Experience a Treasure in California’s Central Valley Wine Country
Dean and Connie Thayer, transplants to Lockeford from the Silicon Valley, purchased the Inn at Locke House in March 2018 to escape city life and start new careers as innkeepers. Connie felt inspired to own a bed and breakfast property after staying at Biggar’s Bed and Breakfast in Hardy, Arkansas. She was drawn to the inn’s historic character and beautiful grounds, but more importantly, the owner/innkeeper had a quiet spirit and time to listen to her guests. Connie was already in search of a lifestyle change and these qualities appealed to her very much. The inn was for sale, but Arkansas was too far away from home so she started looking for similar properties in California. After several months of searching for the right property, the Thayers discovered the Inn at Locke House, for sale by Richard and Lani Eklund, and immediately knew it was a match.
The Eklunds’ connection to the Locke House was through Richard’s mentor John W. Thorp, Dr. Locke’s grandson and noted aeronautical engineer, and his wife Kay. In 1992, the Eklunds (Richard, Lani, and daughter Kerri) moved from Virginia at Kay’s invitation to save John’s ancestral house and aeronautical legacy. Renovation on the property began immediately and in 1999 they hung “The Inn at Locke House” sign.
In 2018, the Eklunds passed the task of stewarding the treasure they had lovingly restored to the Thayers. Connie’s enjoyment of hospitality and her love of gardening, together with Dean’s engineering background and his natural talents as a handyman, are continuing the legacy of service and quality that was established by the Eklunds.
History of the Locke House and Barn
The Inn at Locke House preserves the history and hospitality of the Gold Rush era in which the house and barn were built. The Lockes first lived in a small two-story cottage, from which they ran the doctor’s practice, farming, and business interests until their growing family needed more space.
A three-story all-brick residence, tank house (water tower), and barn were built, between 1862 – 1882, of bricks manufactured in Dr. Locke’s brick factory a few miles from the site. The family grew to 13 children and still hosted various relatives and visitors in the Main House, so a two-story wing was added to connect the main house with the tank house. The brick barn’s history reflects its farming and dairy days as well as its use as a community meeting place and headquarters of the Civil War Mokelumne Light Dragoons, sponsored by Dr. Locke. In the 1960’s it became John Thorp’s workshop for building the T-18 aircraft.
The Neo-Georgian style house and brick barn are listed as California Landmarks and are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Eco-Friendly from 19th to 21st Century
As soon as an advance in technology became available, Dr. Locke incorporated it into his 19th century home and medical practice. He had natural gas piped in and connected the home to the electrical grid. In addition, he operated his businesses with a sense of stewardship for the land and its resources.
That philosophy continues today. Solar energy, recycling, electrical vehicle charging, and other environmental practices are a natural way of living at the inn. Other modern technological improvements include solar lights, LED lighting, motion-sensitive and wirelessly controlled “smart” light switches throughout the inn, USB charging ports in guest rooms, and high-speed WiFi internet access across the property. High-efficiency ductless mini-split cooling systems are installed throughout the inn and round out the latest upgrades, complementing the cozy natural gas fireplaces in each guest room.
Exploring and Enjoying the Inn at Locke House
Each guestroom has a binder telling the story of the Lockes moving to California, building the house and barn, and establishing the village of Lockeford. As most of the furnishings in the house are Locke family pieces, guests have an idea of how the pioneers, as well as Dr. Locke’s descendants, lived in the house. Guests can explore the books, photographs, artifacts, and art that span more than one hundred and fifty years of the house welcoming visitors. Spending time in the garden – set against the backdrop of the Sierra Foothills in the distance — fills the senses with the beauty and scents of trees, flowers, and herbs that have been nurtured over the years.