Checking out Annapolis B&Bs

CAPITAL CHARM

April 14, 1996|By Kathryn Higham

George Washington slept here. So did Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. No, not the White House. The place is Annapolis. The accommodations, a room in a private home.

For a couple of hundred years, homeowners in the state capital have made hospitality their business, opening their doors to guests for a night's lodging and a warm meal. Today, the tradition continues.

The variety of bed and breakfasts in the city is remarkable. Want to stay at one of the oldest homes in Annapolis, one that's been in the same family since 1738? Check out the Jonas Green House on Charles Street. Or perhaps you'd prefer to sleep in a converted horse barn on Howard's Cove, or a lighthouse on the Chesapeake Bay?

At no fewer than 17 licensed B&Bs in and around the city, guests will find a range of accommodations. For a closer look, we spent a night in three very different bed and breakfasts.

Chez Amis

Don and Mickie Deline didn't set out to buy a bed and breakfast when they went looking for a place to live in Annapolis in 1994. But when they couldn't find the single-family home of their dreams, they started considering the alternatives. They'd talked of owning a B&B someday and so the future became the present.

All it took to put them in business was a quick tour of Chez Amis, a triangular building that straddles East and Fleet streets in the historic district. Previous owners had transformed what was a turn-of-the-century grocery store into a charming, light-filled bed and breakfast with four guest rooms. The place was perfect, the Delines thought, down to the original oak display counter, tin ceiling and refinished Georgia pine floors. Plus, its unique shape reminded them of a street scene in Germany, where they lived during Don's Army days.

A bubbly Southerner, Mickie signed us in, while keeping an eye on C-Span. Her husband, general counsel for the Senate Armed Services Committee, had drafted a bill that was up for a vote. Though she wanted to catch the action, she made us feel at home. Later that night, celebrating the bill's passage with a glass of white zinfandel in hand, she introduced a neighbor who had stopped by as "our token Democrat." Political zinging is a parlor game with Republicans Mickie and Don, but it's done with such good humor and Southern charm that no one takes offense.

It seemed fitting to talk politics with the state Capitol just up the street. Our angled room had a window with a direct view of the white dome that dominates the city.

Called the Capitol Room, it is appropriately decked out with lots of political paraphernalia, including coasters from the U.S. Senate on the night stands. There are framed, autographed photos on the walls of Sen. Strom Thurmond and other GOP politicos. A galvanized tin bucket on the floor holds an armload of flags. There even is a stuffed elephant and donkey poised on a row of guidebooks under the television table.

We loved the king-size brass bed, covered in a down comforter and topped with a quilt done in (no surprise here) reds, whites and blues. Handmade quilts are everywhere at Chez Amis -- on the beds, on the walls. Many are the work of Mickie's grandmother.

For dinner, our hosts recommended Harry Browne's, so we headed up East Street to State Circle. It was a great meal, down to the warm rosemary bread sticks and blackberry-mint sorbet.

Back at Chez Amis, we had a great night's sleep. Despite our room's many windows on the street, all was quiet.

In the morning we donned slightly threadbare robes and headed down the hall to the shared bath with a claw-foot tub. There was a small coffee maker on the oak dresser in our room, but we went directly downstairs to the Stammtisch. That's German for a table reserved for family and friends. Don, who likes woodworking, designed and built it to match the hand-carved wooden chandelier and barrel chairs they brought back from Germany.

Don, a man of many talents, also had figured out a way to stop poached eggs from slipping off Swiss cheese and ham. He dispensed with the cheese and ham! In a dish the couple call eggs rico -- short for eggs ricochet -- two crisp slices of bacon cradle the eggs, which are topped with a rich mushroom cream sauce and served on English muffins. As Mickie brought out juice and coffee, sliced strawberries with powdered sugar, and homemade sticky buns, Don treated us to some insider talk about the U.S. Senate.

After we checked out of Chez Amis, we walked up the street to visit the Old Senate Chamber in the State House, a nice segue from current to past politics. There, legend has it, most of Congress cried when George Washington resigned his military commission in 1783 -- something that seems unthinkable today.

The Charles Inn B&B

We weren't sure we had the right address when we approached the Charles Inn B&B, an 1858 cedar-shingled home on Spa Creek. Maybe it was the red velvet chairs on the porch. Or the cardboard box covered with an electric blanket that was between the chairs.

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