Rescuing a mansion that had been sitting empty for 10 or 12 years seemed natural to Robert and Carolyn Brown of Trenton. (Source: The Princeton Post-Telegraph, Vol. 120 No. 15)
The two, who are in real estate themselves, learned the Hyde Mansion was for sale through another real estate agent and decided to look at the property. “I told Robert it would be the perfect bed and breakfast house,” Carolyn said.
The couple purchased the mansion, located at 418 E. 7th, in 1988 and began to renovate the property that was planned and constructed by former Gov. Arthur Hyde. Even though the mansion was “perfect” for a bed and breakfast home, the business almost did not get started.
“We had to redo two walls in the basement before we could even start,” Robert said. “That really wasn’t the problem though, we just got worn out by trying to do all the main floor ourselves.
“After a couple of months rest, we just hired more help so we wouldn’t get so tired,” he said.
The main floor of the colonial-style mansion consists of a parlor, dining room, kitchen, family breakfast room, family den, office and master bedroom and bath. The upstairs holds the bedrooms with baths and a common room for all guests to use. Carolyn picked out the paper for the entry hallway walls first and the color scheme of mauve, blues, ivory and blushes are used throughout the house.
Upon entering through the front door and hallway, one gets a glimpse of the front parlor which is done in ivory walls, with marble inlaid tables, settees, chairs, a grand piano and wood-burning fireplace. The light fixtures in the hallway, parlor and throughout the house are original with gold plating.
“They didn’t spare any money on the house,” Robert said. “The floors are hardwood and each room has a double dry wall. The siding is redwood and all the dimensional lumber is Douglas fir that was handpicked and shipped in.”
The home, built and designed by a Kansas City architect, cost $125,000 to build when the Governor decided to plan the family home. Even though the Governor died in 1947 before the mansion was finished, his wife, Hortense Cullors Hyde, made the decision to complete the home.
“We were able to add all the bathrooms without changing the structure of the home,” Robert said. “There is a 12-inch gap between the floors that allowed us to do that.”
The home had all the modern conveniences of the day, and in the master bedroom, there is a button built into the wall where Mrs. Hyde could summon the upstair maid or a live-in companion.
“It really has been fun to try to keep everything as original as possible and still make this a comfortable bed and breakfast inn,” Carolyn said.
Each of the upstairs rooms has a color television, queen-sized bed, chairs or couches, phones and personal bath.
“The Governor’s Suite has two rooms that are connected by a hallway,” she said. “It makes it nice for two couples who want privacy and yet want to be able to visit.”
At the end of the hallway is a round table and four chairs with lots of books in which to browse.
“The exit at this end of the hallway also allows people to come and go as they want without bothering us,” she said.
The back stairway also opens onto a screened porch with the perfect lounging furniture. In the morning, the guests are treated to a huge country-style breakfast. Eggs are fixed as the guest wants and served with sausage, ham or bacon. Muffins, biscuits, toast and fresh fruit as well as breakfast drinks also are offered.
“We used to have a cook,” Robert said, “but now we do it ourselves. We enjoy it, but really do need some help now that summer is arriving.”
The kitchen is Robert’s specialty. He was a meatcutter for years and definitely knows his way around the kitchen. “These are the original cabinets,” he says, pointing with pride.
The Browns had a body man come from Kansas City and sandblast the cabinets and then repaint them. Their son, Greg, took off every piece of wallpaper and painted the upstairs, and all the woodwork has been sanded and painted. Robert also is proud of the fact that even though they do not have to have hotel management standards since they live in the house, the Hyde Mansion meets all specifications.
“We have a hand sink and a three-bay sink in the kitchen, circuit breaker plugins, separate baths, 18 smoke alarms and two exits from each floor,” he said.
The Browns also renovated the basement to handle the laundry and have a separate kitchen there.
“We have a laundry chute from each floor,” Carolyn said. “We also have two washers and dryers to handle the loads.”
Although the Browns cook the breakfast and register the guests, their housekeeper is responsible for the rest. Nancy Taul does all the washing, cleaning and making of the beds.
“We still run the real estate business as well as this, and we just don’t have the time,” Robert said. They both enjoy spending time with their many guests, and also love to be in this mansion that they have re-created. Pictures, two by Mercer Countians grace the walls. It only seems fitting since Gov. Hyde was born in Princeton and his wife’s family, the Charles Horace Cullors lived between Princeton and Trenton in Buttsville.
Ann Albers Dusenbery has a colored pencil drawing of the mansion hanging in the dining area, and Dr. Byron Axtell has an oil of daffodils hanging in the parlor. Books are found throughout the house as well as numerous knick knacks to make the guests feel at home.
“We are not like a motel,” Carolyn said. “We offer the privacy of one but the added extra touches of home.”
Source: The Post-Telegraph, Volume 120 Number 15, April 6, 1992