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Home in `Groundhog Day’ May Get New Life as B&B

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By Carolyn Starks

RISMEDIA, Oct. 22, 2008-(MCT)-A Victorian house transformed into a bed-and-breakfast in the 1993 hit movie “Groundhog Day” could soon play the same role on a permanent basis. The aging star just needs a little work and maybe some fresh makeup.

Everton Martin and Karla Stewart Martin bought the 114-year-old home in Woodstock after searching for two years for a place that would fulfill their dream of owning a bed-and-breakfast.

Initially unaware of the landmark’s celebrity status, the couple hopes to give the rambling three-story house a new lease on life thanks to a $500,000 renovation and the City Council’s blessing, which is expected Tuesday.

Martin, a pilot for American Airlines, was in the cockpit of a jet when his co-pilot, a Woodstock resident, told him where he could find the qualities he was searching for in a B&B. It had everything he wanted: a wrap-around porch, ornate historic details and a highly visible location in a small friendly town.

“He said it’s in Woodstock, and I said, ‘Where’s Woodstock?’.” Martin recalled.

In time, he found out Woodstock is 55 miles northwest of Chicago, a small community that became the fictional place where every day is Groundhog Day.

In the movie, the house was transformed into “The Cherry Street Inn,” where Bill Murray’s character woke up every morning. A self-centered TV weatherman who grumpily agrees to report on Groundhog Day festivities in the small town of Punxsutawney, Pa., he found himself forever trapped in the same day.

The City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the Martins’ plan. They need a special use permit to convert the home into a five bedroom inn. Most of the remodeling costs will go toward rehabbing the third floor into living quarters for the owners.

On Monday, Martin escorted a contractor through the house that was built in 1894. The 10-foot-tall ceilings, solid wood staircase, ornate moldings and stained glass all will be restored. The kitchen will be remodeled. Outdoor seating will also be available for meals or special events.

News of the house’s reincarnation thrilled Fred and Kady Rachford who raised nine children there. The couple, who still reside in Woodstock, bought the home in 1962. Their youngest daughter, Lori, was born in one of the bedrooms. And Lori gave birth to her first daughter in that same room in 1985.

Ironically, Fred Rachford was a pilot too, but for United Airlines.

“We are delighted. Absolutely delighted, that they will turn it into a bed-and-breakfast, Kady Rachford said. “We told them that we have to be the first couple to stay there.”

The Martins hope to have the house open this summer as the Royal Victorian Manor.

It will remain easily recognizable as an old movie start. The Martins are keeping the garden arch the movie crew installed and left over the sidewalk that leads to the porch.

This Groundhog Day, like every other one since the film opened, the city’s Groundhog Day committee will lead the annual walking tour of the movie sites. The event invariably concludes with a stroll down Madison Street, which dead ends at the house.

“We end our tour there each February and people are just enchanted by it,” said Maggie Crane, director of the Woodstock Public Library.

“I think it’s wonderful that somebody would invest the time and money because it is such a cool place, but it’s so huge for an ordinary family.”

© 2008, Chicago Tribune.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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