The Inn at 2nd & C in the Historic Eagle House
By Kimberly Boney
Just a 2nd
By Kimberly Bonéy
I'VE NEVER MET an antique I didn’t like, so it was completely natural for a vintage sign that read “Antiques” to stop me in my tracks. Two more signs, “The Historic Eagle House” and “The Inn at 2nd and C,” set my little antique-loving, adventure-seeking heart ablaze. The glazed-over look in my husband and son’s eyes, however, was something I’d have to overcome to get them to play along. We were in Old Town Eureka, investigating the quaint Victorian district for the first time, and the last thing my guys wanted to do was browse an antique store. Still, something told me to check it out. They acquiesced with a low, communal grumble and a pair of eye rolls.
We approached the front desk with intrigue and slight trepidation, wondering where the antique shop was. Corisa, the young woman at the desk, greeted us with a warm, genuine smile and welcomed us to The Inn at 2nd and C. She explained that the “Antiques” sign was a vestige of what once was there. “What is this place now?” I asked, taking it all in.
“This is a boutique hotel. It was built in 1888 and the new owners have recently renovated the building. Each room is updated and unique. Take a look around, if you like. If you come upon a room with an open door, feel free to take a look inside,” said Corisa.
And so, our unexpected afternoon adventure through a beautiful old Victorian began.
We first arrived in the Theater Ballroom - a huge atrium in the center of the hotel, surrounded by the interior balconies of guest rooms. We instantly imagined ladies in floor-length gowns and gentlemen in three-piece suits floating gracefully across the hardwood floor. It appeared to have stood the test of time – a place that was aged and still timelessly beautiful.
Jennifer Metz, one half of the sister duo that now owns the Inn at 2nd and C, says the Theater Ballroom was her first connection to the building, and a driving force in the decision to purchase the hotel. Metz initially visited the ballroom when one of her children performed in a play there, and jokingly said to her husband, Tim, “if it ever comes up for sale, I’m going to buy it.” As the owner of an event production company who had frequently rented other facilities for events, Metz saw the Theater Ballroom as a draw because it would eliminate the need to rent other facilities in the future. “It felt like home,” she said. “It was very nostalgic for me – reminiscent of the comfort of visiting our relatives in England.”
Rebecca Rex and her wife, Tammy, had lived on the East Coast, but hatched a 10-year plan to relocate to California. “Jenny and I thought of doing a food truck or some other small business together. When Jenny mentioned the hotel, I thought ‘Oh, that’s just a little bigger than a food truck,’” says Rex, with a laugh.
While the sisters had never directly sought to open a hotel, the structure was already in place. “We knew the hotel would turn the business. Events are now happening four to five times a week. When people come to an event, they are also likely to become hotel guests,” says Metz.
The Theater Ballroom, which sits solidly at the core of the building, gives the impression that it’s seen all of the comings and goings of hotel guests over the 130-year lifespan of the hotel. Imagine the surprise that came in learning that what seemed to be the very heart of the building wasn’t added until 1983, nearly 100 years after the first portion of the hotel was built in 1886. Previous owners had intended for it to become some kind of mini mall. But when they fell short on cash, the project died a quick death. The Blue Ox Mill is responsible for the incredible craftsmanship that would leave anyone who didn’t know better the impression that the Theater Ballroom has always been there.
We excitedly walked the halls of The Inn, running our fingers along banisters with reverence, waiting with bated breath to see what we’d find through the next open door. My son was the first one through each door as we hurried along behind him, worried he’d be lost on the immense property. Every room was a treasure in and of itself, all with a perfectly mixed cocktail of notable nods to the past and a fresh hint of the present.
The rooms, each designed in their own unique aesthetic – and named after family homes, street names, family members, local attractions and fun-filled characters – carry their own sense of nostalgia. Room 42 sits, in all of its quirky glory, on the fourth floor, just above the bar, and is commonly referred to as The Captain’s Quarters. It is Rex’s personal favorite. “The Buon Gusto is a more classy experience,” she says, noting that it is outfitted with Queen Anne furniture and that it is named in honor of the old eating and drinking establishment that is a part of the property’s rich history. Gallagher’s Irish Pub now resides where The Buon Gusto once was.
For Metz, the connection with The Buon Gusto comes in the fact that the room initially served as an office for the sisters: “We spent a lot of time in that room. I feel very comfortable there. “Room 33, called Moonrakers, after the name of one of the houses our grandfather lived in, in England, is nicknamed the Bill Murray Suite, because he stayed in that room during a visit.”
The guests’ favorites are as varied as the rooms themselves. “Some guests absolutely love the rooms that overlook the Theater Ballroom, although those rooms can feel a bit claustrophobic if you need sunlight,” says Rex. Professor Plum, adorned in deep purple décor, and Miss Scarlet, its crimson-themed counterpart, still win the hearts of many guests.
There was one room in particular that none of us wanted to stay in very long. To this very moment, I don’t know what it was that made us leave the room so abruptly – perhaps the very high wainscoting that made the room feel elongated, the boldness of the floral wallpaper or something else altogether. Whatever it was, my husband and I took one look at each other, nodded in mutual understanding and simultaneously walked out without saying a word. Our son was already in the hallway. He never mentioned anything to us directly. At 5 years old he likely couldn’t have explained it – and he didn’t have to. He happily moved on to the next room with boundless excitement - his curiosity fully piqued.
Aside from the striking mix of old world charm, modern color palates and elegant touches throughout the hotel, some guests have noticed a strange energy in some of the rooms. “We are on the haunted history tour. When we first walked in, we used to walk around and feel a little bit creeped out. The energy was pretty dark. We’ve brought a lot of love, light and positive energy to the building since we’ve been here,” says Metz. “It gets us out of trouble quite often,” she continues with a laugh. “Whenever something strange happens, we say ‘The ghosts must have done it.’”
We found our way to the yoga studio on the second floor. Our son swirled around in the glorious light of the room, noticing how it reflected on the hardwood floor. We looked out the window toward the street, noticing passersby.
The hotel is well-apportioned with amenities, including a natural light-filled yoga studio on the second floor, the Phatsy Kline Parlor Lounge, and an elevator (also added in the 1980s), which makes traversing the four floors of the hotel much easier. But for the ambitious and passionate pair of sisters, there is still so much more to be done. “We’d love to add a rooftop bar and a spa behind the stage - where the fish market used to be. We have a banquet area that isn’t finished yet, we are working on obtaining our full spirits license and building out our bar. And we want to have a commercial kitchen installed,” says Metz.
The old “Antiques” sign that once flanked the building is no longer there. The antiques are still there, however, enchanting visitors from every room of The Inn at 2nd & C. They just aren’t for sale anymore. “Maybe we should have kept that sign,” Rex remarked.
Rex, who formerly worked in finance and calls herself “the math” in the operation, says the hardest part of owning The Inn is maintaining the work/life balance that has always been important to her. “It doesn’t feel like work, but it’s always on your mind,” she says.
For Metz, the creative visionary behind the hotel, it’s difficult not having enough money to carry out the vision as quickly as she’d like to: “We’ve come a long, long way and we’ve done incredible things, but all I can see is the end product. I want our guests to be comfortable in the rooms. I want to keep them happy and to build out the events. It’s wanting to make it perfect and not always being able to do that.“
When we were finished perusing the enchanting, mysterious and absolutely beautiful Inn at 2nd and C, we spent a few moments chatting with Corisa, who gave us some information on the hotel to take with us. She offered my son an apple and an orange from a fruit bowl in the lobby, a sweet farewell we won’t ever forget.
As we drove back home, I asked my guys what their favorite part of our time on the coast was. “I liked walking through that place, Mommy,” my son said. “That was definitely the highlight for me, too,” said my husband. “Me too,” I said, smiling at them, giddy at the good fortune of having stumbled on a gem when we weren’t looking for it. •
The Inn at 2nd & C at The Historic Eagle House
139 2nd St., Eureka
(707) 444-3344 • www.theinnat2ndandc.com