Category Archives: History

Do you live in a Downton Abbey?

do you live in a Downton Abbey

Do you live in a Downton Abbey? Even if your bed and breakfast is historical, it may not have all the drama that comes with the television show called Downton Abbey.  One of the most talked about shows on television is the highest rated drama that PBS has ever had.

The show was set in Highclere Castle, where people may have lived as long as 1300 years ago. The structural work on the interior of the Castle was finally completed in 1878. Once built, the Castle became a center of political life during the late Victorian era.

In many ways Highclere Castle epitomized the confidence and glamour of the Edwardian period in the first few years of the twentieth century. Visitor books record the house parties full of politicians, technological innovators, Egyptologists, aviators and soldiers.

During the First World War, Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon, transformed the Castle into a hospital, and patients began to arrive from Flanders in September 1914. She became an adept nurse and a skilled healer and hundreds of letters from patients and their families bear testament to her untiring work and spirit of generosity.

The Castle returned to a private home and in 1922 the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, the first global world media event.

Following the death of the 5th Earl, his son, who then became the 6th Earl, returned to Highclere where he lived until 1986. During the Second World War, the Castle briefly became a home for evacuee children from north London.

The current (8th) Earl and Countess of Carnarvon live partly in the Castle and partly nearby but remain closely involved in the Castle’s day to day life and future.  If you live in a historical bed and breakfast, your guests would love to hear about its history–including the drama! Then you can answer the question, “Do you live in a Downton Abbey?”

Do You Live In A Downton Abbey

 

 

Downton Abbey aired for 6 straight seasons on PBS.  Although there are no plans in place, there are strong rumors of a future film adaptation.  If the movie is made, do you think that some of the actors from the TV show will play their same characters for the movie version?

 

 

 

 

 

The B & B Boom in the United States

The B&B Boom in the United States

 

 

The B&B boom in the United States was influenced by several factors:

  • Enjoyment of the B&B experience by millions of Americans who traveled in Europe–especially starting in the 1970’s.

 

  • The U.S. Bicentennial in 1976 sparked a renewed interest in preserving America’s architectural heritage, and accompanying federal and state legislation provided tax credits for the preservation of historic properties. Many such buildings were on fairly busy roads, making them undesirable for private residences but ideal for conversion into bed and breakfasts.
  • Similarly, the large size of thousands of Victorian-era homes made them inappropriate for single families, but perfect for B&B’s.
  • The 1980’s saw a rapid growth in the numbers of B&B’s in the U.S., but despite considerable media coverage, advertising was expensive, and getting listed in the many B&B guidebooks took a year or more.
  • The growth of the Internet provided the biggest boost to the B&B industry, and leveled the playing field so that a bed and breakfast could afford to compete with area hotels, by listing in directories like BedandBreakfast.com, establishing a first-rate website with pictures and virtual tours as well as offering a safe, secure online booking option.
  • Bed and breakfast owners can hire professionals to give them an online presence in social media as well as to write professional search-engine optimized content in a blog.

With so many different ways to market their business online, it is the innkeepers that keep up with technology who will really thrive in this economy. For American citizens, it all started with the B&B boom in the United States.

 

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

History of the B&B Industry in the United States

History of the U.S. B&B Industry

The history of the U.S. B&B Industry began when travel for business and/or pleasure in the United States started in the 1700’s.  Many coaching or stagecoach inns, common in England and the Eastern United States, typically provided stabling for horses and lodging for travelers.  However, the accommodations were extremely modest (at best).

 

Once railroads were constructed, the convenience of railroads provided a huge boost in travel comfort, and hundreds of hotels were constructed close to train stations to accommodate growing numbers of travelers.

As the United States industrialized, more people had time and the discretionary income for travel.  Summer escapes from the sweltering cities to cooler mountain or seaside villages became popular. Wealthy families summered in private villas or luxury resorts, while the working classes headed for boarding houses.

During the Great Depression in the United States, taking in boarders to help meet expenses proliferated. Homes located on state routes (this was long before Interstate Highways) often posted signs reading Tourist Home or Guests, where travelers could typically find a room for the night for about $2, usually including breakfast.

Travel to Europe boomed after World War II; a strong U.S. dollar allowed millions of Americans to discover England’s and Ireland’s B&B’s, and equivalent accommodations on the Continent. Throughout the 1980’s, the seeds for the B&B boom were planted.

Interestingly, although history of the U.S. B&B industry began with informal, inexpensive places to stay with shared baths and minimal amenities, they are now largely luxury accommodations with high levels of comfort, service, and luxury.

 

Image by Marcus Berg of Unique Angles Photography

If You Own a Historic Bed and Breakfast

If you own a historic bed and breakfast, do you emphasize its history to your guests?  Many Bed and Breakfasts are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Up to 90% of Bed and Breakfasts occupy historic buildings that have been lovingly restored.  Some of them have received rewards from a Preservation Society.  

You can give tours of your historic home and talk about the people who formerly lived there.  If you know their names, talk about them.  Feel free to share any stories you know to be true. If they are rumors, then let your guests know that the information can not be confirmed.  Your guests will feel as though you are giving them a window into the life of those who once lived in your home.

If you have antique pictures of family members, hang them on your walls. Bed and breakfast owners, you can display precious momentos from your historic home.  If they are valuable and/or fragile, consider putting them in a locked glass display case for your guests to view.

You could even put together a scrapbook of old photos of your bed and breakfast and the people who formerly lived in your home.  If you put that scrapbook in a common area of the house, guests will be able to enjoy looking at the pages to get a sense of the history of the place they are staying in.

Guests love staying in places that have a fascinating history. Perhaps someone famous owned (or stayed at) your historic bed and breakfast.  You can mention that on your website and you can refer to that in a blog post.  Highlight the things that make your bed and breakfast unique and you will attract more visitors!