Story and photos by Cindy Ruggieri
For Ike and Julie Lovelass, busy owners of the very popular Owego Kitchen restaurant, it was never in their plans to be innkeepers. But that was before they toured the beautiful historic Victorian home at 249 Front Street in Owego. ‘This house spoke to us’ says Julie. Ike smiles as he adds ‘Julie didn’t get past the foyer before she pulled out her notebook and started writing things down’.Thus began the journey to fully restore the property to its original beauty. The Inn is named for historical notable Belva Lockwood, who resided here from 1863 to 1865 as headmistress of a female seminary. She would go on to become the first female lawyer to argue a case before the Supreme Court, and a presidential candidate in 1884 and 1888.
The goal for the inn was to keep as much as possible authentic, but to update for the comfort of the guests. The house had fallen into disrepair, and much of it had to be stripped down to the studs. Once the dirt and grime was removed, the stunning wood floors were revealed and remain intact throughout the house. Room molding was restored, fireplaces were cleaned, window shutters were repaired and refinished, and the wooden staircases and railings were cleaned and polished. Pieces of the outside Victorian trim were found stored in the attic, so they were able to restore the exterior with only a few replacement pieces required. Ike and Julie’s affection for this old house is obvious, as they point out the details in the architecture. “Look at the design on the door hinges,” and “make sure you look up at the room moldings, how different it is in each room.”
And then they added their own twist to the interior design. An old grand piano, circa 1865, left behind and beyond repair, was reused to create the bar in the dining area. Light fixtures were acquired from another old Owego building, the headboards on the beds are 5 panel slab doors, and most of the furniture was found in antique stores or auction houses. The one exception to the vintage décor is the ultra-modern kitchen, designed for their plans to host events. Breakfast is provided, delivered to each room in a vintage basket.
‘We wanted to give the guests the option to eat wherever they wanted, whether privately in their rooms or by carrying their baskets to sit on the front porch in good weather,” explains Julie.
Each of the 5 guest rooms has its own theme, with amenities including comfy queen beds, private baths, wifi, and smart TVs. The Lovelass room is named for Ike’s parents, with his Mom’s bike hanging on the wall. “She loved her bike, and rode it all over the place’ says Ike. It was a way to honor her memory. The Gorman Suite is named for Julie’s parents, and includes a sitting area and the original claw foot tub. The Tioga, Knickerbocker, and Eagles Club rooms all have their own story.
And then there is the novelty in the basement – a tunnel that extended from the house to the Susquehanna River. History shows Owego as part of the underground railroad, and there is speculation that perhaps this was one of the stops used along the way. But it has never been confirmed at this location, and other possible theories have been discussed, such as a delivery route during prohibition. The tunnel was filled in after the floods of the 70s, but the opening in the basement remains and still makes for a good conversation piece.
A short walk to downtown Owego, the Belva Lockwood Inn is one more reason to visit the charming small town of Owego. The Inn was opened on January 1, preserving the past while looking forward to the future.