Every B&B has a story, or, at least, its owner does. “It’s a personality-driven industry,” says Joe Lespier, president of the Maryland Bed & Breakfast Association and owner of The Annapolis Inn with his partner Alex DeVivo. Lespier, a retired human resources director, jokes, “I do far more human resources here than I ever did in my career.”
Indeed, as we searched for the Baltimore area’s top 10 B&Bs, we became fascinated with the innkeepers’ stories. For many, it was a longtime dream to own a bed-and-breakfast. For others, the stately, old buildings were the attraction.
But whatever the reason for owning a B&B—there are about 17,000 in the U.S., according to Mary White, founder of bnbfinder.com—we discovered that our local proprietors are passionate about their homes and their guests, offering them an assortment of comforts, from free Wi-Fi and well-appointed rooms to deluxe bathrooms.
White agrees that B&Bs are closer to boutique hotels in both accommodations and amenities these days, with more than half offering whirlpool tubs and most providing luxury beds and linens and premium bath products. They still remain a good value, says Marti Mayne, a spokeswoman for bedandbreakfast.com. “When you take into account the free breakfast, parking, and Internet that most B&Bs provide,” guests save a substantial amount of money per day compared with hotels, she says.
We think you’ll agree that our B&B picks offer a lot more than just a place to rest your head. They’re also a nice way to take a vacation in your own backyard—a getaway without going away.
Inside the City
Blue Door on Baltimore
2023 E. Baltimore St., 410-732-0191, bluedoorbaltimore.com. Rates: $145-180. Cecelia Bellomo makes sure that there’s a yoga mat in every room of the Blue Door, the Butchers Hill B&B that she and husband Roger opened in 2007. Cecelia, a licensed yoga and Pilates instructor, offers private, in-room sessions to guests. (She also teaches fitness at the Canton Club.)
Each of the inn’s three spacious and airy guest rooms also has a small waterfall, which creates a soothing backdrop. The Bellomos retired early from careers at Hewlett-Packard and sold their New Jersey home with the idea of operating a B&B. They decided on Baltimore, mainly for the water—they own a 34-foot sailboat—and rented a house in Canton while they searched for just the right location for their business.
The residential neighborhood near Patterson Park, says Roger, “follows a more traditional European model” of a B&B, a bit off the beaten path. The location is close to The Johns Hopkins Hospital campus, whose visiting doctors, patient families, and prospective students account for about a third of the guests, he says.
Roger prepares breakfast at the inn, though Cecelia does most of the baking. On weekdays, there’s a continental breakfast with fruit, homemade pastries, cereals, and eggs cooked to order. On weekends, the Bellomos go all out with a spread of pastries and hot entrees.
Cecelia also makes sure that every guest has a homemade chocolate (“dark chocolate only”) and fruit treat on his or her pillow each night.
Celie’s Waterfront Inn
1714 Thames St., 410-522-2323, celieswaterfront.com. Rates: $149-349. The inn is still named for the woman who opened the B&B in the late 1980s, but Celie’s is on its third owner. And even as the seven guest rooms and two suites receive facelifts, Celie’s is part of a much larger enterprise, having been bought by the newly formed Fells Point Hospitality Management.
When the inn was for sale, “We thought, ‘What a great opportunity to branch out,” says Bill Irvin, who runs the hospitality group with Patrick Russell, the founder of Kooper’s Tavern, Sláinte Irish Pub and Restaurant, and Woody’s Rum Bar & Island Grill.
The partners—working with local interior designer and architect Joe Leatherman and furniture store Su Casa—plan to create an updated look in the inn, using furnishings with clean lines and a more contemporary color palette.
Breakfast traditionally consists of pastries, bagels, muffins, granola, yogurt, fruit, and Zeke’s coffee. As part of the new synergy, the owners are also planning special events—the first of these, a wine weekend, is slated for July 23-25. The schedule includes a Champagne tasting on the roof, a food tour of Fells Point, and a wine-and-cheese reception in the courtyard.
4 East Madison Inn
4 E. Madison St., 410-332-0880, 4eastmadisoninn.com. Rates: $150-250. Sandy Lawler and Betty Loafmann have known each other for more years than either cares to admit. Betty was Sandy’s high-school guidance counselor briefly at a boarding school near Chicago. Years later, Betty, then an executive at a management company, called upon her old student, who was an event planner and marketing consultant, to help her realize a lifelong dream to own a bed-and-breakfast. They both wanted to move east and settled on Baltimore to escape harsh winters. The women found an 1845 building, originally a family home and more recently the location of a medical practice.
They scoured antique and estate sales to furnish the nine guest rooms (each with a private bath) and named them accordingly. The Louis XV room, for example, has an elaborately scrolled antique headboard, a French armoire, and needlepoint rugs.
Breakfast, prepared by Lawler or Loafmann, includes French-press coffee, fresh fruit, and a sweet or savory dish—from blueberry pancakes to a Creole omelet.
The inn hosts about 25 weddings a year in its grand front parlor and romantic brick-walled garden. Not too long ago, Lawler opened a restaurant that specializes in farm-to-table meals served in the inn’s charming back parlor and, on warm days, the pretty garden.
Inn at 2920
2920 Elliott St., 410-342-4450, theinnat2920.com. Rates: $170-225. Though the Inn at 2920 in Canton dates to circa 1890s, it is anything but outdated. Once a tavern and a bordello (!), the space has been transformed into a contemporary sanctuary, just a half-block from busy O’Donnell Square. When Warren Munroe and David Rohrbaugh bought the place in 2007, it was already an inn, but they added their own touches: modern furniture, luxury bedding, and flat-screen TVs. “We wanted to create a look of urban chic without losing the traditional touches of a Baltimore home,” Munroe says. There’s a wall of exposed brick that runs throughout the house, and the original pressed-tin ceiling is still in the common area on the main floor—where the tavern once operated.
The rooms are luxurious, some with limestone-tiled, walk-in rain showers, and Jacuzzi tubs. Each room also has its own betta fish, swimming in a bowl. It’s “our signature,” Munroe says.
Breakfast is fruit, freshly baked pastries, and a main dish with sausage or turkey bacon that alternates between savory and sweet, such as baked upside-down caramel French toast topped with seasonal fruit. (Vegetarian and vegan diets are accommodated on request.) Cap it off with Zeke’s “Hippie Blend” coffee.
Scarborough Fair Bed & Breakfast
801 S. Charles St., 410-837-0010, scarboroughfairbandb.com. Rates: $169-259. When Barry Werner was a little boy, he’d play B&B with his grandmother. “She was a waitress at high-end resorts,” he says. “I’d draw what the rooms looked like and design menus. Then, we’d make pancakes.”
This early training—combined with a degree in psychology, a variety of retail jobs from floral and garden shops, and working in the pastry department at Dean & DeLuca—constituted “my own informal education in how to be an innkeeper,” says Werner, who owns Scarborough Fair in Federal Hill with his partner Jeff Finlay.
When he and Finlay bought the inn in 2007, they embarked on a five-year plan to change the name to Ex Libris (which is expected to happen in the next several years) and renovate the six rooms, one at a time, to reflect the themes and sensibilities of famous authors. “The economy put the brakes on it somewhat,” Werner admits. “We’re now on more like the 10-15 year plan.”
So far, one suite has been renovated in honor of Edgar Allan Poe, and it’s an indication of the owners’ sense of style and the future look of this traditional B&B. Graphite-and-lavender-colored walls and a lavender velvet headboard create a lush and tranquil space. There are also modern touches, like marble sink countertops in the bathroom and free Wi-Fi.
The five rooms that await renovation are tastefully decorated: one with handmade quilts, others with canopy beds and gas log fireplaces. Each morning, Finlay makes breakfast, which can include scrambled eggs with herbs and crimini mushrooms served with rosemary sweet-potato biscuits, an oatmeal-yogurt parfait, or gluten-free banana bread.
Wilson House Bed and Breakfast
2100 Mt. Royal Terrace, 410-383-6267, wilson-house.net. Rates: $85-140. When Guy and Clelia Thomas bought the 40-room house in 1999, they knew they’d have to do something with all that space—besides just living in it themselves. So they decided to open a bed-and-breakfast.
But before they could get to work on the project, Guy, now a science and technology advisor for the U.S. Coast Guard, was summoned to work in Rhode Island. The couple relocated there, renting the Baltimore house to graduate students. Returning to the city in 2004, the couple jumped right back into their original plan. “We lived in dust for about six months and opened as a B&B in 2005,” Guy says.
The renovations included stripping carpeting and tar from the floors to reveal original hardwood and refinishing the elaborate carved details on doors and mantelpieces. The couple added bathrooms and combined the 14 bedrooms into eight guest rooms and suites. The house also has two apartments with kitchens for long-term tenants.
Guy loves to tell the story about how the house got its name: In 1912, Democratic leaders met there to decide on a candidate to run for president that year. After the group, led by William Jennings Bryan, picked Woodrow Wilson, the candidate made a speech from an upper balcony.
The house is comfortable and old world with Oriental-style rugs, flowered bedspreads, and eclectic furnishings. A highlight may just be Clelia’s pancakes, a recipe that includes coconut and cornmeal. She also makes heart-shaped pancakes and eggs to order, all served at the stately, long dining-room table.
Outside the City
1400 Greenspring Valley Rd., Stevenson, 410-486-2405, gramercymansion.com. Rates $150-375. When Anne and Ronald Pomykala bought the house and its 45 acres in 1985 for $723,400, “We were like two kids in love, without considering the consequences,” Anne says. However, she laments, “It didn’t take long to discover that the expenses were far more than a dentist’s salary could cover.”
So while Ronald maintained his busy dental practice in D.C., Anne, who had formerly worked as a volunteer for Girl Scouts of the USA, rolled up her sleeves and took on the task of ensuring that the place could pay for itself.
The 1906 Gramercy Mansion was built by Alexander Cassatt, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and brother of the American impressionist painter Mary Cassatt. Later, the property was owned by the Koinonia community, a group of spiritual activists. When the Pomykalas took over the house, Anne set about restoring the chestnut and cherry woodwork, marble mantelpieces, and sweeping stairways.
The mansion is now a profitable 11-room B&B with luxury accommodations, some with double whirpool tubs. The Cassatt suite has a private courtyard , and all the rooms are decorated with reproduction and antique furniture, lush fabrics, gilt mirrors, and artwork (unfortunately, none by Mary Cassatt).
The B&B hosts about 120 weddings each year, and the elopement package is among the inn’s most popular offerings, says innkeeper Bill Duffy. It includes a ceremony by a licensed officiant (with up to 12 guests), dinner for two at a nearby restaurant (choice of Linwoods, The Milton Inn, or The Oregon Grille), and a professional photographer.
Breakfast is an elegant affair with eggs Benedict, French toast, and omelets seasoned with herbs grown on-site, all made to order, and served in the grand dining room or garden terrace.
In 2007, Anne also opened the 1840s Carrollton Inn (1840scarrolltoninn.com) in downtown Baltimore, a B&B as elegant and popular as Gramercy.
The Inn at Peralynna Manor of Rose Hill
10605 Clarksville Pike, Rte. 108, Columbia, 410-715-4600, peralynnainn.com. Rates: $150-550 (for a weekend night in the honeymoon suite). Cynthia Lynn (then Kemplin) fell in love with a house outside of Frankfurt, Germany, where she lived for a time while growing up. She drew pictures and obsessed over the house, hoping one day to build it. Her dream came true after she purchased land in Columbia and married David Lynn, who encouraged her to reproduce the house that captivated her. The Lynns moved into the home in 1996 with their blended family. When the four children started going off to college and getting married, the Lynns were left with an oversized empty nest.
The idea of a B&B was set into motion when someone inquired about long-term accommodations at the house—and led to the Inn at Peralynna in 2001 with 19 guest rooms and one apartment. Common areas with game tables, oversized TVs, and fireplaces create a homey atmosphere.
Breakfast is served indoors or on the deck. A buffet featuring cold items is served when the inn is full and includes fresh fruit, oatmeal, cereals, yogurt, bagels, and more. The inn’s full-time chef prepares eggs, pancakes, and sausage made to order.
The Wayside Inn
4344 Columbia Rd., Ellicott City, 410-461-4636, waysideinnmd.com. Rates: $159-219. The Wayside Inn is in many ways the very model of a classic B&B. It’s housed in a building of historical significance—the main house of an 18th century tobacco plantation—and its rooms are impeccably furnished with authentic and reproduction Federal-period appointments. Owner David Balderson and his wife Susan live on-site.
After purchasing the property in 1998, Balderson resigned from his executive position at McCormick, and became a full-time innkeeper. His wife, a CPA who works for the Department of Justice, kept her day job.
The couple hired designers to help decorate the inn, and guests will find needlepoint rugs, botanical prints, antique dressers, and queen-sized beds as well as bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs and rain showers.
Breakfast includes hot entrees such as Grand Marnier French toast with orange rum sauce or eggs Benedict with ham and asparagus and roasted rosemary potatoes. Side dishes can be sausage links, fresh fruit with mint, and homemade scones.
2 Thistle Rd., Catonsville, 410-744-0590, thewilderness.biz. Rates: $150 for one night, $135 per night for two to four nights, and $125 per night for five or more nights. When Ellen Sawaya was growing up in a contemporary house in Ohio, she attended an auction at a home built before the Civil War. “The same family had owned it for all those years, and they were selling all the belongings in the house,” she says. “I watched them auctioning all these things and realized I love old houses.”
Sawaya, who moved to Maryland after college to work in physical therapy, bought her own historic house, a 1799 Catonsville farmhouse, on two acres of what had once been a 101-acre farm in 2002. The house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has an (unconfirmed) back story that appeals to her: A woman named Harriet Dugan inherited the house in the 1800s, but couldn’t take possession because married women couldn’t own property. She went to court to fight—and won—her case.
When Sawaya bought the house, she converted the 14 bedrooms into four two-room suites with bathrooms, as well as living quarters for herself on the third floor. She serves a hot breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays, including baked omelets, breakfast bread puddings, or breakfast sandwiches with fresh tomatoes and herbs from the garden. On weekdays, the morning meal is continental, featuring her baked goods, fresh fruit, and cereal.