Historic Host: Bed-and-breakfast proprietor offers whimsical lodging options with colorful histories in Hocking Hills area

Historic Host

Bed-and-breakfast proprietor offers whimsical lodging options with colorful histories in Hocking Hills area

Many people travel to Ohio’s Hocking Hills region to explore its breathtaking waterfalls, caves and hollows by day, then burrow inside a cozy cabin at night.

The scenery changes with the season and keeps people coming back year after year. But numerous cabins remain blandly familiar: log furniture, countrified decorations and a hot tub.

A unique lodging option in the Hills hearkens to the past. Historic Host offers a handful of bed-and-breakfast properties with fascinating histories. Travelers can stay in a cute cottage with a 1930s kitchen containing a collection of vintage cookie jars. Or they can bundle up in a century-old general store with shelves of touchable “merchandise,” such as stuffed animals and wooden cribs.

Overnight stays include breakfast, and a portion of the lodging fees goes toward restoration of more dilapidated buildings.

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“I call it sustainable preservation through tourism,” says Sue Maxwell, who started Historic Host in 2007 with her late husband, Jim Maxwell. In less than a decade, she’s transformed a collection of neglected buildings into unique tourist destinations that respect the history of this scenic Appalachian region in southern Ohio.

“My daughters like to rescue stray cats,” Maxwell says. “I like to rescue stray buildings.”

My family recently visited a 5-acre lot just north of McArthur, Ohio, that Maxwell affectionately named Fiddlestix Village. The whimsical, roadside stop incorporates old and new structures on a plot of land off state Rt. 93 in Creola.

At the heart of the complex is the Appalachian Quilt Cottage, a red, two-bedroom cabin that dates to the 1920s. At one time it served as a farmhouse for a nine-member family.

Sue learned of the building’s history through her visitors. One person told her that the front room once served as a roadside store where the owners sold eggs and homemade breads.

Another accommodation is a cottage holding hundreds of salt-and-pepper shakers that Sue found at auctions, antique shops and thrift stores. She’s billing it as a museum.

But the latest and most playful arrivals are a 1926 B&O caboose that comfortably sleeps two, and an old general store that my children especially enjoyed.

The front of the Martin Store resembles an old country shop, while the rear of the building has a bathroom and a cozy bedroom with a king-sized bed.

Like the other properties, Sue fell for the decaying, 1922-built structure at first sight along a stretch of U.S. Rt. 50 that crossed rural Vinton County. She saw potential and tracked down its owner, sharing her idea of preservation.

“If you can move it, you can have it,” he told her.

For more information, call 1-877-364-4786 or visit www.historichost.com.


Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls

Cabins offer respite for weary city folk

Energized by cups of Starbucks consumed during an hour’s drive from Columbus, we barge through the front door of a cabin in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio.

We spy a kitchen stocked with dinnerware and utensils, a cozy bed smothered in wooly blankets, fresh chocolate chip cookies on an antique table, and a sign above the kitchen sink that advises: “Welcome, relax, renew.”

What? No television, phone or Internet?

Technological withdrawal is our fate, or perhaps our luxury, inside the cozy cabin at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls, where we can temporarily escape the noise of the city. We sit on a comfortable couch before the fireplace and watch 2-year-old Rosie dance to country music playing on a local radio station. We flip through photographs we’ve snapped months earlier and never taken the time to appreciate. We cuddle, talk and laugh.

Although disconnected, we feel reconnected.

Ohio’s inns allow families to rediscover what’s important in their lives. Whether it’s a cabin in the woods or a hilltop inn in a small town, opportunities abound for central Ohioans to find solitude a short drive from home.

Wedged into a steep hillside near Cedar Falls and Old Man’s Cave amid Hocking Hills State Park, the 22-year-old Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls combines rustic living with cutting-edge luxury. The 75-acre property includes a nine-room inn, five cabins and 12 cottages. Adjacent to the inn is a log house that includes a fine-dining restaurant attached to a newly-built conference center, tavern, gathering room and rooftop garden. Guests who need them can find Internet access and a big-screen TV here.

The Inn also includes a spa where therapists offer massages and an array of body treatments in a small building tucked away from the main road.

Innkeepers Ellen Grinsfelder and Terry Lingo have steadily added to the inn, which was the vision of Grinsfelder’s mother, who passed away in 1991. The inn owes much of its attraction to the friendliness of the innkeepers, who met and married shortly after the inn opened.

“The Hocking Hills area is very kid-friendly,” Grinsfelder says. “Having kids of our own, we know that the family component is really important.”

For more information, visit innatcedarfalls.com.