THE EAGLE HOUSE
The Eagle House before the top floor was added.
The impressive Old Town Eureka landmark that has evolved today into the Inn at 2nd & C, began as the dream of Finnish emigrants, Henry and Elvira Tornroth, in 1886 when the couple first built a hotel and restaurant on the corner of 2nd and C streets. They named it the Eagle House. An extensive addition was made to the “modest, two-story structure” in 1888; and, when the “spectacular Grand Hotel” was constructed kitty-corner across from their business, the Tornroths took action. In 1893, they had the Eagle House divided in half; and moved one section north along C Street, and the other west along 2nd. The next step was having their contractor, M. McGaraghan, build a new three story edifice on the site, using “the original portion” of the Eagle House as “wings.” It was now a stunning stick-style building, decorated with many of the ornate Victorian embellishments that were so representative of the time; and the rambling interior offered plenty of options to potential tenants.
In 1907 (after Henry’s death), the building was sold to a group of business partners, who immediately leased it to Joseph Massei and Domenico Caturegli. They opened what became the most popular social gathering place in Old Town: The Buon Gusto Restaurant and Tavern. (“Buon Gusto,” in Italian, means “good food,” which is indeed what they became famous for.) The rest of the venue was used as a boarding house, the Buon Gusto Hotel; and both the restaurant and the hotel were run by the “unofficial boss” in charge, Joseph’s wife, Georgia. Matriarch of the family, Georga often sat in the bar lobby in her special chair, leaning slightly on her cane. She spoke little English. She didn't need to. When she thumped that cane on the floor, all nonsense, whether from family or patron, came to an abrupt halt. She was universally loved.
The Buon Gusto
After buying the building in 1921, the venue remained in the hands of the Massei family for the following 50 years. After both his parents had passed away, son Albert took over the business in 1950, running it until he finally decided to close the operation down and resell it in the 1960’s. When the Massei “Buon Gusto” era ended, the building sat empty throughout the majority of the 1970’s. However, in the early 1980’s, a growing re-interest in revitalizing Old Town led to the purchase of the structure by a set of partners, headed by John Lipscomb. Dreams were rekindled with new visions for the historic site, which involved the reconstruction of two elements that had not been in existence for many years: The old 2nd Street wing addition, and a new roof tower.
Eureka 4th of July parade
In 1984, the building was again officially called the Eagle House; but the old, familiar “Buon Gusto” resurfaced as the name of the new up-front, main floor restaurant. Many thousands of dollars were also spent to redecorate the guest rooms, and to purchase glorious antiques from around the world that were placed throughout the building. A private penthouse for the owner’s personal use was added, giving the structure a 4th floor.
The 32,000 square foot site now included 16 little commercial shops, that sat on either side of the balcony surrounding the central theater space. The businesses didn’t last; but the theater did. (At least for a while longer.)
Downstairs, a variety of entertainment took place on stage in front of graduated levels of dark wood where the audience sat at tables (like a night club), enjoying dinner theatre plays or musical performers. However, by 1989, for numerous reasons, the entire business fabric of the Eagle House had unraveled, and Lipscomb and his partners broke up and called it quits. As legend has it, Lipscomb went so far as to threaten to “cut the building up and barge it to San Francisco.” Luckily, it was sold before that extreme step was taken.
Old Town Eureka is host to many used and antique bookstores.
In 1992, Tae “Lee” Cho and his wife, Kwan, bought the historic building and owned it until March 6th, 2017. Originally from South Korea, the Chos have lived in the United States for over 30 years, most of those years in Eureka. When they acquired what today is known as the Eagle House Victorian Inn, the family made it their personal goal to consistently upgrade and maintain the waterfront landmark. This has included a complete re-flooring of the venerable theater/ballroom space by Eric Hollenbeck of Eureka’s world-renowned Blue Ox Millworks; and the painting of the extensive exterior (and wall-papering, room by room, of the interior) by Victorian remodeling expert, Steve Allen.
Nowadays, Old Town is again in the midst of its own revitalization—with a new boardwalk in place, and more waterfront structures in progress. And within the walls of the Eagle House, there have always been intriguing spaces to discover and re-discover. Since 2005, the original Buon Gusto restaurant hosts Gallagher’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, which proudly carries on the tradition of being one of Old Town’s favorite watering holes and dining establishments.
The revitalized waterfront with the harbor and Samoa bridge in the background.
On March 6th, 2017, the Eagle House changed hands once again. Sisters Jennifer Metz and Rebecca Rex along with their partners Timothy Metz and Tammy Rex became the new owners of this legendary landmark. Falling in love with the Victorian architecture and classic charm of the building years before, the family team worked diligently to bring their dreams to reality.
Starting in 2015, The Metz/Rex Team spent 2 years writing an extensive business plan, researching and preparing for this transition. During this time they decided it best to rebrand the Eagle House Victorian Inn to become the Inn at 2nd and C. Extensive market research showed that today’s traveler is tech savvy and values enhanced modern guest services while still adoring the beauty and charm that the walls of the Eagle House embrace. While the 32,000 sq ft historic building remains “The Eagle House” complete with event and retail space, restaurants, bars, a yoga studio and spa, The Inn at 2nd & C offers guests and travelers a distinctive and streamlined experience amongst the stunning historic ambiance.
For over 129 years, the Eagle House has survived the challenges that time has presented without losing the charisma of its historic past or the warmth of its remarkable charm while gaining a bright future in this modern day.