PEWAUKEE – One look at an old 1850s farmhouse, with its distinctive Lannon stone exterior and period décor interior, it might seem like a good place to escape the modern world and relax.
John Cameron and Kari Miller-Cameron thought so when they started offering a very traditional, very nostalgic bed-and-breakfast accommodations this summer at the place they called The Inn, a familiar site at N4 W22496 Bluemound Road on the Pewaukee side of the border separating it from the city of Waukesha.
For 28 years, the building served as Miller-Cameron’s antique shop, Just a Little Bit Country, one of a small complex of rustic buildings on a 2-acre site that also included the couple’s home and Jack’s Café.
In the couple’s petition for the city permit, Miller-Cameron explained that her decision to downsize her antique shop led to the idea to reuse it for another purpose: a colonial historic inn that would make use of its charm.
Miller-Cameron told city officials that the farmhouse’s role as a B&B cast in a bygone era fit in nicely with the theme set by the rest of the property.
“I wanted to preserve the past with this fine historic structure and put it to good use for the enjoyment of folks visiting our community and keep the history alive,” she wrote.
The B&B plan required approval from the city
The problem was, despite the obvious appeal, it technically wasn’t a legal use. At least, the city of Pewaukee hadn’t officially declared it as such under its ordinances.
According to the staff report preceding the Aug. 7 meeting of the Pewaukee Common Council, officials informed the Camerons that they would need to obtain a conditional use permit and a proper lodging license to allow the historic building to be legally used.
They got it. The council approved the permit that evening following a public hearing which drew no objections.
Nick Fuchs, the city’s community development director, acknowledged Pewaukee was caught a bit off-guard by the transformation of the old farmhouse into a new purpose. “I am not aware of when operations started, but the City became aware of the use in April,” Fuchs said.
But in his report to the council, Fuchs indicated planning staff saw no reason to disallow the bed-and-breakfast use, so long as the Camerons obtained a hotel/motel license from the City Clerk’s Office “as well as any other applicable government license deemed necessary in order for the use to be in compliance with local, county, and state regulations.”
Innkeeper looks forward to welcoming guests
In a separate interview Thursday, Miller-Cameron admitted the process proved a bit cumbersome and surprising, given that she and her husband had operated businesses at the site for some time. In fact, the antique shop predated the establishment of the city of Pewaukee, which was incorporated in 1999.
Now that it’s done, “I like to think of it as a glass that’s half-full, not half-empty,” she said.
The approval means the farmhouse — with its three bedrooms, a small kitchen, dining room and living room furnished in authentic 19th-century New England antiques and furniture, plus a fourth guest bedroom available in a neighboring house — can carry forward once the modern-day documents are in hand.
“The Inn completes the wonderful historic property that I refer to as the Olde Homestead for the enjoyment of our guests and the community,” she said.
The Camerons are already marketing the lodge on their website, including pictures of the interior and links for booking rooms. Before the city stepped in, The Inn had already greeted “a trickle” of guests, but more are lining up now with their licensing and permit questions settled, Miller-Cameron said Thursday.