Couple turns old home into bed and breakfast
January 29, 2014
The Dahlia House Bed and Breakfast is open for reservations.
The Dahlia House has always belonged to an Elliott. In 1890, a 31 year-old seine boss by the name of Chris Henry had the temerity to elope with the 16-year-old daughter of the Elliott patriarch. His wild act became the impetus to build the house in 1895, in order to prove that he could take care of the girl, Louisa. The two-story Eastlake Victorian overlooks the Columbia River, with views of Cathlamet to the east and Saddle Mountain standing directly before it. What is left of Pillar Rock can be seen from the window of one of the bedrooms upstairs.
Brian Elliott inherited the home 30 years ago. As a labor of love for the home and his family and sharing a fondness with his wife for bed and breakfasts, the two set forth to restore the home to its original beauty. They never imagined it would take them 10 years.
From the sound of it, it might have taken nine of those years just to scrape the white paint off of the stair railings.
“We had to sand all this down and scrape it,” said Linda. “We would come in here and work on it for a week and in that time, you might get a foot done. It was awful.”
Because there was such a wonderful view, they decided to add a conservatory. They priced them here in the US and found that it would cost them $25,000 just to order one. Linda knew they were popular in England and after a little research, they found someone to sell them a kit and ship it to them from England for $7,000.
“It was all in metric,” they laughed. “We had to buy a special tape measurer to put it up.”
It’s a lovely place to have breakfast, but it had a surprise benefit. It can heat the whole house.
There are cedar pocket doors with hardware from the original Elliott mansion that was torn down in the late 1960s. There are a few original windows and stained glass and upstairs, the wood floors remain. The front window is original. Connemara marble that took Linda a year and a half to track down graces the new fireplace.
“Almost everything in this house was bought at a garage sale, an estate sale, or Goodwill. I don’t care what we skimp on, but I’m having the Connemara marble!” Linda exclaimed.
A swinging door that they found in the attic separates the kitchen from the dining room.
“I was born and raised in this house,” said Brian. “My brother doesn’t remember that door and neither do I. It was covered in bat poop. It was a lot of work to clean up, but it fit right into the holes in the door sill, like it belonged.”
The original phone is mounted on the wall in the entry.
“When we were kids,” Brian said, “mom would use this to wake us up. Two longs two shorts was the phone number. It was all a party line. If the phone rang, all my aunts and uncles would be on the line listening. There were no secrets. “
At the back of the house was a net room, a space for the fishermen to make or repair nets. It was 22 feet across with a window on each side to pull the length of the net through. There was no heat or plumbing in the space. It’s now two bathrooms, and the windows where the net was pulled through remain.
At a family reunion they spoke to one of the daughters of Chris Henry, who has now passed on. She told them that the original furniture in the home was donated to the Fort Columbia Museum. It’s still there today.
“It’s gorgeous!” they said.
There are two bedrooms upstairs that make up the bed and breakfast. The Hummingbird Room overlooks the river and you can see Pillar Rock from the other room.
Though the top of Pillar Rock was blown off to put the marker on in the twenties or thirties, according to the Elliotts, it is also the site where Lewis and Clark first believed they saw the ocean.
Linda has enjoyed decorating the home and still works on it. She wanted it to be classy, with a touch of whimsy, and you can see it here and there with pictures of cats and night lights. If you have lots of time, there is plenty to see.
“This was the community of Dahlia,” Brian said. “It’s actually on some maps. Altoona is the last place most GPS will bring you. Up until the 1950s there wasn’t a road up here. I went to a one room school house for my first two years then we went out to Rosburg after they put in a road. The only way in and out of here was by boat.”
“Living out here was very different,” he continued. “I talk to my cousins about it. We don’t’ know how we lived. We should have drowned.”
He got in trouble when he was three or four.
“My brothers were supposed to be watching me,” Brian said. “I was out in the middle of the river on a plank. My dad came up in a boat and pulled me out and then when we got home my brothers got it.”
“This was a community here, it even had a post office,” Linda shared.
Brian told of a town just east of Dahlia. At that time, in order to have an establishment to sell liquor, the place had to be located in a town. His grandfather built a tavern on one of the docks and called it Charlton, and that was all there was to it.
According to Brian, the tavern burnt down before prohibition started.
“The Elliott clan all grew up here,” Brian said. “My great grandfather settled this area in the late 1800s. I’m part of the fifth generation.”
“They came here as coopers but became fishermen,” added Linda.
As for their restored home they say, “you’d be nuts to do this for any other reason than heritage, but we wanted to pass this on to our kids. It’s been in the family forever. It had to be redone. And we always wanted a bed and breakfast.”
The Dahlia House is located at 1919 Pillar Rock Road. Their website is http://www.dahliahouse.com if you would like to see more pictures or contact the Elliotts.