Eve and Jim Jackson are the innkeepers of The Inn at Irwin Gardens, a historic bed and breakfast in Columbus, Indiana. The inn features stunning architecture and gives guests a taste of life in the early 20th century. The innkeepers took the time to answer several questions for us about the inn's incredible history and what the city of Columbus has to offer.
1. What do you enjoy most about being an innkeeper?
We definitely enjoy our guests the most! Since we opened the Inn at Irwin Gardens a year ago in February, we have met hundreds of the most interesting people from throughout the US and several other countries. We usually get acquainted over a glass of wine before our guests walk a couple blocks to one of Columbus’ excellent locally-owned restaurants. We love people so we quickly “bond” and feel like old friends, so much so that it is difficult to say goodbye. Several couples in the Midwest have already returned for a second visit.
2. What was your inspiration for your creating your inn? Did you have a certain vision for it?
When our daughter and son-in-law in Columbus learned that the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller family’s 150-year-old, two-acre estate was for sale, they immediately envisioned us living here and sharing this historic treasure with bed and breakfast enthusiasts. The four of us purchased the property along with the family’s antique furnishings; therefore, the Inn at Irwin Gardens is a museum and memorial to Joseph and Clementine Irwin who built the original house in 1846, and to the three generations that succeeded them.
3. What sets your B&B apart from others?
The Inn at Irwin Gardens offers guests a rare opportunity to experience early 20th century luxury and culture while enjoying contemporary amenities. This exclusive bed and breakfast-style inn is in the heart of downtown Columbus, Indiana, a city renowned for its character and modern architecture. Many of our guests have traveled the world and stayed at the best B&Bs. Yet they are in awe of the magnificent 13,000-square-foot Italianate mansion’s intricate detail. The coffered oak beam and floral plaster relief ceilings and the original antiques throughout the house are reminiscent of a European estate. The current residence was extensively remodeled in 1910.
The highlight of this two-acre property is the garden, a beautiful maze based on the Casa degli Innamorati in Pompeii. Focal points are the six fountains with marble statues, a reflection pool, and hundreds of perennials and annuals. There is a statue under the center arch of the garden house designed from a lakeside structure at the Villa of Hadrian at Tivoli, Italy. Pompeian murals accent the garden house. A tall brick wall is rounded in imitation of 16th-century gardens in Mantua, Italy. Wisteria vines on the terrace’s pergolas were planted in 1911 and continue to bloom in the spring and late summer.
4. Does your B&B have any special history?
The Inn at Irwin Gardens Bed and Breakfast, the former residence of the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller family, is the historic landmark of Columbus and South Central Indiana. This family has been the driving force behind the expansion and prosperity of Columbus, Indiana, since 1850. Entrepreneur Joseph I. Irwin owned several businesses including the first bank, and his son, W.G. Irwin, started Cummins Engine Company with his chauffeur Clessie Cummins. Joseph Irwin Miller was instrumental in the rise of Cummins Corporation and giving Columbus international stature with its modern architecture.
5. What makes your town worth visiting?
Every year, more than three million visitors travel to Columbus, Indiana, and nearly 7,000 take the Visitor Center’s tour because it was named America's sixth most important city in terms of mid-20th century modern architecture by The American Institute of Architects. The Inn at Irwin Gardens’ illustrious neighbors are the I.M. Pei library, the First Christian Church of Eliel Saarinen, and Columbus Signature Academy and St. Peters Lutheran Church, both of Gunnar Birkerts. Other structures were designed by such notable architects as Eero Saarinen, Richard Meier, Kevin Roche, Harry Weese and Cesar Pelli, many of which feature extensive interiors designed by Alexander Girard. Beginning in May 2010, the house and gardens of J. Irwin and Xenia Miller, designed in 1957 by Eero Saarinen and Dan Kiley, respectively, also will be open through a Visitor Center tour. This property was declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 2000.
6. Do you have any breakfast specialties?
Our first course for breakfast is a granola and fresh fruit parfait with either a whipping cream mixture or yogurt. Our entrée is typically Eggs Benedict or a variation of this with sautéed vegetables, cheese and, of course, hollandaise sauce. The latter is served with bacon kabobs and a croissant. Our guests love our signature coffee blend that has a hint of hazelnut.