To say Anne and Bob Jennings left no stone unturned in the remodeling of their 100-year-old Bend home is close to the truth. The couple, both geologists, know their rocks and stones and love them, which is the reason they found their home.
As Anne Jennings tells it, she was in the car riding with the real estate agent three years ago when they passed this historical home, and she asked if it was on the list of homes she was to see. It was not, but it was quickly added.
“When I saw it for the first time, I knew this was going to be our house in Bend. It has this beautiful volcanic tuff stone on the exterior, which was locally quarried,” she said. “My husband's family had a similar looking stone house on their Texas ranch. It was quite a bit bigger, but it had a similar look. But the stone used in Texas was the Glen Rose French limestone.”
After much research, the geologist couple discovered files stating this home was the first stone house built in Bend.
So enamored was the couple with this century-old home, they were willing to spend an intense three years doing a complete remodel from foundation to roof, and everything in between.
“From day one, I had this vision of what this house would look like, and I wanted to be true to the period and history of the home,” Anne Jennings said.
The Jenningses found the father-and-son team of Mark and Josh Wilhite of Copperline Homes to help them with this monumental remodel.
“When I first walked into the home, I knew this was going to be a big undertaking, but it was an even bigger project than I had originally imagined,” said Mark Wilhite. He joked that the movie “Money Pit” and this house had some things in common, as they kept finding problems with the house.
“The roof was a major problem. There had obviously been a large fire in this house decades earlier, and when we started looking at replacing shingles, we saw that half the roof had burned at one point and it was structurally unsound. I'd say, if that fire had burned 10 more minutes, the whole house would've been gone.”
Then there was the problem of the house foundation being in bad shape and settling unevenly. Wilhite said they had to shim everything, and every wall had to be re-leveled.
But the one thing the house had going for it was “good bones” at its core.
“Back then, when they were building this house, they used full dimension lumber, and it was all milled locally, probably by Brooks Scanlon in those days,” said Wilhite. “But over the years, the house had been patchworked over.”
Anne Jennings took out a large binder of neatly arranged historical papers and explained the house was originally built by Arthur L. French for his wife and two daughters. It was completed in 1913, for the cost of $6,000. French had owned a menswear store, The Men's Toggery, on Bond Street.
Eventually the home would be sold to St. Francis Catholic School, to serve as a convent for the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. It was within easy walking distance of the old St. Francis School, which is now a McMenamins.
“In 1937, the sisters converted the original two upstairs bedrooms into six sleeping apartments,” said Jennings, reading from a historical document. “Look at this contracting bill — it totaled $637.48.”
After the nuns moved out to a larger home in 1947, the house changed ownership several times. It stood vacant for most of the 1980s and fell into disrepair. The years it stood alone were not kind.
A new life
When first examining the home, Jennings looked past the patchwork of shoddy repairs and believed she could restore “the grand old lady” back to her original glory.
Immediately, the Jenningses knew they had to build a new foundation, get a new roof and reconstruct the second floor, taking out the six nuns' apartments and restoring the two original bedrooms.
“After that we added a back porch. We turned the original carriage house into a guest suite. We built new front steps, landscaped the backyard and added a garage,” said Jennings. “During the remodeling process, my best friend was relegated to a wheelchair, so we made everything on the ground floor and in the backyard wheelchair-accessible, too.”
The main house is 2,000 square feet with two bedrooms and three bathrooms. The Jenningses felt they could make each room in the house very special.
Anne Jennings selected a kitchen floor tile in bright yellow, green and red shaped in the Arabic cross-and-star pattern, often seen throughout Morocco.
“When we laid this tile down and it was the first thing we put in, I wanted everything else in the house to flow out from here,” said Jennings, whose aesthetic tastes are influenced by her world travels.
Through the Jenningses work as geologists, they have lived in many parts of Africa, including Egypt and Angola. They've lived in the Middle East, Indonesia and Alaska.
Wherever they've found themselves, they always manage to bring back many beautiful rocks indigenous to the region.
A favorite fossilized item of Anne Jennings is prehistoric ammonite, which is on display throughout the house. A particular favorite few ammonites from the Volga River in Russia are tiled into her kitchen backsplash.
While the cupboards in the kitchen look authentic to a vintage kitchen, Jennings points out they are reproductions with a twist. The couple was hoping to save the original hand-blown window glass of the home, but the window frames were too old.
In a moment of inspiration, Jennings decided the original wavy glass could be incorporated into the kitchen cupboards.
Though the house has many period antiques, the couple also added modern conveniences. Jennings chose a European-style stainless steel Subzero refrigerator. Euro-style means it's a thinned down version of a typical American refrigerator, with two lower drawer freezers. Because it's narrower, it takes less room, and looks less obtrusive in a turn-of-the-century kitchen.
Other stainless steel appliances are the Viking stove and oven. In keeping with the era, Jennings chose a large porcelain kitchen farm sink and decided on honed marble on the countertops, which she says is something her grandmother might have had in her kitchen of the time.
Facing one side of the marble kitchen counter is a small raised bar. What sets this kitchen bar apart is the copper patina finish, which gently glistens underneath the antique lamps above.
They opened up the kitchen by removing walls, and it now opens to the dining room. Jennings calls the glowing glass light in the dining room, which appears to flicker, “my pièce de résistance. It is my favorite light fixture in the house. This was originally gas, and it was made in 1908.”
Jennings said she had a grand time searching the Internet for period light fixtures that would fit into her historical home. And when Jennings searches, she doesn't look for reproductions, she goes for the real antiques.
The living room's focal point is the fireplace, also made out of rough-hewn tuff rock. While it does look original to the house, Wilhite says they actually had to rebuild the fireplace, which was made of concrete.
The one area that is original to the interior of the house is the flooring.
“We tore out a Brazilian cherrywood flooring they had in here because it didn't really fit the era of this home, and what we found underneath was the original beautiful fir wood flooring,” Jennings said.
The living room opens up to what Jennings calls their “rock room.” Most of their extensive rock collection is beautifully displayed in antique curio cabinets.
The rock room is actually a library where the geologists keep many of their books, which are neatly lined up in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on one side of the room.
On one wall in this room is an ornate and colorful Bedouin woman's veil. It serves as a reminder of their time living in the Middle East.
From the library, we ascended the staircase and perhaps the most striking part of this journey was the large oil painting of Bob Jennings' great-great-aunt, affectionately called Aunt Charlotte.
“There's a legend about Aunt Charlotte, and while she now hangs over our staircase landing, she used to hang over the fireplace at Bob's original Texas family home,” said Anne Jennings. “When I got her, this painting was so dirty, I had it professionally cleaned by The Kimball Art Museum in Dallas, and what a difference, you wouldn't believe it, like night and day. We knew when we bought this house, we would build or make a special spot just to hang this painting.”
The oil painting of Aunt Charlotte has some historical relevance and prominence. As the story goes, Aunt Charlotte ran away from Texas to New York City, where she eventually became a Broadway star.
While in New York, she met well-known artist Sam Johnson Woolf, who had painted portraits of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Benito Mussolini and Mark Twain. Woolf painted Aunt Charlotte, who presides in a place of honor in the Jennings home.
At the top of the stairs is a small landing and to the right of it is Anne Jennings' office.
Technically, this would be considered a bedroom. Jennings gave specific measurements when this room was rebuilt so her two long French farm tables, which she uses as desks, would fit. Her long desk faces a bank of windows that look out into her beautiful green backyard.
On her desk, she has an old fan from the 1940s and a yellow rotary-dial phone.
Across the hallway is a large beautiful white bathroom, with a claw-foot tub. White rectangular subway tiles line part of the wall with honed marble on top.
Farther down the hall is the large master bedroom suite.
The Jenningses' time in Africa is evident in this room. A zebra painting hangs above the bed with matching zebra pillow at the center of the bed.
The master suite is large enough for a sitting area and a small rounded gas fireplace.
Adjacent to the bedroom is a large walk-in closet, which leads to the large master bathroom, which is done in black and white.
“I wanted an art deco feel to this bathroom,” said Anne Jennings. “I love this period, and my philosophy was in a 100-year-old house, you're not going to have everything the same. The house changes with the times, so you can have some art deco mixed in with midcentury modern, because a home evolves, too.”
The large shower in this bathroom is curved and rounded and tiled in white subway tiles with black accents.
A simple honed marble double sink basin with straight chrome legs gives this bathroom an open, airy feeling with a sense of subdued sophistication.
Addition with impact
Just beyond the kitchen on the ground floor was the original back door of the house. The Jenningses decided to close in this area to create a back porch room addition. The tuff stone wall, once on the outside, is now a striking interior wall.
The original window on what had been the exterior wall is now fitted with a beautiful stained-glass window that peeks into the library on the other side.
In this small but functional room the Jenningses have brought in two intricately carved wooden Javanese posts they brought back from Indonesia.
Off this back porch room is another small bathroom. It also has the unique round curved tiled shower.
Original antique Stickley furniture graces the back porch room and many of the rooms throughout the house. It is a culmination of the couple's family heirlooms and their own adventures of collecting.
“This home really is an amalgamation of Bob's family and my family, and things we've collected over our years together,” said Jennings.
Looking out of the large windows from the cozy back porch room, one can spot the cute carriage guesthouse.
Stepping out from the main house, we walked about 10 yards into a small courtyard to the front of the carriage house.
Though this may have been where the carriages and buggies of yesteryear were safely parked, Anne Jennings has managed to turn a rundown 13-by-28-foot wooden structure into an inviting small guesthouse with a full bathroom.
Wilhite said the carriage house was in horrible shape when he arrived. The structure itself was leaning to one side, but his team was able to right the building, even incorporating reclaimed barn wood to keep true to the era.
Walking into the carriage house, one can't help but notice “Alex,” a champion nine point elk, hanging from the main wall.
“We had to raise the rafters of the carriage to accommodate Alex,” said Jennings with a laugh. “I knew this is where Alex was going to be, and he had to fit. Alex the elk was shot by my husband's great grandfather in 1935 in southern Colorado — at that time it almost held the mass world record.”
Jennings is originally from Louisiana and is a die-hard fan of her alma mater Louisiana State University. She shares stories and folklore about almost every room and item in her newly remodeled home.
Jennings says this home is very special to the couple because of the meaning — not only because of its history, but also because of historical family heirlooms they've brought to the house. After three exhaustive years of remodeling, she's familiar with every joist, floorboard and paneled wall.
“When I look at this house now, this is what I had envisioned from the very first day I saw it,” Jennings said.
“There's not a room I don't use on a daily basis. A favorite room? No, I love them all.”