Eagle House Victorian Inn

 

History of the
Eagle House Victorian Inn

 

The impressive Old Town Eureka landmark that has evolved today into the Eagle House Victorian Inn,
began as the dream of Finnish emigrants, Henry and Elvira Tornroth, in 1886
when the couple first built a hotel and restaurant on the corner of 2nd and C streets.
They named it the Eagle House.
An extensive addition was made to the “modest, two-story structure” in 1888;
and, when the “spectacular Grand Hotel” was constructed kitty-corner across from their business,
the Tornroths took action.
In 1893, they had the Eagle House divided in half; and moved one section north along C Street,
and the other west along 2nd. The next step was having their contractor, M. McGaraghan,
build a new three story edifice on the site, using “the original portion” of the Eagle House as “wings.”
It was now a stunning stick-style building, decorated with many of the ornate Victorian embellishments
that were so representative of the time; and the rambling interior
offered plenty of options to potential tenants.
In 1907 (after Henry’s death), the building was sold to a group of business partners,
who immediately leased it to Joseph Massei and Domenico Caturegli.
They opened what became the most popular social gathering place in Old Town:
The Buon Gusto Restaurant and Tavern. (“Buon Gusto,” in Italian, means “good food,”
which is indeed what they became famous for.)
The rest of the venue was used as a boarding house, the Buon Gusto Hotel;
and, both the restaurant and the hotel were run by the
“unofficial boss” in charge, Joseph’s wife, Georgia.
After buying the building in 1921, the venue remained
in the hands of the Massei family for the following 50 years.
After both his parents had passed away, son Albert took over the business in 1950,
running it until he finally decided to close the operation down and resell it in the 1960’s.
When the Massei “Buon Gusto” era ended, the building sat empty (in essence, gone, but not forgotten)
throughout the majority of the 1970’s. However, in the early 1980’s,
a growing re-interest in revitalizing Old Town led to the purchase of the structure
by a set of partners, headed by John Lipscomb.
Dreams were rekindled with new visions for the historic site, which involved the reconstruction
of two elements that had not been in existence for many years:
The old 2nd Street wing addition, and a new roof tower.
In 1984, the building was again officially called the Eagle House; but the old, familiar “Buon Gusto”
resurfaced as the name of the new up-front, main floor restaurant.
Many thousands of dollars were also spent to redecorate the guest rooms,
and to purchase glorious antiques from around the world that were placed throughout the building.
A private penthouse for the owners’ personal use was added, giving the structure a 4th floor.
The 32,000 square foot site now included 16 little commercial shops,
that sat on either side of the balcony surrounding the central theater space.
The businesses didn’t last; but the theater did. (At least for a while longer.)
Downstairs, a variety of entertainment took place on stage in front of graduated levels of dark wood
where the audience sat at tables (like a night club), enjoying dinner theatre plays or musical performers.
However, by 1989, for numerous reasons, the entire business fabric of the Eagle House had unraveled,
and Lipscomb and his partners broke up and called it quits.
As legend has it, Lipscomb went so far as to threaten to “cut the building up and barge it to San Francisco.”
Luckily, it was sold before that extreme step was taken.
In 1992, Tae “Lee” Cho and his wife, Kwan, bought the historic building and have owned it ever since.
Originally from South Korea, the Chos have lived in the United States for over 30 years,
most of those years in Eureka. When they acquired what today is known as the Eagle House Victorian Inn,
the family made it their personal goal to consistently upgrade and maintain the waterfront landmark.
This has included a complete re-flooring of the venerable theater/ballroom space by Eric Hollenbach
of Eureka’s world-renown Blue Ox Millworks; and the painting of the extensive exterior
(and wall-papering, room by room, of the interior) by Victorian remodeling expert, Steve Allen.
That’s just part of what continues to be done to keep this Victorian beauty looking her best;
it’s an on-going labor of love.
Nowadays, Old Town is again in the midst of its own revitalization-
with a new boardwalk in place, and more waterfront structures in progress.
But, within the walls of the Eagle House, there have always been
intriguing spaces to discover (or re-discover).
For instance, the original Buon Gusto site in front, is now Gallagher’s Irish Pub & Restaurant,
which proudly carries on the tradition of being Old Town’s favorite watering hole.
Like its historic predecessor, it offers a wide selection of both delicious food and liquid refreshment.
Next door in the gorgeous theater/ballroom, something interesting is constantly on the agenda.
Whether it be theatrical productions or big band dances,
touring musical artists in concert, or private parties and events,
the versatile venue is obviously the perfect place to hold them all.
And, remember, you can not only enjoy the restaurant and various events at the Eagle House,
you can stay there! There are 24 elegant, antique-filled guest rooms to choose from,
that spiral upward to the 4th floor penthouse like a tiered wedding cake.
Each room and view is completely different, but equally beautiful.
For over 128 years, the Eagle House Victorian Inn
has survived the challenges of moving into the 21st Century,
without losing the charisma of her historic past or the warmth of her unique charm.
She’s waiting to welcome you with open arms



Historic Photos
Turn of The Century - Old Town Eureka

 

Humboldt Transit Company Trolley - Old Town Eureka

 

Trolley Car passes Eagle House on 2nd Street - Old Town Eureka

 

Stage Coach Arrives in Old Town Eureka

 

Old Town Cattle Drive
Eagle House on Left - Grand Hotel on Right

 

Good times in "The Buon Gusto Restaurant & Tavern"

 






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