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Northside School Bed & Breakfast

Where history meets hospitality


 

Northside School Bed & Breakfast

By Christian Weaner


Discover the charm of Northside School Bed & Breakfast, a beautiful 112-year-old brick building standing proudly on the North Hill — with a beautiful view overlooking the Kootenai River, downtown Bonners Ferry and the picturesque Cabinet Mountains — where history and hospitality collide.


Today, the historic building remains largely intact and unchanged, but its classrooms have been transformed into suites and its desks exchanged for beds. Photos of former students dot the walls; original chalkboards hang in several guestrooms, and streams of natural light flood through each room’s floor-to-ceiling windows.


Northside is no longer governed by a school administrator — although guests can stay in the old principal’s office — but rather run by a hospitable, three-generation family — Frank and Jerri Duarte, their daughter and son-in-law Corina and Eric Johnson, and their four grandchildren, Cheyanne, Abigail, Bjørn and Bradley. They are a tight-knit family, and that bond often extends to their guests, who they love to meet and interact with.


We’ve been told by guests that they feel like part of our family,” Corina acknowledged. “And it’s because we are a big family, and we try to treat [our guests] like family.”


Built in 1912 and opened in 1914, the North Side School served the Bonners Ferry community as a place of learning for nearly a century before it closed in 1990. A year later, locals Jim and Ruth Burkholder purchased the building for the purpose of turning it into their family residence.


In 1992, the Burkholders had Northside School listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The couple lived in the building — and even ran a small museum in its basement, according to information Corina learned from some locals — for a decade and a half before selling the property to retirees Ruth and Gene Perry.


Ruth attended Northside School when she was a student and Gene, a former architect in San Francisco, had the vision to transform the building into a bed and breakfast. After three years of construction that included adding several amenities like an elevator and outdoor swimming pool, Northside School Bed & Breakfast first opened its doors in 2007.


The Perrys successfully ran the bed and breakfast for more than a decade, before selling the business and property to Oregon natives Frank and Jerri Duarte in 2018.

Knowing the undertaking that managing the bed and breakfast would be, Frank asked Eric and Corina to move their family to Bonners Ferry and help run Northside. In March 2019, the business re-opened under the new ownership, and the Duarte-Johnson family hosted their first guests on Easter weekend that April.


One priority for Corina and her family over the last five years has been to incorporate historical elements from the school and town into the accommodation.


“We are putting the school back into it,” Corina emphasized.


All the rooms are themed after school subjects, photos of students who went to school at Northside hang in the hallways, and the original school bell sits in the entryway of the building.


The Duartes and Johnsons love meeting each guest who visits, striking up conversations over the breakfast table or in the common areas, and guests often leave feeling like they got to know the town and its people in a special way.


“I think that’s really cool,” Corina reflected. “Because people come here [to Bonners Ferry] and a little piece of it goes with them.”


To learn more about Northside School Bed & Breakfast or book a stay, visit NorthsideSchoolBandB.com.



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