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Tea room owners also honor Collins

JACKSONVILLE ' Tea and scones now fill the historic home of the late philanthropist Robby Collins, but his slippers remain right where he left them: slid under the dresser in his Spartan bedroom.

Kirsten and John Neale, owners of the new Collins Tea Room, kept the left half of their single-story, fir-floored building as a museum in honor of the inventor and historic preservationist who lived there for 40 years. His collection of antique and native artifacts and his bedroom appear as he left them.

These things have to be respected, said Kirsten Neale, admiring Collins' 1876 grandfather clock and glass case of antique umbrellas. You can't just throw out his slippers.Neale, who grew up with tea houses in Copenhagen, makes strawberry scones (from an ancestral recipe), lemon cake, white cheese cake and chocolate mousse in the tea house, open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday at 125 S. Third St.

Lunches include soups, salads and delicacies such as spinach or tomato tarts. A range of teas ' black, red, white and herbal ' are brewed in loose form and coffee is served fresh ground in French presses. The service is German porcelain with sterling silver and the teapot is heated on a candle stand.

Meeting you by the door is life-sized Dopson, a battery-powered, elderly butler who tremblingly extends a silver tray.

— The tea house, located next-door to Kirsten Neale's Studio K home and garden shop, is one of two in Jacksonville. The other is Country Cottage Cafe on East C Street.

It's such an old-world tradition, a tea house ' the kind of place where my mother and grandmother would spend happy hours, Neale said. It's been my dream to create one. It's the important kind of place where you go to create memories and celebrate each other's new job or birthday — not a place for just 'slucking' down a cup and running.

Said her husband, When people come here, it's for a time out. A self-described refugee from the corporate computer world in Seattle, he did most of the carpentry and restoration on the building, including making tables and building a deck amid the mature trees out back.

The history-rich building, dating to 1865, has housed more businesses than any other building in town, including a hotel, restaurant, telegraph office, ice cream shop and boarding house, according to research by son Kevin Neale, who left a real estate job in Colorado to join the family business. Also, he noted, pioneer aviator Charles Lindbergh dined here.

It housed U.S. soldiers, so as to make the U.S. government's presence known to the Jeffersonians trying to create a new country out of Southern Oregon and Northern California, said Kevin Neale. They were saying: just because we have a Civil War going, don't think you can get away with that.

Although it sits off the main drag where it misses much tourist traffic, the tea house is fast becoming a regular haunt of locals, said Gisele Goossens, a French native who works in a shop nearby.

It has that European touch I miss and love ' that charm and feeling of being at home with warm hosts who feel like family, said Goossens. It reminds me of France.

Its ambience blends the frontier West and proper Victorian with the Euro taste for modern jazz and, if you like, a glass of local wine. The rear deck and gardens, with private coves for two, offer a quiet refuge from modern life ' and complement the outdoor displays of the adjacent garden shop.

The Neales want to offer a welcome in the spirit of Collins, Kirsten Neale said, a passionate man who spoke for Jacksonville's heritage and its future.

A lifelike, battery-powered butler named Dopson greets visitors to Collins Tea Room and Bakery in Jacksonville. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven