By Gabby Christensen
As its name implies, the Historic Crystal Key Inn, situated on the south edge of Newman Grove, is rich in history and heritage.
In the early 1990s, the 118-year-old Victorian home was scheduled for demolition.
However, in 1996 the house was moved to its current location, where it officially became a bed and breakfast.
At this time, new plumbing, electrical wiring, heating and cooling, windows and a new finished basement were added to the home.
For nearly two decades, the house operated as a bed and breakfast and provided a place of lodging for those passing through or visiting the community of Newman Grove.
However, a few years back, the home found itself on the market again and its future was once again uncertain.
But, this didn’t last long, thanks to new owner Darren Hall, who purchased the six-bedroom and eight-bathroom property in 2016.
However, instead of utilizing the bed and breakfast concept, Hall decided to take a different approach.
Hall rents out the entire property to various groups needing to use the space for large gatherings, reunions, special trips or other parties.
The handicap accessible home is available year-round and prices vary with the seasons.
The claw foot bath tubs, rose carpeted stairs, traditional wallpaper, and crystal chandeliers are just a few of the characteristics that help create the nostalgic feel for visitors.
“I want people to come here and feel like the place is their’s,” Hall said. “No one is here to micro-manage and the entire house is your’s.”
After a brief tour, Hall leaves the residence after guests arrive, but remains on call during their stay, as does Crystal Key Inn Manager Tom Erhardt, who lives next door to the property.
Since Hall has taken on ownership, one of the biggest changes made has been the kitchen remodel.
“A significant part of family gatherings are those big meals,” Hall said. “We completely redid what resembled a restaurant kitchen and used rustic elements to turn it into another space for families to spend time together.”
Items throughout the house have been found mainly at local antique stores, shops and garage sales, according to Hall.
Hall has also had some custom pieces made by local carpenters.
“There are very talented and kind people here,” Hall said. “The more money we can keep in town, the better.”
Hall has also made it a point to incorporate the state of Nebraska throughout the home and each room has a specific theme. Some themes include Huskers, roses, the number 14, Victorian style and peppermint.
At minimum, each bedroom has a half bath and every room also has a custom name plate.
The house can accommodate about 30 people, according to Hall.
“You bring the family, fun and food—we’ll supply everything else,” Hall said. “There’s so much space for families to converse and be together, but also private nooks throughout the home for a more private conversation with your loved ones.”
Throughout the house, there are notebooks for guests to jot down memories and also an oversized map to mark where guests are from.
About 50 percent of guests find the Inn on Airbnb, while the other half find it via word of mouth.
Hall said the Inn sees a lot of repeat customers—which he’s thankful for.
Both Hall and Erhardt said they feel very fortunate for their cliental.
“People are so respectful of this home,” Hall said. “There are such good people who come to visit.”
Erhardt said a lot of people continue to come back because of the nice, genuine people of Newman Grove.
“It’s an awesome house but the people of Newman Grove are what make this amazing,” Erhardt said. “Guests continue to come back because they’ve made connections with the locals.”
Hall and Erhardt said they’re happy to be able to bring more people into the community.
“It’s really a win-win situation,” Hall said. “The Inn brings people to town and those guests spend money locally. We make it a point to let our guests know about local food and entertainment options. It all adds to the experience.”
Read the complete story in the Dec. 19 Albion News & Petersburg Press, Print and E-Editions.