The Blue Belle Inn Bed & Breakfast in St. Ansgar offers book-themed rooms
Thirty years ago, Sherrie Hansen decided she wanted to be closer to her family after living in Colorado for 12 years. As a property manager of 400 units in restored Victorian homes in Colorado Springs, Hansen knew she had the know-how and experience to run a bed and breakfast and tea room and began looking for a property within half an hour from Austin, Minnesota, his hometown.
She found this property in St. Ansgar, Iowa, where her great-grandmother was from. The house, built in 1896 by a banker and financier as a private home, was converted into a boarding house after the owner lost it when the stock market collapsed, causing the Great Depression.
Hansen bought the property for just $ 18,000, which left him with the money to work on much-needed renovations.
âSeveral people tried to fix it, but always lacked the time or money. When I bought it, the house had no heating, cooking or electricity. There were so many leaks that the water had been shut off and there had not been a new coat of paint for decades. I always said I saved him from the clutches of the bulldozer, âsaid Hansen.
Now the Blue Belle Inn Bed & Breakfast offers rooms decorated to fit a different book title – the favorites of Hansen, herself an author. Choose from rooms like Never Never Land, with clawfoot tubs and French showers; or Plum Creek, with a king-size bed, fireplace, private bath with a Jacuzzi for two and a clawfoot tub.
In addition to the property, Hansen also acquired Annie’s House of Dreams, a few meters from the main house, which is accessible to people with disabilities and can be rented as a single space or as two separate floors.
âMy favorite is Anne’s Dream House because it has so much beautiful woodwork and so many quirky touches made during the renovation, which my dad ran,â said Hansen.
At Wrinkle in Time, a 1950s bungalow located immediately east of the Blue Belle, can now also be rented.
Address: 513 W. 4th St., St. Ansgar
Telephone: (877) 713-3113
Distance from downtown Des Moines: 151 miles
Food: The Tea Room located at the Blue Belle Inn, which can accommodate 35 to 50 people, is open to the public for lunch or dinner by reservation only. Specializing in European home-cooked meals and uniquely presented, Hansen offers seasonal specialties inspired by the three years she lived in Germany and the many bed and breakfasts she visited on her tour of Europe. âWe are currently making our Seasoned Pork and Parmesan Stuffed Pumpkins – a fall favorite for hundreds of customers,â said Hansen. âOur Bavarian Hunter Schnitzel on homemade spaetzle noodles is one of my favorites this fall, and our manicotti, cooked in our house Alfredo sauce, are wonderful.â Fans of the Tea House will also likely mention the Swedish meatballs and homemade mashed potatoes, as well as their Cottage Pie with a thatched roof. âWe also serve many romantic dinners for two to our overnight guests and host private parties, mysterious murders and tea parties,â adds Hansen. All breakfasts are just $ 10.95 and you can bring your own wine, beer, or champagne if you wish. To reserve, call (641) 713-3113.
What to do while you’re at it: âI think part of the charm of St. Ansgar is that there isn’t much to do, which makes it a great place to relax and enjoy our porch, swing and outdoor seating. ‘a good book. Strolling the streets and admiring our charming homes and gardens, and stopping at the South Square Farmers Market, Museum and Art Gallery or our wonderful boutiques is a fun way to pass the time, âsaid Hansen. If you want to get out, you can rent a canoe and cruise down the Cedar River or take advantage of the hiking, biking and walking trails. Don’t want to bring your bike? They have a bike share program that you can use. Fishing is good in the well-stocked trout streams. Or come during the holidays and discover the downtown stores dressed in their best Christmas clothes.
Get to know the hosts: Take the time to visit with the Hansens while you are there. Sherrie’s husband is the pastor of a church in rural Hudson, Iowa, and Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, making Celtic crosses, and writing. She has published 15 novels set in Denmark, Scotland, Ireland, the Czech Republic and Germany, as well as Canada, Iowa and Minnesota. They still spend three weeks a year in Europe. Sherrie is grateful for the opportunity to own and operate The Blue Belle Inn. âAbove all, the B&B and the tea house allowed me to make a living doing something creative, living near my family’s farm and enjoying life in the Midwest again.â