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50 Lincoln Bed and Breakfast
Hospitality in the Short North
January 2007
by Karen Edwards

© Photos by Rick Borgia

Step inside the doors at 50 Lincoln and the hospitality is palpable. It’s in the sweet, cinnamon-scented air, the shiny hardwood floors, the mass of reading material and comfortable furnishings that invite you, without words, to sit and stay awhile. This is a big-city bed and breakfast with a cozy, neighborhood feel, and it comes complete with the genuine glad-to-see-you smiles of owners Sandy Davis and full-time manager Trelene Turner.

If Sandy Davis looks familiar, you may have run into her in the Victorian Village area where she lives with her builder-remodeler husband Don – or maybe you recognize her from Harrison House, the four-bedroom bed and breakfast on Fifth Avenue, which the Davises owned for 10 years.

For the last two years, Sandy Davis has run both Harrison House and 50 Lincoln as bed and breakfast businesses. (Don helps only when repairs or remodeling are needed.) “We wanted to retire, but still produce income, so we decided to keep 50 Lincoln as a bed and breakfast and sell Harrison House. I had done everything I ever wanted to at Harrison House,” says Davis – but the 50 Lincoln address offered new challenges, and it was the larger of the two, so it remained in the family. Harrison House sold last month.

Sketchy history
Zoe and Jack Johnstone had bought 50 Lincoln (then a duplex) in the mid-1980s – during the Short North’s “transitional period” – and turned it into a bed and breakfast. Eventually, they sold the business to Marianne and Dick Olsen – friends of Sandy and Don Davis. “When the Olsens told us a couple of years ago they’d like to sell 50 Lincoln, I told them I’d like to buy it,” says Sandy Davis.

The Davises took ownership of 50 Lincoln in 2004, and made a few cosmetic changes – putting down new hardwood floors, for example, painting, adding crown molding and generally updating the house. After four days of renovation work, the bed and breakfast was once again open for business.

“That’s all the history I know about this place,” says Davis. Since it’s a 19th-century, three-story Italianate-style home, there’s no doubt more history to the building, but for now, it is keeping its secrets. One thing Davis is sure of – there are no ghosts. “If there were, I could probably charge more,” she says with a laugh.

Davis admits she has always loved big Victorian homes, and remembers years ago watching a television news story about a lady in German Village who had just opened a bed and breakfast. “Right then, I knew that was something I wanted to do.” Of course, she wanted to run her bed and breakfast in a grand Victorian home.

But she had a life in the suburbs, children, and an assortment of sales jobs that ate up her day. “I’ve always been the ‘face’ of the companies I represented,” she says. At one time or another, that assortment included Maidenform, Gillette and what was then City National Bank.

But she and her husband were always on the lookout for homes in the Victorian Village area, and they finally found one on Smith Place. The large Victorian home had been chopped up into small rental units – “some of the tenants just left their belongings there when they moved on,” says Davis – but the pair bought it anyway, and put a great deal of time and effort into restoring it to its original condition. It’s not surprising that, several years ago, their house was a featured attraction on the annual Victorian Village home and garden tour. It also operates as an occasional bed and breakfast – “but only when we the previous owners of Harrison House ran out of room or for special occasions,” says Davis.

The Davises no longer own the home on Smith Place, but they still live in Victorian Village. Manager Trelene Turner, meanwhile, lives full-time in the housekeeping quarters at 50 Lincoln.

“Trelene manages the day-to-day operations,” says Sandy. “I handle the reservations and pay the bills.”

And of course, she handled all the decorating.

Furnished like home
“I decided on a traditional style to compliment the house,” Davis says. But the furniture she chose is casual and comfortable, not stiffly formal, so there’s a general feeling this is “home,” a place where you can relax and be yourself.

The bedrooms are all tastefully decorated. Some rooms are larger than others, but all have private baths and queen-sized beds. The mattresses are made locally and always receive comments from guests.

“People love our beds,” says Davis, adding that beds are crucial to a good bed and breakfast experience. “If you don’t have good beds, you might as well not be in business,” she says. “Of course,” she adds, “guests compliment everything, from the coffee to the décor. I think they really appreciate our efforts to make their stay as pleasant as possible.”

Downstairs, the parlor is filled with some of that comfortable furniture mentioned earlier, and there are books, magazines and a collection of board games arranged around the room so guests need never be bored – even during a Columbus snowstorm.

Some of the home’s furnishings are new, some are antique – like the parade of chandeliers which march across the ceiling, like women in ballgowns, from the parlor to the breakfast room.

The breakfast room is a cheery place, filled with matching glass-topped tables and padded chairs. It’s here that guests assemble each morning – anytime between 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays, and between 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. weekends – to sample one of Turner’s homemade coffee-cakes or hearty breakfast casseroles.

“When I cooked, I used to serve more traditional fare, like blueberry pancakes, or French toast,” says Davis. But no one is complaining about Turner’s homemade treats.

Guests seat themselves at a table. Occasionally, breakfast will be served as a buffet, but generally, meals are brought out to the guests from the spotless kitchen. “It’s cook’s choice; there is no menu,” says Davis – although special dietary needs can be accommodated, including diabetic, vegetarian and vegan.

Conversation at breakfast is always lively. “People don’t just talk to their tablemates, they’ll talk to others at adjoining tables,” she says.

Of course, there was one time when every single guest at 50 Lincoln spoke a different language. “We nod and smile a lot at those times,” says Davis, but fortunately, at that time, there was one gentleman who spoke several languages. “He not only acted as our interpreter, but he could facilitate discussions between different groups,” she recalls.

The guest book
It’s not at all unusual for 50 Lincoln to have guests from other countries, other states, or even from other towns throughout Ohio. Guests are referred here by the Ohio State University, the Columbus Zoo, Battelle, and Nationwide – and when the downtown hotels are booked up with convention goers, 50 Lincoln often receives convention traffic overflow.

“Last summer,” says Davis, “this whole place was taken over by the Episco-palians.” The church crowd was in town for their annual meeting. “They would invite people back here to relax. One evening, they even had a cookout,” Davis recalls.

Although Davis can’t remember hosting any celebrity guests, she has plenty of writers and artists who stay with her – as well as a crowd of regulars who will even postpone a trip to Columbus if 50 Lincoln is booked.

“This is their comfort zone,” Davis explains. These are people who know and like the neighborhood and who have become familiar both with the B&B and its set-up.

If a guest is visiting 50 Lincoln for the first time, Davis isn’t hesitant to point out Short North – as well as Columbus – attractions. “We have so many restaurants nearby that guests don’t have to worry about where to eat,” she says. R.J. Snappers is on the corner, and guests can easily walk to Betty’s or Rigsby’s without getting lost.

“I always tell them to visit GrandView Mercantile and the North Market,” Davis continues. “And I tell them about the Franklin Park Conservatory, the art museum, and any plays that may be going on.”

But most of her guests are here for specific reasons, she says. “They’re usually either visiting family in town or they’re here on business.” Some come for Gallery Hop weekends – especially the Holiday Hop. “Even if they didn’t come for Gallery Hop, most of my guests will go out and enjoy it because it’s right here,” she adds.

Davis says she considers 50 Lincoln to be “the center of the universe.” “We’re really fortunate to be in the very heart of the Short North,” she says. Many of her guests come by air, but those who drive can park their cars and spend their entire time just walking to places. “Everything is just so convenient,” she notes. Parking, of course, is at a premium in the Short North, but 50 Lincoln has its own parking facility in back, accommodating five to ten cars, depending on how they’re parked.

Also out back is a small, round patio, with a tree in the center, and flower beds surrounding the patio on two sides. During the summer, the beds are filled with roses and other perennials. “It’s a wonderful place to be then,” says Davis. Turner will occasionally set out tables and serve breakfast there – and of course, this is where the Episcopalians enjoyed their cookout.

Hospitality on hand
If you’re the type of individual who tries to wrangle an invitation to other people’s parties rather than host your own, you’d never make it as a bed and breakfast owner.

“It’s like having people stay over at your house all the time,” says Davis. “It’s more a lifestyle, really, than a job.”

That means you’d best be the sociable type – willing to extend hospitality to anyone, any time – or don’t even try this business.

Most B&B owners burn out in five years, says Davis. But she’s been extending her own brand of hospitality for 10 years now, and it’s as warm today as on her first day as a bed and breakfast owner.

Small amenities are everywhere. Guests at 50 Lincoln enjoy access to hot drinks throughout the day, for example “At one time, I thought of serving a high tea, but decided against it because no is ever here at 4 p.m. when I would have served it,” says Davis. There is also a guest refrigerator in the kitchen for those who bring bottles of wines with them, or maybe return from a local restaurant with a doggie bag.

Davis keeps 50 Lincoln open every day, including holidays, and while she doesn’t host Thanksgiving, one year she did give a family of guests access to the kitchen so they could prepare their own Thanksgiving dinner.

The only places where Davis draws the hospitality line is at weddings – “we just can’t accommodate them here,” she says – and reserving specific rooms (unnecessary, really, since all rooms have the same amenities, including Internet access.)

All rooms also have the same price – $119 per night. “That price doesn’t increase on weekends, or on football Saturdays, or for Gallery Hops,” says Davis. “It’s the same price all the time.”

Quite a bargain when you consider breakfast comes with the room, and all that hospitality besides.

Davis says when she travels now, she usually stays at bed and breakfasts, and highly recommends that others try this kind of lodging if they haven’t experienced it before.

“It’s the only way to really experience a city,” says Davis. As she explains, bed and breakfast hosts will turn you into neighborhood insiders by telling you what places to see – and what places to avoid. She recalls traveling on her job and staying at hotel chains. “I’d wake up and have to remind myself where I was because there was nothing about the room or the place itself to let me know,” she says. “By staying at a bed and breakfast, though, you can truly understand the feel of a place.”

Surely the guests at 50 Lincoln must feel the same way.

50 Lincoln Bed and Breakfast, located in the Short North at 50 East Lincoln Street, is open every day, including holidays.
Visit their Web site at or call 614-299-5050 or (toll free) 800-516-9664 to reserve a room.

© 2007 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.