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cathy and Paul Kentzel

Cathy and Paul Kentzek, Visionaries

by jae Brown

   On June 21, 2013,  Cathy and Paul Kentzel officially became the owners of Emlenton’s Barnard House. Pioneering entrepreneurs Norma Baum and Kathy Powell had established the venue as a much-loved tourist landmark along the Allegheny River and the Kentzels were keen to continue on in their footsteps  -  providing a comfortable haven for visitors to Emlenton.
   Cathy and Paul were not new to the world of revitalization having previously restored several homes including a Sewickley landmark estate in Pittsburgh and were accustomed to the hard work and long hours that such projects entail. They came to their new project filled with enthusiasm, and eager to embark on a new style of life. Reaffirming their commitment to Emlenton a few months later, The Barnard House’s new owners purchased the Gossor House on Hill Street as their family residence.
   Interestingly, the Kentzels first encountered The Barnard House through an exhaustive on-line search focused on riverfront properties in rural Northwest Pennsylvania. Dana Weber, a new resident to Emlenton and the agent representing the Barnard House gave a beautiful narrative that drew the Kentzel’s to the valley.
   A few days later, as the couple stood on the Barnard House’s porch they were stirred ­­by strong positive feelings generated by the building’s authenticity and fine proportions. Passing through the inn’s original front door they were enveloped by a feeling of well-being that seemed to pervade the building. As a mother of five, Cathy says ‘I immediately sensed that at some point in time a large family had lived here happily, this feeling just resonated with me.” Paul added, “I was pleased to see much of the original woodwork was intact and glad to realize the essential elements that identified the building’s historical period were preserved.”
The Kentzels honored The Barnard House’s existing reservations that ran throughout the summer and late fall of 2013, which meant that restoration during that period was largely devoted to the building’s exterior. By January of 2014, this well-practiced and hard-working restoration team started work on the interior. They were aided greatly throughout this process by their children Aspen (21) who labored daily acquiring many skills, Briar (14) who would lend a hand in clean up and landscaping. Their other children, Laurel (29), Ivy (24) and Willow (17) helped when possible in various areas of networking, painting and secretarial work. The family, working as a unit, pulled together all of their resources and talents to complete the task of renovating the home.
By the Grand Opening, June 18, 2014 most of the interior work had been completed, and The Barnard House under the Kentzel’s management was officially ‘Open for Business’.
   It is important to Cathy and Paul that their establishment showcase products from the region’s businesses and purveyors. Upon arriving in their rooms, guests find a small gift of chocolates from Foxburg’s Divani chocolates, and soaps and toiletries are from Bo’s Bodyworks of New Castle. The B&B’s full hot breakfast features meats from Slater’s of Eau Claire, and Hepler’s of Nickleville. Fruits and vegetables are purchased from a variety of local markets, stands and farms. Special care is taken to employ local craftspeople in upholstering, framing and photography. Many of the antiques and vintage pieces throughout were purchased at local sources. Signage was commissioned from the talented Emlenton artist, Doug Elder.
   The entire Kentzel family has put in hundreds of hours of work on one of The Barnard House’s most striking features - the historically accurate and pleasing exterior paint-work.
   The most intricate features of the building’s original woodwork faced what is the now defunct railroad line that passed directly behind the residence. The preparation that was required before the actual overall application of paint was a task that, in itself, required untold grueling hours of sanding, repair and reconstruction.
   Another of the exciting aspects of the property are the beautifully kept and imaginatively designed garden areas. As a professional gardener, Cathy has brought her special skills to play in creating colorful plantings interspersed with ingenious accents such as the specially designed iron bedstead crafted by August Romano which is colorfully planted and displays the inn’s custom-made sign. The large metal flowers at the front are created from recycled elements by a Ohio artist.
Throughout the inn the decoration of the common rooms and guest rooms has been a process involving the incorporation of many referential items and objects from the original Barnard Family,  combined with relics pertaining to Emlenton and to the home’s historic period in general. Recycled pieces were created to aid a little whimsy to the home’s spaces.
   Each room or suite evokes nostalgia, and great care and thought went into choosing colors, furnishings and accessories that create a different atmosphere in each area. Bathrooms were added as needed, and all are up to date and stylish. The attention given to creating beauty was second only to creating comfort and ease for the inn’s guests. Many discreet infrastructure changes including fenestration, heating and cooling now provide a level of comfort that belie the property’s chronological age.
   Work on The Barnard House continued throughout the summer and fall of 2014, and Paul Kentzel worked his magic by extending the property’s handsome historic stone walls, adding distinctive recycled fencing and creating a spa and small bathhouse area in the rear event garden.
In October of 2014 the Kentzels further committed to Emlenton in their purchase of the adjoining ‘Best House’ which is already ‘in their sights’ for the coming winter’s exhaustive renovation project. Upon completion in 2015, The Barnard House, and The Best House will provide unique lodging for 18 persons as a bed and breakfast or a vacation rental.
   In the meantime, the Kentzels are active supporters of Emlenton’ Business Association, The Blueprint Alliance, Trail Town development, and the wider community’s business and tourism network. Paul is active on the Allegheny Valley Trail Association as a board member, and Cathy continues to expand her networking outside of the region since ninety percent of their customers are from other states and recognize the valley as a beautiful haven.
These are exciting times in Emlenton, and as the town emerges as an important recreational and tourism area it will largely be due to the talents and energies of visionaries such as the Kentzels, who recognized and appreciated Emlenton’s natural attractions and made the bold move of committing their resources and energy toward the town’s growth.

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