Geneseo Genealogy: Nostalgia, local history preserved at Temple Hill Bed and Breakfast

Just past the old water trough at the intersection of Center Street and Highland Road, the Temple Hill Bed & Breakfast sits. Gail White is a native Geneseo resident and the innkeeper of the establishment. She lives with her husband Jon White and sister-in-law Mary White, who helps maintain the hotel.

White has been running the bed-and-breakfast since 2006 when it first opened. In four months' time, she was able to renovate the home for her guests. The hotel features four guestrooms.

“I did want to stay within the original character of the building. A lot of the furnishings in the house are ours. I wanted it to feel comfortable,” Gail White said.

Among the features that lend the home its antiquated charm is a Palladian style window that surrounds the front door as well as maple hardwood floors throughout the first and second floors.

“As you walk in the door, you get a lot of wow factor. You see the staircase … with three different style spindles [on the rail],” she said. “Just past the stairway, there is hand-painted wallpaper. I have just learned, though I thought it was Japanese, a French or German company probably did it. That wallpaper has probably been there about 60 to 70 years.”

The long-standing building has served many functions over its lifetime. Built in 1826, it was originally established as the Livingston County High School.

“The Wadsworths donated the property,” Gail White said. “I believe it was James Wadsworth who was instrumental in the impetus of building the school here.”

The property initially had two buildings. One was a dormitory; the other smaller building that still remains today was used as a classroom space. Over the years, the school not only changed names, but the function of the site changed as well.

“I was told … that the state legislature dissolved the school's charter in 1891,” Gail White said. “In 1907, Henry Colt bought [the home]. He tore down the north, larger building because it was in disrepair and reconfigured the south building, which is the present Temple Hill building, into a home … The layout of the home is pretty much how he set it up,” she said.

Dr. James Lockhart, a local philanthropist, purchased the home from Colt in 1942. He raised his family and lived at the historic home for 60 years. He made many of the renovations that are still prominent in the home today, including the imported Japanese tearoom that sits by the pool.

Though Gail White's schedule is beginning to wind down with peak season ending, she said she and her assistant Mary White are always busy as they maintain the entire property. During the busy season, Gail White is constantly occupied with ensuring her guests are comfortable.

“We live among our guests. Some bed-and-breakfasts have separate living quarters from the owners. We do not. Our guests are welcome to share our living room. I wanted it to be very up close and personal and [ensure] it has a homey feel,” she said.

Gail White said she has always enjoyed getting to know her guests and listen to their stories. She considers them “friends who I haven't met yet.”