We are Gerald and Nan Hill, married in 1978, with a daughter and a son, who each has grown up to be a fine young adult. Gerald has had over 25 years experience as a software engineer for a telecommunications corporation, while Nan has been primarily wife and mother. Nan has always seemed to gravitate to the elderly, lonely or needy and has been equipped by God to provide just what is needed in each situation. We have always made our home available to those who need a place to stay and have had a number of guests staying at our homes over the years. Toward the end of 2002, Gerald’s company indicated that there would be a significant number of people laid off at his facility due to the condition of the telecommunications industry and he wasn’t sure that he would be able to keep his job. We began to think about what career changes we might want to make if the “opportunity” presented itself. We considered things such as taking in elderly people, being lighthouse caretakers or working for a local tourist park. We actually talked to someone about being the caretaker and caregiver for an elderly woman at an estate in Alaska. We had visited a few Bed & Breakfasts in the past and Nan had always secretly wanted to have one. She soon found a picture in the paper of a house for sale in Orange City and we immediately fell in love with it on our first visit. We began to look around to see if there were other homes that would fit our needs.
We wanted to open a Bed & Breakfast and felt that we needed to provide a private bath for each room. We also wanted a place with a cottage so that Gerald or Nan’s mother could come and live if the need arose. It would give them both independence and privacy, while also being nearby so that we could help. We wanted to stay within 45 minutes of Gerald’s company so that he could continue to work as long as the job was available.
The Alling House is located in Orange City, Florida, just three miles east of Blue Spring State Park where thousands of people come each year to see the manatees. The home was built in 1908 and is a contributing property to the Orange City Historic District. Orange City was established in 1882 as a stop along the St. John’s River. The original owner was Samuel C. Hood, a biologist that focused primarily on fungus-related plants. Edward B. Alling bought the house in 1918. He lived in the house for over 40 years. He was one of Orange City’s most well-known mayors, serving four terms, donating the property where City Hall is located and leading the city in erecting the building. He and his wife were also very active in the American Red Cross and donated the property where the Orange City chapter building is located.
The house is located on close to three acres, which provides a majestic presentation of the structure with room for landscaping, relaxed walks and other outside activities. There are three other buildings on the property. A pump shed, where the first well that provided water to the occupants was located, a carriage house that has been renovated with kitchen facilities and a detached barn containing a workshop with loft and two garage bays.
The house was purchased in April of 2003 and design work started immediately. Closets, part of the hallway and a portion of the large bathroom on the second floor would be needed to add two more bathrooms so that each of the three bedrooms would have a private bath. The plans also included the renovation of the cottage for rent or for mother-in-law and the use of the spacious attic as family space for the kids and other relatives when they came to visit. We worked with local officials and state agencies in order to get permission to open as a Bed & Breakfast without having to enclose the beautiful staircase or having to provide a separate external exit from the attic with stairway to the ground. We were able to work out a compromise that included the adding of a fire sprinkler system throughout the house and a fire alarm system. We also added an exit from the common area on the second floor that comes out onto the roof of the sun room, with a stairway that leads down the back to the ground.
We had a very difficult time finding people who were interested in working on a house of that age. It would be very challenging work and there was a risk to providing a fixed bid when you never knew what you were going to find when you opened up a wall or removed a floor board. And, of course, finances were limited. We were fortunate to discover people that we knew who could work on the project part-time and had an interest in seeing us succeed at our dream. But, we never imagined how much of the work we would be doing ourselves.
Work actually started in early October of 2003, final inspection was in mid-June, 2004, and we opened for guests the first of September, 2004. It was a project that we would never want to try again, but wouldn’t dream of missing it.
In June of 2007, we completed a project that added two new cottages to our property. We found that our exisiting cottage was very popular and we hated turning people away when it was tied up. After taking 13 months to get our building permit, we began construction, using a contractor to do all the work this time. Even so, there was much for us to do and we were glad to have the project finished so that we could catch up on everything and catch our breaths. We hoped to add two more cottages if there is enough business and financing would allow.
Interest in our cottages has been fabulous and we were able to obtain financing to begin another project to add our last two cottages. The Nature and Railroad cottages were completed in October of 2008. We felt that eight units would be enough to support us but would still be small enough that we could manage without having to hire help.
Gerald has survived several layoffs and was even extended past two firm layoff dates. Almost simultaneous to the completion of the Nature and Railroad cottages, he was finally laid off from his job. We plan to find out whether the B&B can support us on its own and hope he will be able to stay home full time . We love this house. It fits us and we want to share it with you. We hope you will stop by for a visit and get to know us.