A part of history
It's hard to think about something built just after the Civil War still standing in 2018, but the newly renovated and repurposed Ti Voglio Bene bed and breakfast, built in 1870 — five years after the war ended — has stood the test of time.
"One of the things that is important to us, is that we want people to feel like we felt when we first walked in. It isn't often that you get to walk into a historic home. We really feel like we want to be part of history and allow people to come in and experience an older time," said Bret Blackman, who owns the B&B with his wife, Marnie. "The house has been here longer than I have been and it will be here longer than we will be."
The couple, who were married in 2010 and have eight children between them, purchased the home with the idea of transforming it into a bed and breakfast in April. They've been busily working to make the home perfect for guests. Ti Voglio Bene — which means "I love you and want what's best for you" in Italian, according to Marnie — is located at 313 W. Second St.
"Out of the blue, Marnie calls me and ... told me we were going to go look at a house the next Monday. I had wanted to downsize since we had just had a bunch of our kids move out, but when we walked in here, I thought it was amazing," Bret said. "The place was so well done and we both fell in love with the house. Since the house was already done when we saw it, it made it a lot easier to envision it as a bed and breakfast and made us want to purchase it. Within a week, we put in an offer on the house. Everything has moved along very smoothly."
The house boasts 4,500 square feet and currently has three guest rooms, with an additional room with a bed and closet, available for guests. A fourth guest room will open once the couple's last children move out of the house. All of the rooms in the house are named after former owners, including the Wade, Simonton and Greaton suites. The Blackmans live in the back of the house. Marnie runs a second location of her massage therapy business out of the home as well. The Blackmans are the seventh owners of the property since it was built 148 years ago.
"The difference between a bed and breakfast and a hotel is that we have raised our kids here and we know the town. We only have three rooms to rent so people get a personal concierge, so we can tell people where the best food in town is or what to do in the community for whatever you want to do," Marnie said. "And in the morning, they get a sit-down, plated breakfast. You get treated a little bit more upscale, personal and special when you stay here with us."
All of the rooms include wifi, a flat screen TV, access to a beverage bar, nightly social hours, a community style multi-course breakfast each morning and access to a collection of books, magazines, games and DVDs. All but one of the rooms has its own in-room bathroom, with several of the rooms including free-standing bathtubs.
"Most of the decor was done when we bought it. The people who owned it before us — Bart and Sue Rasmussen — completely renovated the house between 2003-2010," said Marnie. "The house was in disrepair when they bought it and they put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it. The changes we made were just to make it better as a B&B. All of the rooms have the comforts of modern technology, but the feel of the era when the house was built. It is just a solid house. It withstood the cyclone of 1899."
According to Marnie, the home is a Italianate Victorian. All the colors in the house would have been colors used in that era for that style of home, which include deeper jewel tones. That is why the Ti Voglio Bene features golds and maroons and other dark jewel colors, Marnie said. The floors, woodwork and windows are just some of the items in the home that are original.
"The neighbors have been really accepting and welcoming to us. We were concerned that the neighbors would be upset about us wanting to open a bed and breakfast, but we held a town meeting and we addressed any concerns they had," Marnie said. "Their main concerns were noise and parking, but with just three rooms for rent we weren't going to add too much noise, and we are adding four off-the-street parking spots off the alley to keep cars off the street."
The couple's first guests stayed with them just a few weeks ago and, according to the Blackmans, have already booked a second night's stay later this year.
"I think there is a general excitement throughout the city and with the people we have worked with on the home," Bret said. "We are working with the historical society to put up a wall with information and photos about the people who lived here and the community as a whole. We've certainly learned a lot in the short time we have been here and we want to pass that along to our guests."
For more information on Ti Voglio Bene, visit newrichmondbedandbreakfast.com or call 715-977-0249.