The Barnard House

Upon moving to this village along the river I was given a task. As a real estate agent, I was asked to find suitable new owners for a bed & breakfast in town. I arrived at the Victorian home to meet with then-current owners Norma Baum and Cathy Powell to discuss the property. As we sat on the long front porch, we watched a majestic bald eagle float along the river, surely scanning the waters for a meal. It a view you never get tired of. The late summer weather was warm and a light breeze drifted graciously. Time slowed and I was reminded again of the reasons for moving to this rather remote (by today’s standards) location. The porch was comfortable and worn in. Its patina assured me there had been plenty of familiar gatherings there in the past. I knew there was a special new owner out there waiting. Someone who appreciated the history the property had to offer mixed with the quietness of small town river life in a valley amid the mountainous Allegheny Plateau.

(Photo Courtesy of Jamie Hunt) The Barnard Family of today visits the home of their ancestors. Now The Barnard House Bed & Breakfast along the banks of the Allegheny River in Emlenton, PA and situated along the Erie to Pittsburgh bike trail. Some of the faces have an uncanny resemblance to the photos of their ancestors. Can you see it?

Norma and Cathy allowed me to look through the folder they kept on hand of Barnard family history. I was surprised to find

that the Barnard family had moved to this riverfront home from another Pennsylvania river town – Saltsburg. This surprised me because Saltsburg was also my hometown. I had lived there from the age of five until my junior year of high school. The write-up detailed the Barnard homestead at the point of land jutting out between the Conemaugh River and Loyalhanna Creek where the Kiskiminetas River forms. I knew that location well having spent countless hours of bygone time with a good friend whose home was close to this location. The connection was a little eerie if not heartwarming. It was a special moment.

The Barnard Family

Thank goodness for preservationists.

So, we got to work.  I set out to find the privileged new owner of the home. Cathy and Norma were the fist people outside of the Barnard family to own the house and I was determined to locate another special person, couple, or family who would continue to care for the Barnard house and to see that this 1800’s home would make it into the next century of its existence with pride and purpose.

The next century. Caretakers. Pride. A one-hundred-plus-year-old frame house in a quiet area with harsh winters. That’s a tall order. Fortunately for Emlenton,the Kentzel family was up for the challenge. Even excited by it.

Cathy and Norma had helped the Barnard house through a few decades and were loving and thoughtful owners. They were ready to pass the torch and felt as confident as I that Paul and Cathy Kentzel (along with their five children-turned-young adults) were the ones. I mentioned to the Kentzels that the stately brick Victorian was for sale across the street from me and soon Emlenton had new inn-keepers and my family had new neighbors.

Over the past year or so, I have seen Paul and Cathy trudging home late in the day. Covered with paint. Tired and bruised from the long days they put in lovingly restoring the Barnard House. Like fools in love, they then purchased the Best House next to the Barnard place and are in the midst of restoring it as well. If anyone needs a restorative break, it is the Kentzels. Still, they graciously host weary travelers at the B&B with joy in their heart. These travelers come from Europe and all over the United States. These travelers come by bike and car and kayak and canoe. As a town, we are happy to host them and so are the Kentzels. They love what they do. They are passionate and it shows. They take great pride in taking care of the Barnard’s family home, the Best’s home, and their own house originally built by Jacob Gosser in 1897. The Kenzels are true preservationists and that charge is not always easy, but very fulfilling. These historic homes take on a life of their own. They get in your blood.

Those of us living in the Historic Landmark town of Emlenton, Pennsylvania know this well. We regularly, but not as often as we would like, work our way around the neighbors’ porches with kids and dogs in tow and settle in for great conversation over coffee, soda, or (often) something stronger. The type of connection you just can’t make through social media. We keep the ghosts of the neighborhood alive and sometimes it feels like the Barnards, Gossers, Newtons, or Hamiltons of the late 1800’s or early-to-mid 1900’s are sitting right there with us just as they did a hundred plus years earlier on these same porches.

Thank goodness for the preservationists.

Recently, the current Barnard family of eastern Pennsylvania made their way to our western Pennsylvania hamlet to enjoy an afternoon at the Barnard House Bed and Breakfast. They generously gifted a Barnard heirloom and enjoyed an afternoon of making new friends in a house their ancestors once owned. On the same porch that their ancestors once rested and chatted upon. In many ways, the Barnards of the past still own this home along River Avenue.

Thank goodness for the preservationists.

It makes you wonder – were the Barnards of a hundred years ago on that porch when the Barnards of the 2000’s laughed and talked about the past, present and future? They would be thrilled to to be a part of the scene. It makes you wonder.

Thank goodness for preservationists.

To book a stay at the historic Barnard House Bed & Breakfast in Emlenton, Pennsylvania, please visit their website at

This blog was written by guest blogger Dana Weber.
Visit her blog, “Life of Riley: Living the Good Like in Emlenton, PA