In 1882, Donaldson and Mable Rowles purchased property from the territory of Idaho in the new town of Challis, Idaho (f. 1878). In 1896, the Rowles’ sold a piece of that property to Oscar E. Penwell, a cattleman and prospector from the mid-west, who then contracted Donaldson and Jim Wilkinsen to build his summer home. The Penwell House, as it came to be known, was hand-built by Rowles and Wilkinsen and enjoyed by Oscar E. Penwell until 1909 when the land and house were sold for delinquent taxes. Just over a hundred years later, the great-grandson of the builder, Donald Rowles, purchased the neglected home and lovingly restored it with his wife, Bonnie. The Penwell house was then renamed the “Benjamin Inn”, after the Rowles’ son, and soon emerged as a well-known landmark both within the community and from afar, earning the reputation as a premier destination in central Idaho.
The Penwell house is listed on the National Historic Registry of homes and is truly a one-of-a-kind, Victorian-Italianate architectural building. The expert restoration of the home and property mingle the finest attributes of the past with the comfort and luxury of today. The small-town charm of Challis, the sweeping views of Round Valley and the Salmon River, the rugged Lost River Mountain Range, as well as the burbling of Garden Creek in the Inn’s back yard all combine to complete an inspiring picture and serve as a wonderful backdrop to travelers visiting Challis.
In March 2012, The Benjamin Inn was renamed once again to “The Watermark Inn”, as the new owners wished to adapt a name that would resonate with the historical aspect of the home. That being, a unique watermark that was left alone on the hundred-year-old wood floors in the main entry as a talisman from the past. Our desire is to both preserve the beauty and history of the original Penwell House and provide the “Best of the West” in terms of service, fare, accommodations, and experience for our guests. Adam and Sahra Beaupre and AJ Hall warmly welcome you to The Watermark Inn!
Check out this article on us in Ruralite Magazine: “Hospitality House”