"The Grey House"
Last October, Don and I and spent one night in a fabulous old house, just a few minutes from downtown Dubuque, Iowa.
The house named the Grey House, looked more brown to me. But the colors that really caught my eye, were all the yellows, greens, oranges and pinks, surrounding the home!
The house is located within the 60-acre, Four Mounds Estate. Named for 4 conical burial mounds, located on the property.
When we arrived in mid October, the trees along the drive were just beginning to turn.
The Burden's Home
What a home! The grand house was constructed in 1908, by George and Viola Burden for their family. Their grand Craftsman style mansion was built, high on a bluff, with an unobstructed view of the Mississippi River. Picture no trees and bushes.
Today the impressive home is a Bed & Breakfast, with 7 guest rooms and lush grounds, plus the river view. It isn't the only overnight option at Four Mounds. There is another house, far across the lawn.
The White House
The White House was built in 1924, when the Burden's son married.
Bill and his wife Elizabeth raised three daughters in the Colonial Revival style home. Elizabeth remained there until 1982, when she died and left the entire estate to the city of Dubuque.
The two house styles were so different. When we pulled up to the entrance, I was delighted that we'd chosen the Grey House for our stay. There was something intriguing and mysterious about the house,
I wonder what kind of car the Burdens owned in 1925, when they pulled up to their new home. A Lincoln Model L Convertible Coupe?
The Burdens only occupied the Great House until 1962. It's actually easier for me to picture the kind of car Mrs. Burden would have owned in the 1960's. Her chauffeur would have driven, right up to the Porte Couchere and seen her inside. Then he would have taken the car to the Chauffeur's House, which is still on the property.
The chauffeur probably didn't drive a blue Ford station wagon. That's what my family of 6 would have arrived in, if we'd been invited for a visit in 1962. It wouldn't have been too long of a drive from Grinnell. We could have brought our boxer and our cats to cheer Mrs. Burden, during her final year in the house. Oh my mind does wander when I see old houses!
As Don and I unloaded, a fellow guest greeted us and offered to help carry bags. It suddenly felt more like a home than a hotel.
Rod was very chatty and eager to tell us all the highlights of the property. He followed us in, past the coat rack and umbrella holder and up a couple stairs.
I paused for a moment in the entry room. My eyes went straight to the window.
I took in the setting. Green grass, colorful trees and the Mississippi River... bird feeders, bird bath, hammock stand... heaven!
Rod took me into the kitchen to meet our host, Dee. She was cutting up some veggies that would be served at breakfast the next day.
As she dried off her hands I looked at the beautiful cabinets filled with white dishes. (used at the events, held at Four Mounds) I was carrying a bag with our dinner for the evening. Dee offered to put it in the fridge.
The Gathering Area
Before Dee guided us upstairs to our room, I paused to peek at the comfy living room area.
The Craftsmen furniture matched the simple and practical style of the house. I read that Mr. Burden wanted to hire Frank Lloyd Wright to design the home, but Mrs. Burden said no. She didn't want to be restricted by Wright's rules of design. Architect Lawrence Buck was more flexible.
The living area led to a lovely sunroom, with large arched windows and plants.
I doubt the Burdens played cornhole in the 1920's! But, they might have looked out a telescope.
The brick floor probably kept the space nice and cool in the summer. In October, the room was getting chilly in the late afternoon. I pictured flickering logs in the fireplace.
From the Outside
When we first arrived, I noticed the windows with flower boxes, on the second story.
I didn't realize those upper windows belonged to the room we booked. Our suite was directly above the living room AND sunroom! A lot of space!
The entrance to our spacious room faced the stairs and halls, which led to other guest rooms.
The landing area had a cushioned window seat, with another glorious view of river! Before Dee opened our door, we were suddenly greeted by 3 couples who were heading for the stairs.
What an enthused bunch! We all introduced ourselves and chatted about where we were from. Our inn seemed to attract interesting guests.
Magestic River Suite
Our sprawling suite did not disappoint. Weeks earlier, Don and I did some odd re-routing of our Iowa road trip, to land ourselves a night at Four Mounds, when the Magestic River Suite was available.
The door knocker could have been creepy to some... but we were amused!
The old door opened to a hallway, with 2 windows and a closet.
The windows on the left, looked out over the Mississippi!
We opened all the Venetian blinds!
This was definitely the grandest of the 7 guest rooms.
Just like the living room below, our guest room had a fireplace and doors leading to a sunroom.
My family's Iowa house didn't have air conditioning or a sleeping porch, but we did have a braided rug like this one, in our family room.
If only the weather had been a bit warmer, we could have opened every window and slept on the extra bed. I'm sure the Burdens used this room like a sleeping porch, on hot summer nights... long before air-conditioning.
I loved all the rustic furniture!
Many of the National park lodges have "Old Hickory" furniture like this.
I've always had a thing for curious chairs! The woven rocker was unusual and sort of comfy.
The very tall Stickley chair was less comfy, but just as intriguing.
The spacious bedroom would have been glorious on a summer evening, with a breeze blowing through windows, on both sides of the bed.
But temperatures were dropping. We forgot to ask Dee before she went off duty, about the heat. Luckily we found a space heater that warmed things up.
Surprises in the Bathroom
There were only good surprises in the bathroom. I made use of one of the cozy robes hanging on the bathroom door. I made use of the triangular shelf, below the curious angled window! I wonder if that was designed to let in more light.
That clever window was interesting from the inside and the outside!
The sink and old medicine cabinet fit like a puzzle, into a funny corner! I loved the original hardware and built-in toothbrush and soap holders.
The subway tile looked pretty darn good, for being nearly a century old. It took a little figuring to get the water coming out of the shower head!
I wanted to stop the clock! There wasn't time to sit and read in the sunroom, for more than a minute. We only had one evening.
We saved books for later and got out to explore the grounds, while there was light!
We were only able to explore a small portion of the property.
There was quite a lawn between the two houses! I imagine there were some entertaining croquet games, back in the day.
The landscape around the lawn was varied and intriguing.
In photos from 1925, there was very little in the way of trees and flowers. The Burdens worked hard to create the nature that we get to enjoy today.
Trees & Leaves
As we stopped to look at the fall colors, I was reminded of the huge maple trees near my childhood home in Iowa. I remember collecting leaves as a kid, then ironing my treasures between pieces of waxed paper! Do people do that anymore?
Don and I don't get to see colors like this in Houston!
After the Burden's built their home, they created a Gentleman's Farm on the property. (Think farming for pleasure, not profit.) There are 17 buildings on the property today, but we only saw a few.
We saw the children's playhouse, a screened house, a pump house, a fun swing-seat and a garden, with squash and tomatoes and flowers.
Chairs for Viewing
And then there was this wonderful line up of Adirondack chairs, just waiting for us.
After all the socializing when we arrived, we expected to share these chairs!
But Don made drinks and we had the green chairs and river view to ourselves.
We watched the light change as the sun broke through the clouds. We saw a flock of geese startle and fly off at once. What a show!
House to Ourselves
When weather got too chilly for us, we moved to the living room and expected to see other guests.
But they'd all gone into town for dinner. We had the place to ourselves. I should have taken advantage and played the piano in the corner!
Dinner is Served
After a bit, we grabbed our deli dinner from the fridge and headed upstairs to our sitting area, near our own fireplace. Very similar to what was right below us.
I wish the fireplace had been a working one! But our space heater did a nice job warming up our room.
Before heading to bed we decided to keep the blinds up in the sunroom. Didn't want to sleep too long and miss the view!
I woke before 6 and dashed to the chilly room-of-windows to check out the view!
The sun wasn't quite up. I grabbed a blanket and cozied up for a while, on the "Old Hickory" with ottoman.
We headed down for breakfast at 9.
Dee had a nice spread of food waiting, near the bottom of the stairs.
Eggs, bacon, toast and grilled veggies. Probably from the garden!
Chatting By the Fire
Don and I joined 2 other couples at a table near the toasty fireplace! My photo doesn't capture the fire, or the happy gabbing of our group of 6. Instead, it looks just like what B&B Haters complain about... awkward table sharing.
It was a tasty and social meal. It's always fun to swap stories, with others who love travel adventures. There was talk about train travel and river cruises and shared tips about discoveries we'd all made while exploring nearby Dubuque!
Out by 11
It was hard to pack up and leave, seeing the blue skies.
Don and I did a rare selfie, to remember our stay!
I raced out to get one more photo, with a totally blue sky.
I sighed to think we couldn't linger another day and enjoy lunch or a good book on the patio.
I looked up one more time at our suite windows, right above the patio. I chuckled as I recalled a guest reminding us at breakfast, that the patio gets a lot of use in the summer. Evidently sleeping in the sunroom with open windows, can get noisy on warm nights.
Maybe I'd be okay with that. It would remind me of being a kid in bed, drifting off to sleep with sounds of my parents' party downstairs!
Our stay seemed to make me nostalgic for my Iowa childhood!
We spent a night in a grand home, that sits high on a bluff above the Mississippi River. We had window views looking out in 3 directions, over property that had been a Gentleman's Farm. (a term I didn't even know until recently)
The building itself was beautifully kept, with tasteful furniture and decor that fit perfectly. And I LOVED our suite! Charming, cozy, spacious, comfy and peaceful... on a weeknight in October!
I would definitely like to stay again!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!