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Historic Lincoln mansion gets Hollywood makeover

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – The newest owner of Lincoln’s oldest bed and breakfast has a few changes planned for the historic home.

Outside, Janel Faraci is going to get more use out of the corner lot, hosting gatherings and get-togethers. She took out a pair of mulberry trees – their berries wouldn’t mix well with white weddings – added a hot tub and plans to put up picket and privacy fences, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

Inside the 6,600-square-foot mansion at 22nd and B streets, she’ll open up walls, turn another room into guest quarters, update the electrical system, add a commercial kitchen.

And then she’ll go all Hollywood on its walls and in its halls as a tribute to her father – a young man from Wisconsin who went to California with his Nebraska bride to make it big, and did, and whose success helped make it possible for the Los Angeles transplant to now call Lincoln home.

Clark Paylow was never really a household name, but some of the films and shows he directed and produced were.

He worked behind the scenes from the 1940s through the 1980s on dozens of titles, including “Sky King,” “Death Valley Days,” “I Spy,” “Annie Oakley” and, maybe his most famous, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

He broke into show business by breaking in, his daughter said – scaling the security fence at RKO Pictures to search for work.

“He started knocking on the doors of all of the producers’ and directors’ bungalows, until one of them took him in,” Faraci said.

He’d married Erma Plautz, a Malcolm girl who graduated from high school in Exeter, moved west but stayed close to her family back in Nebraska.

“I still have roots here,” Faraci said. “I grew up coming back here for the holidays, for the summer.”

She kept coming back, even after her parents died, bringing her own daughter, Sophia.

And a few years ago, her soon-to-be-sophomore daughter asked her a question: Could she go to high school at Lincoln Lutheran?

“She always loved coming back here. She said, ‘Can we at least try it for a year?’”

Faraci thought about it. She had a successful business running transitional homes in California. But she liked the idea of her 15-year-old daughter going to school in Lincoln, far from the temptations of L.A.

“We were blessed we could financially afford to do this. And it became something we both fell in love with.”

She expected to be a long-distance commuter for a few years, and was already racking up miles traveling between Lincoln and Los Angeles when she was diagnosed in early 2018 with stage 3 breast cancer.

Her surgeries and treatments kept her in California for longer stretches, so Sophia ended up living with Melissa Buss, a Lincoln Lutheran staffer, and her family.

Buss and Faraci became friends. Faraci became healthy. And earlier this fall, as Sophia became a senior, the two became innkeepers.

“She called me up and said, ‘I’m so excited. I beat cancer. Want to go on an adventure with me?’” Buss remembered. “I said, ‘What kind of adventure?’”

The Rogers House needed help by the time Nora Houtsma and her partners bought it 35 years ago.

It was built in 1914 by N.C. Rogers, a banker who’d made his money in Minden. “It was his retirement home,” Houtsma said. “The fashionable thing to do at the time was retire in the Capital City.”

It stayed in his family for decades. After Rogers and his wife died, their daughter and her family moved in. Later, they leased it to a fraternity, and then it spent 15 years as a group home.

Houtsma needed a few months to get the house ready to host guests as a bed and breakfast. “The bones were real good,” she said. “It just needed some care to bring it back again.”

She and her partners opened up the first two floors first and later converted the third-floor ballroom into more guest rooms. A few years later, they bought the house next door and, sometime after that, Houtsma became the sole owner of the inn.

She was renting a dozen rooms a night, often to familiar faces – the families that returned year after year, the occasional celebrity. (Martin Sheen was an early guest.)

She sold the house next door three years ago to a family and put the Rogers House on the market more than a year ago.

“It was hard. It is hard. It’s a beautiful building, and I loved doing bed and breakfasts,” she said. “But I was pretty much ready to do other things, to retire.”

She had interest from potential buyers who had other plans for the inn – a lawyer who thought about making it a law office, an architect looking for a studio.

And from Faraci. The Californian’s real estate agent had called her a couple of months ago to tell her about the Rogers House.

“She knows I love historic homes. I looked it over, I prayed about it. It was one of those things I felt was the right thing and the right time to do it.”

She’d thought about opening a sober living home for women here, because it’s what she did in California, but she couldn’t see the Rogers House serving anything other than overnight guests.

“It has so much history,” she said. “I don’t want to change that.”

But that’s not stopping her from making a few changes. She named her new friend Buss general manager and hired a cook. She arranged for several trailers to haul her own antiques and her father’s Hollywood memorabilia from Los Angeles.

Soon, Faraci will fill the inn with playbills and cameras and typewriters, the original script from “Close Encounters” and the mink coat her mother wore to the Oscars.

“Stuff that’s priceless,” she said. “It belongs in a museum.”

She’ll turn one guest room into the Director’s Suite, another the Producer’s. She envisions hosting Hollywood-themed parties.

And she plans to be here for most of it, largely finished with the back-and-forth to Los Angeles.

“I want to put my roots down here and put my time into the Rogers House and bring it up to what it should be,” she said. “It needs a lot of love.”


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,

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