Passing through Hillsboro in the early morning, one gets the impression that it is a sleepy little town – a few cars passing through, school buses arriving at the elementary school, the sound of lawn mowers revving up for a bit of grounds keeping.
But step into the life of residents Gene and Leah Burford, and you gain a whole new perspective.
The Burfords operate the Hillsboro House Bed and Breakfast, and My Daughter’s Attic, a cute primitives store that also serves up meat and cheese to go, as well as sandwiches and ice cream.
These two endeavors require some fancy footwork for their “be everywhere, do everything” lifestyle.
The couple lived in Lewisburg for a few years where Gene was a farm manager, and Leah, who always wanted to attend college, was able to do so at the Community College there.
Leah obtained her Associate’s Degree in Lodging, a then new course of study, and one that served her well when she and Gene moved to Hillsboro in 1999.
The Burfords purchased the Carl Beard (1882-1949) house on Rt. 219 and set about on a two-year journey of remodeling and renovation.
“We’re still renovating,” Gene laughed.
Leah tells about removing three to four layers of wallpaper in each room, and said the kitchen was in shambles.
“We did the kitchen first,” she said. “And there is four thousand feet of new electrical wiring in the house. The structure is sound. The foundation is sound, but cosmetically – that was another story.”
Wallpaper and kitchen shamble aside, the house has lovely cherry, walnut and oak woodwork and wainscoting, and the parlor has a uniquely detailed tin ceiling. Other features of the parlor are its tin wainscot and tin wrapped door and window facings.
Taking on the task one room at a time, Leah found ways to boost her spirits.
“I cleaned up the built-in china cupboard in the dining room and put my Blue Willow dishes in it so I would have something pretty to look at,” she said. “When we finished a room, I just wanted to go in it and sit down.”
The couple hosted family that first Christmas.
Even though the living room had not been touched, Gene cleaned out all of the supplies stored there, and a Christmas tree went up.
Gene wanted to B &B to feel like you are visiting your grandparents, because he had such wonderful memories of his visits with his grandmother, Leah said. And that is what they have accomplished. Guests are treated like family in this very relaxed atmosphere.
One of the three bedrooms boasts a canopy bed, and every room had a stove or fireplace in the early days of the home. The stoves have been left in some of the rooms for two reasons. They serve as artwork from another time, and they are too heavy to move.
The house is large, but it holds a couple of lovely, intimate spaces. One being a small enclosed porch just off the kitchen where the couple shares meals when they are alone. The other is the renovated smokehouse, which has two beds, a private bath, and a balcony of its own.
The Burfords said they’ve meet “so many people,” many of whom call throughout the year just to check on them. There are families who return to the area and rent the whole house as their headquarters for vacation.
On a recent August evening, Sheri Saxe, of Highland, Michigan, and her grandsons, 11-year old Gabriel and nine-year-old Noah, of Brighton, Michigan, were guests at the Hillsboro B & B, having taken a break from riding the Greenbrier River Trail.
“The boys didn’t know what to do,” Saxe said. “We sat on the hammock. We sat on the porch. We ate ice cream. It got them away from their electronics.”
When asked how they dealt with no electronics, Gabriel said, “We got used to it.”
Saxe’s original plan was to take the boys white-water rafting, but that seemed to be a bit scary for their ages.
“I saw the Pocahontas County magazine at a rest area when I was on a trip to North Carolina,” Saxe said. “I picked it up and read about the trail and lodging in the area. I thought the trail would be less extreme.”
The ride had some unplanned moments, such as when Noah got bug spray in his eyes. He and his grandmother made their way down the side of the trail to the river.
“We went through weeds and trees and got in the river,” Noah said. “I opened my eyes in the river and my eyes got better.”
The morning of their departure from the B & B, Leah laid out a breakfast of Amish bacon, scrambled eggs, biscuits, jam, honeydew, cantaloupe, pineapple, grapes, orange juice and hot tea and coffee. Just one of the breakfast menus offered there.
Gene did some minor repairs to Noah’s bike and the guests were ready to go – but not before the boys had ice cream at My Daughter’s Attic.’
“It’s the best ice cream ever,” Noah said.
Once her work is done at the B & B, Leah crosses Rt. 219 to My Daughter’s Attic, opening the doors at 10 a.m.
The B & B is open seven days a week, and My Daughter’s Attic is opened six days a week – Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m; and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.
Meanwhile, Gene continues to tear down and build up at the B & B, tend to the grass, and will soon face the task of raking the falling leaves.
There’s a lot of upkeep in maintaining two businesses.
A quiet lifestyle?
A busy lifestyle?