A Midwest getaway close to the big cities, but far enough away to enjoy silence and tranquility, Lincoln Way Inn Bed & Breakfast in Franklin Grove, Illinois, truly is a prairie oasis, blending history, luxury, and serenity.
Franklin Grove is approximately two hours west of Chicago; less than an hour south of Rockford, Illinois; and about 90 minutes northeast of the Quad Cities. But you know that saying, “a million miles from nowhere”? That’s kind of the feeling you get staying at Lincoln Way B&B. And it’s a good thing. We all need to disconnect, relax, and recharge every once in a while, and this prairie oasis is the perfect place to do so.
Lincoln Way history
There is much in the way of history both inside and just outside Lincoln Way Inn B&B. The home which now serves as the main part of the inn was built in 1912. A year later, the road upon which the home sits became part of the newly dedicated Lincoln Highway. One of the oldest transcontinental motorways in the U.S., Lincoln Highway spans almost 3,400 miles from New York City to San Francisco. The highway is named after Illinois’ favorite son and the 16th President of the U.S., Abraham Lincoln.
Franklin Grove may be a tiny town but it has a big responsibility. Not only is it a part of Lincoln Highway, it’s also the site of the Lincoln Highway Organization headquarters.
Present-day Lincoln Way B&B
John and Lisa Marie Ayres are the fourth owners of the home and are the innkeepers at Lincoln Way B&B. The couple relocated to the area in 2010, arriving with a shared love of nature and a dedication to conservation. The Ayres saw the home and the surrounding land as the ideal spot to plant their roots and transform their section of the countryside into a prairie oasis. They purchased the home in 2013; began renovations in 2014; and opened as Lincoln Way B&B in June 2015.
Modern luxuries at this Midwest getaway
There are reminders throughout of the home’s earliest days and they don’t take away at all from the modern luxuries. The Ayres are committed to providing their guests the utmost in relaxation and revitalization. Luxuries added to the home during renovation include a cedar sauna; a massage therapy room (massage appointments must be made in advance); and an outdoor patio with fireplace. There is also WiFi, of course.
Another luxury at Lincoln Way B&B is the organic and locally-sourced breakfast served to guests each morning. Lisa and her staff get quite creative with their offerings while keeping them healthy and all-natural. Expect the Ayres’ own honey to make an appearance in at least one of the dishes. Yes, Lisa and John are also beekeepers, more evidence of their commitment to the environment.
There are five suites in the original house and one detached carriage house. Each of the suites is named after a prominent person or place native to Illinois. I was not able to view any of the suites in person during my stay because they all were occupied. I can report, however, that all suites include organic linens, towels, and bath products, and security-code access to the doors (the codes are changed for newly arriving guests). Just have a look at the photos on Lincoln Way’s site to see how gorgeously well-appointed the suites are (I know I’ve got my eye on the Blackhawk Suite for my next visit).
The Carriage House Loft & Suite was not part of the original 1912 home. It is a new construction completed in spring of 2015. It is a 2-level structure, the bottom level being a secure parking garage with individual stalls for inn guests. The second level is the expansive loft and guest suite; this is where I stayed during my time at the inn. It is one of those places that, when you first walk in, you can’t believe your eyes and you think to yourself, “I’m never leaving.” Appropriately named, the loft is an open space with a dining area, a sitting area, and a full kitchen that I couldn’t help but envy.
While it does serve as guests quarters, the loft can also be used for private events with capacity for 30 people. Everything one could possibly need to host an event is on hand in the loft: dishes, pots, silverware, serving trays, carafes, corkscrews, bottle openers – you name it. There’s also a pull-down screen should event organizers need to display a presentation, as well as two powder rooms. (Everything listed here is also available for overnight guests.) The suite itself is ridiculously cozy and comfortable. The private bathroom is almost as big as the bedroom and features a jacuzzi tub and stand-up shower.
What I loved most about my Midwest getaway…
The inn and the carriage house are absolutely gorgeous. It is a great comfort to know such a retreat is so close to my home in Chicago. The breakfast whipped up and served so beautifully by Lisa and her team was delicious, healthy, and natural. But what I loved most about Lincoln Way Inn B&B has more to do with personal touches and the Ayres’ commitment to conservation.
On the front porch is a large chalkboard upon which is written a welcome note to arriving guests who are listed individually. Looking around the Carriage House Loft after I checked in, I found two cute little chalkboards in different places, with a personalized note to welcome me. After Lisa showed me around, she then provided me her business card with her cell phone number on it, the WiFi password, and the security code to get into the loft. I appreciated the convenience of having all of that information in one place, and I especially appreciated being able to easily contact Lisa if necessary. Lisa did check in with me later in the evening, sending a text to make sure everything was alright, and to wish me a good night. Throughout the inn and in the loft are separate, well-marked bins for trash and recycling. Lastly, I could not stop gushing over the rustic but chic decor throughout the property. Even the smallest touches match up quite nicely with the historic charm and elegance of the home.
When you go on your own Midwest getaway…
It’s hard to leave Lincoln Way B&B, even to go out for dinner. But chances are you will get hungry so knowing where to go is a good idea. EDIT: Remember, the town of Franklin Grove is tiny. There is just one restaurant in town, The Lincolnway Cafe. It is open for dinner only on Friday nights, as well as breakfast and lunch 7 days a week. Another option is to drive about 10 minutes into Dixon where you will find a range of dining choices. In addition, Lisa will provide a list of her restaurant recommendations upon check-in.
The Ayres chose to settle in Franklin Grove because of the surrounding natural areas. Lincoln Way guests have the opportunity to explore these areas, as well. Nachusa Grasslands is a 3,600-acre preserve where, through habitat restoration, you’ll find one of the largest and most biologically diverse grasslands in Illinois. Owned by The Nature Conservancy, there is a visitor’s center with exhibits telling the story of Nachusa. Look out onto the grasslands from that vantage point or, better yet, hit the hiking trails where you just might catch a glimpse of the native Grasslands bison herd. Franklin Creek State Natural Area is a year-round outdoor destination, with miles of hiking, equestrian, cross-country ski, and snowmobile trails. It is also home to a restored grist mill which dates back to 1847. About 20 minutes from the inn, in Oregon, Illinois, is Lowden State Park. It is home to the 50-foot statue of Chief Black Hawk designed by Illinois native Lorado Taft. Hike the trail to the base of the statue for gorgeous views of the Rock River Valley.
During my stay at Lincoln Way Inn B&B, I met a family who just happened to stay at the inn on its opening night in 2015. They have returned to stay at the inn every year since. After experiencing the luxurious and rejuvenating environment created by the Ayres, I understand what brings that family back year after year.
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I was hosted for one night at Lincoln Way Inn B&B. All thoughts and opinions, as always, are 100% my own.