Located about two hours from Chicago, the Allyn Mansion in Delavan, Wisconsin, promises bed and breakfast-style hospitality with the attention and amenities of a boutique hotel.
The mansion was built in 1885 as the principal residence of the Alexander Allyn family, wealthy local farmers; it was designed by noted Milwaukee architect E. Townsend Mix. Alexander Allyn died in 1913, and, eventually, the home was bequeathed to his granddaughter Ruth, who made a number of physical and cosmetic changessome of which destroyed the mansion's telltale characteristics and charm.
Ruth Allyn sold the mansion to the city of Delavan, which quickly sold it to new owners who turned it into a nursing home facility. But new accessibility requirements in the '60s meant that the mansion wouldn't be up to code, and it became an antique store in 1969. That store closed in 1983, and the mansion was purchased in 1984 by its current owner Ron Markwell and his late partner, Joe Johnson, for about $120,000.
Markwell and Johnson began a painstaking restoration of the mansion, restoring its sitting rooms and bedrooms to their former glory. They had only a handful of the original furnishings and featuresamong them nine fireplaces and two mantel mirrorsbut they did have the Mix's original architectural plans. They restored a number of external features, including the mansion's tower, as well. In 1992, the mansion was awarded the Grand Prize from the National Trust for the restoration.
Allyn Mansion is now managed by Randy Bangs and his wife Sara; Markwell still lives there, with his dog Daryl usually at his side.
The rooms are themed to various residents and visitors to the mansion. The most plush is the Bishop's Room, featuring a four-poster bed, a fireplace and en suite bathroom. We stayed in the cozier Butler's room.
Markwell admitted to us his initial hesitation at buying the mansion years ago because he was worried that visitors might not want to spend so much time in Delavan. But the Allyn Mansion is located in close proximity to Lake Geneva as well as nearby Alpine Valley in East Troy, which offers skiing in the winter and is a music venue in summertime. Indeed, my partner and I seemed to be the only Allyn Mansion guests that weekend who were not going to see the Grateful Dead at Alpine Valley; we stayed up late speaking with Deadheads from all over the country.
One of the best parts of a bed-and-breakfast ( if done right ) is, of course, the breakfast. After a restful sleep, Bangs and the staff served up corn bread with fresh roasted corn and poblano peppers, with jalapeño honey; quiche with leeks, mushrooms, goat cheese and sweet balsamic onion jam; and Greek yogurt with pecans, apples and fresh caramel sauce.
Among the other amenities included with some rooms, and available for an extra charge in others, is a relaxing 30-minute massage. Biggs said such features are important to attract millennial-age visitors who are quite often looking for distinctive, non-cookie cutter experiences when they travel. As such, Allyn Mansion will gradually be renovating the guest bathrooms to add more spa-like features.
For more information, visit AllynMansion.com or phone 262-729-2655.