AVERY – Established in 1853, a hotel that has seen good days, bad days and all manner of celebrated historic figures, has a potentially fun future.
The Avery Hotel has been refurbished over the past few years to be used as a wedding and entertainment venue, and might very well become the hub of the as-yet-to-be-formed Avery Social Club.
Built in 1851 as the private home of Joseph and Sarah Goodell, who relocated from Maine to California, the property was purchased by another couple from Maine, Peter and Nancy Avery. They opened its doors as the Avery Hotel in 1853.
Since then, the hotel has had many owners, many guests and many states of being. When the current owner, Fred Baker, took over nearly five years ago, the hotel was a mess.
“This place was in such terrible shape,” Baker said. “It had 30 people, 30 feet of trash … nobody would touch it; the most toxic dump you’ve ever seen. Burned-out trailers … trash as far as you could see.”
Baker said it took the better part of a year to clean all the trash off the property. Remarkably, the interior of the building was in good shape, but needed cosmetic repairs.
Throughout the time Baker has owned the Avery Hotel, the building has been managed by Terry Kluzniak, who works to retain the historic appeal of the building, searching wherever she can for antiques that would capture the era the hotel was built in.
“Fred says I treat it like my own personal dollhouse,” Kluzniak said. “I’m always on the lookout for whatever I can find that would fit in here.”
Kluzniak takes the word “dollhouse” quite literally. Among the museum-quality pieces found on display throughout the hotel, there are miniatures meant for a dollhouse in a well-lit case. The diminutive furniture pieces came in a dollhouse that was gifted to the hotel, but the structure was too large to fit anywhere and Kluzniak decided to keep all the furniture to show off.
Though the building has had guests such as Black Bart himself, these days it’s more apt to receive wedding parties and rock ’n’ rollers. Because he doesn’t want to bother with the retail side of a hospitality business, Baker treats the Avery Hotel like an Air BnB, where guests can rent out the building for a day or two here and there. It sleeps 27 people, has a full kitchen, saloon, dining room, bedrooms and bunk quarters.
It’s a perfect wedding venue, according to Baker, but he admits that there is no shortage of places to hold a wedding in Calaveras County, many of which do it quite well.
Entertainers are also welcome. On May 11, Johnny and Dee Price and the Rhythm Riders will perform all manner of music at the back of the 1-acre property. Baker said the performers have a large draw and have played at his other business, Cooper’s Corral in Sheep Ranch.
Beyond being a venue, Baker sees the hotel as a launching pad for another idea of his: a social club.
“The Avery Social Club is the next thing I’m going to do, where I’ll have limited members,” Baker said. “They will pay to come to these dinners that I’ll have chefs come from around the country … they’ll have a meal, which I’ll advertise, which will say, ‘Chef so and so is coming,’ and hopefully sell it out.”
Baker said the celebrity chefs and the exclusive membership will likely be a draw, but there will also be discounts for other goods and services included in that membership. He would like the inaugural chef to be Sonoma-based chef Michael Chipchase.
“Instead of going out into retail, trying to do weddings and things that I’ve got to advertise, I don’t want to do that. I want to work from within,” Baker said. “I think the social club will take care of that. I think we’re ready for it. We would do concerts and special shows, and (members) would be on that (list).”
Baker said that every year he’s owned the property, it has gotten better. He doesn’t care for big crowds, and would like the popularity to be natural.
“I’m not trying to get a crowd here or (at Cooper’s Corral),” Baker said. “I’m just really letting it be organic. Do it by word of mouth.”