CHESTER - Among the signs of life at the old C.A. Smith house are a husband and wife who alternately describe themselves as romantic historians and historical romantics.
Edward and Lynn Erdmann are the new innkeepers at the Rock Springs Inn, which is scheduled to open in January.
"We're always drawn to the history of a town," Lynn Erdmann said. "What drew us here was the fact that this was a startup - and the area that it was in. We're partial to the Ohio River valley."
Rock Springs Inn, formerly the C.A. Smith house, once overlooked Rock Springs Park and the Taylor, Smith & Taylor pottery in Chester. It is scheduled to open as a luxury bed and breakfast in January. (Photo by Stephen Huba)
Lynn, of Indianapolis, and Edward, of Chicago, will live in and operate the historic inn for the Fox family, which bought the Smith home in 2012 to save it from further decay and develop it into a bed and breakfast establishment.
A certified professional household manager and butler, Lynn Erdmann said the Rock Springs Inn will cater to an upscale clientele and offer luxury amenities.
"We're hoping that the inn will serve many people for many different purposes," she said.
The 6,000-square-foot house includes seven bedrooms, each with a separate bathroom, a dining room, a parlor and a library. The guest rooms also will be available for receptions and special events.
Since the Fox family's purchase of the property, workers have been busy salvaging what they can of the original structure and improving the things that are beyond repair.
In addition to all new wiring, the house is getting a new kitchen, a state-of-the-art sprinkler system and a handicapped-accessible guest room on the first floor. The renovation has included restoring the original wood floors, saving the slate roof, retaining the original marble fireplace, keeping as many of the original windows as possible, gutting and refurbishing the bathrooms, and returning the original elevator to working order.
Workers had to install a new fire entrance/escape and stairwell to the rear of the home to conform to state fire codes.
Erdmann said she is consulting with contractors as they finish the walls and await the final interior design plan. The house will include such modern amenities as cable TV and Wi-Fi Internet service, she said.
Chester founding father Charles A. Smith built the home in the early 1900s and moved into it with his family in 1905, according to the book "A History of Chester, A Gateway to the West" by former Mayor Roy C. Cashdollar. Smith built an addition onto the house in the 1930s. He died in 1953 while still living there.
Erdmann said she was taken by the accomplishments of Smith and the history of his home, trying to picture how it looked when it overlooked Rock Springs Park and the Taylor, Smith & Taylor pottery.
"This is a beautiful river town," she said.
Lynn and Edward Erdmann have been married for 20 years and have 30 years' experience in the hospitality industry between them. Lynn previously was a meeting and event planner for corporations such as Eli Lilly and Co., while Edward has experience in landscaping, housekeeping, food service, guest relations and facility maintenance.
"Hospitality has always been in my blood," she said.
The husband and wife eventually became housesitters and property caretakers, working for high-end homeowners from Georgetown (Washington, D.C.) to Hilo, Hawaii. Prior to coming to Chester, they were resident innkeepers at the historic Inn Boonsboro in Boonsboro, Md., owned by bestselling romance novelist Nora Roberts.
They learned about the Chester position through the Professional Association of Innkeepers International.