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Inn Style.

History, location and unusual amenities at Indiana B&Bs

High-speed Internet, indoor pools and cable TV may be what many hotel visitors are seeking, but Indiana's bed-and-breakfast inns counter with quiet getaways and often intriguing history.

More than 100 establishments in the state are registered with the Indiana Bed and Breakfast Association. The group helps the sometimes-tiny establishments market themselves through printed directories and on the Internet, and maintains a quality-review program. Find an Indiana B&B on the Web at www.indianabed andbreakfast.org, or view state listings on the national B&B Inns Online site at www.bbonline.com/in/.

Following are examples of how some Indiana B&Bs play up their history, location and personal service.

The Inn at Aberdeen just south of Valparaiso attracts a wide range of customers, from business executives looking for a relaxed place to hold a conference to couples eager for time away from home. Located on the former Timberlake Farm, the 1890s farmhouse was renovated and expanded and opened as an inn in 1996. Although two rooms were joined with French doors to create the Aberdeen suite, the remaining guest rooms in the original home are preserved, including their masonry fireplaces.

Nine new Timberlake suites were added on the north side of the home. They are furnished with Queen Anne-style furniture and given Scottish names. The inn also offers a conference center, solarium and gazebo, and the 18-hole championship golf course carrying the Aberdeen name.

Business conferences are a growing market, says the inn's owner John Johnson, adding that companies are attracted by the chance to have the entire facility to themselves without interruption. There are phones in each of the 11 rooms along with data ports for computers. Photocopiers and fax machines are available, and audio-visual equipment is provided at no extra charge.

The inn's staff also fulfills special menu requests. Johnson recalls a recent group of businessmen who wanted chipped beef on toast. "We had to look in my grandmother's cookbook, but we got it," he says. "We try to be real flexible with menu and accommodations."

For couples looking for a fun getaway, there are several special offers, including a golf package and the inn's Mystery Weekend Getaways. Bill Simon, manager, innkeeper and chef at the Inn at Aberdeen, says the popular mystery weekends allow guests to participate in solving murder mysteries. "There can be anywhere from four up to 64 people in here," he says. "They all have a role. There's usually a dozen main parts and the rest are bit parts."

Owner Bill Stepp calls the Honeymoon Mansion Bed and Breakfast in New Albany the most ornate bed and breakfast in southern Indiana, The antebellum mansion was built in 1850 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The inn attracts everyone from honeymooners to business people, many from Louisville right across the river. "They want something different," says Stepp. One of the biggest attractions is the wedding chapel, where more than 370 weddings were performed last year.

The mansion has seven guest rooms with private bathrooms, three with marble Jacuzzis. And although Stepp is noticing an increase in stays by business travelers, he has resisted putting phones in each room, although there is one available on the premises. "We don't have phones in the rooms and most people appreciate that, but a lot of folks have cell phones now anyway," he says.

A PIECE OF HISTORY

Owner Venera Monahan says "Notre Dame's a given" for selling out the Oliver Inn in South Bend on football weekends and special events such as graduation. But the key is attracting customers when the Fighting Irish aren't playing.

A big selling point is the inn's history. The 25-room estate was built in 1886 as a wedding present for the daughter of James Oliver. He's known for inventing the "chilled plow," which revolutionized farming by making a durable, affordable cast-iron plow that had some of the attributes of the more expensive steel plow. His Oliver Chilled Plow Works became the largest plow factory in the world.

Next door is the palatial Stude-baker Mansion, which houses the Tippecanoe Place Restaurant, which has 40 rooms and 20 fireplaces. And a block away is Copshaholm, a 38-room Romanesque Queen Anne mansion built in the 1890s by James Oliver's son, J.D. Oliver. It now operates as a museum where the public can view its original furnishings, including bronzes and porcelain, and can walk its two-acre formal gardens.

Monahan has begun promoting a "three-mansion tour," which allows people to tour Copshaholm, eat at the Studebaker Mansion and stay overnight at the Oliver Inn.

The bed and breakfast also is trying to attract business clients to fill its rooms during the week. "We have packages that are appealing to business clients," Monahan says. "We have corporate rates, early breakfast, faxes in the rooms, quick checkout--anything to cater to the business client."

Business women in particular seem drawn to the bed and breakfast, because they feel more secure in a private home and enjoy the personalized attention they receive there.

All rooms have private baths, TVs telephones and central air, and there is a full-course candlelight breakfast. The inn also provides a guest kitchen in the former butler's pantry, which offers complimentary snacks and drinks. "That way customers can come down at night and have cookies and milk or a cup of tea," Monahan says. "Just like home."

The Commandant's House in West lafayette was slated to be torn down in the mid-1990s when Beth and Chris Shelton bought the property and turned it into a bed and breakfast. The house, built in 1895, sits on the 130-acre Indiana State Veteran's Home property and once served as the residence for the leader of the home.

The history of the home and surrounding area is a big draw for guests, and the owners try hard to keep the historical flavor. Setting the tone is the plaster relief above the fireplace that shows the Battle of Tippecanoe. "We have modernized the home, but at the same time tried to keep that cozy feeling as well," says Beth.

Many guests are parents visiting children at Purdue University. They enjoy the chance to bring the students back to enjoy the four-course breakfast served by candlelight.

"We're also attracting more business people," says Beth. "This offers a more homey atmosphere." The B&B also caters to small gatherings, such as anniversary celebrations and family reunions.

The Commandant's House, on the National Register of Historic Places features 10-foot ceilings, a central staircase, a large front balcony and back porches overlooking the Wabash River.

The Victorian Guest House in Nappanee offers guests a chance to see another lifestyle up close. "We arrange for Amish tours out to the countryside," says Vickie Hunsberger, who owns the home with her husband, Bruce. "We even arrange for people to have dinner in an Amish home, which is always a big thrill."

The inn hosts a lot of weddings, along with bridal and baby showers. There are also teas open to public. Some visitors come just to see the 110-year-old Victorian home, located two blocks from Nappanee's historic town square. The home was built by renowned cabinetmaker Frank Coppes and is filled with antiques and original family pieces. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.

Other guests are drawn by the chance to shop for crafts or antiques at Borkholder's Dutch Village, which has more than 500 booths. Antique hunters enjoy visiting the neighboring towns of Middlebury and Shipshewana, while Amish Acres provides live theater just a mile away.

TAKE IN THE SCENERY

In the midst of Nashville's shops, restaurants and entertainment is the Allison House Inn. "We're right in the heart of the village," says owner Tammy Galm. "All guests have to do is wander right out the front door."

The exterior of the large yellow-frame home, built by the local newspaper publisher in 1883, retains its yesteryear Brown County charm. But the interior was gutted in 1985 to increase its usable space and equip each of its five newly remodeled guestrooms with a private bath. A full breakfast, including fresh fruit and baked goods, is served each summer morning on the porch under an umbrella.

Holiday shoppers enjoy visiting Nashville in November and December. Beginning the weekend after Thanksgiving, the stores stay open late and the town gets into the holiday spirit as carolers stroll through the streets. "Business slows down in January and February, but as soon as the first daffodil blooms they're back," Galm says.

Tucked away in northwest Indiana is one of nature's marvels: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on Lake Michigan. "We're only a three-minute walk from the lake and we have a private beach," says Janet McNeil, inn-sitter at the century-old Dune-land Beach Inn in Michigan City. "The atmosphere is very calm, very peaceful. It's beautiful for just hiking or biking."

The two-story brick inn, with its large white enclosed sun porch, has operated as a bed and breakfast or hotel since it was built. It attracts people visiting' Notre Dame and the outlet mall four miles away in Michigan City. Guests enjoy visiting nearby antique shops and a variety of restaurants in LaPorte and Porter counties.

Each of the inn's nine guest rooms has a full bath, TV/VCR and coffeemaker. Four of the rooms have Jacuzzis. There is a general seating area, where guests can relax in front of the fire and play games. And a full breakfast is served in the dining room or in the enclosed porch, weather permitting.

Many of the guests are couples, McNeil says. Often a husband is surprising his wife with a weekend getaway. But she also has noticed an increase of business travelers during the week from companies in Gary, LaPorte and Michigan. Rooms are equipped with computer hookups.

The Trail's End Bed and Breakfast in Rockport is an unusual facility geared toward outdoors people. Instead of just renting a room, guests rent the whole house which is located on a ranch where horseback-riding lessons are provided.

The B&B offers a perfect romantic getaway for couples who enjoy taking hikes and picking wildflowers, says owner Joan Ramey. "We've even had two marriage proposals on horseback,"

The guesthouse has a washer and dryer, and breakfast is left in the refrigerator to be fixed whenever the guests choose. Ramey also hosts business travelers, many of whom are visiting Owensboro, Ky., 20 minutes away. Some visitors are relocating and stay at the Trail's End while searching for a residence.

The bed and breakfast caters as much to people with special needs as to the hale and hearty who want to ride horses, Ramey says. She recalls a businessman who recently stayed there because his wife was disabled and couldn't stay in a regular hotel.

Nearby attractions include the Holiday World amusement park and the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.
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Author:SKERTIC, ALISON
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2000
Words:1818
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