Significant Element shoppers Julie and Ike Lovelass fell in love with Owego’s historic architecture on a Christmas walking tour several years ago. That tour inspired them to buy an old building in Owego’s historic downtown. They transformed the structure that had been vacant for ten years into the popular Owego Kitchen, which just celebrated its third anniversary. During the restoration, to their delight they found old posters, mercury glass lights, and other items that spoke to them of the deep history embedded in the building. “When we entered the historic renovation area, it changed everything we did,” says Julie. “It’s been life-changing.” Instead of heading to a chain home improvement store, the once-ardent suburbanites now seek out unique vintage treasures, architectural salvage items, and upcycled finds at Significant Elements, auctions, and antique shops.
For the past year, the couple’s historic renovation energy has been focused on one property: transforming a forlorn Victorian-era home once associated with lawyer, suffragist, and presidential candidate Belva Lockwood into a boutique inn. (Their historic house hunt was even featured on an episode of HGTV’s “House Hunters.”) “Each room has a different feel to it,” enthuses Julie. “We’ve tried to stay as true to the period as possible.” Ike notes that he and Julie have stayed at many different historic inns and often noted the “disconnect” between the beautiful exterior and the “off-the-shelf,” non-cohesive feel to the rooms. What inspired their current restoration approach was a stay at InnBuffalo, a restored historic mansion in the city’s Elmwood Village neighborhood. That inn “stayed true to what was there,” explains Ike, creating an authentic experience for guests.
Antiques, upcycled art, family heirlooms, and reclaimed woodwork and fixtures make each room at the Belva Lockwood Inn unique. In one room, for example, hangs Ike’s mother’s old Schwinn bike, which not only evokes her memory but tells a story to all who’ll enjoy the room. In the Knickerbocker Room, one whole wall will be decorated with collaged glass art by local artist Christine Knickerbocker, who sources vintage supplies from dumpster finds.
Doors and paneling from an old church, door fixtures, and paneled doors upcycled into headboards have come from Significant Elements, along with an old Exercycle rescued from a Snyder Hill barn that will take pride of place in the inn’s workout room. “Our relationship with Significant Elements has been a great one,” explains Julie. She cites having a personal relationship with manager Sara Johnson as a benefit, noting that she can call up Sara and bounce around ideas for projects and source specific needs.
What’s most gratifying to the couple is how the Owego community has embraced the Lovelass project, donating antiques to the inn and taking on the arduous process of cleaning the old woodwork. “People have great old stuff, and they’ve found the perfect spot for it,” notes Julie. Ike explains that perhaps the positive response is in part a recognition of how the couple has taken historic structures in need of love and transformed them into showplaces, creating an economic draw to the area.
The couple’s hard work and creative restoration will be on display when the inn has its official opening in January 2019. Before then, it will be featured on the Tioga Arts Council’s Home Tour on Saturday, December 8.