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Thursday, April 18, 2024

What Dreams May Come

“Life has loveliness to sell,” Sara Teasdale wrote in her 1918 poem “Barter.” Indeed, innkeepers Ryan and Lucinda Embry enjoy and share that loveliness at Sophie Grace’s Bed and Breakfast.

Nestled on tranquil Maple Hill less than a mile from downtown New Harmony, Indiana, the Arts & Crafts Tudor-style home sparks imagination while its peaceful surroundings calm the spirit.

“The house has the historic elements, the location — we just love so many things about it,” Ryan says.

On the summer day the Embrys found the home that would become their bed and breakfast in 2018, they had planned to just pass through Posey County. But when their afternoon plans changed, they stopped in New Harmony for lunch and a stroll at The Labyrinth State Memorial. Taken with the town’s charm and history, Ryan and Lucinda had dreamed of one day living there, but it was only a dream. When it was time to leave, Lucinda said, “Instead of turning left to go home, let’s go right,” not knowing where this detour would take them.

The journey to that moment had been difficult for Evansville native Ryan and Lucinda, originally from Parkersburg, West Virginia. Before they met, both had suffered profound losses.

In November 2016, on their way home from the Bands of America Grand National Championship in Indianapolis, Lucinda’s middle daughter Sophie Rinehart — a member of the Marching Knights band at Castle High School in Newburgh, Indiana — was killed in a tragic car accident along with Sophie’s father David and his mother Ruth. Their car was stopped and pulled over on the side of Interstate 69 when it was hit by a drunk driver. Older sister Josie was the collision’s only survivor; youngest sister Rylie wasn’t on the trip.

Nine months later, Ryan’s wife of nearly 15 years, Natalie Hunt Embry, lost her battle with lipodystrophy, a condition that attacks the body’s fat distribution process. Her passing was 13 years after the couple lost their daughter, who did not survive a premature birth in 2004. (Ryan has two adult children, Ryan Jr. and Samantha, from a prior marriage.)

When Ryan and Lucinda met in 2018, it did not take them long to realize they wanted to meet life’s challenges arm in arm. They married a few months later.

“We just want to make the minutes matter. I think we’ve probably always felt that way,” Lucinda says, “but after losing loved ones, it’s even more important that we have something to tell them when we see them.”

Navigating their path together, Ryan and Lucinda made that right turn, spotted an F.C. Tucker Emge Realtors sign, and discovered the place they would later name for their daughters Sophie and Grace.

The couple remembers, as they pulled up to the house, feeling as though they had stepped back in time. They quickly fell in love with the home.

“There was something very special,” Ryan says. “We walked through the front door, and nothing had changed. It was just like it had been preserved.”

“We were in exactly the right place at the right time,” says Lucinda.

“It was completely God’s timing.” Ryan adds, “The Realtor had the easiest [sale]. All she had to do was open the door and let us go, and it was a done thing.”

They also were entranced by the house’s history.

Built in 1929, this was the nuptial home of New Harmony native and rodeo cowboy Fred Gentry and North Carolina widow Susie Proctor Hooks, who established the land as a horse farm.

“She had money, which she used to back his ventures and build this house,” says Lucinda.

Later, Susie’s daughter Bettie lived there with her husband Don Blair, who had come up from Tennessee to oversee construction of the Harmony Way Bridge. The house was passed down through Don and Bettie’s family, who left loads of furniture and memorabilia in the attic for Ryan and Lucinda to uncover and revive.

“Sifting through all the stuff, it was really cool when we found something we could use or repurpose,” says Lucinda.

Before opening the bed and breakfast in 2019, Lucinda and Ryan restored the furniture themselves to fill their three beautifully decorated guestrooms. Original features such as wooden doors, detailed crown molding, and vintage fixtures are mixed with bright paint, knotted rugs, colorful quilts, and antique decor. Guests share a spacious full bathroom with clawfoot tub on the second floor.

To honor the home’s rich history, pictures of the previous owners are displayed proudly in the hallways and stairwell along with the Embrys’ family photos.
Restoration of the past continues, with extra accommodations added to the property.

“I love to camp and hike … so I got this wild and crazy idea to take the smokehouse and retrofit it as a hostel. That was kind of a labor of love for us. Well, maybe not for this one” Lucinda says, pointing to Ryan, “but he went with my idea.”

Open seasonally, the spartan hostel sits behind the main house and sleeps two in a bunk bed arrangement. Guests can use the home’s restroom facilities.
“Other than the house, the biggest thing we’ve done would have to be the barn,” says Lucinda.

“The barn predates the house,” Ryan adds. “They actually disassembled it from a different property and brought it to this location when they built the house. The barn is probably 150 years old or so.”

Now, a picturesque spot for weddings, rehearsal dinners, and retreats, the barn can hold events for up to 50 guests.

“It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. There’s a reverence in that place,” Lucinda says. “We kept part of the hayloft as a balcony. I’ve been up there to read. It’s just beautiful in there.”

The events, like the breakfasts, are catered solely by chef Lucinda and sous chef Ryan.

“She’s a really, really good cook,” Ryan says. “Nothing is pre-packaged or frozen. We try to use as much out of our garden as possible.”

Lucinda tends the gardens and dries her own herbs. Eggs come courtesy of their lucky 13 chickens.

“People say you must love to cook. But what I love is taking care of people, making them feel comfortable, and having a place for them to rest. I love people sitting around my table and caring for them. We both do,” Lucinda says. “After the accident, the world was out of order, and there was very little peace. So, my thought with the B&B was a peaceful place where people can rest or where people can wrestle because that journey to peace is often a wrestle.”

Guests have heralded from neighboring Tri-State towns to travelers venturing across the country. Whether enjoying countryside views from the front porch swing, taking a reflective walk on the nature path, or coasting down Maple Hill on one of the couple’s bicycles, visitors get to live in the Embrys’ world and become part of their story. Like Ryan and Lucinda, they too can find wisdom, grace, and loveliness.

“When people come to the bed and breakfast,” Ryan says. “they experience the things that we love.”

Sophie Grace’s Bed and Breakfast
5150 Old Plank Road North
New Harmony, Indiana

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Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen
Jodi Keen is the managing editor of Evansville Living and Evansville Business magazines.

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