Chesterton Tribune

Newly opened Dunes Walk Inn blends history with modern amenities

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Duneland’s newest innkeepers Ari and Stephanie Killian were surprised to see their newly renovated Furness Mansion packed wall-to-wall with visitors at Thursday’s ribbon cutting ceremony to launch both the Dunes Walk Inn and the countywide Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail.

Those organizing the event expected to see a modest turnout of about 50 people, but the attendance reached well over 100 as crowds with their eyes as big as saucers explored the three floors of the inn or enjoyed the cool evening air on the porches outside.

Don’t worry, there was plenty of food.

“People just like to snoop,” said Beverly Shores historian Carl Reed, giving his educated guess for the outpouring of people.

After conquering the daunting task of slicing the porchway ribbon with fake giant scissors, the Killians invited folks to tour as they pleased. Joining them on the porch were Indiana Dunes Tourism Executive Director Lorelei Weimer and Chesterton/Duneland Chamber of Commerce Events Coordinator Tiffany Bley.

“This is something unique to the Dunes,” said Bley.

Unique indeed, when Edwin L. Furness built the house in 1881, he probably never imagined the home one day having a whirlpool Jacuzzi, wireless and LAN internet connection, coin-operated washing machines, kitchenette areas, power windows, remote control air conditioning, and flat-screen televisions with high-def resolution.

“It’s a ‘smart’ home,” said Stephanie Killian, referring not to the intelligence of the building itself but to a term used to describe houses that come with automated safety locks. Lodgers will be given a door code they will be required to punch to enter the inn.

She said the inn is designed as a combination of a boutique hotel and vacation rental property.

The Dunes Walk Inn gives vacationers a choice of three rooms and two suites, one named the “Furness Suite” located on the first floor with its own private deck facing out towards the lakeshore. The first floor entryway opens up into a library and lounge area where books about the dunes roost on the shelves while a glass chandelier provides adequate light for reading.

The second floor contains the three smaller rooms while the third floor is totally encompassed by the “Beverly Shores” suite designed for family groups that comes with its own fireplace, whirlpool bath, a sitting room and bunk beds.

The suite will incorporate historical photos of the Town of Beverly Shores as its décor, but currently only features a map showing details of the town in its early stages. Reed, who was one of the “guides” on Thursday, said more memorabilia will be displayed and heard from several visitors who would be willing to lend additional photos they have.

Meet the Owners

Ari Killian and his wife Stephanie are the sole proprietors of the Dunes Walk Inn which is still known to many as the Furness Mansion.

A third-generation Beverly Shores resident, Ari decided to purchase the property last December after finding the house was quickly falling into disrepair.

Ari used his own construction firm to renovate the house into an upscale vacation rental spot. The main renovation took place over six months, starting in January and on July 23, the Killians welcomed their first guests.

Ari told the Chesterton Tribune the history of the property was one of the driving forces behind the project. Ari even added on brick chimneys to the house that would mimic the ones seen around 1881 when the house was built. The powered windows in the library mimic the appearance of the original windows.

“You have to get that feel,” he said.

During the ribbon ceremony, Ari thanked the neighboring residents and businesses like the Schoolhouse Shop for their help during the rehab of the property. He said the experience was different for him because he is used to “placating” upset neighbors in his other developments while here people were more than willing to lend a hand.

Ari and Stephanie wed in Rhode Island in May while renovation was underway. They have residences in Beverly Shores and Chicago where Ari works as a commercial and residential developer and has received recognition from the Chicago Commission on Landmarks.

Ari said his family has lived in the area since his grandfather bought property in Beverly Shores in 1944.

Beyond the Beach Trail,

an economic tool

Ribbon ceremony attendees all got copies of the new Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail guides furnished by Indiana Dunes Tourism which also serves as Porter County’s tourism development resource.

Weimer said the trail has been in development for almost eight years and connects over 50 sites from the Dunes to the Kankakee River.

Most sites will be marked with a blue and orange “trailblazer” sign. The tourism commission has also launched a comprehensive Web site, www.BeyondTheBeachDiscoveryTrail.com

, and an interactive blog, www.BlogBeyondTheBeach.com

Weimer encouraged attendees to tell their family and friends about the trail that is hoped will help develop the local economy.

“In order to have success, we need to have all of us working on this together,” she said.

Weimer and Indiana Dunes Niche Marketing Christine Livingston presented the Dunes Walk Inn with their own trailblazer sign. Since the inn just opened, it was not included in the guide yet but will be featured in the next installment.

Livingston also said Dunes Tourism is initiating an improvement plan to enhance some of the sites.

Taking Reservations and Donations

The Dunes Walk Inn is located at 1491 N. Furnleigh Lane off of U.S. 20 near the intersection of Kemil Rd. and Furnessville Rd.

The E. L. Furness Mansion sat on Furness’ prosperous 700 acres of farmland. A few original buildings still stand on the property including a partially dismantled water tower. Furness was the first agent of the Michigan Central Railroad and owned his own lumber business.

The new owners have asked that anyone willing to donate photos or books on the Indiana Dunes for the library contact the inn.

The Dunes Walk Inn is officially open for business. For reservations, call (219)728-6393. Rates range from $125 to $175 per night and are subject to change without notice.

 

Posted 8/27/2010