Site to be converted into bed and breakfast
OTTAWA — Ottawa’s historic Cora J. Pope home has been vacant since 2013, but it may be ready to take new families in by March.
The building, 116 W. Prospect Ave., is in the process of being renovated to become a bed and breakfast, but most of those renovations are being done to bring the home back to the same design and state it would have been in when Milton Pope built the house in 1902 for his wife, Cora. With some modern updates, of course.
It’s a passion project for Larry Mitchell, and while he’s technically a co-owner of the project he prefers to think of himself as the building’s steward.
“It’s our responsibility,” Mitchell said. “We’re put here to take care of it because (the Pope family) is not here anymore.”
“We’re stewards of this property and we’ll continue to care for it and love it until I go, and when I go, I hope someone continues to do the same thing,” he added.
The owners closed on the building on Sept. 6, which was a long time coming since Mitchell first viewed the house nearly three years ago.
“I fell in love with this place the moment I walked through the door,” he said.
The owners — who also include Mitchell’s wife, Tonica native Elin Arnold-Mitchell, plus Dr. Patricia Hoagland and her husband, John Hoagland — immediately got to work on the building, which includes unveiling original hardwood floors that were covered with linoleum and carpet as well as updating the building’s utilities, such as electric and plumbing.
Some of the modifications were so the home could be used for the elderly. When Cora died in 1942, she bequeathed money for the 18-room mansion to be established as a home for the elderly, which closed in 2013 when it was down to one resident.
Mitchell calls the work “invigorating” as he had just unveiled a pocket door by the dining area, which likely hasn’t seen daylight in many decades.
Previously, the group also renovated the hilltop cottage house to the east of the property that is now being rented out.
The restoration project is reminiscent of a large puzzle, which has Mitchell attempting to either find the same pieces that were used in the original house design or through recreation. Luckily, some of the pieces reside in the mansion’s basement wherein a lot of old pieces, such as the columns that graced the mansion’s original western entrance as well as some windows, were kept for storage, likely in the hopes someone like Mitchell would once again place them up around the home.
Some of the more modern additions will remain for now, such as a large fire escape that hangs on the side.
Mitchell said the owners are seeking a local landmark designation at Tuesday night’s board meeting that may assist and give flexibility with some codes in order to return the home to its original appearance.
“All the decorative stuff had to be compromised to do the utilitarian thing,” Mitchell said. “Now that the home is returning to its original purpose, which is as a place for people to live and enjoy, we’re going to maintain safety but we’re going to do it in a more decorative fashion.”
The first two floors are expected to be available for rent in March and new bathrooms are being installed to best serve the up to four rooms that can be rented.
Mitchell’s excitement for the project is reinvigorated every time he unearths a new piece of the home that was thought forgotten and through talking to those in the community who share their stories and own relationships with the home.
He’s excited to open the doors to visitors next year, but estimates work will continue to the third floor as well as to the exterior after that.
“This is the rest of my life,” Mitchell said. “It doesn’t end in March, it just starts because in March other people will be able to enjoy it and I get to keep rebuilding the house as it was back then.”