Best 18th-Century Inns: 7 Runners-Up
When you travel many hundreds of miles in search of the best old inns in New England, it’s hard to narrow the list down to only ten. Here’s our list of the seven runners-up.
Blue Skye Farm
In this gem of a house, the two-story central stairwell is patterned in a green-and-red pineapple design, said to be stenciled in the early 1800s by Moses Eaton. The entire remaining interior is painted white, unexpectedly highlighting the 18th-century paneling.
“We had the luxury of living in empty rooms for four months, waiting for our furniture to come from England,” Jan Davidson explains. “I loved the glow of the light on walls and realized that I didn’t want these rooms to be busy. I wanted to create a restful, peaceful place in which people would look out the window and see the marsh.” Small-paned windows are thinly veiled in European-style lace café curtains.
Peter and Jan Davidson spent a year restoring the house, which dates from 1775 and is set in 100 acres of marshland, meadows, and woods. Original detailing includes Indian shutters and a scalloped cupboard as well as paneling and mantels. Rooms (including five guestrooms) are tastefully, comfortably furnished in antiques, and tempting, well-thumbed books line the walls in between.
On an unseasonably cold September night, my room quickly warmed when I raised the thermostat; there was no need to light the hearth, one of the house’s four working fireplaces. It was one of the inn’s three large, square guestrooms; a smaller downstairs guestroom overlooks the marsh, and a room tucked under the eaves includes a child’s sleeping loft as well as two double beds.
Guests have access to the inn’s kitchen, except in the morning, when Jan arrives early to create a full breakfast. She can also prepare a candlelight lobster dinner, especially popular when the house is reserved by a group of friends — a frequent occurrence in winter, when guests tend to come from nearby Portland or Boston for a weekend of hiking or cross-country skiing. “This house hums in winter, when all the fireplaces are lit,” Jan notes.
1708 Friendship Road, Waldoboro, ME; 207-832-0300; blueskyefarm.com
$95-$165, including full breakfast
Deer Isle, Maine
Maine’s only full-service inn to retain its 18th-century detailing and character also happens to be one of the state’s most pleasant three-season places to stay and to dine (closed November through April). Four floors high, hip-roofed and painted oxblood red, Pilgrim’s Inn is on the water, both front and back.
No longer technically an island, Deer Isle is linked to the Blue Hill peninsula by a half-mile-long vintage suspension bridge and to Little Deer Isle by a winding causeway. Deer Isle Village is a 40-minute ride south of Route 1. The local landscape features an intermingling of land and water that is heart-stoppingly beautiful in spring, summer, and fall.
Late in the 18th century, Ignatius Haskell sailed to Deer Isle from Newburyport to take advantage of the island’s ready supply of lumber; there he built a sawmill and a gristmill. According to innkeeper Tina Oddleifson, by 1793 he was wealthy enough to build this expansive home to house his wife and nine children. In 1889, another Haskell (“Lizzie”) turned the house into an inn named “The Ark.” It accommodated summer guests who had begun arriving by steamer from Boston, Portland, and Rockland.
Pilgrim’s Inn has been lucky in its subsequent owners. Its wide pumpkin-pine floorboards and eight-foot-wide original fireplaces in the common and tap rooms survive, along with original hardware in most guestrooms and working hearths and paneling in the game room and library. In our room (#4), tasteful but unfussy furnishings, and a view of the millpond, underscored the 18th-century feel of the space. On the other hand, after a long day’s drive, the 21st-century jetted tub was terrific — likewise the bracing shower next morning.
Co-owner Tony Lawless, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, maintains a reliable quality of dining at the Whale’s Rib Tavern, the inn’s restaurant. Guests must reserve in advance for dinner, given its popularity among local residents. We feasted with friends on Deer Isle clams steamed in beer and on locally raised mussels in a butter-and-cream sauce with roasted garlic and fried leeks, mopped up with freshly baked breads; a seafood stew of mahogany clams and calamari, plus a half lobster, followed. The restaurant, also the scene of made-to-order breakfast, is housed in a many-windowed old barn with nicely spaced white-clothed tables. Along with a small bar and the original kitchen — now an inviting common room — the restaurant is on the garden level, below the inn proper.
20 Main St., Deer Isle, ME; 888-778-7505, 207-348-6615; pilgrimsinn.com
$109-$259, including full breakfast
The Englishman’s Bed & Breakfast
Cherryfield is way Down East, an hour’s drive beyond the Route 1 turn-off for Bar Harbor, best known for wild blueberries. It’s not a place you’d expect to find either an Englishman or a four-square, cream-colored, olive-trimmed mansion built in 1793. Happily, however, Peter and Kathy Winham welcome guests year-round to their handsome home by the Narraguagus River. The hearths are no longer used, but Peter assures us that “fake flames keep the guestrooms cozy.” No ghosts here, but you’ll find plenty of books and DVDs.