A whole lot of gumption, one part foresight and another dash of great inspiration is leading Elizabeth Hendrix to celebrate her first Christmas in her newly renovated, century-old farmhouse, which is now proudly known as the Crooked River Inn, in Prineville.
Outdoor holly boughs and wreaths welcome holiday visitors and family. From the curbside gate to the outside porch, the white clapboard house sets the welcoming holiday scene that Hendrix is happy to share.
However, a year ago not everything was quite so merry and bright.
“I saw the house for sale on Craigslist in November last year, and when I stepped in here I knew this house was meant to be,” explained Hendrix, who is retired. “But I also knew it needed a lot of work. Turns out it was more work than I had imagined. We took off at least 20 layers of wallpaper. It was more than six months of constant local construction workers in this house.”
Underneath the decades’ worth of old dark wallpaper, Hendrix found a gold mine of shiplap walls made of hand-hewn boards, which Hendrix believes were logged and milled locally.
She runs her hand against the rough texture of the whitewashed wall, admiring its unique features and original character.
“It was so much work after the wallpaper was all scrapped down. We had to caulk and use rope between each board, and at the very top of each wall, we took off the top board to blow in insulation,” said Hendrix, 69, sitting in a comfortable chartreuse chair while admiring the cozy room oozing with charm. A large Christmas tree sparkling with little lights and vintage ornaments added to its appeal.
The once-forgotten farmhouse is located on W. Second Street. It was built in 1906 by Columbus Johnson, one of Central Oregon’s early settlers who became a well-known livestock man.
When he built his home, according to city records, his ranch was on the “western fringe of town.”
The Johnsons eventually sold their property to the McKenzie family in 1964, and they turned the farm home into a boardinghouse.
“The way I heard it, some of the people who stayed at the boardinghouse back then had farms and ranches in the outlying areas, and when the women were pregnant, they stayed here so they could be closer to the doctor in town,” Hendrix said. “In fact, I had a lady who knocked on my door and told me her father was born here in what is now my study. Back then the doctor made house calls and delivered babies at home.”
The next generation of the McKenzie family closed down the boardinghouse and made it into a family home, until Hendrix bought it last autumn.
Decking the halls
Hendrix’s new home is now a busy B&B getaway. Since she opened last summer, it’s been almost completely booked.
The fun part for Hendrix was the decorating.
Once the renovation was completed in June, Hendrix, who has collected antiques her entire adult life, went hog wild decorating her century-old farmhouse. Christmas has been no exception.
Upon entering through the original heavy wooden door with an embedded lead glass window, visitors are in the entryway. A set of stairs leads to the suites.
Left of the entryway is the open living room. The Christmas tree is currently taking center stage in front of a large window that faces Second Street. The smell of pine from the tree envelops the senses. Bold red and green against the whitewashed shiplap walls feels as if you’ve been transported into a Christmas from last century.
The living room opens up to a dining room where guests are served a hearty family-style breakfast.
Detailed millwork and authentic, wide wooden-plank floors were found underneath 2 inches of linoleum in parts of this home.
An antique pie safe adorning the dining room area is cherished by Hendrix’s daughter Sarah Lauderdale, who remembers it from her childhood. A tall, red reproduction old-fashioned popcorn maker sits on the opposite side of the room. Visitors snack on the freshly made popcorn in the afternoon.
The bright, modern kitchen with its clean white lines and stainless-steel KitchenAid refrigerator and Dacor stovetop and oven is through another door. Red accents add punch and lead the eye to the old-fashioned tin ceiling, hinting at the home’s past.
A side door out of the kitchen leads into a wonderful outdoor covered porch, and while the weather outside may be cold, antique Pendleton blankets allow visitors to cozy up and enjoy the winter scene.
Like the interior, Hendrix has decorated her porch area with antiques: a collection of wooden duck decoys and boat oars, hanging snowshoes and farm equipment.
From this vantage point, one can view the original outbuildings on the half-acre property while sitting atop overstuffed cushions on weather-resistant, faux-wicker furniture.
An original white clapboard bunkhouse, which Hendrix also gutted down to the studs, is now a small, long-term rental apartment. Like the main house, she decorated the exterior with punched red tin stars. Matching the bunkhouse is an almost exact miniature playhouse in the backyard, used heavily by Hendrix’s own grandchildren when they come to visit.
Beyond the bunkhouse is the original barn of the Johnson ranch. The gravel driveway beyond the back porch leads to the three-car garage area. Part of it serves as Hendrix’s winter Chicken Village, where a dozen chickens lay at least a dozen eggs every day for her to serve to guests.
Beyond the Chicken Village is a side yard guests can enter through a gate made of different-colored wine bottles.
The outdoor area also has a greenhouse and raised garden beds, where Hendrix grows much of her own produce and serves it to her guests and family.
Pile on the plaid
Guests who stay at the farmhouse during the Christmas season will see the front staircase draped with fresh-cut green swags. Hand-braided stair treads on the wooden steps dampen the sound of footsteps.
A small hallway is at the top of the landing where residents of the former boardinghouse would sit to talk on a wooden phone. Off of the small hallway is suite No. 1, where a large queen-size poster bed greets guests with piles of cheery, plaid holiday pillows. The bright red pops against the white walls, giving it an old world feeling.
“You’ll notice the small doorways in this old house made it impossible to get the furniture like the bed through the door, and we tried everything, every angle, every direction, and it wasn’t going through,” explained Hendrix. “What we ended up doing is taking out the front window in the suites and using a pulley system to get furniture up here.”
This suite has its own living room area. Off the other side of the bedroom sits a cozy kitchen complete with a breakfast nook and an unexpected crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. In this little kitchen, Hendrix also worked her antique decorating magic to make it a welcoming and bright space.
Suite No. 1 also has its own small bathroom.
Back through the hallway is suite No. 2. This is the largest suite, with two bedrooms and a slightly larger kitchen, as well as a shared bathroom between the two rooms. The sunlight-infused bedrooms are also decorated for the holidays with overstuffed plaid pillows.
Old farming equipment is tastefully displayed over the headboard of the bed in the main bedroom. The second bedroom has cowboy wrangler ropes and chaps decorating its walls.
It appears every square foot of this house is tied into Prineville’s cattle ranching and farming roots. Hendrix said that is no accident; she thinks it’s important the home be grounded to its history.
My own private Prineville
While the B&B business of the Crooked River Inn keeps Hendrix busy, there’s a place she can go for her own privacy. Her living space is behind a white sliding barn door in the dining room.
On one side, there’s a large office and crafting place. At the opposite end of this hallway is her master suite, where the master bathroom includes the original claw foot tub.
Hendrix’s private master suite is tastefully decorated. She had French doors installed, leading to the side yard of the home.
Hendrix’s living area also has a private guest room for friends and family to stay. The two twin beds are decorated with the seasonal red plaid pillows.
A powder room on this side of the house has an original brass pull-string flushing toilet and an antique commode, which was originally in another bathroom of the house.
Balsam and holly and bits of bauble
Hendrix said the notes her guests leave in the Crooked River Inn guest book are the best gifts and totally unexpected.
“I’ve had guests from all over Europe, from India and the East Coast of the United States, as well as people from all over the Northwest, and they leave me notes of gratitude and you know it’s the greatest thing,” she said. “I don’t have to travel anymore. They can come travel here, and I can hear all their stories and share Prineville and Central Oregon with them, too.”
— Reporter: firstname.lastname@example.org