Dream to the White House

Barbara Reiter
The White House of Eldora
Eldora, IA
The White House of Eldora doubles as a Bed and Breakfast with a European touch and a cultural center to provide events and opportunities to locals to perform in an intimate and yet elegant atmosphere.
We are unique in bringing residents closer to their European culture through musical and culinary events typical of Spain/Mexico, Austria/Hungary/Germany, Italy and France to be offered in connection with a Bed and Breakfast Inn. Profit will be made from monthly events and room rentals for special occasions in a smaller scope and accommodations as the bed and breakfast establishment as well as proceeds from the sale of European pastries and German style breads. Presently there are 2 B and Bs in Eldora that provide 3 guest rooms. The White House will have four guest rooms of its own. Otherwise, there is a motel in town. Immediate market size would include the Hardin County population of roughly 17,500 in neighboring towns such as Grundy Center, Holland, Steamboat Rock, Wellsburg, Iowa Falls etc. Eldora is the home of Pine Lake State Park which draws a lot of sportsmen and nature lovers to the area.
Why The White House of Eldora Bed and Breakfast?
After having left Iowa in the seventies to go to California and receiving vocal training there, I ventured to Germany in the eighties to attempt a career as an opera singer. Being successful in that endeavor for fifteen years, I left the stage in 2000 and began a 15-year teaching career in Berlin. Long hours and little pay had left me with no time for friends I cherished and on the verge of burn-out. I felt I had no life at all and needed a more meaningful way to spend the rest of my life.
At about the same time, word reached me that my nephew had a brain tumor. When he passed away in 2014 leaving my dear niece alone with two teenage boys, we decided to join forces instead of each of us being alone and unhappy apart. In my many visits to Eldora I was fascinated by the peacefulness and openness of the people I had met there. I was also fascinated by a white house across from niece´s home that grandly stood on the corner but appeared to be empty.
Once having inquired about it and arranged to see the inside of the house, I was completely enamored with the character and potential of the “Grand Dame”. I could immediately envision it as the home I never had been able to have through my unstable life as an opera singer and the necessity of having to move ten times in thirty years. Built in 1915 and in need of reconstruction and renovating from the ground up (no running water, no heat, no functioning electricity), a dream had been born in my mind with a suggestion from my niece and we could imagine this house becoming a bed and breakfast establishment with a European touch. As many people in the area emmigrated from Germany and settled here this seemed a logical course to pursue.
Although not technically on the market, we were able to acquire the house and my dream of a B and B and cultural center took roots. Meetings with the mayor, city developer, and city manager were very positive and the need for such an establishment was voiced…I felt encouraged and indeed I have received astounding community support from neighbors, contractors, and friends. In the meantime, due to the stately grandeur of the house, we have come to lovingly call it the White House of Eldora.

How is my dream to be realized?
Using a modest inheritance and the proceeds from the sale of my apartment in Berlin, which had miraculously increased in value within a very short time, and having gotten preliminary bids from contractors as to the costs that would be incurred, I knew I could begin the work on the reconstruction but would have to look for further financing.
Now roughly nine months into the project ( returned to Eldora in May of 2015), three rooms have been completed and much of the groundwork has been done: heating on the first floor restored, plumbing completely redone, electricity rewired but not completed, first floor floors have just been refinished. Baths have been started but not finished as well as the kitchen. Most of the equipment and bathroom fixtures as well as flooring, I was able to aquire at the Restore or the Stuff and some were given to me including a claw foot bathtub. All are in storage in my garage waiting for the final installations.
As I was determined to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the building of the house in 2015. Neighbors, friends, and family pitched in and helped with cleaning, stripping, painting, wallpapering, and restoring of light fixtures. Many contributed needed items such as light fixtures, curtains and rods, rugs and furniture as well as garden work like cutting down overgrown shrubs, blowing away leaves and shoveling snow from my driveway and a mantel piece that looked like it was made for the fireplace it now graces although found in a relocation home. It was truly a community effort.
On the 5th of December 2015, we celebrated the our progress by my hosting an evening of European specialties from Spain, France, Austria, and Italy and a musical Program of Sigmund Romberg(due to his connection to the Viennese operetta and coming to the US in the early 20th century) and Christmas songs from those countries. Anyone and everyone who had contributed in some way had been invited and they all came dressed in Edwardian style or formal attire. My nieces, dressed in Downton Abbey style maid dresses helped with serving the food and drinks.

Why do I deserve the funding?
I have never been afraid of working hard to achieve my goals. Once deciding to start the bed and breakfast project I returned to Berlin and began planning my move back to the US, a huge endeavor in itself. Knowing I wanted to offer my guests and people of the community European pastry specialties and German (artisan) breads, I took countless classes at the Baking School in Charlottenburg and attended a barista course at the Berlin School of Coffee.
As a child I grew up under the influence of my very creative mother and learned how to sew, do flower arranging, make candles from scratch and much more. I discovered my voice early on in Kindergarten. While in California, I prepared my singing career by taking private voice lessons and simultaneously working full time in the semiconductor industry. My career as an opera singer gave me invaluable experience on stage and I realized I had also discovered a talent as stage director.
Now looking at the tasks that remain, I feel the need of pursuing further funding is inevitable. I have used my own capital (roughly 60 K) prudently and have searched for and found many bargains but expenses threaten to overcome the project. The Dream Big Grow Here grant money would help me - us, the people of Eldora and surrounding communities, complete our White House in time for the proposed opening this year in June. Estimated expenses still to be incurred approximately 70K.
Funds would be used to complete the heating system in the second floor guest rooms, install an air-conditioning system throughout the house, reconstruct the deck area so it is accessible to and safe for guests to breakfast and or enjoy the beautiful Iowa evenings (at least before the heat and humidity kick in), or to complete landscaping.
Recently, I heard a message on how Jesus transformed the water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana, and how he transformed so many lives during his ministry and still is. It reminded me of the transformation that has been going on in the White House and also in my own life…finding meaning and opportunity to give back some of what I have been given throughout my life and to serve.
The mission of The White House of Eldora is to enlighten and enliven the community and its guests to cultural and spiritual growth. I feel I am well qualified to accomplish the mission and would welcome the financial support of the DBGH grant.

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