PEORIA – Theo Jean Kenyon would likely be pleased to see her family’s mementos on the walls of her childhood home now that it’s owned by someone else.
A lifelong resident of central Illinois who worked as a reporter at the Journal Star for 66 years, Kenyon held on to her childhood home for her entire life, even though she lived most of her adult life in the East Peoria home designed by her husband, architect Les Kenyon. When Theo Jean Kenyon died at the age of 99 in 2011, the home at 1805 N. Prospect Road was still filled with her parents’ possessions.
Victoria Metz, who today co-owns the house with Jon Hopkins, saw the property for the first time while picking up a side table advertised on Facebook Marketplace.
“I’m a lover of all antiques and old homes, and I asked if I could look around. Everything in the house was older. So I roped Jon into it – I said, ‘We have to save this house. I’m in love with it,'” said Metz.
A World War I nurse’s uniform hanging in the closet and the fact that the home is close to the hospitals inspired the idea of making it into an Airbnb for traveling nurses. The pair asked to buy the uniform, and when they took possession of the home in December 2022, they were given a few old photos of the home, artifacts which are now seen by everyone who stays there.
“This was Theo Jean’s mother’s World War I uniform, and it’s just in great shape,” said Hopkins while standing in the foyer beside a blue dress and matching cap folded and framed behind glass. Old photographs of the home hang on the staircase wall – in one, a toddler and a man in a straw boater hat stand near a newly constructed brick foundation.
“I’m guessing that’s Theo Jean Kenyon as a baby, with her father,” said Hopkins.
An old home gets a second life as an Airbnb
Hopkins has experience with flipping properties and being a landlord, but this is the first time either he or Metz have owned an Airbnb.
“Tori was the one who did all the designs of the property, so I can’t take credit for that,” said Hopkins. “I’ve done real estate stuff since 2009 – I’ve done quite a few flips, so I had some guys that could do different parts of the work. It worked out well.”
Built in 1925, the Dutch Colonial-style home had been well cared for, but needed extensive updates. The electrical and plumbing systems were completely redone, and the kitchen and second-floor bath modernized. Renovations were done with care to maintain the home’s original design.
“I wanted to try to keep the house as it was as much as possible,” said Metz.
A half bath on the main floor was added in a former closet, and the original cupboards were preserved as the kitchen was updated.
“We cut off part of the cabinet to add a dishwasher,” said Hopkins.
The home has a classic layout, with the front foyer opening onto the living and dining rooms. There are original hardwood floors throughout the house, and one wall of the living room holds a built-in bench and display cabinets built from oak. A pair of French doors can be opened in the summer, filling the lower level with fresh air and providing access to a porch. Upstairs are two bedrooms, two small sitting areas and a bathroom large enough to dance in.
As an Airbnb, the home has been fairly popular, said Hopkins. People from all over the county have visited, and several have said they enjoyed learning the history of the home.
Want to see what it looks like? The home is one of seven properties on this year’s Peoria Historical Society Holiday Homes Tour. Tickets are $20 in advance at 309tix.com or by calling the Peoria Historical Society at (309) 674-1921. Tickets will be $25 at the door. Children under 12 are free with adult admission.
Leslie Renken can be reached at (309) 370-5087 or email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.
This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Vintage Peoria home becomes Airbnb, on holiday homes tour