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Jacksonville's historic hospitality sites opening again

A couple of Jacksonville hospitality locations in historic homes are returning to the tourism mix after shutdowns that came prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

TouVelle House, a bed and breakfast, will reopen this spring with new owners.

Awen Winecraft opened a tasting room at the McCully House in February, although lodging has continued there despite closure of the restaurant.

Awen co-owners Sean Hopkins and Tom Homewood originally considered opening last spring at McCully House, but held off due to the pandemic. The ability to have outdoor seating for up to 30 guests during the pandemic prompted them to open this year, said Hopkins.

TouVelle owners James Soule and Kristin Bira backed away from an opportunity to purchase the property in March 2020 as the pandemic spread.

“I just didn’t know with COVID popping, but we came back with an offer six weeks later. I’d slept on it and said we are just going to do this,” Soule explained. He still plans to take a cautious approach, likely opening for a few weekends starting in April before advertising on the internet.

McCully House was built in 1861 by doctor and town business leader John McCully. But building the house bankrupted him and he left town, leaving his wife, Jane, with three children and his debt. She subsequently founded a successful school at the site.

TouVelle House was built in 1916 by Judge Frank TouVelle during the height of an orchard boom in the Rogue Valley. When TouVelle’s wife, Elizabeth, died in 1931, he turned it into a home for needy boys. The Craftsman-style, six-room lodging hasn’t been open for nearly three years, Soule said.

Since taking ownership in June 2020 the couple have worked on maintenance and restoration at the lodging. There’s new paint and drapes and extensive work was done on the grounds and a pond.

Grounds renovations include an emphasis on native plants, similar to what was done in the Beekman Arboretum, which requires less irrigation, said Soule. “Our first summer we had a shock with the water rates. I think it expresses a certain local pride to do it that way.”

Besides breakfast, the pair might offer other food options such as “steaks poolside,” plus wines and mixed drinks. In addition to the pool, sauna and hot tub, vintage bikes will be available for people who want to cruise around town or ride to a nearby winery. Weddings can also be booked.

“I hope when people come here, they learn to slow down and perhaps read a book,” said Soule. The former library remains and there will be a gift shop and media room, but no TVs in the six guest rooms.

Soule has managed luxury resorts and restaurants in San Francisco and Napa Valley. Bira grew up in Napa Valley and worked for several wineries there. She will retain her position as director of administration for a company that works with autism clients and have the role of TouVelle House operations manager.

Awen came together in 2016 when Hopkins and Homewood pursued their love of making wine together, which started 10 years earlier. The pair produce their wines from locally sourced grapes at the 42 Barrel wine crush in Medford. They also manage two vineyards, the largest at Blankenship Estates near Phoenix.

Since opening Feb. 20, the outdoor seating has been full on weekends, said Hopkins. They lease the patio and a portion of the indoor facilities, including the kitchen and dining area, where they can accommodate up to 10 people under current COVID restrictions.

There’s a fire table in the gazebo and patio heaters for all of the tables. Three of the heaters are stainless steel fire pits with spark arresters that burn wood.

“We love this spot and hope to be here for a long time,” said Hopkins, noting the house is listed for sale. Awen has signed a two-year lease.

Patrons are welcome to bring their own food to enjoy with the wines. The tasting room has agreements with Bella Union and Las Palmas Mexican restaurant to bring food, and Grubhub and DoorDash can deliver. When pandemic restrictions allow, the operation will offer special dinners, potlucks for Awen wine club members and musical events.

“We’ll do some event dinners with guest chefs, but we aren’t running a restaurant here,” said Hopkins.

“I call Jacksonville the heart of the wine trail, and all our friends are here too,” said Hopkins. The partners had long focused on Jacksonville for a tasting room, and Homewood recently moved to town. Awen is open Wednesdays through Sundays. More information can be found at awenwinecrft.com.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Awen Winecraft opened a tasting room at Jacksonville’s McCully House last month, although lodging has continued there despite closure of the restaurant. (File photo)