Nora Roberts converting historic hotel to Inn Boonsboro

April 28, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

BOONSBORO - Guests who check in at the historic Boone Hotel when its conversion to Inn Boonsboro is complete might relax in the flashy style of Dashiell Hammett's Nick and Nora Charles, experience Gothic mystery with Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester or enjoy old-world charm reminiscent of Elizabeth and Darcy.

Best-selling author Nora Roberts' dream is to decorate each of the six rooms at the hotel that she and her husband Bruce Wilder are converting to an inn in the style of great romantic fictional couples, including one of her own.

The acclaimed novelist and co-owner of the historic Boone Hotel in Boonsboro's Town Square said she plans to reserve one of those rooms for her own couple, futuristic police lieutenant Eve Dallas and her Irish billionaire Roarke, who are featured in the popular "In Death" series she writes under the pseudonym J.D. Robb.

Although nothing has been finalized, Roberts' professional penchant for romantic couples led her to explore borrowing the atmosphere for the inn's rooms from works such as Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," Charlotte Bront's "Jane Eyre" and Hammett's "The Thin Man."


In addition to the Boone Hotel, Roberts and Wilder, a photographer and the owner of Turn the Page bookstore, purchased the former U.S. Hotel at 2 S. Main St., which also is on Boonsboro's Town Square.

Boonsboro Mayor Charles F. "Skip" Kauffman Jr. said Boonsboro is fortunate to have a family committed to bringing both of the historic properties back to their prime.

"This is great news for the town," said Kauffman, who has been mayor of Boonsboro since 1988. "We're blessed."

Work has begun in earnest on both properties, Roberts said.

"We have a great plan - just wait about a year," she said.

The U.S. Hotel will house a restaurant to be operated by Roberts' son, Dan Aufdem-Brinke.

He formerly owned Asaro's Restaurant at 4 N. Main St., but that restaurant was destroyed by a fire on Jan. 19.

Aufdem-Brinke's new restaurant - Vesta - will be on the first floor at 2 S. Main St., along with a party room, arcade and room for outdoor dining, he said.

The menu will include Italian food, burgers, fries and pizza, and delivery service will be available.

The apartments upstairs will be retained, he said.

"It's been a long layoff from making pizzas," said Aufdem-Brinke, who said plans call for the restaurant to open by the end of summer.

His wife, Stacie, works across the street from the Boone Hotel, at Turn the Page bookstore.

Over at the Boone Hotel, plans call for six bedroom suites - five upstairs and one downstairs that will be handicapped accessible.

"All the rooms will be decorated in the period" of the different romantic fictional couples, Roberts said. "I want them to be inviting and comfortable - atmosphere and comfort will be the key."

To that end she is working with furniture store owner and local historian Doug Bast. Roberts also hopes to include in the rooms some of the items her mother left her.

With 9,000 square feet at the Boone Hotel, "There will be a room for the innkeeper and possibly some artist space," Wilder said.

A kitchen, dining room and laundry will round out the space on the first floor. There also will be a gift shop.

"I see a courtyard and patio in the back," said Roberts, who vowed that corners will not be cut.

"We'll do it the way it should be done," she said.

Roberts said she feels strongly that old buildings should be allowed to retain their dignity, and promised that time and attention would be given to the renovations.

The architectural firm for both buildings is Proffitt and Associates of Frederick, Md.

Built around the late 1700s, the Boone Hotel once was known as the Eagle Hotel and served tourists and travelers.

In recent years, the Boone Hotel "has just sat there for so long, getting sadder and sadder," Roberts said.

Wilder said he and his wife long had wondered why someone didn't do something about the Boone, so they decided they would do it as a couple, purchasing it from the previous owner.

"There is a bakery next door and room service will be available from Dan's restaurant," Roberts said. "We want to enhance the town, not compete."

Plans already are afoot to connect to local businesses and artists, Wilder said. Kathy Hauver's Antietam Art is next to the bookstore.

Roberts has lived in Washington County for more than 30 years. Her children attended local schools, as do her grandchildren.

The Herald-Mail Articles