Photo courtesy of 300 Clifton

Photo courtesy of 300 Clifton

A B&B with a history lesson

Updated: April 4, 2017 - 8:29 am

Loring Park’s 300 Clifton and its owners continue to tell the historic home’s stories

A night at 300 Clifton is one part hotel and one part time machine.

The bed and breakfast, tucked away in the hills of the Loring Park neighborhood, welcomes travelers into the home Eugene Carpenter, a captain of the Minneapolis logging industry and one of the founders of the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Over the past few years owners Norman and John Kulba have brought the history of the 1887 house to life by restoring its ornate rooms, recovering original décor and telling its tales.

“We want people to really eat up the history of the house,” John said. “We feel like the house has a continuing, unfolding history.”

The two bought the roughly 12,000-square-foot house in 2013. Before then, previous tenants had used Carpenter’s house as a boarding house and then as office space for nearly 70 years. With all the space, the two decided to reopen the home as a bed and breakfast, and, in recent years, have restored it to its former glory.

“We were looking for a fixer-upper and we fell in love with the house and the history behind it. It makes the whole thing worth doing,” John said.

Bringing back the Georgia Revival-style home proved to be no easy task. The two partnered with hundreds of former residents, tenants and workers who had touched 300 Clifton during its 130-year history. They’ve managed to track down the only known image of Eugene Carpenter’s wife, Merrette; original décor items from John Bradstreet, the house’s original interior designer; and many more pieces throughout the home, from ashtrays to the hat of Merrette’s chauffeur.

They’ve also put together rooms themed around the historic characters of the house, from Bradstreet to Carpenter, and assembled hundreds of photos and more detailing the history on the walls of 300 Clifton. The two said the “forgotten piece” of history of the house is its relation to the arts scene in Minneapolis, which has Carpenter and other figures to thank for creating Mia and becoming patrons of the arts. The house is also one of the few homes of the city’s historical figures still standing in the Loring Park neighborhood.

“The beautiful thing for the city for a bed and breakfast is the focus on restoration. They want to see what the house looked like 100 years ago. That’s what our clients want,” John said.

Not only does the bed and breakfast tell the story of its famous figures, but the cooks, housekeepers and servants as well. A step from an ornately decorated lobby brings guests into the hidden world of the people who took care of the home, who had their own entrances, stairs and rooms apart from the front of the house even when they outnumbered Carpenter family four to one. There are actual secret doors like the kind from a horror movie.

“It’s really cool to see that separation, to see that amazing change from that really beautifully decorated hallway to come through a secret door and see what I’ll call a parallel universe,” John said. “We feel like the Carpenters aren’t the only important ones to have lived here.”

It’s this kind of glimpse into the past that the two say attracts guests. Instead of staying at a modern hotel, Norman said they’re seeing a generation of clients who are after something “a little more unusual” when choosing where to stay. Modern touches like Wi-Fi and amenities like outdoor gardens also help.

“With ‘Downtown Abbey’ and ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ you got to see what it was like to live like that. Now you can stay and see,” he said. “I tell people it’s like staying in your grandma’s house.”

More information on the bed and breakfast and the history of the Eugene Carpenter house is available at 300clifton.com.