Now don’t get us wrong here. We stay in plenty of chain hotels and appreciate their standardized accommodations. But when we have leisure time the morning after a stay, we look for bed-and-breakfast inns where the owners are friendly and open, the breakfast is something we’d love to post on Pinterest, and the rooms are decorated with personal touches.
And that’s what we found at the Laurel Oak Inn in Gainesville, Florida. It’s in good company, too. The Southeast Historic District, comprised of a number of stately old homes just a short walk from downtown, supports at least three other B & Bs. They stand proudly and beautifully preserved on sidewalk-lined streets shaded by mature, mossy trees.
Constructed in 1885 by William Lassiter and his second wife Fanny, the Lassiter House (as it was originally called) has endured much over the years: a conversion to two apartments in the 20’s, the elimination of the kitchen to add an extra bedroom, the addition of a two-story sleeping porch, the division into four apartments in 1938, deterioration in the ’50s and ’60s, and eventually being condemned in 1979. Butch and Joyce Redstone purchased the home in the early 1990s and stabilized the structure, but it was not until Monta and Peggy Burt bought the house in 1999 did it have a chance at being revitalized to the structure you see today — a charming, welcoming inn that opened to the public in November of 2001.
Maintaining the integrity of the home, the Burts furnished the parlor in keeping with its original intent. We admired original woodwork on the working fireplace and gleaming wood floors.
We suspect, however, that most people who stay at The Laurel Oak Inn enjoy sitting in this area adjacent to the lively, open kitchen.
The Lilac Room was our choice for the night with its pleasant colors and unique bed made of re-purposed wood. Fortunately, it was available.
A retrofitted bathroom offered modern conveniences, and luxurious bathrobes were ours for the stay.
But what really sold us on this room was the adjoining porch overlooking the historic district and offering soft breezes to enjoy in the evening or morning hours.
Monta’s unsolicited tour of the inn highlighted the addition of an extra bedroom with “found” carved doors on the main floor and the painstakingly reconstructed stairway to the second floor. We posed: What’s that in the corners of the stair steps? And Monta replied: They’re little pieces of metal to keep dust from collecting in the hard-to-reach corners! (You can learn a lot, staying in a B&B!)
Since Peggy had left for her teaching job even before we’d had our first cup of coffee, Monta took over the breakfast duties — talking, baking, serving.
And what a breakfast it was! Fresh fruit, artfully arranged, greeted us at the table . . .
followed by Denver Strata (eggs, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese, green chiles, and ham) and a side of bacon.
Throughout the inn, you’ll find little touches in the nooks and corners. Like this basket of crochet thread and sock darners at the base of an old Singer sewing machine in the Lilac Room.
Or this remnant of a crazy quilt hanging in the kitchen.
A stay at the Laurel Oak Inn will give you a sense of history and beauty — in the decor, the detailed renovations, and the personal touches that add life and interest to the rooms.
But you mainly want to stay there to meet the Burts — they’ll recommend restaurants in the area, give you the history of the inn, and make you feel as if you have settled in for what you do NOT want to miss: real Southern comfort!
The Laurel Oak Inn
221 Southeast Seventh Street
Gainesville, FL 32601
Monta and Peggy Burt, Innkeepers
Trip Advisor, Ranked Number 1 B&B in Gainesville: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34242-d296633-Reviews-The_Laurel_Oak_Inn-Gainesville_Florida.html