BARRE — Eric and Jeffrey Tuper-Giles are well on their way to making Barre’s best known “house” their home, relishing the opportunity to share it with an extended “family” that is growing by the day, and literally living their dreams.
Welcome to the revival of the Reynolds House — a sprawling Queen Anne Victorian that was built by prominent Barre businessman G.J. Reynolds in 1892.
The iconic South Main Street home remained in the Reynolds family for more than a century, but was sold in 1996 and converted into a bed and breakfast that changed hands a couple of times before closing following a fire that was intentionally set in 2014.
Enter Thomas Lauzon and his wife, Karen.
The Lauzons bought the huge, but still impressive, fixer-upper and, as anyone who has toured it recently can attest, fixed it up and then some.
The ambitious restoration and renovation project was finally finished earlier this year — breathing life into Eric Tuper-Giles’ dream of one day running a bed and breakfast and fulfilling his husband Jeffrey’s childhood fantasy of living in a large house surrounded by lots of people.
“I’ve wanted to run a bed and breakfast for as long as I can remember,” said Eric Tuper-Giles, who was born in Utah and settled in Barre 20 years ago.
“Being gay without kids and having a chance to have … a house and have it open to families, since I don’t have my own huge family, was very appealing to me,” he explained.
Then there’s Jeffrey — a self-described “extrovert” who enjoys entertaining and checked a big box of his own by moving to the recently opened Reynolds House Inn.
“I always knew I was going to live in a big, giant house with lots of bedrooms and I was always going to have people around and people over,” he said sitting in the converted carriage house where he’s been tending bar when those services are required.
They weren’t on Thursday when members of three church choirs held a potluck supper in the carriage house — “Cleora’s” — named after the last Reynolds who lived in the home.
Even as choir members started to arrive, Eric Tuper-Giles said the potluck was the latest example of the broad range of functions the carriage house has already hosted.
Some have been more festive than others. Gov. Phil Scott has attended two parties, Vermont Creamery has booked the space for business purposes. The family-friendly space has already been used for birthday parties and bridal showers, memorial services and it recently hosted a party celebrating the 65th wedding anniversary of a local couple.
“It’s highly configurable space,” Jeffrey Tuper-Giles said of the impressive house both admired for years — even in its post-fire state.
Though the Lauzons still own the building the Tuper-Giles are leasing the property and plan to buy it in five years. For now, they are both enjoying seeing it used again.
“It’s been fun after the house sat empty for so long to hear it full of laughter and people having a good time,” Eric Tuper-Giles said, expressing a sentiment that was immediately echoed by his husband.
“That’s been one of the best parts of being here,” Jeffrey Tuper-Giles said. “It’s nice when it’s quiet, but when there’s people here and there’s laughing and things happening it’s wonderful. It feels like the house was meant to do that.”
So far so good, according to Eric Tuper-Giles, who knocked on wood when he said the soft launch has gone surprisingly smooth.
“The feedback has been phenomenal,” he said.
The couple expected the older generation of Barre residents would embrace the restoration of the historic Reynolds House, but Eric Tuper-Giles said they didn’t anticipate the positive reaction of a younger generation – like the bridal party the booked the whole house last weekend – to the new venue.
“You can’t resist wanting to be in the Reynolds House,” Jeffrey Tuper-Giles said.
He was speaking from experience.
Initially, the couple planned to continue living in their nearby home on Hilltop Avenue and stay at their new inn when rooms were being rented or events were being held.
That plan changed as the restoration project progressed.
“It felt like home,” Jeffrey Tuper-Giles said, explaining the couple decided to move in with their boxer dog, Tyler, while holding on to their home up the hill.
“Who wouldn’t want to live here?” he said of a house with a floor plan that reads like a “Clue” board.
When they aren’t entertaining guests Jeffrey Tuper-Giles said he likes spending time in the well-appointed library, while Eric favors the neighboring lounge.
There is no billiard room in the Reynolds House Inn, but there is a kitchen and dining room. Cleora’s serves as the ballroom, there is a “parlor” instead of a “hall” and a “music room” instead of a “conservatory.”
That’s the first floor.
The Tuper-Giles have grand plans for the Reynolds House Inn. A wine cellar and perhaps one day a walk-in cooler in the spacious basement are both future possibilities and establishing gardens on the lawn outside are a priority.
First, they plan to host a week-long open house for those who haven’t yet toured the restored home, but would like to check it out. Starting with Monday’s ribbon-cutting that will happen next week.
“We’re excited to show people around,” said Jeffrey Tuper-Giles, noting those who want to arrange a tour can call 622-0201, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The website — www.reynoldshouse1892.com — is coming soon, but the couple is already booking well into next year and are eager to show off the all-occasion space next week.
“We really want people to come and enjoy the house and be part of what we call the ‘Reynolds House family,’” Jeffrey Tuper-Giles said. “It’s really the place to have people over.”