Huntington Hospitality and Comfort
by Kathleen Schwartz
Sometimes a comment made in passing is stored away somewhere in our brains and pops up on a future date to make a big change in someone’s life. Brooks and Barb Fetters know this experience first-hand.
In 1859, Samuel and Elizabeth Purviance built a house on the south side of the river in Huntington, Indiana. It became a hub of hospitality. For the next 105 years, the Purviance family lived and entertained in the house on the hill.
A local church purchased the home in 1965, and it was used as a worship center, fellowship hall and even a haunted house. When wrecking balls threatened in 1987, Gene Gernand purchased the house and used it for various businesses.
In 2013, Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters was on a tour of historical homes. Someone made a quick comment to Brooks that he and his wife, Barb, would be the perfect couple to live there. That evening, Brooks mentioned it to his wife, and they never spoke of it again.
Fast forward to the fall of 2014.
“I was ready to do something different,” remembers Barb, a registered nurse of 30 years. “I didn’t know what it was, but I wanted to do something different.”
She recalls turning to her husband and saying, “Help me figure this out.” It was then that Brooks remembered their conversation about the Purviance House.
“We called the owner up and asked if it was for sale. We made an offer on it, and she accepted it,” says Barb.
“We sold our house after just 28 days in November and December,” Brooks adds. “We worked hard, and God took over.”
In a short five months, the Fetters converted the house into both a residence and a bed and breakfast. They added three bathrooms, a kitchen and a garage. Three guest suites with private baths were created. Great care was taken to preserve the original feel of the house.
“It needed that loving touch,” Barb says. “The wooden floors are original. All I did was mop them on my hands and knees with Murphy soap, the old-fashioned way.”
“The shutters, floors, hardware and the fireplaces … it’s all the original,” Brooks proclaims proudly. Guests are amazed by the craftsmanship that went into the original house.
The Fetters have simply refurbished many things. “We’ve been able to bring back everything to its original state,” Brooks says. With the help of Indiana Landmarks, the Fetters have been able to pick period correct paint colors.
There have been a few major changes. Brooks and Barb gutted and replaced the kitchen and put in laundry facilities, something the original house did not have.
“We just made it functional,” Barb explains. “It took about a year for it to feel like home but, boy, it is a comfortable home now.”
“It’s the perfect kind of house to live in, but to share, too,” Brooks adds.
The Fetters have their own private suite upstairs, above the kitchen, in the old servant’s quarters. “We don’t use the grand staircase in the foyer, but we go up the narrow steep stairs off the kitchen,” Barb says. “It is perfectly situated to give us privacy and allow our guests privacy.”
One of the three guest suites is located downstairs, and the other two are on the second floor. Brooks and Barb were faced with what to name the bed and breakfast and its suites. They chose to stick with the home’s origins and chose The Purviance House Bed & Breakfast.
“We named all the suites after what we call the stewards of the home,” Brooks reveals.
The Beck Suite is named after the daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth who married a Beck. The suite is located off the foyer. Their daughter married a Taylor and lived in the house until 1965. The Taylor Suite is situated upstairs.
“We felt it was very important to honor the Gernand family,” remembers Brooks. “They stepped in and saved the house from becoming another parking lot. So, we named the large suite upstairs the Gernand Suite.”
“A priority to us is to use our home to welcome people to Huntington,” insists Barb. “It’s such a natural. We have delighted in meeting so many people from all walks of life and from all over the place.”
The reasons for staying at the house are as varied as the places the guests come from.
“We do get a lot of university traffic, business traffic, but also people coming in celebrating birthday, anniversaries, or weddings,” Barb says.
“Every once in a while, we get people at the backdoor at 8 o’clock, wanting to know if we have a room. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t.”
Guests are free to roam the house, or simply stay in their suites.
“It’s amazing how many people enjoy sitting out here [in the living room]. It’s just their space,” Barb comments.
“And when they are out here, they almost always like to include us. That’s the fun part,” adds Brooks. “We’re available and accessible, but we are not obtrusive.”
A full breakfast is served at a time appointed by the guest. The Purviance House is known for its sour cream coffee cake, and Barb rotates the menu.
Hospitality is the corner stone of The Purviance House. The Fetters’ mission is simple.
“This house is all about hospitality. Helping people experience Huntington’s great hospitality. Having people feel welcome to the city,” Barb says. “We want people to enjoy the house, the city, the county, and just the people that call Huntington home.”
Spoken like a true ambassador of Huntington.