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Spotlight on Kilburnie

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Named one of best B&Bs in the South

By Stephanie Jadrnicek

A local treasure recently received national recognition, as Birmingham Magazine named Kilburnie one of the best bed and breakfasts in the South.
Just north of Lancaster on the historic Craig Farm, Kilburnie was described as a rural oasis with nature trails and an expansive backyard that’s also a certified wildlife habitat.
Writer Anna Mazurek complimented innkeeper Johannes Tromp on his two-course gourmet breakfasts.
“If the property’s lush beauty doesn’t impress you, the breakfast surely will,” she wrote. “Tromp… is a European-trained chef, former New York City restaurateur, and the former director of catering for the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center.”
Kilburnie, the Inn at Craig Farm came in second behind The Swag in Waynesville, N.C. Rounding out the top five were Two Meeting Street Inn in Charleston, The Paxton House in Thomasville, Ga., and Havana in San Antonio.
Previously featured in Southern Living and South Carolina Magazine, Kilburnie is no stranger to national acclaim. But every time the spotlight shines, Tromp is absolutely delighted.
“What a wonderful recognition of 19 years of hard but enjoyable work,” he said.
Twenty years ago, Kilburnie was slated for demolition. But an interesting turn of events led to a second life for the oldest surviving house in Lancaster.
In October 1998, Johannes Tromp and John Craig headed south from New York City to Lancaster for a few relaxing days at Craig’s family home, the historic Craig House.
During their stay, Tromp picked up a copy of The Lancaster News and saw a photograph on the front page of Kilburnie – the house Craig’s great-grandparents had been married in.
Located on White Street in downtown Lancaster – now the Rite Aid parking lot – the house had been condemned after 40 years of vacancy, and the city planned to demolish it by Feb. 15, 1999.
“I took a look at the building and was pretty disgusted by its condition,” Tromp said.
He returned to the house in the afternoon for further inspection after obtaining keys from owner Michael Williams.
“The interiors were beyond description, with all windows broken, ceilings caved in, fire mantles removed,” he said. “We knew we had to move fast. Within days John and I made the decision to save Kilburnie. I just never went back to New York.”
Since they already owned land across the road from the historic Craig House, they decided to move Kilburnie there. They cleared the land and built a foundation in preparation for the move, which took place just nine days before the house’s scheduled demise.
The first story, a 30- by 40-foot structure, was the only portion that remained intact during relocation. The porches and the second and third stories of the house were disassembled board by board, beam by beam.
“It took a few months for the contractor to start the reconstruction using all the original lumber,” Tromp said. “The ancient beams were hand-hewn and numbered with Roman numerals.”
During reconstruction, the contractor strengthened the structure by replacing lumber where necessary. Tromp said one of the most difficult challenges was restoring the ornate parlor ceiling, which was damaged beyond repair.
“Jim Shore, our local and now worldwide-recognized artist, came to the rescue,” Tromp said. “He reproduced the entire ornate ceiling details using crushed pecan shells and resin instead of the original plaster details.”
After 14 months of intense restoration, Kilburnie was officially opened by then-Gov. Jim Hodges on May 21, 2000.    
The inn hosts about 2,000 guests annually from all over the nation and abroad, and most are repeat guests. Tromp said Kilburnie entices people with its setting and comfort, its spacious rooms and baths, and its fireplaces and elegant décor.
“But what I hear from my guests all the time is that they much appreciate the hospitality and the daily gourmet breakfasts,” he said.
Every time Craig looks at Kilburnie, he thinks of his great-grandparents being married there. Shortly afterward, they moved into the Craig House, where they lived the rest of their married lives.
“The irony is that these two houses ended up facing each other across the road,” Craig said. “I think my great-grandparents would be very pleased to know that this came full circle.”
Regular tours are available by appointment only and cost $10 per person. Weekday accommodations range from $169 to $189, and weekend rates are $189 to $219.
To read the full Birmingham Magazine story, visit al.com.

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Contact Stephanie Jadrnicek at (803) 283-1152.