Nestled in rural Williamston, North Carolina, Big Mill Bed and Breakfast has been in innkeeper Chloe G. Tuttle's family since 1922.
"Big Mill Bed and Breakfast is my home place," she said. "My folks moved to the farm that was know as Chinquapin Hill (the Tuscarora word for "chestnut") in 1922. The house was already here and over the years they added on to it. My father cleared the land with one other man and dynamite."
Chloe's father built the Pack House in the 1930s, cutting the trees, floating the logs down the creek to a saw mill, and then dragging the sawed wood back to the farm with a mule and a dray. Today, the Pack House barm is home to two bed and breakfast rooms, including the Corn Crib.
"We really did store corn in the Corn Crib, and it has its original floors and beams," Chloe said. "And mules really did live in what will become the Mule Shed Room."
Chloe took some time to answer a few more questions about this North Carolina bed and breakfast.
Please tell us a little about your inn's history.
My nephew and I were born in this house, two days apart, so we grew up together here on the farm. Life was a Norman Rockwell picture: dirt roads, creeks and fishing holes. We raised tobacco, corn, soy beans and peanuts. It took five families (who also lived on the farm), four mules (Mary, Big Red, Little Red and Rock) and several tractors to run this farm. It was a wonderful place to grow up and live... and still is. There is still a path to the creek.
Big Mill is also a viable, functioning farm. I can look out my kitchen window and see soy beans, tobacco, peanuts and corn. Big tractors have replaced the mules and many of the people, but all of the wonderful reminders of a time past remain. The original buildings are still here: the Smoke House, the Chicken Coop, the Wash House, the Pack House and all the tobacco barns. Some serve different functions now -- the Corn Crib and the Pack House are now B&B rooms.
Our mule, Mary, lived to be over forty years old she and is buried in the pasture down by the lake.
I never tire of this wonderful sanctuary. We have a swing in the old pecan tree; an orchard, a garden and acres to roam.
When folks arrive here they say they feel safe and serene. Many remark that they are reminded of their youth and summers spent on the grandparent's farm, but with all the amenities of today.
What are some of Big Mill Bed and Breakfast's unique features?
The inn is in rural, coastal North Carolina, not unlike the famed Mayberry of Andy Griffith. It is peaceful and quiet -- a great countryside retreat for those stressed with city life. We line-dry our sheets and grow organic fruits and vegetables for our guests to enjoy.
Everywhere you look there is a great photo opportunity: lush fields, barns and birds. Big Mill is a photographer's paradise.
Two of our suites/rooms are in the renovated barn, the Pack House. Fishing on the farm lakes is good and guests can paddle around in the small John boat.
Each room has its own entrance making all the room quite private.
How do you make a stay at Big Mill Bed and Breakfast special?
We encourage our guests to wander and explore the barns, grounds and forests. Or they can just hang in a hammock and listen to the birds. Big Mill is a bird watcher's paradise. Many of our guests cook dinner right here. They grill out or use the kitchens in the rooms.
What are some of the attractions in the Williamston, North Carolina, area that you would rate as must-see?
Our creeks and streams are unpolluted and undeveloped, perfect for canoeing and kayaking. The Charles Kuralt Trail is nearby and Roanoke River Partners has 12 camping platforms on the Roanoke and Cashie Rivers.
Ft. Branch, a Civil War dirt mound fort, hosts a re-enactment each November. The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a good day trip. The Bob Martin Agriculture Center has some of the best horse shows on the east coast and Historic Hamilton, Historic Edenton and Historic Hope Plantation in Windsor are easy day trips.
What might a guest at your B&B expect to have for breakfast?
We are serious about eating local and we try to grow as much of our food as possible. We have a gorgeous orchard and each year we plant a cook's garden (using our compost, of course).
We serve a continental breakfast to our guests in each guest room. Breakfast consists of homemade breads (made with fruits and nuts grown on the farm), juice, cheese, coffee, tea and fresh fruit. Grapes, plums, pears and blueberries from the orchard are served in season. Our granola is homemade and we make our quiches with local sausages and ingredients from the cook's garden. We like to serve at least one edible flower as garnish, one that we've grown, of course.
We make all our jams from fruits that we grow or pick.
Why did you decide to become an innkeeper?
In college, when I traveled, I stayed at bed and breakfasts and I really liked the idea. When I inherited my home place and the farm, I came home. The house just seemed too big for me to ramble around in so I decided to open a bed and breakfast. That was in 1992. At that time, not many folks in eastern North Carolina even knew what a B&B was!
I had worked on a private sailboat as cook for seven years, traveling up and down the east coast and the Caribbean. I met many people and decided that eastern North Carolina was a special gem and I wanted to share it.
What is your personal favorite room at the Bed and Breakfast?
I really like the Mardi Gras Suite because it was the first room that we finished. I took the time to do some of my fancy artwork (I painted the walls to look like crumbling plaster). It also has a spectacular view of the lakes.
But the guest favorite is the Corn Crib. I can only guess that is because of the name, its history (it really was a corn crib), the fact that it is in the barn, and the wonderful breezeway just outside the door.