When Victoria VonRandall was a little girl, she made herself a promise.
It was her grandparents' 50th anniversary, and Victoria and her family were visiting the Roberson Museum in Binghamton. The museum — a historic mansion built in the early 1900s — was filled with dozens of Christmas trees at the time, and it was there that Victoria had an idea.
"I wasn't like other kids — I was always thinking way too big," she said, smiling. "And that one day, I said, 'Someday I'm going to own a mansion and I'm going to have trees in every single room.'"
Her family laughed and chalked it up as another one of Victoria's big ideas. But Victoria didn't forget.
Decades later, while driving down South Street in Auburn in December 2008, Victoria spotted a "for sale" sign on the corner of Fitch Avenue.
"It was the ugliest house on South Street," she said, laughing. "It was a slum house — 'apartment-bastardized,' they call it — and the roof was leaking everywhere. It was pretty bad. ... But I just fell in love with it."
The four-family home at 107 South St. had been built in 1900, Victoria said, and was originally owned by a man named John Knapp. A retired general in the army, Knapp worked as the postmaster in Auburn, and he continued to build onto the house for years. Eventually, it had three floors and over 6,500 square feet of living space.
Victoria had found her mansion.
That month, Victoria submitted a cash offer for the house, and in January 2009, she and her family moved in.
"It was awful," she said. "The ceilings were all collapsing and the smells were horrendous from extreme cats in one (apartment) and chain smokers in another. ... There were 100-plus bags of garbage they had tucked in the basement crawl space. It just wasn't taken care of."
But Victoria was more than ready to make it her own.
A contractor by trade, Victoria had been renovating homes her whole life. She learned from her great-grandfather, who owned a contracting and painting company in New York City — a company she took over after he passed away.
Then, after losing her own home to a fire in 1995, Victoria purchased a rundown house in Binghamton.
"It was trashed," she said. "The owners had scrapped the copper ... and my friends and parents and I worked on it nonstop."
Together, Victoria said, they finished remodeling the home in just five weeks. In September 1995, she was preparing to move in when a woman stopped at her door.
"She said, 'I have a friend who wants to buy this house,'" Victoria said. "At first, I wasn't sure, but then I decided to put it on the market. It sold in the first week, and that's how I started flipping houses."
Since then, Victoria has flipped over 30 homes — at least a dozen of them have been in Cayuga and Onondaga counties. In the past, she and her family used to live in the homes while she worked on them, sometimes going without heat or running water.
"We'd move in them as they were and it was terrible," she said, recalling times when she'd have to wash dishes in the bathroom or go to the laundromat to wash her hair. "But it's been fun. It's never been a dull moment."
But now, in her home on South Street, Victoria said she's found a home she won't be selling anytime soon.
Since buying the historic house in 2008, Victoria has transformed the space into a single-family home. But she's also decided to open it to the public.
In June, Victoria will officially open the VonRandall Manor Inn on South Street. At first, she said, she will have two suites — each 600 square feet with a full bath, bedroom and living room. Eventually, she will add a third suite on the second floor with a bed and bath. All rooms feature Victorian decor.
Guests will also have access to the living room and parlor, and Victoria said she will serve a full breakfast in the dining room each morning. There will ultimately be seven bathrooms in the home, as well as an exercise room on the second floor. Victoria also said she will have Wi-Fi for guests and will accept pets with a deposit, but she will not allow any smoking at the inn.
"I've wanted a B&B my whole life," she said. "They're fun. You have all of these people traveling with a story to tell and it's a little more personal. ... It's more of a family setting, and I think that's what people like about it."
Plus, she has plenty of space for her Christmas trees.
Every Nov. 1, Victoria said, she and her three children begin decorating the trees at their South Street home. Altogether, there are 17 trees inside the house and five real trees outside; all are decorated with almost 9,000 ornaments.
"After I told my family I was going to own a mansion filled with trees, everybody starting buying me Christmas ornaments and I've been collecting them ever since," Victoria said. "It's been a long time coming. I've wanted this my whole life."