms and private meeting rooms: three downstairs and four upstairs. Each room has a different pattern of repurposed antique china decorating its walls, making the house feel "fresh and beautiful" with no compromise to antiquity, Stafford said.

Draw: Aside from the Victorian-esque dining experience the tearoom provides, Stafford said many have taken day trips from as far away as Kentucky and North Carolina to visit Polly Claire's because they have a connection to its history. "I always say it is Chattanooga's house," she said. Children raised in the former orphanage and contractors who did work on the property over the years have returned to share their story and their impressions of the house's transformation. "People who have lived and grown up there have actually come in and said it's never really been this beautiful before," Stafford said.

Food: Despite the small amount of space in the historic kitchen, Polly Claire's boasts an extensive menu. Offerings include 27 loose-leaf teas imported from London, as well as a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches and savory selections like chicken potpie. Every dish is handmade from scratch with a heavy utilization of fresh, local materials, and Stafford said the quality menu items have attracted more than a few men, some of whom now have standing reservations.

Future: Stafford opted to stay tight-lipped about her many plans for future expansion, but said her mind is always "exploding with ideas," several of which have already been implemented since the 2016 opening. "We're always finding little ways and large ways to tell each customer 'You're our favorite customer, we appreciate you and we want to give you five-star service every time you come into the room.'"

Hours: Lunch and tea are served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Dinner is served from 6-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are strongly recommended.

More info: Call 521-4832 or visit