hotc_120Just about everyone who passes the big brick house on Peruville and Van Ostrand Roads has wondered what it would be like to live there.  The house has been a part of Lansing history since the late 19th century.  Today owners Jase Baese and Emily Franco want to satisfy that curiosity for people who want a unique vacation experience.  They are making their home available as a vacation rental.  Groups and families can rent the main part of the house for a week.

"A few years ago we had a vacation experience where we stayed in a vacation rental," Baese  says.  "We had never done that before.  It was a lot of fun.  We went with my parents and our daughter.  It's so nice to travel that way.  We hope people will come here and experience what we did."


The couple began operating their home as a vacation rental in May, after working on it room by room for five years.  When they bought it the house was being used as a rooming house with six tenants and a small apartment in the back for the owners.  As tenants moved away, they reduced the number to two, freeing the rooms to decorate, one at a time.  They built a kitchenette for the tenants downstairs, allowing them to expand their own living space to include the larger kitchen, a living room, and a dining room.

Meanwhile they restored the upstairs floors, and Franco decorated each room differently, one at a time.  She painted the rooms, some whimsically, others more traditionally, made curtains, and even reupholstered furniture.

House on the CornerA dining room is part of the rental package (left). One room is painted with trees (right).

"We really wanted to do the work ourselves," Baese  says.  "You can certainly hire somebody to do painting and wallpapering, but it's manageable to do ourselves.  You get it done exactly the way you want it, and it's more affordable."

The vacation rental half of the house includes four bedrooms, three bathrooms -- two with Jacuzzi tubs, a full kitchenette, and two large parlors that are used as a living room and a dining room.  Both avid gardeners, the couple makes a number of scenic gardens available for visitors' enjoyment.  High speed wifi is available for guests.  Franco says that they are encouraging one week stays, with a minimum of two nights.  When you rent the space for a week you get a refrigerator stocked with basics -- milk, butter, eggs, bread.  Reservations can be made on their Web site.

For those who just want a look around, they are holding an open house August 22, 12pm to 4pm.  Franco says that they think much of their business will come from families visiting relatives in Lansing, so the open house will give local people a chance to see what's inside.

"This house has so much history," Franco says.  "It's really a house that's meant to be shared, so we want people to have the opportunity to see inside it.  A lot of people remember visiting the house, or have parents who remember dancing on the third floor when there used to be a dance floor there.  We'd like to put together a book on the history of the house.  We'd love any information people have about it.  We'll scan everything that we're given, and return it to it's owner.  We'd really love to know more about the history of the house because it's such a unique house and so many people in the community do have memories of it."

House on the CornerOne room (right) has a zebra theme. The couple saves energy with a green roof over an entryway (right).

The house was built in 1876.  Made of bricks from Lansing's Brickyard Hill, it was originally owned by Oliver and Martha Townley.  The Townleys got the idea for a Second Empire style farm house when they visited the Centennial celebration in Philadelphia.  It is the only 'Second Empire' style house in Lansing.  Oliver's grandfather, Richard Townley, moved to Lansing in 1792, and was was a landowner, farmer, surveyor, justice of the peace, Milton Supervisor, Assembly member, and county judge.

It was completed in 1878 at a cost of between $12,000 and $14,000.  It originally had three fireplaces.  In all there were 15 rooms.  A smoke house was built into the basement with rungs to hang meat on and an outlet valve that used to be hooked up to the chimney.  They built a small fire in the room and closed the door.  A cistern, also in the basement was originally used to hold water that was pumped up to the bathroom, which may have held one of the first bath tubs in the neighborhood.

Later the house and farm was owned by the Bucks.  In 1980 a fire devastated the second and third floors, and working its way down the front of the building.  An off duty deputy saw the fire and Lansing firefighters managed to save the house, which was not occupied at the time.  Rick Palmer and Kate MacGregor bought the house and began restoring it.  Eventually they ran it as a Bed & Breakfast.  The next owner used the house as a rooming house.

"The first owners who bought it after the fire did a tremendous job," Franco says.  "They put so much effort into replacing moulding and really tried to retain the historical look of the place.  Without that we would have never been able to do what we've done.  They operated it as a B&B for a couple of years.  Then the husband passed away and the wife sold it.  The owner after that used it for more of a rooming house, so he wasn't trying to restore the look of it.  It really got run down because it got heavy use.  People were in and out."

Franco and Baese met in Germany where they both served in the Army.  She worked in logistics, and he was in maintenance management of vehicles, and electronics.  Baese is originally from New Braunfels, Texas, and Franco is a Lansing native.  She worked at the old Rose Inn (now the John Joseph Inn) while attending Lansing High School and college, and was the General Manager there.  There she gained experience in running a Bed and Breakfast.  She is a graduate of the Cornell Hotel School, where she currently works administering a program in which students study at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.  Baese provides IT support at the Cornell School of Agriculture.

When they first bought the house they intended to open a Bed & Breakfast.  Baese says they renovated the space with the idea that they can do that in the future with no further changes.  But they so enjoyed  their own 'vacation destination' vacation that it changed their thinking.  He says he loved that his daughter could get up in the morning, get her own cereal, and go see her grandparents, all without the pressure of having to plan every meal and every minute.

"That was what inspired us to make this decision, because we're really not ready to have a Bed & Breakfast yet," he says.  "The work that's involved with breakfast, and the daily turnover -- we're both working full time and we can't really do that.  But this is something we can do in the interim, and we enjoy it."

A series of gardens, some decorative, some producing produce, and a score of chickens pay a kind of homage to the house's origins as a farm house.  They still foresee operating a Bed & Breakfast, but now see it as a retirement business.  Franco looks forward to welcoming people into their home, enjoying the guests, and serving fresh eggs from their chickens for breakfast and fresh granola made from scratch. 

House on the CornerEmily Franco and Jase Baese

For now they hope families will enjoy spending a week at the house and using it as a base for visiting the Finger lakes and all they have to offer.

"It's fun to just walk around with people and show them the house," Franco says.  "It's unique.  That's neat, to get people's reactions and have them enjoy what you've done."

"Especially when people have been here before," Baese adds.  "Over the years' we've had a couple of people who were tenants here in the past.  They said 'We really like what you've done with it.'  And people who were here before the fire.  When people are positive about it after everything that's happened to the house, it's very rewarding."