Local family mixes history with lodging

  • Photo/Kyla Hurt
Oftentimes, guests are welcomed with a freshly baked treat at Bunkhouse Seventy-Four.
  • Special to The Source
The bunkhouse can be seen near the middle of the aerial photo just above the farmhouse.
  • Special to The Source
At the time the bunkhouse was built, Andrew O. Harris, left, was the farm owner. John Wesley Roberts, right, was his half-brother and was the last person to live in the bunkhouse.
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The outdoor soaking tub came out of a home in Iowa that was built in 1908, says Leonard.
  • Photos/Kyla Hurt
The stained-glass windows in Bunkhouse Seventy-Four were found by Bryan Leonard. Taken from an old church in Missouri, he explains, “They were two windows in a single case, so I had to separate them, do some repair work and place them in new, separate casings. The windows were within half an inch in size of the original window openings. Meant to be!”
  • Photos/Kyla Hurt
The stained-glass windows in Bunkhouse Seventy-Four were found by Bryan Leonard. Taken from an old church in Missouri, he explains, “They were two windows in a single case, so I had to separate them, do some repair work and place them in new, separate casings. The windows were within half an inch in size of the original window openings. Meant to be!”
  • Photos/Kyla Hurt
From the antique rim lock hardware and knob to a pair of brass boat bookends, details flourish within the space.
  • Photos/Kyla Hurt
From the antique rim lock hardware and knob to a pair of brass boat bookends, details flourish within the space.
  • Special to The Source
Original picture of the bunkhouse before the Leonards relocated it.
  • Photo/Kyla Hurt
Bunkhouse Seventy-Four as it looks today.

By Kyla Hurt
Photos by Kyla Hurt

Bryan and Heather Leonard now have two Airbnb listings and it seems as though they have a “type.” Both are relocated structures from history that have been restored – mostly by Bryan Leonard himself. Their first is a real, historic log cabin, which they’ve named Audrey’s Abode.

Now, they’ve added Bunkhouse Seventy-Four. Both are located on a 7-acre hobby farm just south of Jacksonville. Really, the two are neighbors.

The latest project, Bunkhouse Seventy-Four was once a 20’ x 14’ single-room bunkhouse. It was originally located on the Harris Farm near Alexander. Leonard’s research discovered that Andrew O. Harris was the farm owner when the bunkhouse was built (they are guessing in the 1930s) and the last person to live in it was thought believed to be his half-brother, John Wesley Roberts. The bunkhouse was regularly used until 1951 and was otherwise used by seasonal farm labor.

Leonard has created a space that is fully restored, maintaining components of the bunkhouse’s original history, while not only incorporating elements salvaged elsewhere and appropriate for the bunkhouse’s time, but also adding in modern amenities to ensure an enjoyable escape. One could argue that as long as there are stable walls, there might as well be Wi-Fi, outlets and heat. I was there in December and was grateful for the modern amenity of heat.

What a special trial of labor that Leonard put into the creation of Bunkhouse Seventy-Four. Its Facebook page gives an opportunity to read some of the history about the structure and see images from its past and images of the restorations from start to finish. It’s special to feel a bit transported into the past by way of a story. Then, come back to the present as a B&B guest, making it all the more memorable.

Now, this is important. It is one room. I knew that, but you walk in and realize it … as in, whoa. Slowly, though … minutes pass and that becomes wonderful … less to deal with … more cozy.

It is just right for a couple, a lone escape, or even a small family. The queen bed has a lovely quilt, plus there is a pull-out single mattress underneath if needed. There’s a full kitchen and bath, plus a large porch that looks out on nature.

The little details everywhere were a favorite. One keeps seeing them and there is no choice but to smile because they make you happy, knowing someone made this effort for you. Leonard notes, for example, that, “The original floors are still in the bunkhouse, but they were too [damaged] to save, so I added an extra layer of subfloor over them and what you now see is reclaimed flooring from another salvage.”

Additionally, he says, “The old Illinois license plate that now hangs above the door was covering [a] hole in the floor.”

Staying there feels a bit like you are living in “pioneer days’ without really roughing it.

In the bunkhouse, the Leonards have stocked a few board games in the antique cupboard as well as playing cards. Guests might also find homemade cinnamon streusel under a simple glass dome on the table. After inquiring, it turned out to be Bryan Leonard’s mother’s recipe. He said several of the family, “including the older kids, take turns making it.”

If you stay there, you will find the stained-glass windows were stunning as the daylight comes in. Guests will find a hot shower, soft towels and delicious coffee, which can be enjoyed on the deck, before heading back out into real life.

The view from the deck is simple and beautiful. There is a soaking tub on the porch where, from April 1-November 1, guests can have a bath out under the stars.

The rate is $79/night, plus standard taxes or fees. Find out more about Bunkhouse Seventy-Four or contact Airbnb “Superhost” Bryan Leonard via airbnb.com/h/bunkhouse74, (217) 883-7744, “Bunkhouse Seventy-Four” on Facebook or bunkhouse74@gmail.com.

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