Saving Rowell’s Inn: Derry family tackles the task

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Smith family, from left, Landon, Jared, Montana, Dominic, Christina and Dakota in front of their new family project. Photos by Shawn Cunningham

Anyone who regularly drove along Route 11 through Simonsville this summer could see the slow motion crumbling of Rowell’s Inn’s iconic three-story porch.

But the appearance of a large roll-off dumpster in front of the landmark building is good news for those who have worried that the steady deterioration of the structure would lead to its loss.

The inn was built in 1826 by Edward L. Simon and bought by Frederick Rowell in 1910. It has served as  Post Office (1826 – 1950) and a general store in addition to being a hotel. In 1979, the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Enter Christina and Jared Smith, a Londonderry couple who bought the 1826 roadhouse in September with a vision of bringing it back as a bed and breakfast, a bakery and more.

And that will certainly be a challenge. On a recent weeknight, with Jared working in a front room and the couple’s four children on hand, Christina gave a visitor a tour of the rambling structure that has been full of surprises.

Christina Smith shows one of the rooms in the early 19th century inn

Made up of room after historic room, some with fascinating features, the first floor of the inn seems to go on and on until Christina stops in a room behind the kitchen to point out a wall of tongue and groove paneling.

“There was no electricity when we looked at the place before buying it,” said Smith, referring to a flashlight tour of the inn. “We didn’t notice the door in that wall that leads up to an innkeeper’s apartment. So we bought the place and found we had two more bedrooms.”

Some things were more obvious.  On the stairs leading up to the two bedrooms in what once was a third floor ballroom, yellow nylon covers a hole in the roof where a tree fallen on it during a storm. For Smith, this is just another challenge as she explains the plan.

A hole in the roof is just one of the challenges the Smiths face

Within the year she and Jared will reopen the nine-bedroom bed and breakfast and manage it from their home, which is just down the road, and Christina will move her baking business – 4 Kids & a Baker – to the inn’s kitchen.  After that there’s talk of Friday night dinners, wood-fired pizza and maybe a yoga studio.

The Smiths say they plan to keep as many of the historic features as they can while updating amenities like bathrooms. And they will probably keep the inn’s name, but that decision is down the road. For now, they’ll be jacking up the sagging porch and turning on the inn’s heat so they can have water and work comfortably on the interior this winter.

When they are not working on the inn, the Smiths have day jobs. Jared runs Smith Property Maintenance and Christina is Client Services Manager for Fisher Financial and Ronald Theissen, CPA.

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  1. Gene Pategas says:

    Good news glad to see that the place is being refurbished. My wife and I stayed there years ago when we were building our log home on Middletown Road. We had many dinners there and was there for Christmas parties and just had a good time at the pub while Mike and Sue owned it.

  2. Vincent Penna says:

    What great news, For many years we stayed at the inn. Beth and Lee Davis became great friends of ours. We wish you the best of luck!

    Vincent Penna

  3. Maureen Savage says:

    So happy to see this place brought back to life! I would contact Catlin Corkins at the Division of Community Planning and Revitalization with the state if you haven’t already. This project I’m sure would qualify for tax credits with the federal government and the state to help offset some of the renovation costs.

  4. Peggy Merrow says:

    I drove by Thursday and saw the workers there and was happy to see the beginning of a saving of local history. Good luck and we will be sure to have pizza there.

  5. Betsey Dyer says:

    I am so happy to see that someone is going to bring this building back to life. I have always loved it since moving to the area almost 20 yr ago. Sad to see a building that was put on the National Register of Historic Places not be appreciated for a very long time. Hoping to be able to stop by soon to say hello and maybe get a walk thru of the building.

  6. Barb Clark says:

    I remember that beautiful Inn! We had a dinner party there and got a tour of the Inn. When we went upstairs to the ballroom, there were two side rooms under the eves that we heard were used to hold escaping slaves from the Underground Railroad! The Arch In front of the building was a sign it was a safe house!

  7. Doris Eddy says:

    Remember as a little girl 70 years ago curling up on the front living room couch and falling asleep with the fireplace burning while my parents were out in the back room. So great the building is once again going to be for other people’s memories. She deserves it!

  8. Kathy Pellett says:

    Dear Christina and Family – I was thrilled to read this article that you have bought and are restoring Rowell’s Inn. It’s wonderful that you are saving this real treasure and we look forward to dining here once again — and hope you do open a bakery because we need one. It was wonderful to see the dumpster in front, because that signaled that the inn was being saved. We wish you well and look forward to seeing you. And wonderful to see your family– and Dominic – a big boy now. Best wishes, too, on your working once again on Main Street. I’ll be sure to stop in and say hello. Kathy P.

  9. Grace Coyne says:

    so happy for you all…

  10. Suzanne Polidor says:

    How wonderful! My family has a wonderful memory from about 15 years ago when we had the entire dining area to ourselves for Christmas Eve! What a good memory! Also my husband’s mom remembers dances in the 1930s in the upstairs ballroom. I think that it was on springs!

    Good luck. We’ll be praying for your success! Can’t wait for you to open.
    Joe and Suzanne Polidor

  11. Margie Straub says:

    Thank you for taking on this project ! This beautiful old house deserves to be saved and many of us are grateful that you are bringing back to life. We will be the first in line for pizza.

  12. Steven Melosky says:

    You’re living my dream. Take it slow, have fun and enjoy the process.

  13. Shirley Littler says:

    I am very happy you are restoring this beautiful building! Have been feeling sad every time I drove by, but saw the dumpster the last time & was hopeful! Thank you!