Victorian bed and breakfast embraces history

LEETONIA – History buffs, antique aficionados, or those who are just looking for a weekend getaway might enjoy the Charles Nelson Schmick House.

This Victorian bed and breakfast at 110 Walnut Street in Leetonia opened its doors to the public last November after being renovated by owner and operator Priscilla Kurtz of Leetonia.

Kurtz is no stranger to the renovation process. She and her husband own five homes, including the renovated 1861 Victorian house they currently reside in.

“We don’t buy them to resell them,” said Kurtz. “We buy them because we fall in love with them and we plan to do something with them.”

The Charles Nelson Schmick House was originally built in the 1870s and sold to Edwin J. Warner, the president of the Leetonia Iron and Coal Company. Its namesake, Charles Nelson Schmick, who was a banker and a member of the Leetonia school board, later bought and rebuilt the house in the Victorian style that is represented in the house today. Kurtz said the history of the house draws in guests, especially locals.

“I have open houses and at every open house people just pile in here. And they come with stories about (the town and the house),” said Kurtz, who often gives tours of the house and its history.

Kurtz purchased the house in April 2012 to transform into her own business. The house required seven months of renovation, until every room was fixed, furnished, and decorated, before it was open to the public. Kurtz has a handy man she has worked with for 10 years to help, but she said people are surprised to learn she was hands-on in the renovation process.

“People come in, and I give them tours. They look at me dressed up, and they say ‘Did you actually do that?’” Kurtz said. “And I say ‘Oh yeah.’ I would be covered in paint from head to toe or dry wall or spackling or whatever else.”

The three-story, 5,700 square foot house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It boasts five bedrooms, including Kurtz’s favorite, Cillia’s Suite, as well as five and a half baths, three dining rooms, a hot tub, and two of Kurtz’s other favorite rooms, the library and the front parlor, among other rooms. Kurtz believes the house, decorated with period antiques in full Victorian style, has something that appeals to everyone.

“(Women) love all the crystal chandeliers and the Victorian frilly stuff. However, the guys just “ooh” and “awe” over the stained glass windows and the wood,” said Kurtz.

And the food is just a lavish as the house. Kurtz cooks a breakfast that includes casseroles, mini quiches, yogurt parfait, and a baked apple filled with cream cheese.

“I am too crafty for my own good,” said Kurtz of her food, saying that she has seen people take out cameras to photograph their meal.

Although Kurtz said the bed and breakfast hosts many overnight guests, it also holds other events including bridal showers, tea parties, small weddings and bridal party stays. This is when the bride, her bridesmaids, and other female family members rent out rooms for an evening of relaxation the night before the wedding.

“I wanted to be able to use the house for more things, to get more people in the door so they know about it,” said Kurtz.

For now, Kurtz runs the bed and breakfast almost single-handedly, with occasional help from her daughter or a friend. There is no full time staff beside her.

“I’m used to being a busy, busy person. So I am handling it because I love to be involved,” said Kurtz, who says the bed and breakfast is “her baby.” “I also love to be involved in knowing that my customers are taken care of.”

Kurtz has even more ideas for the future. She is currently renovating the carriage house outside so it can be used for weddings, and she hopes to host events like wine tastings or murder mystery dinners someday.

But for the time being, she is happy with her first year of business, all of the people she has been able to meet and the impact the historic house has on the town.

“It’s been great. I have a lot of stuff on the calendar, and the local people have been so great,” said Kurtz. “The local people are so happy to see it used and shared with them. People just love it.”

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