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MAY NIBJ: Historical school turns to hotel

| April 30, 2024 1:00 AM

Some people can’t wait to leave school behind them.

However, when it comes to the Northside School Bed and Breakfast, the opposite is true —  people are anxious to go back.

“We have lots and lots of guests who grew up here or either they went to school here or their mom taught here or grandma taught here.” Jerri Duarte, one of the owners, said of guests’ reaction to the former school's new life as a bed-and-breakfast.

The building has seen generations of Boundary County residents, who once attended school there, and now those same people come back to stay in the school house which has been converted into a B&B. 

Built in 1912, the historic, red-brick school house still stands tall on a hill overlooking the Kootenai River and the surrounding mountain ranges. The intimate setting of the Northside School Bed and Breakfast makes it the perfect getaway, yet it is still close enough to downtown Bonners Ferry that guests can take a short walk over the walking path on the bridge and stroll around town. 

Owned by Frank and Jerri Duarte, Northside School Bed and Breakfast is a family business with their daughter and son-in-law,  Corina and Eric Johnson, serving as managers as well as their children working and living in the building alongside them. 

The Duartes’ purchased the building in 2018 from Gene and Ruth Perry. An architect, Gene was the one who originally transformed the historic school into a bed and breakfast. The former four-room schoolhouse now has nine guest rooms, a sitting room, a kitchen, a dining room and living quarters for the family. 

Touches throughout the B&B pay homage to the building’s former life as a school. A wall in the dining room has the original blueprints framed and on display. Each of the guest rooms is themed, from the principal’s office to the local history room and paleontology room. The rooms are filled with artifacts and historical pieces from the school’s history, such as the original chalkboard from 1912 in the chemistry room. 

It isn’t just the guest rooms though, the entire building holds memories of the past. From the original hardwood floors to the upstairs hallway display of class photos dating all the way back to 1915. Even the original boiler is still in use. “Everybody distinctly remembers putting their wet woolen mittens on the radiators.” Duarte laughed as she spoke about the guests who attended school there. 

With large windows letting in the natural light and light colored decor, the guest rooms are all bright and airy. So even on a dark winter day, a guest won’t feel cooped up in these charming rooms. 

Stepping outside onto the deck, one is greeted with incredible views of the river and the mountains. A few pieces of original playground equipment can be seen on the grounds, as well as a seasonal pool and year round hot tub. 

The pool and dining room are available for hourly rental use, depending on the schedules of their guests. 

The B&B has one guest room that is ADA accessible. The rest of the guest rooms require the use of stairs. 

The unique historical building sees guests from all over the world, there is even a world map on the wall where guests can place a pin where they are from and there are hundreds of pins from locals to New Zealand to Brazil. 

The Northside School Bed and Breakfast is located at 6497 Comanche St. 

For more information, contact Northside Bed and Breakfast at  northsideschoolbandb.com, 208-267-1826, or on Facebook at Northside School Bed and Breakfast.


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