Unveiling a Diamond in the Rough
Victoria Inn of Hampton Opens After Renovations
By Lara Bricker
Hampton Union Tuesday, September 16, 2008
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Courtesy photo by Lara Bricker]
HAMPTON -- Aaron Brown was raised in two historic homes in the Hampton area, so he already had an appreciation for old homes when he first walked inside the Victoria Inn.
"When I came into this home for the first time, it's a very warm home and it just hit me," said Brown, an Exeter resident who purchased the property late last fall.
The longtime Seacoast real estate agent and developer saw an opportunity when the property went up for sale in 2007 and decided to make an offer. Like others, he had heard the stories about other potential uses for the property and was hoping to preserve it for future generations.
"There had been a lot of speculation that this building would be torn down and condominiums would come in here," Brown said, adding he felt, "if it was done properly, it could be a reasonable business venture."
Brown took over ownership of the old inn, which has seven guest rooms in main house, and initially planned to make a few improvements. But when Anne Varney, a fellow real estate agent, was brought on to help with decorating in January, the improvements took off.
Varney started by taking down the old wallpaper, painting the dining room and painting some furniture. "I took one look around and said, it needs more than curtains," Varney said.
As the renovations went forward, the old carpet was torn up, revealing the original maple floor, which was restored. Oriental rugs were added and Varney moved on to the living room. "Everything that you did, made it look so much nicer," she said.
Before the property opened again for customers, the entire downstairs had been updated to reflect a peaceful, understated elegance.
The property caters to weddings and as the wedding season began, the new team, which now included Brown, Varney and Maureen Schneider, moved to the landscaping outside. Schneider, who retired from working in the nurse's office at Main Street School in Exeter, had always wanted to work in the inn, which she had driven by for years. "I said, what a magnificent home," Schneider said.
So when she saw an article in the paper about the Brown family, who she knew of because their children attended Main Street School, she gave Aaron a call.
Schneider now works as a breakfast cook, with guest relations and as a housekeeper in the old inn. But everyone pitches in with what needs to be done, Brown pointed out.
The inn offers breakfast for guests made by Executive Chef Arthur Pappas and is able to arrange catering for widdings and other special events.
"We're able to be very flexible as to how we accommodate a guest," Brown said.
The property has a pavilion on site for weddings and can accommodate 'up to 150 people comfortably. Often, wedding parties come to stay at the inn the night before the wedding, then the night of the wedding. "It's really nice because they take over the property which makes it really intimate and personal for them," Brown said.
They are also attracting people who want to use the inn's space for wedding showers, baby showers, holiday cocktail parties and even bereavement gatherings. "It's just a nice place to gather," Varney said.
The inn attracts a number of guests who simply want a small and homelike atmosphere during their travels. "It's personalized and it's unique," Brown said of the inn. "The rooms are different. Someone who's going to enjoy their stay here isn't looking for a chain type of experience."Schneider has really enjoyed getting to know the various guests through her work at the inn. "We have them come from all over the world," she said. "It's been one of the most interesting summers of my life." As he settles into ownership of the inn, Brown is grateful for the positive response from the community members who have praised his improvements at the property. "For something like this to stay a vibrant part of the community, it needs the community support," Brown said.