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Harshmans preserve historic Clover Cliff Ranch

Staff writer

When Warren and Susan Harshman purchased Clover Cliff Ranch in Chase County from the Jim and Joan Donahue Estate in February, they became the fourth owners of the nearly 4,000-acre ranch.

“We wanted the property to be locally owned and shared, including its history, beauty, and cultural heritage,” Susan Harshman said.

When they took it over, the main ranch house and bunk house had been empty for some time. All of the furnishings had been auctioned. They determined to re-open it as a bed and breakfast and to keep it as close to original as possible. They did a lot of research.

“We closed March 12, got up the next morning, and flew to North Carolina,” Harshman said.

They went there to purchase Victorian era walnut furniture. But before they could furnish the house, they had to get it in order.

The oldest section of the house was built by a homesteader in 1860. It was expanded in 1867, when the man’s family took up residence.

Subsequent owners updated the house, converting a wooden porch to a wrap-around stone veranda. Plumbing and electricity were added as they became available.

The Donahues bought the ranch in 1987. They preserved and restored several unique features, such as the copper, lead, and tin alloy roof and roof railing. They also enclosed the veranda, installing numerous windows that offer sweeping views of the countryside.

After the Harshmans bought the property, they installed a new roof on the flat-roofed portion of the house and built a new fireplace. Wallpaper was replaced on all the ceilings, in the entryway, and in some of the rooms.

Much of the plumbing and wiring was replaced and a water softener and new air conditioning unit were installed.

Many of the chandeliers and other fixtures were removed, cleaned, and re-installed.

Outside trim was scraped and painted. Other outside improvements included new lamps on the fence posts bordering the entry lane, new maple trees in place of the old red cedars that lined the circular drive, and outside lighting in the yard.

The furniture was put in place, and the first guests arrived April 23.

The next project was the bunk house to the east. Built of stucco, it had a good roof and foundation, but everything else needed to be redone. They paneled the walls with knotted cedar, refurbished the wood floors, put in new windows, and added central heat and air conditioning. The kitchen floor was torn out and replaced, and an island with a sink was put in place.

The bunkhouse was furnished with western-style furniture and now is available for guests. It has two bedrooms with queen-size beds. Guests eat breakfast at the main house.

Since opening the bed and breakfast, the Harshmans have booked two families from Germany and people from as far away as Tennessee, Arkansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, and the Kansas City area. Guests include hunters, hikers, photographers, artists, writers, and people who are looking for a quiet time in the country.

Susan Harshman said she was thrilled several mornings to see guests sitting and drinking coffee in the two rocking chairs sitting outside the front entrance.

“That’s exactly why I put them there,” she said.

Guests can take hikes on the prairie, watch sunrises and sunsets, listen to birds singing, read, and look for wildflowers. A fire pit, horseshoe pits, and other outside games such as badminton and croquet are available. Guests may bring horses to ride.

Susan Harshman does all the cooking and cleaning, assisted by two of her daughters-in-law. Several of the older grandchildren also help with projects around the house and yard.

The Harshmans sometimes partner with the nearby Flying W Ranch to provide horse carriage rides and horseback riding.

Susan Harshman is excited about future business prospects.

“It’s starting to get pretty busy,” she said.

A wedding was held at Clover Cliff over the Memorial Day holiday and several more have already been booked for next summer.

The house

The first floor of the main house includes a family parlor, a formal parlor, a dining room, a ranch office, a veranda, a kitchen, and a pantry. The pantry has pass-through windows to the dining room for guests and to the outside for ranch employees. It is furnished with a mangle iron for ironing sheets and pillowcases.

The family parlor is the only room furnished with modern leather furniture.

“We decided not everyone wants to sit on Victorian furniture,” Harshman said.

The second floor has four bedrooms including one two-room suite and a maid’s room. The maid’s room opens to a stairway leading down to the kitchen.

The Harshmans named three of the bedrooms after former owners — Blackshere, Prather, and Donahue. They all have period walnut furniture. Each has a flat-screen TV, “to satisfy a contemporary need for connection to the outside world.”

Harshman said the Donahue Room was Jim Donahue’s favorite bedroom. He called it the Blue Room, and it looked out over the Cottonwood River Valley to the south. A large photo of Jim and Joan hangs on a bedroom wall.

The two-room Lincoln Suite has a private bath and Victorian furniture. The parlor has enough room for a roll-away bed.

Family heirlooms can be found at various places in the house, including a student desk that Harshman played at as a child at her grandmother’s house. It features a scroll on rollers that covers various subjects such as writing, spelling, and math.

Harshman said she and her husband feel like caretakers of the ranch.

“It’s a working ranch,” she said. “We’ll take our turn at taking care of it. It’s been a privilege to preserve it, and we’ve had a lot of fun. We get to meet a lot of people that we would not meet otherwise. It’s a priceless opportunity.”

Last modified Oct. 22, 2014

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