Just what possessed inn- keepers Tom and Marcey White to move from Texas to Bethel, Maine in order to open a most unique inn, A Prodigal Inn & Gallery, is the question I had recently posed to this charming couple.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bethel, this tiny village is located in the western mountains of Maine 70 miles from Portland. Since its settlement in 1768, its population at approximately 2360, including the surrounding school district communities, has remained quite stable. However, during the peak seasons it swells to about 6000.
What is noteworthy about this scenic area in the heart of Western Maine is its convenient location to the popular Sunday River Ski Resort, as well as snowmobiling, hunting, tubing, snowboarding, fishing, hiking, antiquing, kayaking, canoeing, golfing, historical research, and not to forget the brilliance of the fall foliage.
Marcey indicated to me that when she and Tom moved to Maine, they were trying to find a way whereby Tom could leave the construction/carpentry field and concentrate solely on his art career. Apparently, about ten years ago Tom discovered that he had an innate artistic talent for sculpting and painting. Quite amazing is that Tom is a self taught artist- hardly having taken a lesson!
Their objective was to find a property that would permit them to have an inn and at the same time a place to display Tom’s art- work.
The result was the purchasing of an 1813 historic property that Tom unbelievably single- handed renovated into a magnificent inn with an adjacent art studio. Previous to running the inn, Marcey had experience in the food and service industries and thus she was able to easily transfer her skills.
The inn’s most unusual name is patterned after the parable of the Prodigal Son and Tom’s exquisite bronze sculpture reflects its message. It is the hope of the innkeepers that guests will experience the same welcome as depicted in the sculpture and story.
Initially, the property had been owned by one of the founding fathers of Bethel, the Twitchell family, who had been proprietors for about 150 years. For twenty years previous to Marcey and Tom’s ownership, the inn had been billed as the first “Bed and Breakfast in Western Maine.” However, it had only consisted of six rooms with one shared bath and kitchen privileges.
Today, the inn’s six rooms deserve top marks for their spaciousness and tasteful decor, each having their own private bathrooms, and some even with Jacuzzis tubs. Rooms are named after the innkeepers’ children and a grandchild. According to Marcey, she adopted the personalities of each of them to reflect their favorite colors.
Prevalent throughout the inn is its peace and calmness. We also found the rooms devoid of uniformity and exuding a great deal of warmth and elegance.
Entering the inn’s living room, we were immediately taken in by Tom’s original one-of-a kind bronze sculptures. Marcey indicated to us that guests are invited to watch this “world- class sculptor” as he goes about creating his magnificent works of art. It did not take us very long to take her up on the offer and we visited the adjacent studio that is set up in an adjacent renovated barn.
No doubt, Tom’s artistic inspiration has been enhanced by the spectacular scenery surrounding the inn with its meadows, nearby rivers and ponds, (the inn is across from the Androscoggin River), and mountains.
It is also little wonder why this inn has proven to be popular for couples celebrating intimate weddings in the gazebo located within the inn’s stunning perennial gardens.
Incidentally, leading to the inn’s front door are private hiking trails and there is access to cross-country and snowmobile systems.
During the fall foliage and winter seasons, when the weather becomes a little nippy, there is nothing that can beat sitting in front of the inn’s wood- burning fireplace enjoying afternoon tea and delicious cookies that Marcey prepares and sets out for her guests.
When the weather permits, you can sit out in the garden Gazebo after an exhilarating walk in the woods and perhaps spot a deer or pick berries.
Marcey serves a scrumptious breakfast in the dining room with a wide assortment of goodies from juices, cereals, breads, eggs, to practically anything you palette may desire.
Through our travels, my wife and I have noticed that every town has one restaurant that is considered by the town’s people to be “a cut above” the others. Such is the case of one of Bethel’s choice dining establishments, The Sudbury Inn. The restaurant is housed in an inn dating back to around 1873.
You know you are in for a real treat when you look at the menu with its myriad of choices from Veal Picatta, Sole Florentine, Chicken Sicilian, Maine Boiled Lobster, Red Snapper al Pomodro to Beef Tournedos.
Owners Bill and Nancy White have built their reputations by providing the best personal service possible combined with a creative menu.
Another choice of Bethel’s residents is The Bethel Inn & Country Club where after a round of golf you can indulge yourself in lunch or dinner served in the club’s dining room.