Warm evenings, pale mornings
The studio area also houses a Gram Parsons Wall of Fame, a collection of photos of artists who have been influenced by Parsons. Inside are several plaques and certificates, one commemorating Parsons’ star on the Nashville Walk of Fame. Holland helped raise the $3,000 necessary to get that honor for Parsons in 1992. Also among the plaques is the Gram Award, originally named the Poll-Gala award and renamed after Parsons’ death. It is a Dutch award honoring outstanding country artists. A friend of Holland’s won the award and gave it to the innkeeper as a gift.
Over the years, Holland’s intense interest in Parsons has earned him a reputation as somewhat of a freak. In Ben Fong-Torres’ biography of Parsons, Hickory Wind, the author notes that some regard him as “that fanatic in Tampa.” And in a recent issue of Mojo magazine, a feature on Gram’s Place states Holland believes he can communicate with the ghost of Parsons. Unfazed and unapologetic, Holland, 50, dismisses such comments with a weary shrug of the shoulders and bored roll of the eyes. It seems he has had to had defend his devotion to Parsons many times.
“I’m not trying to ‘communicate with the spirit of Gram’ or conjure up the ghost of Patsy Cline or anything like that.” Holland said, “I don’t know where people get this stuff. I would like to think that if Gram was alive, he would like this place, but for all I know he could hate it.”
Holland, born and raised in Tampa, worked a variety of jobs, including carpenter and truck driver, before opening the inn. He moved into the first of the two houses in 1977 and a few years later constructed a Gram Parsons Museum in his carport. Among the items in his collection were a pair of Parsons’ silver bell-bottoms (a donation from John Nuese, International Submarine Band guitarist) and a bottle of patchouli oil given to him by Nancy Marthai Ross, Parsons’ onetime fiancee and mother of their daughter, Polly.
About four years later he formed the Gram Parsons Memorial Foundation, dedicated to preserving the history of Parsons and his music and, as part of the foundation, later started a newsletter, the Cosmic American News. In 1989 he completed a documentary about Parsons, The Legend Of The Grievous Angel. The project took four years and eventually aired on Tampa public access.
The idea for Gram’s Place began with Holland’s trip to Amsterdam later that year. Inspired by the inns there, Holland wanted to create a place of his own. He had been toying with the idea of becoming an innkeeper before, but on the plane ride home he developed his dream further. And in his search for an appropriate theme for his new inn, Holland turned to his interest in Parsons.
“It was sort of a Field Of Dreams type thing,” he said. “It just sort of came together over the years. I sort of let the spirit guide the place.”
The inn has evolved in a cut-and-paste fashion. When it first opened, Gram’s Place consisted of only one guesthouse. Over the years, Holland has made numerous additions, including a second house, a youth hostel and a hot tub. Among the most striking of these expansions is a boardwalk, winding through the oak trees above Gram Central Station (a second courtyard) and ending at the top the first house with a crow’s nest. Built by David Boughner, a North Carolina artist, it is decorated with various carvings, including the letters “GP” and a guitar.
This sense of wistfulness and creativity catches on with guests. The guestbooks, located in each room, are filled with lofty praises for Gram’s Place by guests who seem genuinely moved by their stay.
One visitor, a schoolteacher from Boston, visits at least once a year and has composed pages of poems in the guestbook. One of her verses hangs on the wall next to the youth hostel.
More concisely, another says, “Come as a guest, stay as a friend, leave as family.”