The Return of the White Horse Inn: How One Couple Is Saving a Michigan Village
Without the White Horse Inn, there’d be no Metamora. If the inn wasn’t there to share its historic horse-country ambiance, people would have virtually no reason to visit the southeast Michigan village.
However, thanks to one couple and the generosity of several professionals, the once-defunct inn is making a comeback.
In late 2012, the previous owners of the town’s only real attraction closed it down without warning, because they couldn’t afford the necessary repairs. Maintenance, renovations, and improvements are heavy investments, after all. In fact, the national average cost to build a deck in the U.S. is upwards of $9,500. Seeing as how the White Horse Inn was over 160 years old, it’d naturally cost much, much more to restore the crumbling inn to the kind of place that’d once again bring visitors from all over the area. A few million more, actually.
“It was … like the town lost its life,” remembers Zorka Pondell, an area business owner. “The energy was gone.”
However, a silly thing like expenses wasn’t going to stop Linda Egeland and Victor Dzenowagis, the veteran Oakland County restaurant owners determined to save the historic landmark that had once been Michigan’s oldest continuously operating restaurant. The couple set out to give back to their hometown of 26 years by restoring and renovating the mid 19th century building, and found themselves neck deep in an effort that eventually blossomed into a project adopted by architects, stonemasons, craftsmen, farmers, businesses, and even a French artist. All of whom offered their services, skills, and resource free of charge, or “way, way below” their usual rates.
“There’s no way we could afford to pay these people what they usually charge,” said Egeland. “They’re doing it as a labor of love.”
Even so, Egeland and Dzenowagis have already invested about $3 million on the project, which they expected to only run about $1.5 million. Most of the funds have come from their own personal assets.
“I envisioned a nice, basic place where I could hang some of my horse pictures on the wall … because that’s what we could afford,” said Egeland. “But then these people from the community all started coming in and saying, ‘We want to be part of it.’ … It sort of got a life of its own and developed into something much better than just Vic and I could have imagined or built on our own.”
Now, the restaurant is less than a month away from opening, and the town could not be more excited. With Egeland and Dzenowagis behind the new place, Pondell thinks that “this is the beginning of a wonderful reawakening of the village of Metamora.”