Several years ago I featured an exquisite Georgian style property, Thornton Estate, that is now a rental property for family vacations or corporate retreats. Today’s feature is another exquisite property, The Brampton Inn, circa 1860, that is now a Boutique Inn just outside Chestertown. Low walls of stacked stone topped with colorful plantings on either side of the entry drive are a prelude to the carefully curated grounds and gardens of this thirty-five acre estate. As I drove along the entry drive that turned into a circular drive at the Inn, towering trees provided shade and enclosure and framed the front elevation.
In 1987, the property transitioned from a private residence to hotel. Many of the buildings on the property were restored or reconstructed to become private guest cottages. The present owners, Hilari and Dave Rinehart, acquired the property in 2020 and are spearheading a multi-year phased transformation that will restore, reimagine and breathe new life into this historic treasure.
As I turned onto the entry drive, low walls of stacked stone topped with colorful plantings were a prelude to the carefully curated grounds and gardens of this thirty-five acre estate. As I drove nearer to the Inn, towering trees provided shade and enclosure and framed the front elevation.
Before going in, I walked around the main house to savor its Greek Revival-Italianate architectural style. The five bay wide, two bays deep, three story house capped with a cupola with a two-story rear wing clad in white lap siding. A half flight of brick steps leads up to the wrap-around porch with square columns detailed with chamfered corners, trim and plinth blocks. The columns support the bracketed cornice and the brick piers below the columns and diagonal lattice panels complete the porch design. Given the outlooks to the beautifully landscaped grounds, I especially appreciated that the porch railing of thin black iron pickets disappears into the landscape.
The Brampton Inn’s striking facades are composed of pressed brick, oversized walnut windows with shutters and the low slope roof crowned by a grand belvedere that offers stunning 360-degree views of the 35-acre country estate. To reflect the hierarchy of spaces within, the main floor’s floor to ceiling 6/9 windows have headers of bracketed molding; the second floor’s windows are shorter 6/6 with bracketed moldings and third floor windows have simple headers. The eave line of the roof breaks above the middle window into a gable and pairs of brackets enhance the eave line. The side gable ends are identical and repeat the same window pattern as the front elevation.
The original frame house now contains the kitchen, breakfast area and the Fairy Hill Guest Suite on the main floor and guest rooms above. The breakfast area feels more like a sunroom with its wrap-around windows facing south and west for sunlight throughout the day. French doors lead to a brick terrace covered by a pergola for outdoor dining. Brick steps cascade down to a hardscaped terrace on axis with an arbor and a small pergola. To the side is a firepit surrounded by Adirondack chairs. The Brampton Inn is a popular wedding destination and as I walked across the hardscaped terrace, I could well imagine a bride and groom walking through the arbor onto the terrace for their first dance as man and wife.
After exploring the exterior, I began my tour of the interior through the pair of tall double doors. The layout of the main house is a center hall floor plan with a parlor on either side and I was delighted to discover that the first floor apparently remains unaltered. No expenses were spared for the interior – hand-carved marble fireplaces, intricate plaster medallions, crystal chandeliers, Georgia pine flooring and a three-and-a-half story curved walnut ash staircase.
The open string type walnut stair is detailed with elaborately scrolled stair brackets and the heavy turned walnut newel post with acanthus and roped motifs rests on its octagonal base. Two turned balusters per each tread support the heavy walnut cap rail. I later learned from the Innkeeper that when the house was a single family residence, the young children would delight in sliding down the stairs! Walnut is also the material used for the four-panel doors with Greek ogee and bevel molding, as well as the door and window trim. This is no surprise, for walnut has a long history in America; Native Americans considered walnut to be the wood of mental focus and clear thinking. It is a high quality dark wood, with a fine straight grain that is perfect for the Inn’s flooring, trim and doors.
The Innkeeper met me in the front parlor and the golden yellow of the walls, upholstery and elegant window treatments with the wood antiques, anchored by the beautiful wood floors and the Oriental rug made me wish I could stay long enough to watch the sun set that must set the room aglow. I wondered if the long windows were jib windows, since the sills were at floor level. This type of door was important for houses in the South since the jib window opens like a door for maximum ventilation. The Innkeeper remarked that during restoration of one window, he found a business card of the company in Pennsylvania who made the window hardware and he contacted them about replacement parts. He was amazed that the original parts were still available from the company!
The other front parlor was set up for afternoon tea and I made a mental note to make a reservation for a later date. Like the other parlor, this parlor has the same original wood floors, fireplace detailing, plaster walls and ceiling medallions. This room’s wainscot, patterned wallpaper, the sheer window treatments and warm lighting set the stage for an elegant daily tea.
Seven guest suites in the main house and five cottages dotting the grounds offer a range of choices for guests. The first floor of the main house contains the Fairy Hill Suite that was the original kitchen.
The mezzanine level off the landing between the first and second floors contains the two room Emory Suite with a gas fireplace in the bedroom and a separate sitting room that overlooks the terrace and gardens off the breakfast room. The cozy sitting room is a perfect spot to watch TV.
The second floor contains the Blue Room, the Yellow Room and Poppy’s Retreat. All rooms have gas fireplaces.
This Goldilocks would relish trying out all of the rooms but my favorite room would the front corner’s Yellow Room with its pencil post bedframe covered by a lace canopy, beautiful wood floors, Oriental rugs, and wood antiques.
The third floor contains the Red Room and Green rooms for bird’s eye views of the landscape.
The Green Room also has a canopy bed that faces the front and side walls of the Inn. The chimney projection creates a cozy sitting nook by the corner windows near the free-standing wood stove.
The five cottages have different architectural styles and interiors so there is something for everyone’s taste and mobility. On the day I visited, I was only able to visit two of the cottages, Marley’s Cottage and Russell’s Cottage but the Inn’s website has descriptions and pictures of each cottage.
Marley’s Cottage is the farthest from the Inn’s Main House and is located at the edge of a meadow. This suite and others will undergo renovations to be ADA compliant. The multi-level suite will be renovated to become a one-level ADA Suite. Enjoy the peace and quiet from the front porch, swing or the two-person hammock near the meadow. The suite has a wood burning fireplace viewed from both the sitting area’s two club chairs and the bed. The luxurious bath has both a spa tub and steam shower as well as a large Japanese-style soaking infinity tub in a screened porch. The suite also has a breakfast nook and wet bar with a refrigerator.
If I were a guest, it would be difficult to leave the comfort of a suite or a cottage, but the grounds offer approximately one mile of walking trails for daily exercise or to work off the Afternoon Tea’s treats. The trails pass by pastoral scenes including the barn, a run-in shed and a silo from the property’s past as a working farm.
After dinner in one of Chestertown’s restaurants (I highly recommend The Watershed for its atmosphere and gourmet cuisine) a guest would drive back to this lovely scene of The Brampton Inn at twilight. This unique property is one of Kent County’s gems and the Innkeepers’ commitment to historic preservation and hospitality will continue to draw both repeat guests and new guests for a memorable stay. Many guests return each year and ask for their same room.
The Brampton Inn is also a popular venue for engagements, weddings, honeymoons, renewal vows, family reunions, and other special occasions. It is also no surprise that the Inn was recognized this year by USA Today 10 Best as one of the top 10 Bed and Breakfasts in the country.
For more information about the Brampton Inn, or to make a reservation, visit www.bramptoninn.com/chestertown-inn, 410-778-1860. (I love how their telephone number is the date of the main house’s construction!)
Photographs courtesy of The Brampton Inn to illustrate the charm of the exteriors and interiors through all the seasons.
Jennifer Martella has pursued dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. She has reestablished her architectural practice for residential and commercial projects and is a referral agent for Meredith Fine Properties. Her Italian heritage led her to Piazza Italian Market, where she hosts wine tastings every Friday and Saturday afternoons.