HOLLADAY — Few sets of brothers, if any, are held in higher nostalgic esteem by Utahns than the late, great Engen brothers: Alf, Sverre and Corey.
By one method or another, all three emigrated to Utah from their native Norway in the 1930s, blazing a trail as ski pioneers — and all-around likable fellows — that ended up resulting in, among other things, the Alta Ski Area, the Greatest Snow on Earth and the 2002 Olympics.
So imagine the pleasant look of surprise on the faces of Doug and Karen Stewart, aspiring bed and breakfast entrepreneurs, when they discovered that the log cabin they bought last summer in the foothills of the Wasatch Range was none other than an Engen brothers' original.
The house is located at 2275 E. 6200 South, where it is surrounded by hundreds of other homes in a tree-lined residential area.
But back in 1949, there wasn’t anything around but a dirt road out front and a terrific view of the mountains.
That’s when Alf, Sverre and Corey decided to purchase five acres and build a cabin for each of them.
Or, rather, when their wives decided.
As the story goes, the Engens were all living in the tops of the mountains at Alta, the ski area Alf founded. That suited the brothers, all of whom would wind up in the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame, just fine. Their wives, on the other hand, preferred living down in the valley, closer to stores and people.
So they compromised — and moved. But not all the way to Salt Lake City. They selected a place close to the canyons.
Each Engen brother built a log cabin on their acreage. For building materials, they went to Montana and collected wood from trees destroyed in a forest fire. They hauled it back to Salt Lake and did most of the construction themselves. Later, the business of developing skiing in the Intermountain West would take Sverre and Corey away, but for a time, Compound Engen was the very height of Cottonwood society.
Sixty-five years later, the cabins are still there, which brings our story to last summer when the Stewarts, facing the start of a late-life crisis, seriously began looking for a place where they could open a bed and breakfast.
When they first looked at Corey's cabin, they weren’t sure if it would do. It was smaller than what they wanted, and the ceilings were too low — 1949 chic wasn’t 2013 chic.
Still, there was an unmistakable aura of cool about the place.
Then they learned of its provenance.
So they bought it.
In the year since, they have given Corey’s cabin a 21st-century makeover. They raised the roof, added a second level, vaulted the ceilings and erected an adjoining garage.
The result: Engen Hus.
Hus is Norwegian for house. It rhymes with moose.
The Stewarts contacted Alan Engen, Alf’s son, for permission to use the Engen name. Not only did he cheerfully agree without asking for anything in return — conjuring up images of his dad and uncles — but he also helped the Stewarts secure copies of family photographs and documents that now decorate the cabin.
On April 18, when the Stewarts held an open house to show off the almost-finished B&B, Alan and his wife, Barbara, came by to offer their congratulations and talk about the good old days. (The house Alan grew up in, Alf’s place — while under different ownership — is still intact next door).
Any day now, Engen Hus will be open for business (engenhusutah.com). Room rates are $125 to $140, depending on the room. The most expensive is the Corey Room, which features a king-size bed made out of wood from the cabin’s original rafters that were dismantled last year to make way for the upper level. So yes, that Montana forest fire keeps recycling.Comment on this story
Doug and Karen Stewart couldn’t be happier. They both passed 60 recently and realized they shared a common dream to ride into the golden years running an inn together. Doug will soon leave his job at IBM, where he’s worked for years, and Karen has already bid adieu to her raising four children, volunteering at their schools and sometimes teaching aerobics phase of life.
About the same time they found Corey’s cabin for sale, the Stewarts also bought the book “Bed & Breakfast for Dummies.”
“It’s been very helpful,” says Doug.
The first tip is to find a place with good vibes and lots of cool history.
So far, so good.
Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org