By CATHY SECKMAN
For a vacation idea that's easy on gas and long on ambience, gourmet food and first-class comfort, you need look no further than the next county. Western Pennsylvania's Beaver County boasts five bed-and-breakfast inns that offer country charm, city living and everything in between.
BER-NITABED AND BREAKFAST
Ber-Nita Bed and Breakfast, 2 miles south of Ellwood City, is on a 92-acre working farm where ostriches, sheep and turkeys roam. Guests are welcome to spend time on the farm, watching ostrich eggs hatch, feeding carrots to the horses, or fishing or paddling at the pond. The 140-year-old farmhouse has three bedrooms available, one large enough for a family with two small children.
Owner Juanita Martin has lived in the house for 39 years and raised 11 children there. "It's a large house, and I enjoy people. I'd stayed at bed-and-breakfasts before and thought it was a pleasant way to spend some time." She opened two years ago and has seen a variety of guests, from business people to tourists to former residents back in the area for weddings or reunions.
The three guest rooms are described as having "an old-fashioned feel, with wood-frame beds and checkered quilts." They share one bath on the second floor. "People don't seem to mind that," Martin says. "They understand that this is my home."
Rates are $55-65 a night, with an additional charge of $10 a child in the same room. The full farm breakfast served each morning might include fresh farm produce. "It's more like a brunch," Martin says. "People are so full they don't need lunch. Sometimes I make a vegetable quiche with fresh rolls and fruit from the farm."
Ber-Nita Acres is 20 minutes from Exit 1A of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. From the exit, take Route 351 north to Route 65, and follow that south to the farm. Further information is at (724) 752-1455 or www.pafarmstay.com/bernita on the Web.
FELICITY FARMSBED AND BREAKFAST
Felicity Farms Bed and Breakfast is on an eight-acre horse farm in Brighton Township, not far from The Medical Center, Beaver. Innkeeper Anne Mayerich bought the farm three years ago with the idea of opening a bed-and-breakfast inn. "I wanted a large, older home that needed to be redone. It's been like a mission for me. I love to turn old things around."
The original house was built by the Strawbridge family in 1786 and moved to its present location in 1905. Additions were built in 1905 and 1936, and Mayerich bought the property in 1997.
"From the bed-and-breakfast, one thing has led to another. I raise chickens and sell eggs, and we shear our sheep and use the wool to make things for our home. It's been just wonderful, and business is good."
Sixty percent of her business, she says, has been from local or formerly local people who are attending family events. Couples celebrate anniversaries there, and a number have come for their wedding nights. There are business people during the week.
Surprisingly, Felicity Farms entertains many foreign tourists. "They find us on the Internet," Mayerich said. "We've had people from Argentina, Brazil, Germany and France, and they just love western Pennsylvania. They're thrilled with Pittsburgh and its museums and symphonies, and they ride bicycles in Brady's Run County Park, just down the road."
Felicity Farms is for adults only, and reservations are required. Rates for the three rooms with private baths range from $75 to $95. A continental breakfast is served on weekdays and a full gourmet breakfast on weekends. Some of Mayerich's specialties are cr & egrave;me br & ucirc;l & eacute;e French toast, pears poached in wine sauce, goat cheese and sun-dried tomato frittata, and homemade cinnamon rolls.
To get to Felicity Farms, take the Brighton Township exit off Route 60 and turn left on Dutch Ridge Road. Look for a sign on the right at 2075 Dutch Ridge Road. Further information is at (724) 775-0735, (724) 775-4954, or www.forcomm.net/bnb-felicity on the Web.
THE INN ON COLLEGE HILL
The Inn on College Hill in Beaver Falls is a 1910 Mission Oak home with a wraparound porch, leaded glass windows and beamed ceilings. For 11 years, owners Betty and Howard Mattsson-Boze have played host to visitors, many of whom come to the area because of nearby Geneva College. "We get parents, prospective students, new faculty members, people who are coming to the college on business. It's been very satisfactory, and we're as busy as we want to be."
The Mattsson-Bozes started their bed and breakfast as a retirement project but haven't yet retired. They live on the third floor and have four guest rooms, two with private baths and two with a shared bath. The rooms, decorated with antiques and collectibles, are not restricted to adults, but children must be well-behaved. The inn is open year-round except at Christmas and New Year's.
A gourmet continental breakfast with signature fresh-baked muffins is served in the formal dining room each morning. Rates are from $40 to $65, with $10 for extra people in a room.
To get there, take Exit 2 off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and follow Route 18 south. In Beaver Falls, turn right on 33rd Street, then left on Sixth. The home is at 3233 Sixth Avenue. Further information is available at (724) 843-6048.
MCKINLEY PLACEBED AND BREAKFAST
McKinley Place Bed and Breakfast is owned by two couples, Dr. Robert and Nancy Greico and Paul and Tina Cooper. The Coopers live in the house with their two preschoolers, and the Greicos are next door.
The classic Colonial English country home is just a block from State Route 51 in Chippewa, near the Beaver County Airport.
McKinley Place has been open two years, and the partners are very pleased with its success. "We have a pretty steady business clientele Monday through Friday," Tina Cooper reports, "and the weekends are more family oriented. My husband does all the cooking, and it does tie us down, but in spite of that it's been a wonderful job. We meet the nicest people, and by the second or third time they come, we're on a first-name basis and they seem like family. We establish friendships, and it's really quite unique, for them and for us."
Four bedrooms are available, all with private baths. Prices range from $75 to $105, with a $10 charge for each additional person. Children are welcome.
An extra attraction at McKinley Place is the availability of a licensed massage therapist, who will give massages at the house for $70 an hour, or at her nearby office for $50 an hour.
To get there, take State Route 51 into Pennsylvania from Ohio State Route 14. Turn left on McKinley Road just to the east of Chippewa. McKinley Place is the first driveway on the right. Further information is at (724) 891-0300 or at www.mckinleyplace.com on the Web.
THE TODD HOUSE
The Todd House at 330 Third Street, Beaver, is a lovingly restored Second-Empire Victorian with sloping mansard roof and center cupola. In its colorful past, the 1873 mansion has served as a storage space, a coffin showroom and an apartment building. Owners Jim and Sue Todd also own and live in Todd Funeral Home next door. Jim Todd, whose father originally bought the house in the '60s, decided to put it to better use nine years ago. "The house had character, and it had potential. It was just a neat house, and I didn't want to be in the apartment business anymore."
The house was covered with aluminum siding at the time, its unique architectural details hidden. When Todd started to tear off siding, he discovered shadows of old window trim and gingerbread on the original siding. He found original windows stored in the cupola, and 15-foot ceilings under dropped ones.
The Todds converted the original marble fireplaces to gas and scraped and refinished original moldings. After five years of renovation and some marathon antique shopping, the Todds welcomed visitors to the house's six guest rooms. Three rooms have private baths, and three others share two bathrooms. There are double parlors downstairs, along with a formal dining room. Guests are welcome to use the kitchen.
Most of the Todds' clientele come from Beaver-area businesses. "Colleges, hospitals, other funeral homes; it's very convenient for business people. There really isn't anywhere close for people to stay. I used to have to send families out to the airport area."
Rates at the Todd House range from $75 to $95 a night. Children are welcome in the downstairs Family Room, which sleeps four. There is a $10 charge for each additional person.
To get there, take Route 60 to Exit 13A and come into downtown Beaver. The Todd House is on the left-hand side of Third Street (Route 68), one block past the Sheetz and BP stations.