The Lilley Mansion recently was moved via truck to the village’s downtown area. Courtesy Lilley Mansion
For almost 150 years, the Lilley Mansion has stood proud while Spring Lake Village grew and changed around it.
The house was built with local lumber by Spring Lake pioneer Francis Lilley, who emigrated from England with his family at age 11 in 1855 and settled in Spring Lake in 1867.
A few families had lived at the Lilley Mansion before it was converted to apartments in 1959. It has been empty for some time, but following a complete renovation that will honor the original architecture, the mansion will reopen this spring as a bed and breakfast.
The project is being completed by the business’s owners, Robert Lopez and Patrick Roggenbau.
The couple was visiting Kim Van Kampen, a Spring Lake resident and downtown developer, from Miami two years ago. They had no plans to leave Florida until they stopped at the empty mansion to take a tour.
“It was just a stunning property. It was abandoned, and obviously, it hadn't been getting much love, but all the bones were there,” Lopez said.
During a walkthrough for 20 minutes, the couple came up with the idea of turning it into a bed and breakfast.
“The whole plan was hatched in those 20 minutes,” he said.
Van Kampen and Roggenbau made an offer on the property in the next couple of days. She owns a portion of the bed and breakfast business, along with the couple.
The house recently was moved via truck to the village’s downtown area, along with a neighboring historical house.
“It seems that the entire town came out to witness the move,” Lopez said.
He said he and his partner received more words of encouragement during the move than they would have imagined, and they came to understand that many people have some connection to the house.
“Everybody knew somebody that lived in the house,” Lopez said.
“There was such a phenomenal dialogue that we never in a million years expected. We knew people liked the house, but we never knew that there was such a connection to the house.”
He said the house was in significant disrepair and likely would have been torn down.
When the house was converted to apartments, the owner covered the original ceiling, preserving it, present-day renovators have discovered. During the renovation, workers discovered newspapers from 1959 in the walls, a common insulation practice at the time.
The house’s original fireplace, front doors and woodwork are intact.
The renovated house will have four suites with in-room bathrooms, plus a fifth bedroom downstairs, where the couple will live.
There will be a double-sized kitchen, dining room, breakfast room, living room, family room, den and library. The house is receiving modern electric, plumbing and lighting.
“So, we're using the house as it was originally intended. It's just going to be a little shinier,” Lopez said.
The plan is to launch the business June 1.
In conjunction with the house’s transformation, the new owners launched the nonprofit Lilley Cares. Lopez will act as the executive director of the separate nonprofit entity.
The first event in 2020 will be the Spring Lake Garden Festival, which will feature plant nurseries, local nonprofits and food. The festival will raise funds to benefit the Tri-Cities Garden Club, a 62-year-old organization that has focused on beautifying the community and giving scholarships to local gardeners.
Lopez said he hopes there can be an annual event that will benefit the city in some way.
They are planning for three other events in 2020, yet to be announced.
“Our idea is to be, eventually, a much bigger organization and have a larger impact,” he said.
Goals of the nonprofit’s inaugural year include donating $15,000, recruiting at least 75 volunteers and donating 650 volunteer hours to the village.
“Our aim is to further the impact of already existing not-for-profits in the village,” Lopez said.
He said they were inspired to launch the nonprofit following the welcome they felt from the Spring Lake community.
“Our original plans were not to live there year-round,” Lopez said. “After having met everybody and after having made friends and after having made our connections, we decided that we're just going to do it.
“So, our house is up on the market. We plan on being Spring Lakers, no exceptions.”