Katy’s Inn – A La Conner Landmark
Katy’s Inn is a two-story early Victorian home sitting at the corner of 3rd and Washington streets, only two blocks from most of downtown La Conner. Built in 1876, it doesn’t have all the detail and gingerbread that the late Victorians are known for, but tall ceilings and elegant woodwork are throughout. A balcony surrounds the second floor above the wrap-around porch. Furnished with white rocking chairs for casual sitting, the porch and upper balcony are favorite relaxing spaces. The house is blue with a hint of gray and surrounded by extensive gardens that explode with the color of flowers in the summer months.
John and Joan’s Story
The Durgin’s searched the country for a small inn, near water, in a vibrant community. Katy’s Inn was listed as a home instead of an Inn, so they had missed it. However, their son, living in Seattle, knew of La Conner from trips to Whidbey Island and spotted the listing in October 2018. “I came out to La Conner from Indianapolis the weekend before Thanksgiving and spent a few days in La Conner looking at the Inn. The sale went quickly, but we couldn’t take over operating the Inn until May of 2019,” says John Durgin.
John and Joan Durgin started on the incredible adventure first by selling two homes and almost all their possessions. “Katy’s Inn was completely furnished except for a few items, and there was little storage,” says John. Having raised four children, they had a lot to liquidate, including two woodworking shops. “At times, it was heart-wrenching, but we understood that eventually this had to happen, but it’s one thing to anticipate something, quite another when you have to do it,” says John. John and Joan worked for large, global corporations and needed to give extended notices and training for their replacements. “Eventually, the day came and we piled ourselves, two dogs and a cat, into two vehicles. Our daughter helped with the driving, so we had three drivers and two cars. It took five days and four nights to drive from Indianapolis to La Conner,” explains John.
Boutique Inn Experience
John and Joan serve a two-course plated breakfast at 9 am, and guests all sit around the table and converse and meet each other. Each day the table is set beautifully with a seasonally appropriate tablecloth, napkin rings, and cloth napkins. The breakfast varies from day to day. They include food items representative of the Skagit Valley agricultural produce, making it a farm-to-table experience. “We both enjoy cooking. Joan’s expertise is researching how best to cook something. I’m a little more free-wheeling and like to experiment with new things. However, Joan is the real cook and does all the main dishes,” says John.
Because Katy’s Inn is small, John and Joan can take time to meet and get to know each guest. Often this helps them understand guests’ needs and desires in coming to La Conner, and they can help guests achieve their travel goals. “Our motto is to come as a guest and leave as a friend, and more than one guest has commented on this in reviews,” says John.
Each of the four rooms is unique with different amenities and can serve different guest needs. One room on the ground floor is open for pets, and two rooms have an extra single bed, used primarily by children. One has a bathroom with an old-style toilet with an overhead tank and a claw-footed bath tub. Guests are encouraged to use several common areas, including an outdoor patio and gazebo with a fire pit.
Joan loves gardening. She starts many annuals from seeds and will build the hanging planters that decorate the first-floor porch later in the summer. John enjoys greeting and talking with the guests. “I take care to learn about the area to inform them about opportunities they might enjoy. I also enjoy fixing things. And in a house like Katy’s Inn, there is no shortage of that,” says John.
Happy customers always comment on Katy’s Inn hosts John and Joan. Here’s a recent example:
Our stay at Katy’s Inn was delightful. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience. The Inn itself is beautiful – a well preserved old historic house just a couple blocks from the heart of downtown La Conner. Our hosts, John and Joan were so welcoming. They constantly went above and beyond to make us feel at home, comfortable and well informed….
And almost everyone remarks on the quality of the breakfast experience. Customers who venture into the kitchen are impressed by the 100-year-old wood stove that Joan cooks on. The stove no longer burns wood, and was converted to gas burners sometime in the 1990s. Joan has modern electric ovens for baking, but the old wood stove decorated with steel fittings and an overhead tank for hot water is truly impressive.
The convenient location makes for happy guests too! Katy’s Inn has plenty of parking and is close enough to downtown so guests can walk anywhere on First Street in minutes, yet being on Third Street, Katy’s Inn is far enough from the hubbub to be very quiet.
John and Joan are in the fourth year in La Conner as owners of Katy’s Inn. In the first year (2019), they were learning the business, and there was a lot of stress. The pandemic distorted the next two years. So, this year will be the first non-pandemic year in which they feel comfortable operating the Inn. We can only expect more and more happy guests in La Conner.
In some ways, we feel like Katy’s Inn belongs to La Conner, not us. We are merely its custodians. Eventually, we will get older and pass on Katy’s to the next innkeepers. In the meantime, we have repaired much rotting and old wood on the exterior, had the entire house painted, and recently had insulation blown into the attic. Joan has been working on the gardens, and there are many more annual flowers now. We will leave Katy’s Inn better for our having been here. ~John Durgin