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Authors Know the Ins and Outs of Historic Inns

August 18, 1989|DENNIS McLELLAN | Times Staff Writer

Picture yourself slumbering in a four-poster bed in a rambling 1840s farmhouse in George Bush's seaside neck of the Maine woods, Kennebunkport.

Imagine spending the night in an antique-filled Italian Renaissance mansion set on 39 acres of meadow and woodland in Hannibal, Mo. Better yet, mentally stretch out in the "Samuel Clemens room," where Mark Twain once sawed Zs.

Or how about lodging in a West Virginia inn built in 1824 as a stagecoach stop and boasting Gen. Robert E. Lee and President Martin Van Buren as former guests?

The White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, the Garth Woodside Mansion in Hannibal and the Greenbrier River Inn in Caldwell are three of the colorful hideaways among nearly 5,000 bed-and-breakfast and country inns described in the second edition of "The Official Guide to American Historic Inns" (Sakach, $14.95) by Tim and Deborah Sakach of Dana Point.

Billed as the only national guide devoted exclusively to historical inns of the United States, the completely revised and expanded second edition features inns and bed-and-breakfasts from all 50 states, all of them dating from the 17th through early 20th centuries.

The new 306-page edition of the well-researched and critically acclaimed guide book contains 4,900 listings, accompanied by 650 pen-and-ink illustrations. (The book, which has been offered by the Book of the Month Club as an alternate selection two years in a row, was originally entitled "The Official Guide to American Historic Bed and Breakfast Inns and Guesthouses" when the first edition was published in 1987.)

Deborah Sakach will sign copies of the book from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at Casa Laguna Inn, 2510 S. Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. (The mission-styled Casa Laguna Inn, whose original structures were completed in the early 1930s as part of an estate, is one of six Orange County inns and guest houses listed in the guide.)

Tim Sakach won't be attending the book signing.

That's because he is on a two-week trip to the Midwest researching and photographing inns for the couple's upcoming first regional guide. They also plan to do a color calendar featuring pictures of historical inns.

Tim Sakach said they began gathering the data for the guide book shortly after Deborah Sakach, his wife of 28 years, started American Historic Homes reservation service in 1981. American Historic Homes provides travelers with information on bed-and-breakfast inns around the country and makes reservations for them.

In an age of look-alike chain hotels and motels, the Sakaches maintain that the bed-and-breakfast inns and guest houses offer colorful alternative sleeping arrangements for the weary traveler.

"Each inn has its own unique qualities that reflect the personality and the likes and interests of the innkeepers," Tim Sakach said before leaving on his research trip. "When an inn is put together, it is decorated with the innkeeper's own tastes, so each one becomes an experience in itself. In addition, I think that meeting innkeepers and being in kind of that intimate setting you get to know more of the community, more of the local flavor of each particular area.

Deborah Sakach agrees.

"I really like to find out about the people that live in a certain place, and the innkeepers seem to know all about the history of their area," she said. "And when you leave the place, you feel like you've been there for a week because you've learned so much more. It's almost three times the value of going to a hotel, in terms of what you remember about the location. Some of the innkeepers' families have lived in the same house three--and even seven--generations, which adds another dimension."

In researching their book, the Sakaches have traveled all over the United States. In 1988 they traveled about 20,000 miles, visiting at least 300 inns. This year they have already logged 15,000 miles.

The Inn at Canoe Point in Hulls Cove, Me., is one of their favorite places. "I think it was the view," said Tim Sakach. "It was sitting on a little cove, sort of in the woods. It was quiet. It was just very pleasant."

Another favorite is Laurel Hill Plantation outside Charleston, S.C., which is still a family-run working plantation. ("In fact," said Tim, "they were picking beans while we were there.")

Then there's the lighthouse keeper's house on the Isle of Au Haut in Maine. "That one is $200 a night, but it's an experience that's well worth it," Tim said. "You get to the isle by taking the 11 o'clock mail boat. It's somewhat of a mystical experience because you're completely cut off. There's no TV, telephone or electricity. They use candlelight or kerosene lights. They cook with gas and prepare all your meals for you."

Adds Deborah, "It's hard to write the book because when you're sitting at the (computer) terminal you want to visit everyone you write about."

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