Historic innkeepers

James and Cheryl Fuhring


James and Cheryl Fuhring have made a 30-year career of sharing their historic home with weary travelers and lovers on romantic getaways. The latest is the only lodging in Durham, and a historic one at that. The Durham House Inn was built in 1874 by the community’s founder, W.W. Durham, for himself and his wife, Minnie Van Ness. Four years ago, the Fuhrings bought the Victorian home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s the third bed and breakfast they have owned. Exquisitely decorated with Victorian prints, stained-glass light fixtures and velvet couches, the Durham House Inn transports guests to simpler, more elegant times, yet with modern-day comforts, including air conditioning, satellite TV and gas fireplaces in each room. Sitting on 1 1/2 acres of the original 440-acre property, the Fuhrings’ antique abode has been transformed into a regal retreat.

How did you take ownership of the house?

James: Just on a fluke, I saw the house advertised in the Antique Homes Journal, and my wife wanted to come up and look at it to see what they had done to the interior. We liked it so much that we put in a contingent offer to sell our business in Knight’s Landing [the Snowball Mansion Bed and Breakfast], and it worked out.

How did you get involved with the bed-and-breakfast business?

Cheryl: Well, my husband was a teacher and we just realized that with two children we needed a second income, and I didn’t want to leave my children. We have always lived in historic homes, and the home we occupied in San Jose was conducive perfectly for a bed and breakfast. A lot of people would come over and say, “This would make an awesome bed and breakfast,” so I thought that was a good idea.

What kind of visitors do you have?

Cheryl: Well, we’re still new. We just opened on Valentine’s Day, actually, but I’m finding that a lot of people are coming to visit people locally and of course graduation was great. So this is gonna be our first year where we’re really gonna find out where our clientele is coming from.

I would have to say not from very far away, but we have had East Coast visitors. Bird watchers [laughs]. We had guests this past weekend who visited the Patrick Ranch for the Threshing Bee. People are coming in for what’s going on locally.

James: And there’s a good restaurant real close and four or five antiques shops downtown.

Cheryl: And a winery. Gale Vineyards, which just opened. They’re just down the street and they also do weddings so we’re hoping to network, because there isn’t any lodging in Durham at all.

How do you determine your prices?

Cheryl: We visited all the other inns and we try to stay competitive with everybody else. Amenities, room size, what you have to offer.

James: Doing this for the third time, we kind of know what people want.

Cheryl: But in all honesty, we did not buy this with the intentions of doing another bed-and-breakfast inn. We though we were ready to retire, loved this place, loved community and thought this would be a place for just him and me. When we got here, we realized we missed what we were doing and how much this place would have to offer to other people.

What else can you tell me about the history of the house?

James: All of the orange trees here are cuttings from the original one that was brought to Durham in 1849. So these trees were planted when the house was built.

Cheryl: You know the Durhams and the Bidwells were good friends also, so they would visit one another.

James: And she [Annie Bidwell] didn’t allow dancing or drinking because of her religion, so everybody would come over here.

Cheryl: [Laughs] So we’re just kind of carrying on the tradition of having it be a bed and breakfast and a social atmosphere.