Photos of the 1857 farmhouse belied its bed-and-breakfast status when Vikki Maddock saw the Central Point property listed on a real-estate website.
Overrun with weeds and overshadowed by ailing trees, the William Bybee House portended too much work for Maddock and her cousin, Tina Flaherty, who planned to purchase an inn and operate it together. But once inside the Old Stage Road landmark, the women — both widows — found comfort in its "solid feeling."
Bybee's Historic Inn is located at 883 Old Stage Road, about one mile outside of Jacksonville. Call 541-899-0106 or see www.bybeeshistoricinn.com
"It just touched our heart when we walked in," says Flaherty.
"I wanted to stay," says Maddock.
The cousins not only stayed but resumed the bed-and-breakfast business within three weeks of purchasing Bybee's Historic Inn from Mike and Tricia Sullivan. They removed undesirable trees, poured yards of concrete pathways around the house, painted its exterior and thoroughly cleaned its interior. This month, the cousins are celebrating their fifth anniversary at Bybee's.
"We're both hard workers," says Flaherty, formerly of Phoenix. "We didn't know we'd have to be the repairwomen."
Before working as a massage therapist and counselor, 53-year-old Flaherty landscaped golf courses and gained experience as an electrician. Maddock, 58, was a landlord in California and operated a Montana moving business with her husband, Mitchell.
While both women withstood rigors of readying the inn, the pressure of cooking its first breakfast for guests nearly brought Maddock to tears and tested Flaherty's ability to coach her over the phone. A well-appointed kitchen helped see them through.
Tiled in shades of green and cream over floor and walls, the kitchen is anchored by its original Holbrook, Merrill & Stetson wood-burning range, though the inn's actual cooking is done on a six-burner, industrial-grade Vulcan propane range. Opposite the stoves, a porcelain-glazed, cast-iron sink surrounded by cream-colored Corian countertops tackles the cleanup, along with two dishwashers. Cabinets extending to the room's 11-foot ceilings house the cousins' considerable collections of china, used daily at the inn.
"We had to purchase very little," says Flaherty of outfitting the house.
Despite disparate decorating sensibilities — Flaherty's is "elegant and refined," Maddock's "rustic and eclectic" — the women did reunite numerous family heirlooms under one roof. Antiques that belonged to their grandmother, Leah Smith, furnish both the 3,900-square-foot, five-bedroom main house and the 2,500-square-foot carriage house remodeled into a sixth guest suite and inkeeper's residence.
Inside Flaherty's private accommodations, leather sofas and chairs and plush carpeting contrast with the carriage house's original, hand-hewn ceiling beams. Next door, the "Americana Room" reflects Maddock's interest in American Indian and Old West motifs, and her late husband's collectibles — including antique toys and games — are incorporated throughout both buildings' decor.
Numerous furnishings were included in the inn's purchase price, but not all met the cousins' decorating criteria. They kept the best historic reproductions and focused on restoring and accenting original woodwork, including wide-plank fir floors, hardwood bannisters and spindles, fireplace mantelpieces and the parlor's ornately molded plaster ceiling.
Although the cousins are unsure of parlor tables' and chairs' authenticity, the Italian marble mantelpiece is most likely original. They proudly point to the room's circa-1900 Seybold Reed Pipe organ, a gift from neighbors who no longer wanted it. An antique Victrola was among the inn's trappings, along with a collection of 33-RPM records.
Also evoking the early 1900s, fabric walls can be see in three of the inn's guest suites. Former owner Robert Blair, who brought Henry Calvin Fabrics to Medford from San Francisco in 1996, installed richly colored and textured textiles over the inn's lath and plaster to luxurious effect, which won over both Maddock and Flaherty.
"I think everybody who's been here has done a little bit," says Flaherty, referring to the inn's numerous owners.
Sporting a spa-like aesthetic of pristine tile work, the six guest bathrooms were enlarged and remodeled under previous owners in 2000. Maddock and Flaherty added a pertinent porch on the inn's northern end that holds true to original Classical Revival architecture, documented in 1934 for the Historic American Buildings Survey.
The cousins play up the inn's status on the National Register of Historic Places with monthly "character dinners." Friends dressed in historically appropriate costumes play the roles of original owner William Bybee and his wife, Elizabeth. An influential figure locally, Bybee held more than 5,000 acres in Jackson County, 2,000 of which were contiguous. He raised livestock, including racehorses, fathered 11 children and served as county sheriff, before his death in 1908.
Part of a donation land claim, the original homestead is now surrounded by just three and a half acres. But the property is large enough for Maddock and Flaherty to host numerous special events, including weddings.
The grounds' herb and vegetable gardens supplement ingredients used at breakfast and in banquets prepared by chef William Prahl, former owner of Gogi's restaurant in Jacksonville. The cousins say they also will rely on a 6-by-8-foot greenhouse that former owners outfitted with temperature-activated windows to expand their food-growing efforts.
"Whatever we can do," says Flaherty, "we do ourselves."