Tuesday, September 26, 2023

More Than a Bed and Breakfast

 More Than a Bed and Breakfast


“It’s just a bed and breakfast.” 

Not “just.” But I’ll get to that later.


When Mike found our house in Florida, I was still living in Ohio. I studied the pictures he sent, read and reread the details on the real estate listing, and researched the area.


I pulled up Google maps and traced the road leading to our lakeside home. Gospel Island Road. Interesting. The overhead view revealed a building near us labeled “The Lake House Bed and Breakfast.”


I knew nothing about it, but knowing it was there was a comfort. I have a large family. Surely, if everyone was to show up in Florida at the same time, we could book some of the kiddos at the B&B. It was at least a possibility.


Mike and I moved into our home in May. As it turns out, there is only one house between us and the B&B. Once we were settled in our new home, I started doing a bit of research on the place. I checked their Facebook page and tried to find out a bit of the history of the large house. I left it at that.


Then, one afternoon, on my way home from town, I spotted a man at the road in front of the long drive leading back to the bed and breakfast. I stopped, put the passenger window down and introduced myself as a new neighbor. The man, Billy, told me the owner was out of town but would be back in a few days. 


Sure enough, a few days later, Cathy Johnson, the current owner and manager of the B&B, invited us to the Lake House where she could give us a proper tour and share some of the stories the house holds within its walls.


The Lake House is more…much more… than a bed and breakfast. Oh, sure, weddings and parties and receptions and teas are held on the grounds or in the large gathering rooms. But the Lake House is actually a piece of the history of our town. It’s a telling of Old Florida and a bygone era. 

The place is furnished as much with interesting stories as it is with antiques.


The property was first purchased by a “St. Petersburg man of means” to be used as a fishing and hunting camp. Built in 1930, during the era of prohibition, the Lake House sports a hidden “speakeasy” and disguised compartments within the walls for the safe storage of money. There were, at that time, brothels on the property for uh… guest use. Eventually, those went by the wayside and the property turned into a proper B&B.


Babe Ruth flew into the resort via a seaplane, landing on the large lake known as Lake Henderson. He and Ed McMahon were frequent, well documented guests.


Ownership of the house changed both hands and purposes through the years. At one point, internationally recognized artists, Gary and Kathwren Jenkins, owned the property. They added a large studio and offered art classes on site. You could stay and paint under the tutorship of either or both of the artists.

Gary and Kathwren Jenkins


Cathy now owns and runs the establishment. Guests rest soundly in large, beautiful bedrooms, each with its own bath. They can meander down to the dining area for a delicious breakfast featuring freshly brewed coffee and tea, home baked sweets, an egg casserole or quiche, and fruit. 


As I walked through the house, the writer in me only wished the walls could talk. Mike and I enjoyed our visit with Cathy and Billy. They both take pride in the B&B. They make the stories of the house come alive. 


I couldn't help but envision a writing retreat there. 

My historical fiction friends would find ample fodder for their books. 

My friends who write romance novels would breathe in the romance in every room.

My friends who write time travel or fantasy? I can see you typing away at your keyboard challenging your readers with amazing twists and turns. 

My friends with a bent for mystery or suspense? The house offers the perfect setting and enough secrets within its walls to inspire.


As for the contemporary fiction I write?


Perhaps it’s the story of a woman who owns a B&B on Florida’s Nature Coast. A woman embracing the past but jumping into the future. The story of a woman with a curious author-type neighbor who lives a mere two doors down.

And now...your own personal tour:

Breakfast Areas

Relax in the Large Gathering Room

More Nooks and Crannies



Leave your comments here. I look forward to hearing from you.