YEARS OF WORK BRING WOMAN "BACK IN TIME"
(The following story and photos appeared in the Friday, September 19th issue of The St. Albans Messenger - Photos by Greg Bessette were scanned from the Newspaper and in no way reflect the quality of Greg's work - The article was written by Carrie Handy who lives in St. Albans and on occasion, contributes stories to the Messenger. Pauline (Gaboury) Cray has connections with Fairfax. Her parents were Charlie & Helen Gaboury who at one time lived across from Nan's Mobil - Reginald & Joyce Barkyoumb are her uncle & aunt and Florence Magnan is also her aunt. Her brother Bob Gaboury lives in town and Carol Boissoneault, wife of Giles Boissoneault is her sister - so as you can see there are many connections here in Fairfax - Quite an interesting undertaking)
Pauline Cray has transformed a Fairfield Street building into a welcoming place for visitors and guests.
Stained glass windows at the end of the second floor hallway overlook Fairfield Street and in one corner of a downstairs sitting room, antique items fit perfectly with the Victorian home.
ST. ALBANS CITY-Along a busy thoroughfare In St. Albans, behind a picket fence amid a cluster of flowering shrubs, lies a charming oasis for weary travelers.
Known as "Back Inn Time" it is Pauline Cray's newly restored Victorian-era hometurned bed and breakfast at 68 Falrfield St. in St. Albans.
The 15-room house is decorated In a distinctly Victorian style with an eclectic mix of 19th and 20th century antique furniture and artwork that bears a certain parallel to Its owner's varied background.
Over the past 40 years, Cray has been a restaurant worker, a hair stylist and salon manager, a stay-at-home wife and mother, a selftaught carpenter and a partner in a home restoration business. It seems she has brought the sum of her diverse experiences to bear In creating Back Inn Time according to her own personal vision.
"My goal is to make this a unique place for people to come to relax, to escape, to enjoy some time away," Cray explained recently. "I made a home, and I want people to enjoy it"
Currently, she has a license to fill up to three of her six available guest bedrooms at a time. Four are arranged "European style," with shared bathrooms accessible from the hallway; two are being remodeled as suites with private bathrooms.
The process of bringing the bed and breakfast into being began in 1999 when Cray first toured the then-unoccupied home at the urging of relatives who thought she would be interested in purchasing it.
A native of Vermont, Cray at that time was a longtime resident of Florida. She worked in home restoration, collaborating with business partner Paul Ralston on the purchase and rehabbing of homes for resale.
Cray's family in Vermont thought the unique property might lure her back to Vermont. They were right.
The minute I stepped into this house, I knew it was special," Cray recalled, and she immediately knew she wanted it. Getting the house took time, however. First she had to consult with her business partner about the investment. Then her first offer on the house was rejected.
"I decided to move up here for the summer. I came through this house every week. I talked to heating contractors, builders -- All kinds of people to get a handle on what it would cost to fix the place, " Cray explained.
It wasn't until six months later that she was able to make a deal to purchase the building. Though there suddenly were three offers on the house hers was the one accepted, despite the fact that it was the lowest bid.
"I think the thing that finally made the difference was that I was willing to take the house without any conditions," Cray said. A skilled carpenter who was ready to do much of the restoration herself, she knew the extent of the work ahead of her. "I trusted that I could do whatever needed to be done," she said.
The condition of the house "was not terrible," according to Cray, but it had been neglected. Known for some 75 years as "The Weaver House," after the family that had owned it, it had recently fallen into disrepair. According to Cray, the plumbing, electrical and heating systems all needed updating. In addition, there were many cosmetic improvements needed.
"The front staircase was covered in five layers of paint. I made myself a daily goal of stripping two steps a day until I was finished" Cray explained. Now, the staircase is an impressive centerpiece in an entry that is flanked by a formal Victorian living room on the right, and a cozy quasi-period dining room on the left.
Plaster walls covered with layers of difficult-to-remove wallpaper were reworked using a process known as "knockdown." Ceilings were shored up and replastered, light fixtures restored or replaced, ornate fireplace mantels were refinished, and woodwork was either repainted or refinished. The kitchen had to be entirely replaced.
In every room there are hints of Cray's creative style.
The centerpiece of the kitchen is a marble-topped ornately carved piano base that Cray gutted and refurbished as a table. A plate rack on the wall has been fashioned out of what was once part of a pigeon-coop for the former owner's pigeon flock. Antique ceiling tins provide decorative fronts to the custom made cupboards.
An upstairs bedroom floor is an eye-catching work of art: Cray painted the existing linoleum black, gave it an antique finish, and stenciled a border around the edge.
Cray painted the house's exterior in a striking shade of mustard yellow, accented in offwhite, Until vandalism put an end to the practice, she decorated her symmetrical front porches with Halloween tableaus in the autumn, drawing delighted attention from area residents.
Improvements on the home began to catch the eyes of passersby, many of whom would stop to chat with Cray as she worked outdoors in the gardens. Cray put many hours into bringing the neglected and overgrown yard to life. She pruned shrubs, groomed the lawn, and planted a extensive flower, vegetable and herb gardens. Today, the spacious lot, along with a large deck and porch connecting the house and yard, provides an oasis for relaxation just steps away from the busy sounds of Fairfield Street.
Amazingly Cray accomplished the rehabilitation of the home in less than four years' time. Through sheer force of will, she was able not only to restore, redecorate and furnish the massive home and gardens, but to obtain permits and licensing to open a bed & breakfast.
Cray's marketing plan for Back Inn Time is still evolving, but will include a smorgasbord of diverse vacation packages, such as a "massage weekend" for couples to learn the art of personal massage from a certified masseuse, candlelight dinners and romantic getaways.
With a private chef on staff, Cray envisions the bed and breakfast as a suitable location for business retreats, private celebrations and intimate dinner parties. She said she hopes to draw clientele from far away, as well as from the local community, and that she is open to discussing creative uses for the property within the parameters of her bed and breakfast license.
Carrie Handy lives in St. Albans and, on occasion, contributes stories to the Messenger.
Henry A. Raymond
September 22, 2003