Beyond short-term rentals, Springfield owner wants to host events in historic home

SPRINGFIELD — Three years ago, Cheryl Duyette was searching for a bed and breakfast in the South to buy when she discovered a historic house in the city and realized it was the ideal place for her next career.

Now three years after operating Les Chateau Douillett mostly as a short-term rental advertising on sites like Airbnb, Duyette is planning to expand her business so she can hold business receptions, bridal showers, birthdays, small weddings and other events at her home on 400 Maple St.

“It has so much opportunity. This property needs to be showcased,” Duyette said.

While she has been offering a full apartment that was once a maid’s quarters for longer stays and at least one room with a private bathroom as a short-term rental in the 6,200-square foot mansion, Duyette said she has hosted a few small events such as a fundraiser. She realized it was a perfect location for small gatherings.

Not only does the house have several large rooms that can be used for events, the property has a landscaped outdoor area complete with a gazebo and a marble fountain imported from Italy, she said.

A nurse by trade, Duyette said she had been involved in rental properties for years. When she was retiring, she found the house for sale. The property had already been bid on when she found it, but when the sale fell through, the realtor contacted her.

“It was the style I was looking for, and it had a great layout,” she said.

Plus, she liked the location, since a lot of properties she had been considering were far away from cities. The house was also in good condition.

“I like that there is a lot to do in the area and trains are five minutes away and it is a half-hour to Bradley (International Airport),” she said.

To expand the use of her property, Duyette is seeking a zone change from the current Residential A to Business A. The Planning Board endorsed the change last week, and it is now going to the City Council for approval at its March 11 meeting.

“Overall the staff believes that this is a unique use for this large historic property and a new amenity for the city of Springfield,” the report from the city’s Office of Planning and Economic Development says.

The home is located in a triangle with four other properties that are bordered by Mill, Pine and Maple streets. An initial examination makes it look like the proposal could create a spot zone but most of the properties surrounding 400 Maple St. are used by social service agencies, businesses and there is a church nearby, said Luca Mineo, a member of the Planning Board.

“Based on the surrounding uses, this fits in with everything else,” he said.

The home is on a lot that measures more than an acre so there is enough parking for a small event. Duyette has also developed an agreement with one of her neighbors to use some of their parking lot when she has events where she may need more parking.

Duyette also has a van that she uses to help shuttle visitors to different places. She can also use it if she has a large event and needs to find parking a little farther away.

Duyette is also working on researching more of the history of the house. She said she hired a local historian to try to find out more information about its past.

She said she knows it was built in 1929 for Clarence J. and Grace Shoo. He was the founder of General Fibre Box Company of West Springfield and was a close friend and supporter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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