The Inn at Irwin Gardens Review – Downton Abbey Hoosier Style


The Inn's gardens make it an especially attractive and popular spot for weddings. Photo: Peter Kachergis


Imagine being part of that last sumptuous meal in the first class digs of the Titanic before it met its fateful hour.  Beautiful music is playing, the women are dressed in the latest fashion finery, the wine is flowing, and everyone swells with feelings of good will to all. 


Most of the Irwin family's original decor had been sold at auction but much remains to give an antique-full manor feel. Photo: Gary Scroggins


Such imaginings have often come to Sarah Johnston, Innkeeper and Business Manager of The Inn at Irwin Gardens in Columbus, Indiana, and her former co-worker who happens to do historic recreations for a living.   Johnston et al did in fact host such a Titanic last night re-enactment at the Inn and dream of similar happenings. 


Innkeeper and Business Manager Sarah Johnston dreams of future historical re-enactments and similar ways to make use of the Inn's late 19th Century early 20th Century luxury ambience. Photo: Peter Kachergis


Take a look at the grand surrounds of this antique-full bed & breakfast and it is no wonder why.   To step into The Inn at Irwin Gardens is to step back in time.   You get a peak at how the upper crust of the late 19th Century and early 20th Century lived.    


The Inn is approximately 13,000 square feet


Pinch yourself--you have lucked into what could be the set of Downton Abbey Hoosier Style. 


Originally built in 1864 by THE upper crust family of the town, the Irwins, the house was later remodeled in 1910 with then very modern updates like telephones, an elevator, and a fascinating central vacuuming system that was the roomba of its day. 


As you enter the Inn the grand staircase made of European oak creates your first impression of the Irwin family's display of wealth, back in the day. Photo: Peter Kachergis


From the European oak foyer with a grand staircase that announces the surrounds as one of wealth, you walk into the drawing room where visitors in days gone by left their calling cards on the silver tray carried in by the butler. 


From the grand foyer you would be escorted into this waiting room. Photo: Peter Kachergis


If you find the couch a bit uncomfortable know that was the intent.  You weren’t necessarily invited, after all, and the moneyed Irwin family proprietors didn’t want you to automatically feel welcome.  It was more important that interlopers in their space knew their place.     



A perfect setting for high tea, which is available for visitors during the winter season. Photo: Peter Kachergis


How charming to then walk into the Music Room, where today tea is served 24/7 and where you can plant at one of the dainty tables with porcelain tea sets.  



If you are a writer and it hasn’t already occurred to you that the Inn at Irwin Gardens would be a perfect getaway to write that Great American Novel or bring your fan fiction club for a far-from-the-madding-crowd retreat, wait until you see that each bedroom has a small couch, settee, oversized chair or other cozy writing corner. 




Perfect for knitters too, who reportedly have had a retreat at the Inn in recent years.




Weddings are booked through 2016


Look too to the gardens, modeled after ruins excavated at ancient Pompeii, and that are opened to the public for tours during its high season.


While most who stay at the Inn are there to take in the modern and post-modern architecture and public art that puts Columbus, Indiana on the tourist map, including the next door Public Library designed by I.M. Pei, the Inn’s slice of older history makes it a perfect haven for a getaway.  


The dining room where breakfast is served has both a large center table and more intimate side tables. Photo: Peter Kachergis


This is a hotel worth a detour if you are headed from Chicago down I-65 to southern destinations, but only if you have at least a day to soak up the surrounds.


How decadent and lovely--- a breakfast of bananas foster replete with a dollop of creamy ice cream and adorned by tasty fruit tidbits. Special dietary needs such as gluten-free will be accommodated. Photo: Peter Kachergis


If you love history it’s truly a thrill to pick up one or another old book in your room or in the Library looking out on the garden and know that an old letter might fall from the pages.



When you make your reservations ask Innkeeper Sarah Johnston if you may bring skeleton keys you have lying around to see if they have the fit to open old cabinets in the basement that have yet to be explored for treasures that never made it to the Christie’s auction where most of the family’s leftovers were sold. 


Here are some tips and features to note:


-There is Wifi in every room.


-Wine is served daily at 5 PM in the drawing room library.


-Coffee and tea are served 24/7 and also available in your room.


-Weddings are already booked through 2016—the next openings are in 2017.


The Inn's gardens span about two acres. Photo: Peter Kachergis


-House and Garden Tours for the public are held June through October.


There are public tours of the Inn's gardens and also special events like movie screenings in the gardens throughout the summer. Photo: Peter Kachergis


-There is an adjoining full service spa in what once was the gardener’s house.


-High tea is served from November through March and the Dining Room can also be rented for special events.


The Inn at Irwin Gardens Bed & Breakfast

608 Fifth Street

Columbus, Indiana 47201


For reservation inquiries call 812 376 3663.


For more information visit  The Inn at Irwin Gardens website.




Photos courtesy of The Inn at Irwin Gardens, unless indicated otherwise.

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