“ Some might question the soundness of opening a bed and breakfast next to elevated railroad tracks that carry heavy train traffic across the Ohio River. But there have been no sleepless nights for a philosophical Mary Elizabeth Priest: ’If you have a problem and you can’t fix it, you feature it!
So far, only two guests at the L&N Bed and Breakfast that she and husband, Norris, operate at 327 N. Main St. have complained about the passing trains.
Most guests are like Cheryl and Raymond Mackey of Shelbyville, Kentucky. Each August they rent the front upstairs guest room whose blond four-piece bedroom suite was sold in 1939 for $125 by Alles Brothers Furniture, a longtime Henderson merchant.
“We get the full impact of the train,” says Cheryl Mackey. “First you hear it coming, then it gets right by the house and rocks you to sleep.”
The Mackeys are among the thousands of street-rodders (owners of souped up pre-1949 cars) who’ll be at this weekend’s Frog Follies in Evansville.
They found the L&N ($85 a night, including breakfast) several years ago after tiring of what Mackey says are Evansville’s jackedup hotel room rates. He has a ‘37 Chevy coupe, she has
an award-winning 1932 Dodge. “We love that (L&N) to death,” says Cheryl Mackey, referring to the personality of the two-story brick house “ its stained glass transoms, original oak staircase, dining room table with pie-crust trim, sliding pocket doors and claw-foot bathtubs.
Train memorabilia is scattered about, including railroad lanterns atop a refrigerator, a 1969 train calendar, wall prints, old model trains on fireplace mantels and a front door whose locomotive design was specially made by an Evansville stained glass company.
But it was the discovery of L&N doorknobs that gave the Priests a name and theme for their bed and breakfast after they bought the house in 1995.
Built in 1895 by Irish immigrant John O’Byrne, the dwelling was one of many condemned in 1931 to make way for new elevated tracks across the river. At the 11th hour the railroad company decided to use it as a boarding house for its workmen.
The Priests think railroad crews took the home’s elegant brass doorknobs, replacing them with stock L&N stamped doorknobs from the stockpile. “Now, look which one’s worth more,” says Mary Elizabeth Priest.
Because the Priests (married in 1958 and in the insurance business since 1974) live next door, the L&N’s guests are invited over each morning. “We have the most interesting breakfast table in town,” quips Mary Elizabeth.
The Priests look forward to the Frog Follies. “It’s our biggest weekend each year,” says Mary Elizabeth.
During World War II the house was divided into efficiency apartments for wives of Camp Breckenridge soldiers, which made it easier to convert to a bed and breakfast. Guests range from visiting doctors (whose healthy eating habits rub off) to a young Kansas City family who visit relatives here each December and celebrate Christmas at the L&N.
By RICH DAVIS, Courier & Press staff writer © 2001 Evansville Courier
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