Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Country Inns: Centre Mills

North of Harrisburg, a 19th-century mill owner's home named Centre Mills now welcomes visitors to Pennsylvania farm country.

Originally the home of a Pennsylvania German miller, this 1813 structure in the heart of Brush Valley's Amish farm community was converted into an inn several years ago. An early-19th-century gristmill and the distillery it housed still stand on the wooded 26-acre property.

Innkeeper Maria Davison, who furnished the interior with antiques purchased locally, pampers guests with puff pancakes for breakfast and delights in introducing them to the tranquil countryside, Amish shops, and trout-fishing spots nearby.

"City people come here and they think it's heaven," says Maria. "The area has not yet been discovered, so it's very quiet." Still, Penn State University is within 20 miles, offering activities and diversions. "If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle and hear your heart beat, this is the place," says Maria.

Good Morning!

Breakfast is served in the inn's dining room, where a brilliantly painted late-1700's Pennsylvania German cupboard vies for attention with doors that were painted to recall early regional versions. The green chairs that surround the late-1800's sawbuck table pick up the same rich hue used on the door. Underfoot, the structure's original wide-plank pine floors remain intact.

A Restful Sleep

In a guest bedroom, soothing colors create a welcome retreat. Tranquil shades of green lend character to the wall's tongue-and-groove paneling and trim. An Amish friend of Maria's hand stitched the Nine Patch quilt for the guest room's pencil-post tester bed. A c. 1740's Philadelphia comb-back Windsor, a gilded plaster mirror of the same vintage, and a snake-foot candlestand create an inviting ensemble.

Old-Fashioned Ways

"There goes our local traffic," says Maria Davison, as an Old Order Amish buggy rolls by the road behind the inn. Behind the picket fence lies a cheerful garden. Also on the property is an 1802 mill, which is the last standing stone mill in Centre County. Centre Mills is constructed from local limestone and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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