B&B owners enjoy fruits of their labor
While sitting in the living room of their Victorian bed and breakfast in Virginia City, Chris and Carolyn Eichin pull out a photo album documenting the history of the property.
Like a couple of proud parents, they point to the changes they have made to what is now the “B” Street House, the former home of 19th century opera house proprietor Henry Piper, who built it in 1875.
The couple, married since 2003, purchased the property in 2004 after it had been left to the elements for decades.
The state of the house was “really, really bad,” Carolyn Eichin said. “It was about to fall down, actually.”
The house had been used as storage since 1977 when plans for a doll museum inside the building crumbled when one of the owners died in a car accident. About 30 years later, the Eichins – newly retired public employees from California – decided to make the old house their new home.
“A lot of people up here considered it a tear-down,” Chris Eichin said. “There was a large hole in the roof and we had some water leaks resulting in water damage.”
Today, the Eichins are hosting guests from around the world inside their three-bedroom bed and breakfast and were featured n HGTV’s “If Walls Could Talk” in 2006.
After buying the house, they spent three years and a small personal fortune to restore the house with the help of federal historic preservation tax credits and a local contractor.
They dug up artifacts in the backyard, finding one unopened vial from the 1920s still filled with medicine, and planted a garden where they now grow fruits and antique roses. They also moved the entire house four feet onto a concrete foundation off from the decrepit brick pillars that had been supporting it.
Carolyn, a former history teacher from Las Vegas, gives guests a quick tour of the home when they first arrive. She said she’s particularly proud of the wallpaper that lines the living room, an accurate reproduction of the Victorian paper that hung in the house during the 19th century.
They opened the doors to the bed and breakfast in September 2007, right before the recession started. Despite the strain on the economy, they said they’ve held their own.
“This year seems to be a little slower, people are counting their cents,” Chris said, adding they maintain about 30 percent occupancy throughout the busy season during the spring, summer and fall.
He said he’s optimistic for the future of the venture, too.
“We are right now at the beginning of the baby boomers retiring and baby boomers are the guys with a reasonable amount of money to do something,” Chris said.
Carolyn recalls one guest who proposed to his girlfriend during a stay at the “B” Street Inn. Another who couple from England who still write to say hello.
Running a bed and breakfast also presents its challenges, such as waking up and cooking for one guest who wakes at 4 a.m. and then another who sleeps in until almost noon. It also means staying mindful of food allergies and stocking their pantry.
For the Eichins, running a bed and breakfast has been the realization of a long-time dream. He always wanted to build his own house. She’s a long-time Nevada history buff.
“I have a long history in Nevada and I’m the one who always wanted to have a bed and breakfast,” Carolyn said.
So the “B” Street House project seemed like the right choice once the couple retired from the state of California (Chris worked as a mechanical engineer and Carolyn in human resources).
“I can be talked into any big adventure,” Chris said. “This is just another one of those adventures.”