Southern Indiana hospitality
Three B&B's where you can journey into the past, visit a working farm or get back to nature - all while feeling right at home.
Traveling and feeling at home might seem like a contradiction, but in Southern Indiana, Hoosier hospitality awaits you at regional bed and breakfasts.
As I scoured B&Bs in Southern Indiana, I discovered why people go to them - and why they keep coming back. The owners don't just hand you the keys to your room and forget about you; they fix your breakfast, tell you where to go and remember your name, face and stories.
This situation is perfect for people who don't like the coldness of a hotel, says Diane Callahan, executive director of the Indiana Bed & Breakfast Association. B&Bs are extremely intimate; anything with more than 14 guestrooms is no longer considered a B&B - it then becomes an inn, Callahan says.
And the owners can help their guests navigate the wonders of Southern Indiana - from the state parks to the little shops. "The owners provide their guests with a personal touch," says Tracy Winters, co-author of "Hoosier Hospitality Favorite Recipes from Indiana's Finest Bed & Breakfast Inns." "Instead of the concierge giving you a travel guide, the owners can tell you what you really need to do and see."
The B&Bs of Southern Indiana will also provide visitors with a glimpse of the region's lifestyle and people, Winters says. Everyone working at the B&B truly wants to be there. "Owners of bed and breakfasts like being around people and don't mind the hard work and the long hours," Winters says. "They are the kind of people who keep their doors open to the public."
The owners of B&Bs do everything from the cooking to the housework, and they are dedicated to creating a good experience for their guests. Each of the owners at the B&Bs I visited tried to create a unique and comfortable experience for their guests. No matter what you are looking for in a travel experience, Southern Indiana has a B&B that will suit your needs.
Editor's Note: All of the B&Bs featured in the story are members of the Indiana Bed & Breakfast Association. Want more B&B options? Visit http://www.indianabedandbreakfast.org/index.php.
A journey back in time
Lanning House Bed & Breakfast Inn
206 East Poplar St.
Salem, Ind. 47167
Rates: $50 for a room with a shared bath, $65 for a private bath ($60 if guests stay more than one night)
Jeanette Hart, 82, grew up in Salem, Ind., but spent time in the Philippines, Japan and Europe. However, Hart made her way back to Salem - the place she considers home.
She landed in Salem after unfortunate circumstances: her husband died of leukemia, her daughters got married, and she had just lost her job as a home-economics teacher. Hart came to Salem because her brother needed her to help take care of their mother and his mother-in-law.
When Hart first stepped into the house, she became enthralled with its history; in a sense, the house chose her. The Lanning House had the same floor plan as the house she grew up in. Lanning and Hart's grandfather Cilas Hoar were in the Civil War together and both were captured and held at the Andersonville prison in Georgia. Both survived, but Hart says that they must have had the same carpenter build the home since everything - even the wood in the stairwell - is the same.
The Lanning House is a post Civil War home built in 1873 by Dr. John Hay Lanning, President Lincoln's secretary. Once Hart found out the history of the house, she went to the John Hay Center, across the street, and told the museum employees that she wanted to make the Lanning House a B&B because there was a need for it in the area - the closest motels were about 20 miles away in Paoli, Ind. and 30 miles away from Seymour, Ind. The employees at the Center didn't know anything about running a B&B, but they knew Hart and believed that she would not steer them wrong. While Hart has taken care of the B&B business for the past 23 years, the museum has owned the property.
Three years later, she decided to purchase the 1920 Annex, adjacent to the Lanning House, because it has rooms on the ground level and some of her guests cannot use the stairs. Hart purchased the Lanning House for $68,000 and the Annex for only $25,000, and then she spent $60,000 on reconstruction. The B&B takes care of her living expenses - from her air conditioning to the food she buys.
Hart's past and family history can be found throughout the Lanning House and 1920 Annex rooms. Hart taught English in Japan from 1983 through 1987, and brought back pictures and artifacts to create the room "East Meets West." And while learning Hart's family history you can learn your own as well. Many people go to Salem to trace their genealogy because of the Salem library and the John Hay Center. At the Center, the employees can help visitors find out where their relatives are buried, Hart says. The museum has even helped Hart find one of her (living) relatives - and she was one of the guests at the B&B. But there are many other family attractions in the Salem area. The John Hay Center has a children's room, the Pioneers Village (which consists of several log houses: one school, a church and a carpenter shop) and the Depot (an exhibit about the Monon railroad, the first railroad in Indiana with trains for kids to ride on). Salem is also not too far from Louisville or the old state capital Corydon.
Hart not only cooks the breakfast, but she also sits and chats with her guests - and can do so for hours on end. "Why should I eat in a kitchen all by myself when I have interesting guests to talk to?" Hart asks.
She alternates between five different menus, and her dishes include quiche with spinach, French toast in a casserole, persimmon bread, Amish oatmeal and egg casserole. And each dish she makes comes with her guests' tastes in mind. She once hosted a guest who stayed at the B&B from Thanksgiving through Easter. Hart would always call him by his full name - Lynwood Hightower III, which she says, he always thought was funny. She would fix him Mississippi Biscuits and Grits - the exact way he liked it to be made - each morning. Lynwood Hightower III still leaves his mark on the Lanning House today. Hart keeps a picture of him in the Lanning House living room and still receives holiday cards from him even though it's been about 15 years since he last stayed there.
She especially loves when children stay at the B&B because she can act like a grandmother. "I enjoy this job just as much today as I did when it first opened 23 years ago," Hart says with a smile.
Back to nature
Oak Haven Bed & Breakfast
2668 Owl Creek Rd
Nashville, IN 47448
Rates: $45 - $175
Sharon Guingrich, 40, knew she wanted to be a B&B innkeeper since she was in high school. And eight years ago, she made that goal a reality by building a B&B four miles outside of Brown County's Nashville, Ind.
While Guingrich was in high school, her father would pick up travel guides from garage sales. She enjoyed reading the descriptions of all of the B&Bs; looking at the designs and floor plans was a favorite pastime of hers. Guingrich knew that owning a B&B was the perfect fit for her - it's a business small enough and personal enough for her to manage. With the Oak Haven B&B she isn't pigeonholed into one duty - she can try her hand at marketing then make a delectable breakfast.
Oak Haven sits near the top of a 910-foot hill. The B&B is only five miles away from the Brown County State Park and is six (if you take the back roads) or 12 miles away (if you go on the highway) from the Yellowwood State Forest. Upon entering the home, you might think you have walked into the wilderness. When the shades are open, there is a seemingly never-ending sea of trees.
Although the atmosphere of the B&B is one of country comfort, a trip to Nashville is perfect for those who love nature and seek adventure. At the Brown County State Park, you can hike, mountain bike or go horseback riding. Or you could do what Guingrich and her teenage son do, which is to run on the mountain biking trails. If you wish to go hunting or fishing, Yellowwood State Forest is a must. Fishing is also an option at Lake Lemon. Many canoe rental places can be found throughout the area.
Do you like to admire Mother Nature, but not immerse yourself in it? There are many options for you in Brown County. Hear live music at Muddy Boots Cafe, Harvest Moon Pizzeria and the Brown County Inn. And you can listen to music while sipping on wine at the Chateau Thomas Winery, taking a swing at the 19th Hole Bar & Grill or admiring the artwork at the Figtree Coffee House and Art Gallery. Put on some cowboy boots and head to Mike's Music and Dance Barn or go see a show at the Coachlight Musical Theatre. Guingrich's, a resident of Brown County for 15 years, loves the Hob Nob Restaurant on Main Street.
After navigating Brown County and its surrounding areas, guests can have a relaxing time at the Oak Haven B&B. Guingrich's main goal is to make her guests feel right at home. "I don't want my guests to feel like they can't put their feet up without bugging me," Guingrich says.
Within the B&B, most rooms are decorated with pastel quilts. Also, there are dolls and stuffed animals throughout the B&B, providing it with a more traditional and lived-in feel. One of Guingrich's guests told her she had the best sleep because the bed was the most comfortable bed she had ever slept on. It's because of compliments like these that Guingrich knows she chose the right profession.
And if her guests still don't feel at home, her delectable dishes will fix that. A typical breakfast at the Oak Haven B&B consists of meat, omelets, cinnamon rolls, Dutch pancakes and Swedish pancakes. Guingrich once served her Swedish pancakes with apple butter ("A real Hoosier dish," Guingrich says) to a Polish guest. The guest was nostalgic because she hadn't had anything like that since she left Poland.
Guingrich enjoys helping her guests choose what they would like to do, but she wants them to make the experience all their own. Although there are many adventures to be found in Brown County, Guingrich is content with staying in her home and looking out the window at the country scenery.
Down on the farm
Rosewind Farm Bed & Breakfast
7646 Chapel Hill Road
Starlight, Ind. 47106
Rates: $150.00 (single or double) a night. Additional persons are $25.00 each per night. A two-night stay is $250 (single or double) and a three-night stay is $350 (single or double). Extended-stay rates and special packages are available. Pets are welcome, with some parameters.
When Maggie Oster, now 61, was a child, her favorite place to escape to on the 118 acres of family farmland was on a hill, specifically on an outcropping of rock that turned into a sheer cliff, which overlooked a creek. It was there where her beautiful crested iris flower laid and continues to grow today. It was at this spot that Oster would contemplate her young life.
Her inner child never went away. Ten years ago, Maggie Oster made the home where she grew up into the Rosewind Farm B&B. "In a strange way, I think I created that spot here when you walk out on the terrace," Oster says.
The terrace is where her guests grill, drink wine and make s'mores. It's where they can also look out on to the sprawling landscape.
Oster returned to Starlight, Ind. because her mother was ill. She stayed because she loved the Southern Indiana environment. "There is a civility here that is so unique," Oster says.
She has many of the same traits as her mother. Her mother died at 88, but she mowed the lawn until she was 84. And her mom's presence can be felt on the farm even today. Her mother grew up in New Albany, Ind. in a home that at its core was a 1850s cabin. The house Oster now lives in is composed partially of her mother's childhood home.
Oster's parents had a house on the farm that people would rent out for free in exchange for working nights and weekends. She built the home that is now the B&B and allowed people to live there free of charge - just as her parents did. But this living arrangement did not work out. It was then when Oster decided to make her vision become a reality - to make a B&B where guests can think, relax and escape.
The scenery includes a pond, open fields and sycamore trees right in your own backyard - literally. "It is truly the southern Indiana landscape," Oster says.
Oster's guests do not just have one room - they have a two-bedroom house, which holds four guests. And the guests fix themselves their own breakfasts with the food that is stocked in the refrigerator - pancakes, bacon, eggs, milk, juice and English muffins.
She also gives them their own key and welcomes them to take her fresh herbs and tomatoes from the house's garden. "I've tried to make it feel as if they are in their own little world here," Oster says.
The B&B has no wireless Internet, which means they can truly get away. A quarter of her guests return because they like to have an escape from life's hectic ways, Oster says.
But the guests get to choose what to make of their experience. "There's no big grandiose tourist attractions here, but there are interesting things to do," Oster says. She lets out a cackle and says, "There's no Grand Canyon here."
Within 30 minutes of the Rosewind Farm there are six wineries, including Huber's Orchard and Winery. Oster suggests that guests visit Deam Lake, Marengo Cave, and the Falls of the Ohio State Park. Another popular destination is the Bass Pro Shop since it the largest one east of the Mississippi, Oster says.
Although Oster has made additions and changes to the farm, some aspects of it have not changed. The farm was settled in 1850, but the Oster family inherited it in 1941 after it was abandoned. The land was so poor from erosion that the cattle couldn't stay alive. She says her parents helped revitalize the farmland by establishing conservation practices that prevented erosion and built the soil back up.
In 1956, their house burnt down and her parents rebuilt it with oak - and with only $68 in the bank.
The barn, where the cattle and cows were milked, is now where Oster stores her garden equipment and products.
Oster's past can be found in all areas of the Rosewind Farm B&B, but her guests can also create their own home within the vast acres of farmland. "I tell my guests, 'this is your house for however long you are here,'" Oster says.
No matter what your destination, each B&B innkeeper wants to help you discover Southern Indiana and enjoy your stay. They will help you navigate their town, but want you to create memories and go on adventures that are all your own. If you want to go on an escape, stop at a Southern Indiana B&B and enjoy the slow-paced lifestyle and pampering - you deserve it.