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New B&B has old roots

What was an old, rundown but historic farmhouse half a block from downtown Ashland has undergone a million-dollar restoration, in which a couple outfitted it with antiques from its birth year of 1890, crammed it with green, sustainable, eco-friendly features and opened as a bed-and-breakfast called the RedTail Inn.

Owners Geoff and MaryAnn Geness created what they call an “eco-boutique” accommodation with the latest green features: ductless water heater, tankless hot water heater, dual flush toilets, all LED lighting, low VOC paint, maximum insulation and soon-to-come solar panels. Signs around the house describe all the features for guests.

They did a complete overhaul of the house for nine months, removing five layers of roofing, asbestos siding, many layers of wallpaper — and fixing a broken main beam and installing a foundation on the back, where none had existed. They recycled all possible old materials to craftsmen who could use it. They did everything the Historic and Planning Commissions asked for, says Geoff.

“All that could be kept in the Victorian and Art Nouveau period, we saved, but we wanted to add all the energy-saving features we could. We buried all the sewer, water and electric or got them out of sight. We used local craftsmen and hung works of local artists. We stock the rooms with local wine and take people on tours of area wineries and other spots. We wanted everyone to feel good about it and wanted to foster relationships in the community.”

To celebrate, the couple and the Ashland Chamber of Commerce are holding a gala ribbon-cutting and open house starting at 5 p.m. Monday, July 24.

The house at 550 East Main St., next to Cucina Biazzi restaurant, was built by pioneer and town surveyor Jesse Applegate McCall, grandson of noted Jesse Applegate, who blazed the Applegate wagon trail to Ashland in 1846.

The couple are history buffs and display old pictures of McCall, scraps of the home’s old wallpaper and even a 1913 postcard they found in the walls. Their website, www.redtailinn.com, details the often scandalous history of the builder, who had a then-unheard of two divorces.

They named the inn after the local red-tailed hawks who are noted for their sharp vision — as the couple, they say, want to be noted for their eco-vision. In teaching guests about their green features, they hope they will go home and practice them.

“With us (the U.S.) pulling out of the Paris Accord (on countering climate change), we had to do SOMETHING,” Geoff said with a laugh.

The inn’s three suites each have kitchenette, fridge, dishwasher and convection microwave. They consider the B&B part of Southern Oregon’s “eco-tourism” industry and have the motto, “Where history, luxury and environment come together.”

He comes from Southern California and she from Pittsburgh. They met while living in Portland, and didn’t want the family to be worn down by the rain, she says. They honeymooned in Ashland 13 years ago and, like so many, fell in love with it and moved here three years ago. They bought a farm on Butler Creek Road and commute in their electric car.

—John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.