Recreation & Destinations

The Bed & Breakfast Experience

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Many travelers are discovering the enjoyment of taking a room at the inn.

Long before luxury hotel chains, there were inns and boarding houses. First, coach stops in key spots along established routes provided overnight lodging for travelers and shelter for their horses, offering little more than a meal and a bed during journeys that could take weeks.

Later, as transportation improved and travel increased, these accommodations became common in cities and towns. Typically, they were set up in private residences, where homeowners made their livelihoods by offering inexpensive hospitality to those passing through – not just travelers but also cowboys, prospectors and other businessmen whose work took them from place to place.

At these inns/boarding houses, weary travelers were given a bed at the end of a long day, and then, breakfast the next morning, before setting out on the next leg of their trip – and the “bed and breakfast” (B&B) was named. Following World War II, a boom in Americans visiting Europe revived interest in the B&B experience back in the U.S., an interest which grew throughout the late 20th century.

Currently, travelers in every state can choose from thousands of B&Bs. Now, however, more than a convenient stopover on the way to somewhere else, today’s B&B is becoming a regular lodging destination for many travelers.

Across the Old Northwest Territory, hundreds of B&Bs offer an array of styles and amenities that cater to any taste. Here, Northwest Quarterly profiles several, right in our own backyard – from Victorian mansion to modern ranch, riverside to prairie – all with luxury accommodations, legendary breakfasts and professional, personal service provided by friendly, hospitable innkeepers.

Albany House, Albany, Wis.

Albany House

405 S. Mill St., Albany, Wis., (866) 977-7000, albanyhouse.com

This historic home became Green County’s first B&B in 1987, following a loving renovation by its residents, only the sixth owners of the property in more than 100 years. Original hardwood and tile floors, woodwork and pocket doors were restored and modern conveniences brought in.

Innkeepers/Owners: Margie and Ken Stoup

Year built: 1908

No. of rooms: 6; guest cottage across the street with 2 bedrooms

Amenities: Private bath; TV in some rooms; TV in living room; free WiFi; two wood-burning fireplaces, gourmet breakfast

Features: croquet/volleyball equipment; small summer house; many public spaces; bicycle storage (no rentals).

Activities: “The Sugar River is right across the street, and there’s a place to put in a kayak or canoe, if you bring one,” Margie says. “We have 40 miles of the Badger State Trail just 10 miles away, near Monticello. The Sugar River Trail passes right thrugh Albany. Some of our guests actually arrive from one of the trails on bicycles. There’s lots of shopping in the area, breweries in Monroe and New Glarus, several wineries nearby, antiques, great restaurants.”

Kids/Pets: Yes/No. “The policy on children varies,” Margie says. “If a family rents the entire house or the cottage, any age is fine. Otherwise, we ask that they be at least 10 years old.”

Events: For guests, small weddings and/or receptions, family gatherings, craft retreats, special occasions. ”We serve breakfast and snacks for guests, but no other food,” says Margie.

Be Sure to Ask About: Margie’s tilt towards art. The barn has been converted into a spacious sunlit studio, where writers, artists and crafters hold workshops. Beautiful pottery, which Margie collects and sells, is on display in the foyer.

Of Special Note: The construction of the house. “It’s all concrete, made from a kit,” Margie says. “All of the concrete blocks were molded right on the property, and it’s still all original, too, except the front steps.”

About the guests: “I learn so much from my guests,” Margie says. “The biggest surprise is where people come from – an astounding number of international guests. Everyone has wonderful stories.”

General Boyd's, Lake Geneva

General Boyd’s B&B

W2915 S. Lake Shore Dr., Lake Geneva, Wis., (262) 248-3543, generalboydsbb.com

The property’s namesake, its first owner, was a successful farmer and businessman who was also Walworth County’s first state senator. Its current owners are his descendants, and many of the furnishings are original pieces owned by the family, including a sleigh in the living room and vintage clothing, hats and other accessories that decorate an upstairs hallway.

Innkeepers/Owners: Sue and Bob Morton

Year built: original cabin in 1843; purchased in 1867 by Gen. John Boyd, who built onto it, creating the space still in use today.

No. of rooms: 4

Amenities: Private bath; WiFi; large fireplace in living room; TV in sitting room

Features: Enjoyable outdoor spaces: gardens; patio; more than 20 varieties of trees. “We’re absolutely full of birds – orioles, hummingbirds, finches, turkeys – and they’re lots of fun,” says Sue. The house is rich in history, with original family furniture, books, sleighs, clothing, décor and more.

Activities/Attractions: “There’s so much to do around here – Lake Geneva, Yerkes Observatory, the Kettle Moraine, Big Foot State Park,” Bob says. “We’ve put together a collection of activities in a binder and we have all of the pamphlets from the attractions, like lake cruises and golfing.

Kids/Pets: Yes, age 12 and up/No

Events: Weddings, reunions, graduation parties, bridal showers, open houses. “We can handle 60 guests easily, and over 100 if the weather is nice,” says Bob. “We do run out of parking space when we get more than that, though.”

Be Sure to Ask About: The generational ownership of the property. “My father was A.B. Boyd, the General’s grandson,” Sue explains. “My parents bought the house after his Aunt Flo, who was living here, passed away. Bob and I bought it from the family after my parents passed. Our children were grown and on their own, and we decided to make it into a B&B.”

Of Special Note: The portrait of John Boyd hanging above the fireplace. “It’s fun to have the General looking over our shoulders,” Sue says.

Favorite part of the job: “It’s been a joy to fix up the home and share it with people,” says Sue.

Goldmoor Inn, Galena, Ill.

The Goldmoor Inn

9001 Sand Hill Road, Galena, Ill., (800) 255-3925, goldmoor.com

The main house at this luxurious inn was built in 1968, and was designed by a Taliesen student. Originally 7,000 square feet, now, with additions, it is 30,000 square feet and features an English country décor. Each suite has its own unique theme.

Innkeepers/Owners: Patricia and Tom Smith

Year built: 1968

No. of rooms: Opened in 1981 with 2 rooms; today, it boasts 13 grand deluxe suites, 2 authentic log cabins, 3 freestanding cottages

Amenities: gourmet breakfast; whirlpool & fireplace; WiFi; digital TV; microwave, beverage fridge, coffeemaker; heated towel racks; some with screened porch overlooking Mississippi River

Features: spa services; full service dining

Activities/Attractions: on-site mountain bikes; hike along the river; shopping/dining in Galena; local wineries; sightseeing; kayaking; hot air balloon rides; golfing; skiing. “The Galena/Jo Daviess area has so many things for couples, friends, families,” says Patricia. “Dubuque is just a 30-minute drive away, too.”

Kids/Pets: Yes/Yes

Events: “We are one of the leading properties in the county for destination weddings,” Patricia says. “Our property provides an enchanting country luxury setting on the bluffs of the river. We host a variety of weddings, from two-people to 250 guests.” In the summer months, we also have First Friday BBQ parties.”

Be Sure to Ask About: First Friday BBQ parties under the stars and authentic Christmas Carol Dinners.

Of Special Note: The view. “We’re 150 feet above the Mississippi River,” says Patricia. “You see the river and about seven islands, and it’s adorned with water lilies in season. Every window facing west gets a view of the Mississippi.”

What Distinguishes Goldmoor: “We have spectacular employees who really love what they do,” Patricia says. “Their level of warmth and hospitality is amazing. The service they provide is sincere and consistent, and returning guests ask
about them.”

River House, Machesney Park, Ill.

River House B&B

11052 Ventura Blvd., Machesney Park, Ill., (815) 636-1884, www.riverhouse.ws/

This contemporary home was converted into a luxury B&B when its owners became empty-nesters. “I fell in love with B&B style lodging as a single mother with a 7-year-old son,” says owner Patty Michalsen. “Every place was different, and half the fun was coming back to a friendly place where my son could tell all about what we had done that day.”

Innkeeper/Owner: Patty Michalsen

Year built: Circa 1970

No. of rooms: 8 total, in two lodges: 3 luxury suites at Getaway Lodge; 5 family-style guest rooms at Timeaway Lodge

Amenities: Getaway Lodge: whirlpool/hot tub, fireplace, satellite TV, mini-fridge, microwave, coffee maker, coffee and supplies; snacks; WiFi; private bath; all ensuite. “Whatever you’d expect in a luxury hotel, we have,” Patty says. “It’s very romantic, aimed more at couples.” Guests staying here receive a full gourmet breakfast, served restaurant style or, by request, in their rooms. Timeaway Lodge: private bath with shower; TV, mini-fridge; WiFi; extra charge for gourmet breakfast at Getaway Lodge. “This is geared for different groups – family reunions, craft retreats,” explains Patty. “It has a common room with a beautiful antique bar, a huge deck and large meeting room with a fireplace. With rental of the entire house, guests also have use of the full kitchen.”

Features: River views and access; wooded setting; dock; fishing; vollelyball; boat launch; bonfire pits; large sand beach; four-acre grounds for ample outdoor space.

Activities/Attractions: “Rockford offers so many local attractions and destinations,” Patty says. “There are golf courses, Rock Cut State Park, Discovery Center, flea markets, antiquing, shopping, dining.”

Kids/Pets: Yes, at Timeaway Lodge/No

Events: Requires rental of one entire lodge for weddings and/or receptions, family gatherings, craft retreats, special occasions. “We do so many weddings here that we finally added a star-shaped canopy with its own 1,300 square foot cement patio,” Patty says. “It looks like an oversized white teepee, very open and organic, to complement our beautiful riverside views.”

Be Sure to Ask About: Patty’s most popular dish, Eggs in a Nest.

Of Special Note: The fantastic pieces of western and Native American décor in the Getaway Lodge, and the photo of the original homeowners at the Timeaway Lodge.

Best tip about staying at a B&B: “Talk to the innkeepers,” Patty says. “They can offer personal insights about the area, with a different perspective than brochures or websites, because they live there.”

Harmony Hills, Oregon, Ill.

Harmony Hills B&B

1052 S. Harmony Road, Oregon, Ill., (815) 732-7300, harmonyhillsil.com
This comfortable contemporary homes sits on five acres abutted by a 65-foot ravine from a former rock quarry, and features a spring-fed creek. It’s surrounded by woods filled with pine trees and 100-year-old oak trees.

Innkeepers/Owners:
Casper and Leanne Manheim

Year built: 1983

No. of rooms: 4 suites

Amenities: Private bath & shower; king-size beds; flat screen TV with satellite; I-Pod dock/alarm clock; full closet; wine glasses & corkscrew. Nature’s Garden includes a whirlpool bathtub; Artist Retreat comes with an oversized bath and dual sinks, Jacuzzi tub & separate shower; three-season porch with view; separate sitting room.

Features: Outdoor pool with two decks; large front porch; walking trails; two large stone fireplaces in common areas; wild deer and turkey wander through the yard.

Activities/Attractions: “White Pines State Park is nearby, and the White Pines Lodge has matinee dinner theater,” Casper says. “There are great restaurants, like La Vigna, which is an old-fashioned supper club, shopping, historic sights.”

Kids/Pets: No/No. “If a group or family rents the entire house, kids are OK,” Leanne says. Adds Casper: “And we have three dogs – a yellow lab, a Bichon Frise and a shih tzu – who will happily go on walks with you.”

Events: “We just became licensed as a venue for groups up to 70,” says Leanne. “We just hosted a bridal shower this past weekend.”

Be Sure to Ask About: The fireman’s pole in the middle of the house.

Of Special Note: The rural location. “It’s very conducive to a couple’s getaway,” Casper says. Adds Leanne: “Our scenery changes with the seasons, and each stay offers a different experience.”

Best reason to stay at a B&B: “It’s much more than a room to sleep in,” says Leanne. “It’s an experience.”

Copperstone Inn, Rockton, Ill.

Copperstone Inn

6702 Yale Bridge Road, Rockton, Ill., (815) 629-9999, copperstoneinn.com

The original 1,000-square-foot limestone home from which the 9,000-square-foot Copperstone Inn sprang is indicative of many historic buildings in the area, and during renovation, its current owners removed decades of plaster and other coverings in order to reveal the 14-inch-thick limestone walls.

Owners: Richard Spanton Jr. and Chrissie Spanton (husband & wife)

Innkeepers: Saundra Spanton & Nikki Weldon

Year built: original 1858; addition completed 2008

No. of rooms: 7

Amenities: in-room flatscreen TV; WiFi; suites also include fireplace; jacuzzi; Bose stereo system; satellite radio; spa showers

Features: on-site spa for guests only; outdoor grill area/kitchen; theater room with 60-inch TV, surround sound and 400 downloaded films

Activities/Attractions: “The property is 135 acres with wooded nature and hiking trails and gardens,” Saundra says. “We have two ponds for fishing and many birds that come to the feeders and houses we have all around.” The Inn is just 6 miles from Rockton, Ill., with quaint shops, and within 15 minutes of Rockford. “We provide full concierge services for guests, with lists of attractions, museums, dining and shopping,” says Nikki.

Kids/Pets: No/No

Events: The Pavilion at Orchard Ridge Farms hosts weddings, receptions, reunions and corporate meetings/events for 100-500 people. “We host weddings every weekend,” says Saundra. “The wedding party often books the Inn, so we’re part of a very special day for many guests and families.”

Be Sure to Ask About: The organic apple orchard of 5,000 trees on the property.

Of Special Note: How the Inn and Pavilion came to be built. “Richard is my son, and he and his wife Chrissie had purchased a 130-acre farm about three months earlier, when the limestone home next door came up for sale,” says Saundra. “They married in January 2007 and couldn’t find a unique venue like this to host their wedding, and that inspired them to create the Inn amd Pavilion.”

About today’s B&Bs: “They used to be somewhat cookie-cutter, all the same,” says Saundra. “But today, you can find any style of B&B to meet your particular tastes.”

Victorian Veranda, Winnebago, Ill.

Victorian Veranda

8430 W. State Road, Winnebago, Ill., (815) 963-1337, bbonline.com/united-states/illinois/winnebago/veranda.html

When the current owners purchased this property in 1986, the historic house was run-down from years of use as a rental. Today, it’s fully restored to its original splendor. “Despite its condition, I saw the potential,” says owner Loretta McCoy. “I had stayed in several B&Bs and knew I would enjoy running one, because I like to cook, clean and talk. It’s a lot of work, but I love it.”

Innkeeper/Owner: Ret (Loretta) McCoy

Year built: 1863

No. of rooms: 5

Amenities: Private baths; TV in parlor; free WiFi

Features: Quiet, rural setting; gorgeous veranda with lots of seating; homey atmosphere.

Activities/Attractions: “Guests can go to Rockford or Freeport for museums, shopping, state parks, shows,” Ret says.

Kids/Pets: Yes/No

Events: Location only (no food service) for weddings and/or receptions, family gatherings, scrapbooking, quilting, craft retreats, special occasions. “We’ve had 98 weddings here,” Ret says. “We host graduations, open houses, anniversaries, reunions where the family or group of classmates rents out the entire house. Red Hat parties are my favorite. I’ve got one group of ladies that are pretty wild.”

Be Sure to Ask About: Ret’s wall maps, one of the U.S. and one of the world, with pins indicating where her guests have come from, including Morocco and Saudi Arabia. “I’ve finally had someone from every state, since someone from Rhode Island stayed here this summer,” she says.

Of Special Note: Zealous Packer Backer Ret’s collection of Green Bay memorabilia, including a Christmas tree decked out with Green Bay Packer decorations.

Advice when staying at a B&B: “Be willing to talk to strangers,” says Ret. “When guests get to know one another, they often find they have something in common.”

Patchwork Inn, Oregon, Ill.

Patchwork Inn

122 N. 3rd St, Oregon, Ill., (815) 732-4113, patchworkinn.com

Originally built as a home, this structure became the city’s first inn, in 1851. Inside, the original brick walls are exposed and the space is filled with historic photos and documents and antiques.

Owner: Patchwork Vision LLC, Chicago, in partnership with the Illinois Renewable Energy Association

Innkeepers: Bill & Stephanie Nelson

Year built: Circa mid 1840s

No. of rooms: 9

Amenities: WiFi; LCD/DVD cable TV; TV in common area; DVD library; complimentary beverages and snacks; passes to Nash Recreation Center for exercise/swimming

Features: Convenient downtown location; original flooring, banister and staircase; “Green Inn,” in partnership with the Illinois Renewable Energy Association. “We believe in reducing, reusing and recycling, so we repurpose items and use renewable and organic materials as much as possible,” says Stephanie. “People often comment on our chemical-free mattresses. One guest said it felt like a cloud.”

Activities/Attractions: “The Rock River is just a block away, for fishing, canoeing and boating,” Bill says. “We have four state parks – White Pines, Lowden, Lowden-Miller and Castle Rock – with trails for hiking. A block down, is Conover Square, an old piano factory that’s been converted to a mall of specialty shops. People can follow the city’s Sculpture Trail.”

Kids/Pets: Yes, age 12 and up/No

Events: N/A

Be Sure to Ask About: Room No. 4, where Abraham Lincoln was given lunch and lodging in 1856.

Of Special Note: Each room features a unique, locally crafted, stained glass quilt pattern in one of the windows.

What Patchwork guests especially like: “Besides the breakfasts, it’s the hospitality,” Bill says. “Many people are surprised at the high level of personal service offered in our B&B.”

Editor’s Note: All of the B&B innkeepers interviewed said that next to the fantastic breakfasts, their guests most often comment on the friendliness of the staff – and that’s usually one or two people!

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