When we arrived on Friday afternoon, we were greeted by an energetic, smiling man who was wearing a shirt displaying the words “Chief Hugger.” Murray Sonstein had an impish glint in his eye and arms wide open as he hugged us and welcomed us to The Lily Inn.
Never having been greeted at a hostelry in such a fashion was disarming (pun intended), but as we soon found out, this is S-O-P for Murray. He is one-half of the eternally youthful, joyful couple who have been nurturing their historic building into its current, almost pristine, condition in downtown Burlington, New Jersey, since 1989.
Eugenia, or Jean, as she likes to be called, is the other half of The Lily Inn. The charm quotient runs high at The Lily Inn, not just because of all the authentic antiques or architectural details, but because of “embraceable” Murray, and lovely Jean, who are warm and welcoming, and always there for you.
Whereas Murray might be considered the heart of the Inn, pumping out energy and enthusiasm, Jean is its soul. While the “Hugger” is out front greeting folks, giving out information or fixing things, Jean is often behind the scenes, in her office or kitchen, keeping everything in good order, including Murray! Her lineage goes back many generations in Burlington and she knows first-hand almost everything about the city. The Lily Inn is cleverly named in honor of Eugenia’s grandmother, Lillian.
The Lily Inn has five spacious rooms, named after people you’ve likely never heard of, but each of whom was important to our country’s history and to the City of Burlington, NJ. Of course, Murray will happily give you all that information. We stayed on the second floor in the Mary Smith Room overlooking the back garden Other rooms include Samuel Allinson, Lydia Richie, and J. Howard Pugh Suite. The third floor suite accommodates up to 4 people for the same rate.
Each of the Inn’s rooms has high ceilings, fireplaces, large windows, gorgeous antique furnishings and elegant décor. Our room had matching drapes, wallpaper and bedspread in a tasteful period design. It also had a queen-size four-poster bed with a convenient antique step-stool to climb into it! All beds at the Inn have very soft down comforters and pillows.
On the Inn’s main floor is the living room containing a grand piano, dining room and kitchen. The first two rooms are filled with antiques, artifacts and historic documents, including something very official looking that was actually signed by General Custer. The kitchen, on the other hand, is up-to-date efficient, with a humongous stove, used primarily for their party and catering services. The second floor rooms include an open-to-all-guests den with a large flat screen TV, books, games and hundreds of CD’s.
Your nightly stay at the Inn includes a full breakfast, cooked by Jean and served by Murray around 8:30 am. This may be a limited window for some travelers, but we found it exceptional. In this way you get to meet and spend time with the other guests. Just like a family in those good-old-days, when families sat, ate and socialized together. We really felt “at home” and we did not have to do the dishes!
Our Inn friends included a retired couple with family ties to the area, a single woman on a mini-vacation and a Catholic priest in town to officiate at a wedding. How often do you have the opportunity for stimulating conversation with interesting new people on a weekend getaway?
The nightly rates at The Lily Inn seemed very reasonable to us. Murray and Jean try to offer virtually every amenity imaginable, including free wifi and all the chocolate-chip cookies you can eat. There is nothing cut-rate about The Lily Inn. Their inclusive pricing includes things you pay extra for at a hotel. This is why we prefer staying at a B&B.
You know the joy of discovering something really good? It just feels right and you know it. That’s how we felt about The Lily Inn. Sure, the Hugger may seem daunting at first; after all how many times is a hug the “key” to your room? But according to Murray, in all the years of accommodating thousands of guests, he’s only been refused three times. And you know what - when we were leaving, we were actually looking forward to our goodbye hug.
But don’t just go to The Lily Inn for the hugs – go for the warmth, the comfort and the joy of discovery, provided by a super-friendly couple who operate an outstanding hostelry in a historic town on the Delaware River. Murray and Jean will do everything to make you feel at home on your visit.
The Lily Inn
214 High Street
Burlington, NJ 08016
About the City of Burlington, New Jersey
Burlington, NJ is located on the Delaware River across from Philadelphia, PA. It is remarkably easy to find, being less than 5 miles from I-295, I-95 or the NJ Turnpike. It only took us about 1½ hours to get there from Newark Airport.
Geographically, Burlington NJ is closer to Center City Philadelphia than the popular spots of Bucks County, Pennsylvania and easier to get to, as well. That’s thanks to the Burlington Bridge in downtown Burlington, linking it to Northeast Philadelphia. You can view this historic, single lane suspension bridge from the extensive greenbelt, which fronts the Delaware River for the entire length of the town. The Burlington Greenbelt is only a ½ block from The Lily Inn and an excellent place to start a walking tour of the town.
All of the downtown area is on the National Register of Historic Places, including The Lily Inn, and possesses a charm and calm of a much earlier era. A significant part of its charm is that, unlike Bucks County, Burlington has not been gentrified to the point of excess and high prices.
The Burlington Library dates back to 1757 and contains some extraordinary historical manuscripts. It also has the 3 volumes of J. J. Audubon’s original prints of Birds of America. These huge volumes are on permanent display with a different page turned weekly so repeaters can see something new each time they come to the library.
Burlington, NJ has an extraordinary number and variety of churches. Most are historic and well maintained even with the dwindling town population. Their architectural styles are as varied as the denominations. Next door to The Lily Inn is a Jewish Synagogue dating back to 1868 with original stained glass windows. Many more commercial and residential structures go back to the 18th and 19th centuries.