Blair and Kathy Corson bought the historic, century-plus old Bush House in 2011 and have renovated it as a hotel and restaurant in Index. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Blair and Kathy Corson bought the historic, century-plus old Bush House in 2011 and have renovated it as a hotel and restaurant in Index. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

In Index, historic Bush House Inn is accepting guests once more

Blair and Kathy Corson renovated the 122-year-old hotel, staying true to its original image.

INDEX — One of Snohomish County’s oldest hotels is back in business.

Built in 1899, the historic Bush House Inn at 308 5th St. has witnessed a town in transformation: From a center of mining and timber to a mineral springs getaway to a recreational gateway.

In 2002, it closed down in a state of decay, worn and battered by the elements.

In July, it reopened under the ownership of Blair and Kathy Corson, the building gleaming with a fresh coat of white paint, standing beneath the sheer granite ridge of the Upper Town Wall.

“We’re really excited about it, just being able to share this place again with all the people that loved it,” Blair Corson said.

The Index couple bought the Bush House in 2011 from Loyal Nordstrom McMillan, granddaughter of Seattle-based clothing store founder John Nordstrom. She had owned it since 1992. The Corsons’ ownership partners are Dan Kerlee and Carol Wollenberg.

The historic, century-plus old Bush House in Index. (Courtesy Photo)

The historic, century-plus old Bush House in Index. (Courtesy Photo)

The Corson family is known in town for running the Outdoor Adventure Center, a rafting and guide business, as well as their previous renovation project, The River House, an event space.

Getting the Bush House up and running took a decade. Turns out, fixing up a 122-year-old building is a lot of work.

The Corsons replaced the roof and raised the foundation and redid the siding and put in new flooring and patched up the chimney and rebuilt the covered patio and installed new windows and …

The list goes on and on, breathlessly.

They tried to make the building look as close to the original as they could, using old pictures and undoing changes that took place over the decades.

Thanks in part to that work, the Bush House was entered into the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 8, 2017.

The Bush House in the early days of Index. (Courtesy Photo)

The Bush House in the early days of Index. (Courtesy Photo)

The hotel was ready to open by 2020, but then COVID hit, and with it supply chain issues.

“It took months and months and months to get things that were going to be here in weeks,” Blair Corson said.

When they opened guest rooms in July, they mostly hosted guests who were in town for weddings.

Stepping inside is like stepping into Index as it once was. Wood everywhere. Most of it new, imported from Oregon. But you can still find some of the original stuff, in the form of a couple bookcases.

The three-story building has ten modestly sized rooms, and a studio cottage out back. There’s heated flooring and fast internet, courtesy of a fiber-optic cable. Pricing starts at $169 per night.

There’s event space on the first and second floors, ready for weddings.

“Our wedding calendar’s not filled up like everyone else’s,” Kathy Corson said, since they just finished getting their permits.

The floor boards were reused during renovation to make tables in the dining room of the historic, century-plus old Bush House in Index. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The floor boards were reused during renovation to make tables in the dining room of the historic, century-plus old Bush House in Index. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Bush House will also host other group gatherings, concerts and classes, like aerial silk.

There’s still more work to be done. While the Corsons installed a new kitchen, they’ve yet to sign on a restaurateur. They want the menu based in part on the menus of yore. (Interested? Give them a ring at 425-298-7642.)

When a manager is ready to take the reins, hiring should be no problem, the Corsons said.

“There’s people in town that drive down the hill for restaurant jobs and they would love to not have to do that. They’ll work here in a heartbeat,” Kathy Corson said.

In the meantime, the couple is going to run a bakery. It should open in January.

The Corsons want the Bush House to be a community hub and a job creator for Index.

“It was a staple that … every kid who grew up in town had their first job here,” Blair Corson said.

A bedroom one in the historic, century-plus old Bush House in Index. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

A bedroom one in the historic, century-plus old Bush House in Index. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The hotel currently employs about six people. Another 10 could be hired on for weddings. And more for the restaurant-to-be.

The Bush House is halfway between Seattle and Leavenworth, with quick access to outdoor adventures along U.S. 2. In a couple years, the Index-Galena Road should reopen, and with it a quicker route to the Wild Sky Wilderness and the ever-popular Blanca Lake.

Blair Corson called Index one of the most beautiful places in the world. On a clear day, mountains shroud the town. The North Fork Skykomish drifts by.

On Wednesday, the dark and the rain gave off more of a Twin Peaks vibe.

With the renovations, Bush House Inn should have another century of life in it, Blair Corson said.

A lot more history can happen in that time.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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