Full Circle – Historic Green Lake home re-opens as city’s newest bed-and-breakfast

MATT AND CHRISTINA Lyon are part-owners and on-site managers of the Greenway House Bed & Breakfast in Green Lake. The historic house will open for guests next week, after years of planning and work. Below left, the house at 380 Lake St. has been fully renovated.  Aaron Becker photo

by Aaron Becker

Perhaps one could call it the “ugly duckling” of Green Lake.

A historic house with ties to the early founding of the resort community sat vacant and lonely, falling into disrepair.

Now, it’s been beautifully remodeled from top to bottom, poised to welcome guests in time for Harvest Fest.

For a group of investors, the opening of the Greenway House Bed & Breakfast marks the culmination of a long stretch of planning and sweat-equity in the 134-year-old mansion, resting at the corner of Lake Street and Illinois Avenue.

But for the townsfolk and longtime visitors, perhaps it means even more.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback,” part-owner Christina Lyon said. “A lot of people have dreamed about this house, been excited about it, know about it because of their family members who have lived here. And they’re excited. They’re ready for this house to be open and to come see it … We’ve had people tour from all different places.”

Christina and her husband, Matt, are part-owners as well as on-site managers.

“Throughout the construction process, people have stopped by [and said], ‘I just want to see. I just want to see that it’s actually happening,’” Christina said.

“We’ll come here, and there’ll be people just walking through the house,” Matt added. “Nobody let them in. They found their own way in. They’re just touring the house on their own.”

The high level of interest is due, in part, to the long road that led to today. The Greenway House stands at 380 Lake St. — across the street from Oakwood Lodge until its demolition in 2012. It was the retirement home of David Greenway.

Greenway was the man who in 1867 created and began to run the bygone Oakwood Resort, believed to be the first summer resort west of Niagara Falls.

A few years ago, Green Lake developer Wayne Chaney went before city officials for help to save Oakwood Lodge and the Greenway House.

“He had this dream since at least five years ago to save this house — the history of it — and the Oakwood as well. And he fought for them as much as he could,” Christina said.

In 2011, Chaney and other investors made a proposal to the Green Lake Common Council to create a tax incremental finance (TIF) district to provide funding to renovate Oakwood Lodge and the Greenway House. They asked the city for a $430,000 loan to buy and restore the buildings “in the spirit of the great summer cottages of yesteryear.”

The city wasn’t convinced.

Council members denied the proposed TIF district. Just four months later, Oakwood Lodge was purchased by another party and demolished.

But the adjacent Greenway House remained standing — a final ray of hope.

Ultimately, a conditional use permit was granted, the building and adjacent lot were purchased through other funding, and full renovation began this year.

The interior was gutted and rebuilt. Now the house offers new walls, new windows, new plumbing, new wiring, new lights, new heat/air conditioning and fresh paint.

Among the original features that remain include hardwood floors (all refinished), doors, stained glass windows, converted fireplaces, porch lattice boards and other touches, such as the hallway banister.

“We tried to maintain as much history as possible,” Christina said.

The house is furnished with a subtle blend of antiques and new amenities — the fusion of an 1880s house with the modern standards of today. Each of the seven, two-person rooms has a TV and clock radio.

The house had been built in 1880, but Chaney and his team were convinced the house was structurally solid, even though the interior was crumbling.

“To say this project has been a labor of love would be an understatement,” co-owner Brian Fisher said. “ … We’re excited to have brought this house back to life as a relaxing and rejuvenating retreat for our guests that combines rich history with modern travel amenities.”

Now, one of Green Lake’s most historic buildings is the city’s newest attraction.

“The history is so important to this town,” Christina said. “We’ve met so many people who have seen this house up and down through the ages, and who have lived here through the years. There are families that are still in town that come back every year, and it’s a big part of their lives. We’ve had people stop by who say, ‘I’ve vacationed here for 40 to 50 years, and I’ve always watched this house. I’ve always wanted to see it.’

“And this is everybody’s dream house.”

Matt is the breakfast cook — a decision that provides both a cost-savings and personal touch for the guests.

“I just love to cook … And as I started taking that on as a responsibility just for [Christina and myself], I’ve really come to enjoy it,” he said.

“He makes delicious bread,” Christina said.

Opening night, so to speak, is Friday, Sept. 26 -— the day before Green Lake’s Harvest Fest gets underway. Between now and then, there’s still work to do, such as laundry, furniture details, and some landscaping, minor plumbing and cleaning.

Typically, rates will vary from $195 to $295 per night, but the Greenway House will be offering a specially reduced season rate through Dec. 30. In the future, the business hopes to expand to accommodate larger groups such as weddings or reunions.

“With the whole corner lot, we’ve got plenty of room to have weddings or family reunions,” Christina said.

For those who made this dream a reality, the Greenway House represents an important way to keep Green Lake’s rich history alive.

“While our work to preserve the house and open the Greenway House Bed & Breakfast will not bring back the gorgeous and historic Oakwood Lodge, the amount of positive feedback we’ve already received from the community has been overwhelming,” Fisher said. “We can’t wait to fill the Greenway House Bed & Breakfast with the same kind of lively souls who made the Oakwood such a vibrant and fun community gathering place for nearly 150 years.”

See a before-and-after photo of the Greenway House and check out a tour video. Go to www.RiponPress.com and click this story under “Area News.”


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