We’re kicking off a new Innkeeper Q&A Series today with Meg Curtis, Innkeeper Extraordinaire of Stonewall Farm Bed and Breakfast in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. I am fortunate enough to be friends with the Curtis family (a perk of marriage), and luckier still to have been a guest several times at this comfortable, welcoming, historic home (complete with barn, sheep, chickens, and lots of good campfire stories).
Many people talk about heading to the country and opening a B&B, but you and your husband, Skip, actually did it. What events led you to make this dream a reality? Skip and I had been casually looking for B&B properties for 15 years during weekend travels up and down Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. In 1996, with our three kids launched, we moved from Massachusetts to our summer home in New Hampshire. We realized we needed something a little bigger, and again started looking. We were drawn to antique homes, but had put the idea of a B&B on the back burner.
That was until our real estate agent took us to look at an old farm house that had been established as a two room B&B. As we drove around the corner, I spotted a beautiful 1785, hip roofed farmhouse located on a slight knoll at the bend of the country road. I said, “Oh my, is this it?” It was love at first sight. We walked through the carriage house, a hobby room (that would eventually become our family room and living quarters) and into the dining room. It was a cold, damp, November day. There was no fire in the fireplace. However, the room wrapped me in warmth, and I told my husband that this was the house. He exclaimed, “Don’t you even want to see the bedrooms?” Actually, no, but I continued with the tour of the five bedrooms, all with great possibilities. Yes, this was it.
Can you offer a brief history of Stonewall Farm? It was built in 1785 by David Goodall and resold in 1835 to a newly married couple, James and Elizabeth Bickford. There are too many stories to tell, but I am fortunate enough to have pictures of them and lots of memorabilia from their lives. It remained in their family until the 1920s or 30s. It was a home that had a lot of activity for the 1800s.
What are changes and additions that your family has made to enrich this place? New granite counters, cupboards, and appliances. After all, the country kitchen with the Glenwood stove is indeed the heart of the house. A parking lot needed to be established, a new and expanded outdoor deck and more bathrooms installed, so that each room would have their own private bath. My passion is wingback chairs and I have bought them at auction and had them reupholstered to provide a warm and comfortable setting in all areas, as well as the guest rooms. Our son has tackled a lot of the landscaping projects, and last year the barn renovation. When you own a historic home, the work and projects will never be done…that is a given.
I love the breakfasts and local goat milk soaps. What other amenities do guests appreciate? Yes, everyone seems to enjoy the full, homemade breakfast. We have our own supply on this property of apples, peaches, pears, raspberries, blueberries and grapes (for homemade grape juice). We also have a large herb garden beside the kitchen, and we grow all of our own vegetables in the summer. Nothing is ever sprayed here. We have now ventured into raising our own chickens, so we have farm fresh eggs too. We purchase New Hampshire made maple syrup and also offer it for sale, along with the goat milk soaps. I don’t know if you would consider it an amenity, but the star gazing that we have in the evening is a real gift. There is also a fire pit where the guests can enjoy a bonfire in the evening.
What have been some of the biggest surprises about becoming an innkeeper? Being an innkeeper is a surprise each and every day. You never know who you will be hosting on any given day, and all rooms have to be ready to go at a moments notice. On laundry: it generally takes at least eight hours to wash, dry and fold all room laundry after a full house. Of course, I love the smell of sheets dried out on the line, and that takes a little extra time in the good weather. We also found that earlier rising to prepare breakfast did not mean we would go to bed early. We would often stay up late for someone arriving from a long trip. This is not a job for folks that think they can “retire”. You have to love people and love what you do to continue a business like this.
Do you have return guests that seem more like friends now? In general, we love our guests and we remain in contact with a great many of them. As I say: there is never a stranger in our home. We have had guests from all over the world, and every guest brings something new to this B&B. It is always a learning opportunity, and after 15 years in the business, I don’t intend to stop any time soon. As long as I am physically able I will continue meeting, greeting and making sure everyone has the best B&B experience possible!