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From Cleveland, Ohio to Falmouth, Massachusetts
the Enchanting Beach Rose Inn

Back in Cleveland, Ohio not too long ago, Donna and David McIlrath knew they were ready for a change. David had been finding his work for an industrial distributor was becoming less and less challenging. “I was tired of getting dressed in a suit and tie every day,” he told us, “and besides, I had a yen to get into a business of my own. Donna still enjoyed being a school teacher, but she’d been doing it for ages and wanted something new.”

“I thought, what can I do besides teach school?” the ebullient Donna said. “I can cook; I can keep house. As for David, he loves to work around the house. He’s good at painting, fixing things; he’s a terrific gardener. And we both love to entertain. So the idea came to us: maybe we could run a bed and breakfast.”

Twelve years before, the couple had honeymooned in Cape Cod. It was David’s first visit to the area, but Donna had deep Cape roots going back to childhood summers spent in Falmouth and college summers working in the Falmouth candy store. After their honeymoon, they returned every year, and each time the seascapes, the quaint New England towns, the serene environs seemed to hold greater appeal. There was no doubt but that they wanted to relocate somewhere on Cape Cod although Donna said, “Falmouth was my dream. Further out on the Cape, the geography is different, more variant. But Falmouth is so pretty and interesting, so much greener with lots of old trees.”

Once the idea took hold, they allowed themselves two years to learn how to operate a B&B, find the right place, sell their home and make the big move. But somehow things progressed more quickly than expected.

“We had just attended a B&B seminar in Brewster and needed a place to spend our last night on the Cape before heading back to Cleveland,” Donna said. “I consulted this little blue book that had listings of places to stay and a collection of recipes in the back -- which I still use by the way – and found a B&B in West Falmouth for $70 a night.

“It was November, off season. Of course they had room. The place was run down. The paint was peeling. It was cold. The owners told us to turn the heat off when we went out for dinner. Boy, I thought to myself, this is not a class place.”

She continued, “The next morning during breakfast, we mentioned we were looking to buy a B&B in about two years. ‘Well it’s too bad you’re not looking for a place right now because next week we’re putting the place up for sale,’ one of the owners said.

“On the plane back to Cleveland, we talked about it. Could we fix the place up? Could we sell our house so quickly? We called our friend Tom Edmundson who had organized the seminar. He went over, took a look and called us back. ‘Well, it’s got potential,’ he said.”

From such a chance encounter the enchanting Beach Rose Inn has come to be. Turn off Route 28A onto Chase Road, and there it is --  a pristine 19th century white clapboard farmhouse fronted by a freshly painted picket fence and a dooryard filled with daisies. A winding pathway paved with crushed seashells leads to the front door and the bright and immaculate “gathering room” beyond where one can plop into a downy sofa or breakfast in the dining area overlooking the garden beside an old cast iron stove painted sunshine yellow (“I got it from a friend in Cleveland who had it in her garage,” said Donna). Everywhere are items to engage the eye: old fashioned gas lamps, candle sconces, oil paintings of colonial scenes, a cabinet filled with such curiosities as an ancient pair of spectacles and an old pocketbook, a turn-of-the-last century hat-box, a blue and white hand-painted tureen from the Algarve, a 1920s suitcase that serves as an end table, a cupboard filled with pitchers and coffee pots. Pretty country clutter -- the kind of stuff you might pick up at a flea market, all engagingly and interestingly put together. In the adjacent office are a dial telephone (“which nobody uses,” Donna confessed) and an old Singer sewing machine with a treadle.

“We got rid of everything that was here and put together this eclectic collection,” she added. “I can tell you where everything comes from – most of it from this big antique area in Ohio where the dealers arrive before sunrise. Things are much cheaper there.” However, the fresh flowers in the room were from the garden, a profusion of yellow and purple irises at the time of our visit in early June.

Clearly this B&B is very different from the one David and Donna stayed in that cold November night. “Ironically, aside from the location, it was the fact that we had to put so much into the place that made it so appealing,” David told us. “We didn’t want a turn-key situation where everything is up and running. We wanted to go in, put ourselves into it, and make it our own.

“But there was some hesitation. Our purchasing agreement stipulated we could stay here for five days at no cost before committing to buying in order to see how the place was run. We drove from Cleveland – a twelve hour ride -- and were given the bedroom that is now one of our favorites. Still Donna was restless. She kept me awake all night. Finally at 5 in the morning, she got out of bed. ‘I can’t stay any longer; we’ve got to get out of here,’ she said.”

“I saw how badly the inn was run, how few guests there were,” Donna interrupted. “Everything was so outdated. I thought we should look at other places. I felt that I didn’t want to stay and have these people train me.”

But stay they did, moving in the next January, 2001 and opening April 13th of that year. “We did every room over, stripped off every piece of wallpaper,” said David. “As soon as the previous owners drove away, the first thing we did was get down on our hands and knees and pull up the soiled carpet that covered the gathering room. The house was built in 1863 so I figured the floor would be hardwood. But I was surprised to see it was in such excellent condition. Because we were so pressed for time, I had someone come in to treat it. No sooner did he begin working, then he called me over. ‘Take a look at this,’ he said. ‘Do you know what you have here? This wood is bird’s eye maple.’ I was astonished.           An adjacent room had the wood floor exposed, but it had been stained dark brown. The difference was just amazing.”

After an amazing breakfast (no hyperbole here) of fresh fruit, home-made cranberry muffins, and crepes filled with a quiche-like combination of eggs and cream prepared by our hosts and served by our hosts at a table set with beautiful linens, silver flatware and colorful ceramic dishes, we moved to the enclosed front porch off the gathering room which continues Donna’s preference for eclectic combinations: a 1930’s kitchen table with a green enamel top and spindle-back wooden chairs, a fine oak table from the McIlrath’s Cleveland home, a white wicker settee and chairs. The concrete floor, once a shade of institutional green, is painted a deep gold, the ceiling sky blue.

David in the dining area beside the yellow stove - Click to Enlarge
David in the dining area beside the yellow stove
Donna relaxing in the enclosed porch - click to enlarge
Donna relaxing in the enclosed porch

“People generally stay two or three days. But we’ve had guests stay as long as a week so I try to vary the menu,” Donna told us. “During the summer, we are kept very busy. But the water is so close by, and we do try to get to the beach during the afternoon.”

She was interrupted by the ring of the doorbell. Two attractive French women were scouting the place for a group of five for a week’s stay the following summer. After a look around, they thought to reserve the three bedroom apartment in the carriage house at the rear of the garden. There’s room for five people in a cottage on the property as well and for seventeen in the main house itself, and when the place is fully booked, as it often is during the season, the Beach Rose Inn can be one busy place.

We stayed in a little suite just off the gathering room which consisted of a glassed-in porch and bedroom. In keeping with everything else, it was cheerful, immaculate, and marked by attention to detail down to the plush towels embroidered with little roses, the satin-covered hangers in the closet, and the fragrant potpourri in antique bowls.

Donna had told us she and David wanted to attract people who would be comfortable staying in the kind of place they have created. And they have succeeded in attracting a creative lot, including the famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his wife who attended a wedding in North Falmouth the next day.

They brought their instruments along, David told us, but did not play. But soon after, another cellist arrived and practiced for hours during the afternoon. Would that we had been there then, in the enclosed porch of our suite, listening to the music, watching the patterns of light thrown by sunlight filtering through the lace curtains, enjoying the many pleasures of the enchanting Beach Rose Inn.

The Beach Rose Inn
17 Chase Road
Falmouth, MA 02540

Phone: 508-540-5706 or 800-498-5706

Photos by Harvey Frommer

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About the Authors:  Myrna Katz Frommer and Harvey Frommer are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. Co-authors of the critically acclaimed interactive oral histories It Happened in the Catskills, It Happened in Brooklyn, Growing Up Jewish in America, It Happened on Broadway, It Happened in Manhattan, It Happened in Miami. They teach what they practice as professors at Dartmouth College.

They are also travel writers who specialize in luxury properties and fine dining as well as cultural history and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. More about these authors.

You can contact the Frommers at: 

Email: myrna.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU
Email: harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2012 by Harvey and Myrna Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.


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