Words painted above the fireplace at Ye Olde Mansion Bed and breakfasts invite guests to relax, renew and rejuvenate.
The Little Inn North of Elkhorn has room for that and more, providing a relaxing getaway less than an hour southwest of Milwaukee — with an indoor pool to boot.
It’s a great escape for those who haven’t traveled since the COVID-19 pandemic began. While guesthouses may not be the first places that come to mind as safe places to travel during a pandemic, Ye Olde Manor House requires all visitors, regardless of age, to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and share a copy of their pre-arrival vaccination card. Plus, the house is large enough to socially distance even outside of your bedroom, including at the large dining room table where breakfast is served in two seats.
Owners Karen Fulbright-Anderson and John Anderson serve guests their choice of two entrees — usually sweet (French toast, for example) or savory (vegetable omelette with homemade potatoes may be an option) — alongside bread fresh, fruit, coffee, tea and juice. Everything is plated on elegant china in the beautifully appointed dining room.
Karen and John took over ownership of the bed and breakfast in 2007. Originally from Chicago and St. Louis, they had been living in New York for decades when they decided to move closer to home. John retired as a senior attorney in the New York State Housing Court. Karen, director of the political program at the Aspen Institute, worked remotely for about six years before launching her own practice of evaluation and racial equity consulting.
Although running a bed and breakfast might seem like a big project to take on in retirement, Karen said it’s not all the work as it involves a lot of things they love – gardening, cooking , decorate, etc.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Karen said. “It’s a lot of work, but we have good people to help us.”
The house, which Karen thought was built in the early 1900s, has been a bed and breakfast since the 1980s. After purchasing the property, Karen and John added four new guest rooms and an indoor heated pool and renovated the existing kitchen and guest rooms. New vegetable gardens outside now supply the gourmet breakfasts the couple serve to guests and for a time fueled a vegan food business they ran. The Elegant Vegan is no longer, but guests can enjoy vegan breakfast options if they wish.
The Inn’s eight rooms range from the small Oak Room, with a double bed, to the multi-room Mansion Suite, with a king-size bed and daybed in one bedroom, and another daybed in another. antechamber. The Lake View Room has a small private balcony that overlooks the mansion’s perennial gardens. Each room has a private bathroom and there are televisions in the common areas. Wifi is available throughout the house.
The entire bed and breakfast is available to rent (it can sleep up to 20 people), which is a popular choice for weddings holding their ceremonies under the arbor next to the English garden outside. The courtyard can also accommodate a tent for entertaining up to 50 people, and an outdoor fire pit provides a late-night spot to relax.
Things to do in the area
It would be easy to spend an entire weekend without leaving the hostel, especially with an indoor pool and dozens of books to hold your attention. But if you want to venture out, there are options too.
The bed and breakfast is approximately 7 miles north of downtown Elkhorn, known as The City of Wisconsin Christmas Cards, which has a handful of restaurants in its main square. Among them is Friends on the Square, a cafe that serves coffee, pastries, ice cream, breakfast and lunch paninis, and soup. Around the corner is the Someplace Else restaurant, which serves delicious Friday fish fries.
About five miles west of the city is Duesterbeck’s Brewing Co., which offers a variety of beers ranging from Crop Duester, a cream beer, to Bentist Candy, a juicy IPA and a range of hard seltzers. The Crop Duester is a nod to the property’s former life as a farm, in co-owner Laura Johnson’s family for five generations. The Bentist Candy is a nod to her husband, co-owner and brewmaster Ben Johnson, who is also a dentist. The couple built the brewery buildings, which look like barns, using repurposed materials from old farm buildings, and on the same footprint as those structures. The brewery also has a small on-site gift shop, La Grainerie, which sells home and garden decorations as well as brewery items.
The bed and breakfast is also less than 20 miles north of Lake Geneva, which offers more dining options and things to do, including the ice castles, who are returning for their third year at the Genève National. The castles should open in January, depending on the weather.
Also in Lake Geneva is the Mountain Top, a small ski slope that is part of the Grand Geneva Resort. The ski area offers rentals and lessons, as well as trails for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and fat biking. The Mountain Top Lodge in Leinenkugel offers a place for après-ski.
North of Ye Olde Manor House is the southern unit of the vast Kettle Moraine State Forest. The John Muir trails, popular with mountain bikers in the summer and a growing number of heavy cyclists in the winter, are only 10 kilometers away. The trails are also open for hiking. Just across County Highway H (Kettle Moraine Scenic Drive) are the Nordic trails, which are groomed for cross-country skiing. The Ice Age Trail also passes through the forest, providing 30 miles for hiking.
More information: Ye Olde Manor House is located at N7622 Highway 12, Elkhorn. Rooms start at $176 per night. All guests must provide a copy of their vaccination card showing that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to arrival. For more information and reservations, call 262-742-2450 or visit yeolddemanorhouse.com