A team of neighbors adopts the Timberlake Tavern with the hope of bringing it back to its former glory
Take a right past the Koffee Kup restaurant on busy Timberlake Road and weave about one mile through the Timber Lake neighborhood, and you’ll find the cozy Timberlake Tavern, an event center offering three Airbnb rentals.
New owners Etta Legner, DD Gillett, and DD’s husband Tom closed on the 1.2-acre property in October 2020 and have worked consistently since then to repair the tavern by adding a new roof, gutters, fresh landscaping, bathroom updates, as well as giving attention to other cosmetic issues.
Legner and the Gilletts are all retired homeowners living in the Timber Lake neighborhood and say they have a passion not only for the tavern but also the history of the lake.
“In the ’30s and ’40s this was a much sought-after site for entertainment in this area,” DD Gillett said.
“Our hope is that Timberlake Tavern will once again become a popular choice for events of simple elegance where lasting memories are made.”
The event space can host weddings, receptions, holiday gatherings, corporate retreats, reunions, birthdays and memorial celebrations in the downstairs area, wrap-around porch and outdoor space. The upstairs has been renovated into three separate Airbnb rentals.
The tavern was built in 1929 by Edley Craighill and Fred Showalter, the same men who built Timber Lake in 1926. They wanted the tavern to be a community center for lake residents, who used it as a place for dining, music and celebrations until the 1950s.
Upstairs, groups such as the Girl Scouts used 12 rooms—six rooms on the front of the tavern and six on the back—for accommodations while they visited the area and learned to swim, boat and fish in the summers.
The tavern has served as a worship center and a first home for Timberlake United Methodist Church, a meeting place for clubs and service groups, and was even a private home for a number of years. It was modernized as an event center with apartments in the early 2000s.
But the 1929 building has hardly changed and guests can still admire its symmetrical charm featuring original hardwood floors, a central staircase leading to a charming library, oak mantles and flooring, wood beam ceilings and dual fireplaces, which Gillett says adds to the overall aesthetic.
The property also includes a waterfront dock enabling guests to use the water to swim, kayak, boat or sunbathe.
“It’s such a happy special place,” Gillett said. “It’s just a fun, fun place.”
It’s a small venue, Legner added, but that’s the way they want it to be.
If they get creative and guests don’t use the dance floor, they can allow for 112 inside and a total of 135 on the premises for a sit-down event.
“But we don’t really want to do that though,” Gillett said of making the space too crowded. “We are hands-on owners and we think that’s a real perk, that we’re very personal about meeting with clients and meeting their needs. We try to be adaptable and versatile and flexible in what we do because we like people, we want this to be a people place.”
The Gilletts and Legner are always on site during an event.
“It’s a 1929 building, and anything could happen so we need to be here,” Gillett said. “This is like our house, it’s just like another one of our homes and if something’s going to happen we need to know about it. Plus we might meet some really cool people we want to know for the rest of our lives.”
Between the three Airbnbs and event hosting, the tavern has stayed busy every single weekend since the beginning of April, Legner said.
“We like what we’re doing, we want it to be like this,” Legner said, but added that moving forward: “My plan is to do less physical labor.”
For now, Legner and the Gilletts do everything—everything except catering.
“If you want someone to make you more than a Pop Tart, get someone else. I’m not your girl,” Gillett joked.
But they make the beds, do the laundry, scrub the toilets and mow the lawn. At least for now.
“We’re doing everything because we want to do it ourselves first,” Legner said. “We don’t want other people to help us before we know what we’re doing.
We want to do it ourselves so we’ll really know how long it takes to do this. So then when we get people to help us, we’ll be aware, rather than not knowing how long it will take to do the laundry.”
She said their goal is to be flexible and easy to be around but at the same time offer clients a professional event.
“I think that we have managed that,” she said. “That was one of our goals and we have accomplished that.”
Legner and Gillett have since renovated the apartments into three Airbnb rentals called the Sunshine Suite, the Showalter Suite and the Birdhouse Suite.
Gillet said there was a hidden section of the tavern on the third floor, which is only visible from the back of the building and was formerly used as the maid’s quarters in the 1930s.
“It was just a dark, dingy, dreamy place,” Gillett said.
Gillett, along with Legner, the decorator of all the rentals, decided to convert that space into the third, cozy Airbnb.
“It’s the most popular Airbnb spot now,” Gillett said.
Each suite is charming and cozy with a coffee bar, fresh flowers and chocolates, and since not much has been altered from the original tavern, it makes guests feel like they are staying at a summer cottage in Cape Cod.
Guests have access to a deck overlooking the lake on the second floor where they can lounge, relax and read.
“Airbnb was a new stroke for both of us so I’m extremely proud of the fact that Etta and I have worked as hard as we have to the point that the Timberlake Tavern Airbnb has a five-star rating,” said Gillett.
They are only about a year into their new endeavor and free weekends are sparse. But this team wouldn’t have it any other way as they see this hidden landmark into the future.
“It’s been a labor of love,” Legner said.
Photos by Ashlee Glen