Ashley and Glenn Mon are the owners and innkeepers of Hamanassett, a BedandBreakfast.com Diamond Collection property in Chester Heights, Pennsylvania. They are best known for their genuine Southern hospitality and homemade breakfasts to die for. The 1856 English Country house is a wonderful place for romantic escape or a relaxing getaway. Ashley kindly answered the questions below for us about her inn's rich history, their gourmet breakfasts, and what makes Chester Heights a fun place to visit.
1. What do you enjoy most about being an innkeeper?
Providing our guests with a memorable experience. It is a rare occupation where one is able to have an impact on someone's vacation time. We enjoy meeting people from all over the world and learning about their area and culture while we share information about ours. I can't think of another occupation that allows such an incredible interaction.
2. How long have you been an innkeeper?
In September we celebrated our 9th year in business. We are currently trying to think of a special way to celebrate our 10th year in business, which will be this Labor Day.
3. What was your inspiration for your creating your inn?
We wanted to share our Southern roots through extraordinary hospitality. The age of the house, which was built in 1856, helped determine the decorating style as well as my love of English history and architecture. I studied British architecture at Christ Church Oxford University, so I wanted to bring that style of decorating into the house. The most important aspect is for our guests to have an elegant place to stay while feeling comfortable in putting up their feet and reading a good book or playing a game in the living room. We also encourage them to feel that this is their home while they are here and tell them we have nothing we don't want them to enjoy.
4. Why did you choose this inn and this city?
We were already living in this area because of my husband's job. We moved here from New Orleans five years prior to purchasing this house. We had welcomed guests to our home there but were unable to find the right property when we first moved here. I enjoyed being an antiques dealer but really missed the bed and breakfast business, so after three years began searching for the right house to start another bed and breakfast. Although this house needed a lot of work, I knew the minute I walked in that it was the perfect house to enjoy sharing with guests.
5. What sets your B&B apart from others?
First, of course, is we truly believe in Southern hospitality. It is simply the way I was raised, to always make sure your guests are comfortable and have a good time. Our rooms are much larger than you find in most B&Bs and two have private balconies with old-fashioned rocking chairs. We have several public areas for the guests' enjoyment such as the large living room, which is lined with book shelves of over 1,000 volumes of books for the guests to enjoy. We've had many women tell us they were able to talk their husband into staying at a bed and breakfast because of our billiard room. Other guests love the solarium, which allows them to look over the terrace with the fountain and the magnificent lawn and copper beech tree. In addition, the front loggia has comfortable rocking chairs that look out at the koi pond and waterfall. While most of our guests enjoy meeting the other guests and interacting, we have plenty of space for those people who prefer alone time together. In addition, we are a Diamond Collection property as well as a Select Registry property, which means we are inspected to ensure that the property meets the highest standards in every aspect of lodging.
6. Why do you think travelers should choose B&Bs over hotels?
The personal nature of B&Bs as opposed to the sterile institutional appointments found in chain lodging. We also say we have fresh baked cookies, not cookie-cutter rooms. Not only is every bed and breakfast different from one other, but even within our property, every room is individually decorated and unique. Unlike hotels, bed and breakfasts offer so many amenities at no extra charge, such as free parking, free WiFi, beverages including water and soft drinks, snacks, breakfast, and free movies. We live in the bed and breakfast so we are always available to help with dinner reservations or help guests with what to see. We are here 24 hours in case of an emergency.
7. Does your B&B have any special history?
The original owner of the property was Dr. Charles Delucena Meigs, who was Professor of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. In 1856, at the age of 64, he began to prepare for retirement. He purchased a tract of land in Delaware County that he name "Hamanassett" after a small Connecticut river near the place his forefathers first settled. After retirement, he became Professor Emeritus and withdrew to Hamanassett about 12 miles from Philadelphia. After his death the property passed to his eldest son, General Montgomery Meigs, who had been Quartermaster General to President Lincoln during the War Between the States. In 1870, Michael J. Dohan purchased the property. The Dohan family lived at Hamanassett for 130 years, so we are only the third family to own it. Rather than owners, we consider ourselves the guardians of this wonderful property.
8. What makes your town worth visiting—are there any interesting local attractions or activities?
Philadelphia is only 30 minutes away and Wilmington, Delaware is a 20-minute drive. The area of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, noted for the Amish, is an hour away. It isn't unusual for guests to stay a week and still not do and see everything. We have several Du Pont estates such as Longwood Gardens, Winterthur, Nemours, and Hagley. Only six miles from us is the Brandywine River Museum. There are world class museums within a 30 minute drive such as the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and several art museums in Wilmington. There are at least a dozen antiques shops within a 20-minute drive. For history lovers, the Brandywine Battlefield, site of the largest battle during the American Revolution, is six miles from us and Valley Forge is about 40 minutes away. There is also the Colonial Plantation, which showcases life on a farm during the 1700s.
9. Do you have any food specialties?
The New York Times wrote about us and stated "the elaborate breakfasts are a highlight." We enjoy serving our guests a breakfast that they probably wouldn't make at home or get in a restaurant. Some of my guests' favorites are my baked pears and berries brulee. We do bring in a lot of my Southern background at breakfast, such as serving waffles with a bourbon pecan maple syrup. Of course, we also have plain maple syrup. Glenn's specialty is Jazz Fest eggs, which is poached eggs atop a crayfish bread biscuit topped with a sauce choron. He also makes Eggs Bubba, a chicken fried steak with a poached egg and country gravy served with biscuits. Another favorite of guests is our roulade with spinach, sun dried tomatoes, and Swiss cheese with hollandaise sauce. We will accommodate vegans, vegetarians, and other special dietary needs when told in advance. I make sure that no matter how long a guest is here they never receive the same thing twice. I'm always searching for new recipes and trying new dishes out.
10. Do you have any special offers coming up?
We started the Brandywine Country cooking school last year. It is a hands-on class where the students participate as much or as little as they want. The schools usually range in price from $675 to $800 per couple. This all-inclusive rate includes two nights lodging, two breakfasts, a welcoming reception, and lunch and dinner paired with wine the day of the cooking school. The classes usually have a theme such as Dining on the Orient Express. One of our most popular classes has been Last Dinner on the Titanic, which replicates the last dinner served in first class. Our Brandywine Bounty class is popular because we take guests to farms where their morning is spent foraging fresh ingredients. Though our chef pre-plans the dinner menu, it will be flexible depending upon the fresh bounty the students happen upon in their travels. They also go to a winery for a first-hand at wine making.
We are dog-friendly in one room in the main house and in both of our cottages. Our cottages are two stories with two bedrooms and two baths, and are perfect for families with small children or those people who just want a little extra privacy. We book the cottages as either a bed and breakfast accommodation, which gives the guests full access to all the amenities of the main house as well as our fabulous breakfast, or at a discount as a self-catered accommodation.
In addition, for the readers of this blog, we are offering a kids stay free deal in our carriage house and cottage between now and April 30. All they have to do is mention this blog to receive the deal!