For its 100th birthday, the house at 180 S. First St. in Kalama got a full-scale makeover.
The Craftsman-style house, which may have once hosted clandestine activities, has been renovated from top to bottom.
On Thursday, it had its grand opening as the Montgomery House B&B.
Owners Eric and Julianna Montgomery hope the bed and breakfast will complement Kalama's antique scene by trading customers with the town's well-established lineup of stores.
First, some house history.
The three-story house a half block south of Kalama's downtown was built in 1908 by Robert and Margery Hendrick. Robert Hendrick died soon thereafter, and it's said his wife turned the house into Kalama's first boarding room. The house still has some of the original room numbers.
"We're not sure it was a boarding house for school teachers," Julianna said. "This area was known for bordellos," Eric added.
Whatever happened in the early part of the 20th century, from the 1960s on, the home was owned by a family that also had a Kalama antique business in town, and much of the space was used for storage.
When Eric and Julianna spotted the house, it was painted turquoise with "Pepto-Bismol pink" trim and the interior was far from hospitable.
But the couple had big dreams and bought the house in 2006 for $215,000.
Eric is a Kelso native who had previously worked in small boutique hotels in Seattle. Julianna, who grew up near Everett, has worked as an event planner. They both have relatives in the Kalama area.
The Kalama house was structurally sound, said Eric, who previously had renovated several homes.
He started knocking out walls to turn the old nine bedrooms into five.
Eric re-plumbed the house. The ancient knob-and-tube wiring had to go, though he left some of the original fuses visible for a conversation piece. "Maybe one-quarter of the house had electricity," Eric said.
He installed two new electric furnaces to replace the wood-burning furnace in the dirt-floored basement.
The wood-burning stove in the kitchen is gone, replaced by modern appliances and a food prep island.
Four of the house's six original chimneys were knocked down to make more space and the 3,500 square feet of fir floorboards needed refinishing.
Eric did most off the work, with help from Karry Witherbee of Kalama.
It took 25 months to restore the house. A happy change in plans came two months after the Montgomerys bought the house, when Julianna got unexpectedly pregnant after 14 years of marriage. The Montgomerys' daughter, River, is now 15 months old.
"This is what blood, sweat and tears looks like," Julianna said, standing outside one of the now-elegant guest rooms. "We're thrilled that we're still married," she added, hugging her hubby.
The couple spent $150,000 on renovation, not counting Eric's time, they said.
All that blood and bucks shows inside and out.
The house is now painted in two shades of green with white trim, and metal roofing material was replaced with shingles.
Once inside the front door, visitors will stroll through the house's art gallery, which will host different artists.
The staff will serve breakfast in the drawing room on the first floor. Or, they'll carry it up to the rooms for breakfast-in-bed. "It will be full gourmet," promised Julianna, who will do the cooking. "Organic when available. We're an eco-conscious service provider."
Upstairs, Eric created the spacious Grand Suite from three rooms. It includes a huge walk-in closet and a bathroom with claw foot tub next to a couple of windows. Bathers who leave the blinds open can survey the Columbia River over I-5.
Creature comforts include 400-thread-count sheets, flat-screen TVs with built-in DVD players and many of the home's original chandeliers. "All the beds have down comforters," Julianna added.
The other two guest rooms share a bathroom down the hall, which has another claw-foot tub dating from the house's early days. The front room also has views of the Columbia. "You can lay in bed and enjoy the river," Julianna said.
The Garden Room at the back of the house has a canopy bed with floral decor and a view over the garden behind the house, which will be available for outside parties.
One thing they didn't change: the original wire coat hooks in the front hall. "This is my favorite piece of the whole house," Julianna said.
Eventually, the Montgomerys would like to fix up the 500-square-foot attic and recreate the front deck the house once had.
The Montgomerys envision people booking their home for wedding events or garden parties.
They also plan to turn a downstairs room into a spa where their niece, Auna Montgomery, can work. Auna, who used to work at the Aequis spa in Portland, adds to the Kalama business' artistic ambiance.
Auna has studied jewelry making and spent a year in Prague learning about masks. Her paintings, influenced by Japanese artists and Gustav Klimt, currently are displayed in the Montgomery House gallery, which will feature different artists each month.
Like her aunt and uncle, she's also a singer.
Eric and Julianna play in a Top 40 cover band called Maurice the Fish. "He's the voice," Julianna said. She plays bass guitar and percussion and sings backup.
They plan to provide easy-listening tunes in the evening for guests, with Auna filling in when Eric and Julianna are playing out of town.
"We're all artists or musicians," Julianna said.
If you go
What: The two rooms at the Montgomery House B&B with a shared bathroom cost $99 per night on weekdays and $109 on weekends. The Grand Suite with a private bathroom is $139 and $159.
Where: 180 S. First St., Kalama