Get a little taste of England
From B&B’s to elegant inns, local adventure is all around
Marina Brown Special to Tallahassee Democrat | USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA
Wow!” you say. “It feels like the summer is already gone and I haven’t done anything I’d wanted to do!” ● You’d wanted to take a cruise, but COVID is out there lurking on the high seas. You’d thought about a cross-country trip, but the price of gas has you gripping your wallet. You’d planned on the long-dreamed-for trip to Europe or the Caribbean, but State Department warnings about everything from insurrections to yes, COVID, finds your passport re-stuffed in a drawer. ●
“Dang!” you mumble, staring at your own four walls. “I guess I’m just staying home… some more.” ● But that may not be all a restless Tallahasseean can do with what remains of a stifling summer and a hopedfor cooler fall? You have options. And they’re not so far from home.
See GETAWAYS, Page 3C
Little English Guesthouse Bed and Breakfast Owner Tracey Cochran stands inside the business’s front room on Aug. 10. TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER/TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT
This is the London Room at Little English Guesthouse Bed and Breakfast.
If you’re looking for a bit of pampering, a dose of history, charm-oozing surroundings, even a touch of the foreign, then you might have a look at some of the inns and bed and breakfasts both in Tallahassee and our surrounding cities.
From grand turn-of-the-century mansions to simple “ensuited” private rooms, a local vacation may land you in the antebellum South, or the digs of a billionaire tobacco magnate, or even a delightful facsimile of an English cottage.
The Democrat spoke with the owners of only three of these stay-at-home options, though others are listed below. Each “innkeeper” sounded like a family friend who hoped you’d drop in for a day or two – plenty of time for them to cook up hearty breakfast fare, and to pass on information on local sight-seeing that as a resident, you’ve probably overlooked.
What they also offered is the opportunity for guests to slow down; to meet other people and have a leisurely conversation; to sip a cold drink beneath a pergola of magnolias – simply to refresh yourself – near your own backyard – but seemingly so far away.
Ball House and Cottages at Southwood
We all know about the pre and post-Civil War days of the plantations that stretched from Tallahassee north into Georgia. Several of them remain as tourist attractions. Many have been absorbed into housing and business developments, losing their individual identities.
But at the Ball House and Cottages on the former Southwood Plantation, land that from the 1840s belonged to the George T. Ward and Chaires families, and later, to Edward Ball, owner of the St. Joe Company, today a local Tallahasseean can stay in one of five cottages that though built in 2001, seem to hearken from 150 years ago.
Gazing at the archetypical plantationstyle main building, one can imagine Ball, his buddy Alfred Dupont, and other wealthy entrepreneurs sipping juleps on the pillared-porch as they survey the 2500 acres where first cotton, then cattle would thrive. But while Ball House is now used for gala events, weddings, and corporate gatherings, it is the charm of the 800 square-foot, one-bedroom cottages that owner, Josh Kasper, admits draws guests back.
“I would call it Southern cabin,” says Kasper. Beneath arching century-oaks, each interior features brick mantels, reclaimed submerged river wood floors, shiplap walls, rustic furniture, and rocking chairs on wide porches. The cluster of cottages is a refuge, he says, for legislators in session, as well as for guests who need only a night or two for refreshing.
Little English Guesthouse
Heading north from Southwood, and searching for a respite site that feels not
only close, but out-of-the-way, one finds the Little English Guesthouse, not so far from the Interstate-10 exit at Thomasville Road.
Tom Cochran, from Michigan, and his wife, Tracy, from London, have owned the three-bedroom bed and breakfast for the last 18 years. Tracy is the first to explain that the Little English Guesthouse is not “historic.” In fact, it was built in 1978.
Not grand nor pompous, the ensuite rooms are homey, with touches of England in pillows and period furniture. But it is the intimacy and tranquility that Tracy says draws guests back again and again. Perhaps it is also the breakfasts. Each morning, fresh croissants, whole grain muffins, cereals, yogurt, and English tea and coffee are set up in a common dining area with what seems to be proper British flare.
On a long, enclosed porch, called the “conservatory,” a chess set and a “guard” in a full set of British armor stands watch.
“What is wonderful is to see the friendships that develop when people have the time to share tea and talk,” says Tracy. “Parents visiting their collegestudent children, a news anchor needing some time away from the bustle of Miami, a literal “rocket scientist” from Huntsville, as well as people who just come for a once-a-month stay… they all get to know each other in a way they wouldn’t staying at a big-chain hotel.”
A restored McFarlin House in Quincy
And if your original holiday plans might have included a castle or a manor house, then there is no need to downscale your expectations of spectacular digs.
As near as Quincy, where, if you look, you can find dozens of Victorian-style mansions, there is one that has turned heads since the Golden Age. McFarlin Housewas built in 1895 by a shade tobacco plantation owner named John McFarlin.
A veritable pastiche of turrets, hips, pillars, and expansive, curving porches, it is set on 1.5 acres of manicured lawn in the heart of Quincy. With nine themed rooms with baths, the owners, Richard and Tina Fauble, have, for the last 37 years owned and pampered the house, which appears as dramatically furnished and polished as in the days when tobacco was king and the Quincy area was studded with billionaires.
“McFarlin wanted the very best,” Fauble said. “Carved fireplaces from Europe, copper and brass ceilings from the Northeast, Italian tile, Tiffany stained-glass windows, as well as a hand-carved stairway… all have put the house on the National Register of Historic Homes.”
But when Florida shade tobacco fell out of favor in the 1960s, and when the second owner, died in 1972, the grand house fell into decline. “No one lived here for the next 24 years,” says Fauble. “There were 20-foot holes in the ceiling, the structure was tilting, half the windows were gone, and kudzu and vines covered everything.”
That is when he and his wife bought it and in a miracle resurrection, restored McFarlin House to true glory.
Now, guests can stay in a “Gentleman’s Room,” decorated with turn-ofthe- century baseball bats, gloves, and pictorial memorabilia of America’s game. Or “Louisa’s Loft,” set on the third floor where a stained-glass window acts as headboard, and fringed lamps, European wall-coverings, and delicate wainscoting radiate the “Golden Age.”
In other rooms, canopied four-poster beds, antique plate collections, carved Victorian furniture, as well as romantic surprises in the form of an elevated soaking tub surrounded by marble pillars, and in another room, a sunken tub surrounded by louvered walls, make McFarlin House a sure rival to any European venue.
But just as Tallahassee locals haven’t had an easy time during the last year and a half, neither have the keepers of the private bed and breakfasts and inns. The guests they’ve counted on from the universities, both as parents of students, and team-supporting sports fans, haven’t shown up.
Neither have the tourists from Europe and South America who’ve wanted to see our part of the state. Even the costs of food have gone up enough to make a difference. One of the owners admitted they had gone seven months with no bookings at all.
But perhaps a symbiosis is in the making. Tallahasseeans want some time “away.” Innkeepers want to give it to them.
And maybe juleps and crumpets are as good as French wine any way.
The Little English Guesthouse Bed and Breakfast has operated for 18 years.
The London Room at Little English Guesthouse Bed and Breakfast.
PHOTOS BY TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER/TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT