Alumni Profiles

Extreme Makeover
A roof, a foundation and 43 wells later, an old hotel is back in business

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When Lynne Curtis Butcher '69 moved to California as a starry-eyed 20-something, she brought more than her excitement about living on the West Coast in the '60s. Growing up in New England had imbued in her a sensibility about architecture and history. That's why, in the fall of 2003, she jumped at the opportunity to purchase the disintegrating Tallman Hotel, a 19th-century landmark in Upper Lake, Calif., a small agricultural town north of San Francisco. Originally known for its wines, the region lost many of its vineyards during Prohibition when the vines were ripped out and replaced with walnut trees. Today, the wine industry is in the midst of a resurgence.

Rufus C. Tallman developed the property in the 1870s as a full-service facility with hotel, livery and saloon for tourists seeking the natural hot springs and recreation at nearby Clear Lake. The building burned 25 years later and was rebuilt with local redwood. When Butcher and her husband, Bernie, (above) purchased it, the property had been neglected for 40 years. "If it hadn't been redwood, it would have been gone," she says.

From the beginning, the couple wanted "something that was both attractive and would still fit into the community," says Butcher. The hotel's reconstruction replicates much of the historic exterior while interior murals depict the local marshlands and wildlife. They also wanted the Tallman to be as energy-efficient as possible. They moved the original structure 6 feet further back from the street and put in a new foundation, replaced the roof and trusses, and used much of the original material in the rebuilding. Wood from a black walnut tree in the yard fitted out the long bar and the restaurant, the Blue Wing Saloon and Café.

Forty-three wells were dug on the property to support a closed-loop, geothermal heating and cooling system that also heats the water, the swimming pool and the soaking tubs and uses 40 to 60 percent less energy than other systems. A 10-kilowatt solar panel system supplements the electric supply.

While the renovation was exhilarating and a great point of pride for the Butchers, running a hotel and restaurant has been a learning experience for this businesswoman and her schoolteacher husband. After a few years working with a management company, they recently took over the day-to-day operations of the hotel and restaurant.

Today, Butcher takes the challenges one day at a time. They offer discounts to locals (UNH alumni, too) to strengthen their relationship with the community. One couple that lives just 15 minutes away comes regularly for a getaway. "We are proud of the restoration," she says, "and proud to have a place in a community that the people love and enjoy."

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