Today: Jane Way: Her successful Sutter Creek Inn was one of California’s first B&B’s.
Through the bright sunshine and nestled among the trees, Jane saw an old fashioned two-story clapboard cottage set back from California’s scenic Gold Rush highway 49 in Sutter Creek. Built in 1859, this lovely old home beckoned to her. The year was 1966 and Jane had driven over 120 miles from her San Francisco Bay Area home with two of her children to shop for antiques.
It was a tough time for Jane. Her 20 year old son Peter was killed in a traffic accident in January, her marriage was breaking up and she twice had survived cancer. She needed a new beginning and she had by chance parked in front of this home. The home was empty and not for sale but Jane tracked down the owner and begged her to sell it. At first the owner said no, but finally she agreed to sell but only to the highest bidder. An auction was held and Jane would not be denied.
But dreams don’t always come cheap and in 1966 dollars, Jane agreed to pay $32,000 (about a quarter of million dollars today). Where would she get the money? She had $8,000 in insurance proceeds from Peter’s death and she used that money as a down payment. The seller agreed to carry a mortgage for the remaining $24,000.
But how could Jane make the mortgage payments and raise the money to convert the home to the Inn she dreamed of? She used support payments from her ex-husband to be which helped pay the mortgage. And her father gave her additional money. But it was not enough to renovate the home. So Jane began holding yard sales, buying and selling antiques. It was risky but she made profits of $4,000 to $5,000 and was on her way to achieving her dream.
Moving to the Sutter Creek Inn was a scene from out of the Beverly Hillbillies. Jane and her family loaded all their belongings in and on to her old blue Nash Rambler station wagon she had bought for $50 and made the 21/2 hour drive, with that old car belching black smoke all the way
The Sutter Creek Inn opened in 1967 and when it became profitable, Jane bought neighboring homes and grew the Inn to 19 rooms, including “payday houses,” 19th century little homes built by miners as they got their paychecks. Jane renovated those historic homes. And her grounds grew to nearly an acre, which she heavily landscaped in trees and in flowers that bloom in bright reds, golden yellows and all the colors of a rainbow.
One of the wonderful aspects of owning a successful Inn is that visitors arrive from far and wide and each has a story to tell. “My mother liked holding court,” said her daughter Lindsay who has run the Inn for the last ten years. She “liked to visit with people and ask them about themselves. She brought up subjects. She’d say something controversial. She wanted them to talk and she could challenge people. She spoke with candor,” added Lindsay.
An Inn that was born from an 1859 home came with stories of its own. A story Jane would share was that of a ghost that appeared in a doorway shortly after the Inn opened. It was state Senator Edward Voorhies, who had lived there in the distant past and from whose daughter Gertrude she bought the home. “There was a tall man wearing old-fashioned clothes standing in the doorway,” Jane told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1999. “I heard the words, ‘I will protect your Inn.’ He smiled and then faded away.”*
And protect the Inn he has as it has thrived these many years and let Jane be her own boss and use her creativity to its fullest. But on April 30th, 2011, at the age of 91, Jane passed away in her home at the Inn after a brief illness. She is survived by Lindsay and by sons David and Stephen, by a sister Doris Golden and by two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. And the Sutter Creek Inn survives her under Lindsay’s leadership to hopefully well into the future, welcoming guests seeking tranquility and a visit to California’s 19th century Gold Rush era.
Success Tip of the Week:
Like Jane, if you have a dream, act on it. It could uplift your life as it did hers. But whatever happens, you will grow from the experience and taste the excitement of life on your own terms.
Thank you to Lindsay Way for her assistance in sharing today’s story. If you would like to see the Sutter Creek Inn, please click on http://www.suttercreekinn.com/. *Quote from the Los Angeles Times obituary, “Jane Way dies at 91; Sutter Creek Inn owner,” 5/12/11 http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/12/local/la-me-jane-way-20110512
In the next KazanToday:
A successful businessman who became a top environmentalist.