As Wendy and I begin our seventh year as Innkeepers, we are excited to celebrate the 35th Anniversary of Old Rittenhouse Inn and Landmark Restaurant. As a child, I can remember the “big move” from Madison to Bayfield (dad let me ride in the U-Haul with him) and how excited I was to live in our “northern castle.” That sense of excitement is something I still feel every day when I look at this big old red Victorian.
When I think of my parents, Jerry and Mary, leaving good jobs in their chosen fields to open a restaurant and Bed and Breakfast in the tiny town of Bayfield (which was still a ghost town in those days), I have to wonder what they were thinking. They had no money, no experience in the hospitality business, and a huge old building with all its required upkeep and astronomical fuel bills. It’s a wonder they made it at all, and yet their tenacity, and their unwavering vision of a new kind of hospitality, led them to lasting success. The early coverage they received in magazines such as Gourmet, Midwest Living, Minnesota Monthly, and Wisconsin Trails helped put struggling Bayfield back on the map as a tourist destination. As the Inn’s fortunes rose, so did Bayfield’s.
My first job here at the Inn was stemming strawberries on the front porch with my grandma. I probably ate half as many as I stemmed, as my red-stained face would’ve easily attested. Over the years I worked in the Kitchen, Wait Staff, Front Desk, Maintenance, Marketing/PR, and now as Managing Innkeeper. Wendy followed a similar trajectory, starting in Housekeeping and working her way to the top of the Wait Staff, leading the Front Desk, serving as Events Director and now Managing Innkeeper. Combined with my parents, and my dear aunt Julie, our family has well over a hundred years of innkeeping experience here at Old Rittenhouse Inn.
As we enter our 35th season, we thank all the incredible guests who have made this possible over the years. We also thank our great staff members, past and present. They act as an extension of ourselves, and our vision of hospitality, and we could not do this without them.
There have been many stars on our staff, but none shines brighter than my mother, Mary Phillips’s. The Rittenhouse Inn was her baby from the start, and she put every ounce of her self into creating and growing the business. For 18 years, she cooked every single meal served in our dining rooms. She knew what was going out there better than our very fine Wait Staff did, and she ruled that kitchen with an iron fist and a velvet glove. Everyone loved, respected, and confided in her. She was a great leader, and an even better listener. Though her days as a chef ended with her stroke in the early 90s, she remains a force at the Rittenhouse Inn, and these days, when something is not to her liking, we can count on her letting us know all about it in short order!
When you stay here, and when you dine with us, you are joining in something special: a tradition of warmth and hospitality that extends back to 1976. This is not a cookie cutter hotel or a quaint B&B. No two rooms are alike, and we feel that each is magnificent in it’s own way. We put great emphasis on using local products when possible. We make great efforts to be stewards of the environment, and we truly care what you, our guests, have to say. Most importantly, we are here for one reason: to serve.
Thank you for being part of our history. We look forward to your next visit.