History of the Buhrman House
Lady Geneva Bed & Breakfast is located in the historic G.L. and Florence Buhrman House, named after the original owners. Located at 15 Geneva St. within the historic Geneva-Minnesota Historic District in Medford, Oregon.
The Buhrman House was built in 1914 in the Craftsman style, although some records indicate the land was purchased in 1910. One of the last of the structures to be built along the east-facing side of Geneva Street, the G.L. Burhrman House was under construction in 1914 when tax rolls show an assessment for the property at $80.00 with the notation, “Foundation only.”
A two-story wood frame structure, the Buhrman House is similar in exterior appearance to the Edward and Margaret Davis House although its detailing and surface treatment is far more elaborate. Exterior siding is deco-cut wood shingles laid in a staggered arrangement with delicate sawn work at the gable ends creating a design in what is occasionally called the “chalet-style” variant of the Craftsman period. Windows are 4/1 casement with some diamond pattern leaded panels also present. The massive front entry door, nearly 48″ wide adds to the design. An original rear screened porch and matching gable roof garage are located to the rear.
The Florence Buhrman Years
The original owner of the property was Millard D. Olds, owner of the Owens-Olds Lumber Company, predecessor of what is today the MEDCO Corporation, a large-scale timber and plywood mill with operations in the Rogue Valley as well as Ireland and elsewhere. Olds, of Michigan, built the home for his daughter, Florence Olds, as a wedding gift. She married G.L. Buhrman who worked at the family mill. City directories indicate the family had left the area by 1930, after which the house was apparently rented but they didn’t sell the house until the passing of Millard Olds in 1945.
During the 1940s Fritz and Ethel Nissan lived in the house and operated a health clinic on the second floor called Nissan’s Institute of Health.
The Ann Van Valzah Years
In 1945, Caryl and Ann Gorrie Van Valzah, long time residents, bought the property and lived here until 1968 with their three daughters. Ann enjoyed gathering with friends and her yearbook quote “as happy as the day is long” carried through during her time at Lady Geneva where she hosted many happy social events including her daughter Shannon’s wedding rehearsal supper and wedding after-party for out of town guests and relatives. She too enjoyed travel, flying to Scotland via Pan American Airlines in 1956.
The Van Valzah’s sold the house to Erma and Harold Skidmore in 1968.
The Erma Skidmore Years
Erma and Harold Skidmore owned a picture gallery just minutes away on Main Street. Their frame shop was located in the basement of the home where today still remain many of their tools and supplies. Their framing work table is now proudly displayed in our rear patio. When Harold passed away in 1988, Erma Skidmore decided she would do a few things to the house to perk herself up. She built a new garage and remodeled the kitchen. The sleeping porches were enclosed with windows and she considered painting the original red fir wood panels. She decided to sell the house before she was able to start that project. Thank goodness for that! The home still preserves the original color.
Erma and Harold Skidmores’ trust sold the house in 2003 to Constance Skinner and Michael Sidon.
The Constance Skinner Sidon Years
Constance – “Connie” – and her husband George Michael Sidon lived in the home with their four daughters from 2003 to 2017. She enjoyed entertaining and throwing lavish theme parties in the home including fundraisers for the American Cancer Society. Connie says that the house was very happy during this time.
She was responsible for many of the upgrades to the home including a complete $30K renovation of the kitchen and upstairs shared bathroom to bring these rooms to their original historic look. She believed the house was a happy home and agreed to sell when she confirmed Gloria and Cecil would be taking great care of Lady Geneva. Furthermore, Gloria felt it was a sign she was meant to purchase the home when she learned Connie and Michael own the Irish Pub “Four Daughters” located in Historic Downtown Medford as Gloria is one of four daughters.
The Gloria Alice Thomas de Haas Years
Gloria Alice Thomas and her husband Cecil de Haas purchased the Buhrman House on July 5, 2017. At the time they were living in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos where Gloria was General Manager of a beautiful resort on famous Grace Bay Beach. As an Oregon native, she always longed to return to Oregon someday. She and Cecil, also a hotelier, had often talked about opening a Bed & Breakfast. When they saw the Buhrman House they knew it was the right time to make that dream come true.
When they became the proud owners and caretakers of Lady Geneva, Constance wrote them a lovely letter which included a quote from John Ruskin, a philosopher who lived and spoke at the beginning of the Arts and Crafts movement. The quote spoke to them and identified their appreciation of the history of the Buhrman House perfectly.
Mr. Ruskin defined the meaning of stewardship:
“Old buildings are not ours. They belong, partly to the generations of mankind who are to follow us, but the dead still have their rights to them. That which they labored for…. We have no right to obliterate”. ”What we ourselves have built, we are at liberty to throw down. But, what other men gave their strength and wealth, and life to accomplish, their right over it does not pass away with their death.”
When Constance handed Gloria the keys as she left she said: “I know this is your house now but it will always be my house.” Gloria says “I understand what she means now that we have spent the past months giving the home the perfect touches to help it shine.”
Constance referred to the house as a “she” and this instantly gave Gloria the idea of the house being a Lady, and the name Lady Geneva was born. Gloria’s desire to preserve the history of the home led to the naming of each guest room in honor of each of the ladies who have owned the home in its long history since 1914.
The G.L. and Florence Olds Buhrman House remains substantially as it was built and accurately relates its original construction, use of materials, and appearance. Located at the visible entrance to the district from East Main, the house is a prominent landmark locally and is a highly significant visual element within the Geneva-Minnesota District.