The house’s previous owners, Marge and Tsak Rogers, are local artists who produce highly sought after paintings and they started renovating the house from top to bottom in 1976. In 25 years they gutted it and completely renovated all three floors. Henry & Deirdre bought the house about 4 years ago after they had already owned a bed and breakfast in the suburbs of Calgary. Deirdre wanted to move into the center of town where there would be demand for tourist accommodation all year round. It was a big step for both of them, and the taxes in the city proper were a significant increase in costs, but Deirdre loves the location. She said that this is the house she has always dreamed of owning.
Henry & Deirdre’s story of how they opened their B&B is rather amazing in itself: They took possession on a Saturday and their friends helped them move. On Sunday they unpacked their 3-bedroom house, on Monday the B&B inspector came, and Monday afternoon they were open for business. Sure enough that Monday evening they had their first guest.
Our suite came complete with a Jacuzzi bathtub
They filled me in on a whole litany of renovation adventures: they added bathrooms to two of the three guest bedrooms. A big surprise hit them when they found out they had to rewire the whole house, but Henry, an expert electrician himself, rewired the house by leaving the walls and the historic wallpaper intact and installing wires from the floors above. They installed extra plugs, extra telephone wires and high-speed Internet access all throughout the house.
Another adventure befell them when their sewer pipe collapsed: they had several guests in the house when the clay pipe leading away from the house broke and a rather unpleasant liquid started backing up into the house. They had to get a work crew in with a back hoe and many thousands of dollars later they had not only a new sewer pipe, but also a new driveway and parking lot.
The clawfoot tub in the huge bathroom that’s part of the Executive Suite
They also had to redo the chimney, and while they were at it they had to remove a family of squirrels. The chimney’s mortar had deteriorated and they had to redo the joints between the bricks. From 2004 to 2005 the house was completely repainted and holes behind the eavestroughs were fixed: it took 72 packets of silicon to fill in the cracks. Then they handwashed and painted the house. And all this had to be scheduled while the B&B was hosting a wide variety of guests. Both Deirdre and Henry say that owning an old house is like a moneypit, but they both love the house. Henry, always with a smile on his face, did virtually all the renovations and says he enjoyed them all. They even redid the entire garden, not surprising considering that Deirdre is an avid gardener.
Deirdre runs the bed and breakfast full-time while Henry helps her as much as he can, considering he is working full-time as an electrician. Deirdre said she had to train him not to snatch strips of bacon away from her B&B guests on his way to work. With a boyish smile on his face Henry says he has learned the rules of the house in the meantime and no longer grabs tasty morsels from the guests’ breakfast.
Note the historic wallpaper depicting Hyde Park scenes in the parlor
With all the renovations, Deirdre and Henry tried to preserve the outstanding architectural features of the house. The dining room has not changed at all, the wallpaper, furnishings and hand-moulded cornices are original to the house. The room also features a built-in mahogany china system. To this day, Twin Gables has a functional “maid call system” with bells to call the household help on every floor.
The parlour features a wall surround wallpaper with scenes of Hyde Park in London. Deirdre believes the wallpaper dates back to either the first or second owner. The first owner, Mr. Milliken, was friends with the Prince of Wales, who is said to have been here at the Twin Gables.
View of downtown Calgary from the Solarium
The living room and parlour feature original light fixtures with a copy of the original Edison lightbulbs. Certainly not the brightest lighting, but truly historic. The previous owners got the house designated as a provincially registered “historic resource” in 1984 because of the house’s historic arts and crafts style.
Twin Gables’s overseas guests mostly come from England, Scotland, Ireland as well as Germany and Holland. Of course they also see a lot of Ontarians, British Columbians and travelers from the United States. Off-season they get a lot of ”urban romantics’” who are local Calgary residents, just trying to get away for a weekend of pampering and romance. They also see their fair share of business travellers, particularly during the week. Many of the travellers are teachers, doctors and lawyers, but they have even hosted NASA rocket scientists.
A peak into the backyard
Overall they have had a really positive experience with their bed and breakfast and they have hardly ever had “the guests from hell”. The only thing that bugs them is when guests don’t come downstairs on time for breakfast or when they don’t show up at all. Freshly made breakfasts don’t taste that great a half hour later and Deirdre works hard to make sure her food tastes just right. She commented that she has truly found her niche in life and strives to deliver the best possible service. “Ï am here to serve”, she says, and Henry agrees, nodding with his characteristic smile.
All guest rooms are equipped with their own private bathrooms, telephone, and individual laptops with high speed access. Each room has a personal fridge and a coffee maker, and our suite had a wonderful Jacuzzi tub with a great view of the Calgary skyline.
Deirdre and Henry’s dedication to delivering a great B&B experience definitely shows.