B&Bs WITH UNDERGROUND RAILROAD TIES
Commemorate Martin Luther King’s Birthday and Black History Month by staying in stops on the road to freedom
Throughout January and February, Americans celebrate the history and accomplishments of African-Americans with Martin Luther King’s birthday in January and Black History Month in February. In recognition, BedandBreakfast.com describes B&Bs that were once “conductors” or “stations” on what came to be known as the Underground Railroad. Relive history with a stay at one of these historic BedandBreakfast.com member inns, listed below, alphabetically by state.
Amelia Island Williams House, Fernandina Beach, FL:
According to family stories, Marcellus A. Williams bought this home in 1859, allowing escaped slaves following the Underground Railroad to use his home as a haven during their journey to freedom. Built in 1856, this mansion included a trap door in the dining room closet, offering access to a secret room where slaves could hide.
Mason House Inn of Bentonsport, Bentonsport, IA:
During the Civil War, the Mason House was used as a "holding hospital" for wounded soldiers awaiting transport by train or boat to the hospital in nearby Keokuk. It was also a station on the Underground Railroad. Contemporary accounts describe delivering food at night to the farm’s hayloft where escaped slaves hid.
The Steamboat House, Galena, IL:
Built by a steamboat captain and his physician wife, the couple raised 10 children in the house. She participated in the Underground Railroad before and during the Civil War. A tunnel still remains under the house, which offered an escape route for slaves.
Inn at Aberdeen, Valparaiso, IN:
The renovation of this 18th-century home revealed a hidden ladder beneath the old entry closet floor, leading the owners to believe that the house served as a way station for the Underground Railroad. The inn linked a known “safe site” in nearby Hebron with other locations to the north.
Hall Place B&B, Glasgow, KY:
Here is one place where the Underground Railroad was literally underground. A cave under this B&B linked to a network of other caves that eventually surfaced at a nearby spring. Access to the caves through this B&B and a number of other nearby homes gave this area the nickname “Cave City.” Judge Christopher Tompkins, once a teacher for Abraham Lincoln and an Underground Railroad supporter, built Hall Place for his daughter. When he died, his will provided lifetime care for each of his former slaves.
Ashley Manor, Barnstable, MA:
Dating back to 1699, this historic B&B has a secret passage that connects the upstairs and downstairs, thought to be a hiding place for Tories during the Revolutionary War, and later, a temporary hideout for slaves. Allegedly, slaves climbed down a ladder, still found behind the bookcase of the King George Suite, into the basement. From the basement, they were able to flee into the woods.
Baird Tavern B&B, Blandford, MA:
The Baird Tavern often entertained weary travelers as they ate and drank in the taproom and then slept feet to the fire, heads resting on their buffalo robes. Babies were birthed in the borning room just off the kitchen. Early in the 19th century, the house was purchased by the Bartholomew family
, who owned it for 80 years. It was a known stop along the Underground Railroad as slaves fled to freedom in Canada.
The Tern Inn & Cottages, Harwich, MA:
Under the living room rug, a small round door leads to a unique little round cellar that has survived 150 years of restoration. The trap door is still easily found, as the floor sags and creaks when one walks over the spot. The cellar was used to hide runaway slaves awaiting ships going to Canada.
Samuel Fitch House, Westford, MA:
The innkeeper grew up in this home and spent hours climbing through a basement tunnel believed to be part of escaped slaves' route on the Underground Railroad. The childhood bedroom has a walk-in closet with bookshelves in front of a removable wall, where it is believed slaves hid next to the warmth of the house's chimney.
Cambridge House B&B, Cambridge, MD:
Here’s a great lodging choice for those seeking to learn about Frederick Douglass and locally born Harriet Tubman. Visit the Harriet Tubman Museum, the Bethel Methodist Church where her family worshiped, the Stanley Institute--a 19th-century African-American schoolhouse--and follow the Underground Railroad trails through Dorchester and Caroline Counties.
Orland House B&B, Orland, ME:
This Greek Revival home originally built in 1820 was once a part of the Underground Railroad. The house sits in the low hills of Orland, Maine and overlooks the Narramissic River.
The Bradford House B&B, Patten, ME:
Built in 1840, this property was once a stop on the Underground Railroad. It resides in the wilderness of Northern Maine and also has a resident ghost.
Munro House, Jonesville, MI:
Believed to be a station on the Underground Railroad, this house’s proximity to the Canadian border and the abolitionist stance of the original owner, George Clinton Munro, makes this plausible. A ceiling entrance conceals a pair of second floor rooms large enough for 12 adults in the Munro House. Over 400 runaways allegedly spent at least a day hiding here on their way to freedom in Canada.
Escape Guest House, Brooklyn, NY:
Halcyon Farm Bed & Breakfast, Amsterdam, NY:
The 7,000 square-foot Federal brick home, once a tavern, was built starting in 1790. Years ago, a spacious but unfinished “hidden” room in this bed and breakfast was mysteriously walled off from the upstairs hall. Accessible only through a circuitous back staircase, it was purportedly a stop on the Underground Railroad.
This B&B is just a short stroll from Plymouth Church, the “Grand Central Depot” of New York’s Underground Railroad. According to church history, slaves traveling to Canada were hidden in the tunnel-like basement beneath the church sanctuary; you can still visit there today. The church's first pastor, Henry Ward Beecher, was a dedicated abolitionist and younger brother to Harriet Beecher Stowe, famous author of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Merritt Hill Manor, Penn Yan, NY:
One of the first houses built in Jerusalem Township, the land where this B&B sits now was deeded from the Seneca Indians in the Gorham/Phelps purchase. It was once used as a stop on the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves, heading north to freedom in Canada.
Saratoga Farmstead, Saratoga Springs, NY:
Former owners and abolitionists Clarissa and Benjamin Dyer used the farmstead to connect to the Underground Railroad. According to some, a young black boy and his enslaved mother died while hiding in the attic. Legend tells that for many years thereafter, each time someone tried to climb the attic stairs, the boy’s ghost put an arm out, tripping the intruder and protecting his mother. During a session with a visiting expert on the paranormal, these ghosts were released to "the next level," and visitors can now navigate the stairs safely.
Whispering Pines B&B, Nebraska City, NE:
A short stroll away from the inn is the Mayhew Cabin (aka John Brown’s Cave), one of the oldest buildings in Nebraska and currently Nebraska’s only recognized National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site. In 1855, Allen B. Mayhew, with the aid of his father-in-law Abraham Kagi, built the cabin out of cottonwood logs. The Mayhew Cabin became a stop on the Underground Railroad in the late 1850s, used by slaves escaping to Canada.
Six Acres B&B, Cincinnati, OH:
The Underground Railroad was very active in Southeast Ohio. Many Quaker families and others in the community courageously hid and conducted freedom seekers toward Canada. This beautiful home was built in the 1850s by Zebulon Strong, noted abolitionist and participant in the Underground Railroad, and is close to Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
1830 Hallauer House B&B, Oberlin, OH:
Many clues demonstrate how residents in this house aided slaves as they traveled on the Underground Railroad from Wellington through Oberlin and north to Lake Erie. A dry cistern with an adjacent thick-walled secret room and a concealed opening offered shelter on moonless nights. Just above the hidden room, a rectangular opening concealed by a wooden plug offered the family access to communicate and provide food to those hidden below.
Speedwell Forge B&B, Lititz, PA:
The Fairfield Inn, Fairfield, PA:
Dating back to 1757, The Fairfield Inn is one of America's oldest, continuously operated inns. It was used as a battlefield hospital in the Civil War and was also a safe station along the Underground Railroad. Runaway slaves were taken to the third floor and after crawling through a small trap door, the door was boarded back up with wainscoting. The runaway slaves literally hid inside the wall of the inn until it was safe and someone let them out. While you are staying at the inn, you can visit their Underground
Railroad exhibit on the third landing. A window has been cut into the
wall so you can view the area the escaping slaves hid.
During Black History Month, stay here and explore the plight of escaping slaves with the nearby Bethel AME "Living the Experience" tour. This eye-opening and spiritually moving experience begins and ends at the Lancaster Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, a station on the Underground Railroad in a spiritually interactive Underground Railroad reenactment.
Great Valley House of Valley Forge, Valley Forge, PA:
Owner and innkeeper Pattye Benson avidly shares many interesting stories of hidden rooms at this circa 1690 inn where she has lived for decades. A tunnel from the main house, originally built to store vegetables, was later prepared as an escape in the event of a British attack during the Revolutionary War. Although not needed then, in the 19th century it was used to house slaves moving north along the Underground Railroad. Two green doors remain as an important tribute to this escape route.
Across the Way B&B Fassitt Mansion, White Horse, PA:
Located halfway between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, this 1845 mansion was built by Captain William Fassitt to entertain guests and throw lavish parties. A known “safe house” on the Underground Railroad, it was also a frequent stop for freedom seekers heading north.
Golden Stage Inn, Proctorsville, VT:
Under the ownership of Universalist preacher Reverend Warren Skinner, the inn was a stop on the Underground Railroad for fleeing slaves making their way to Canada. Skinner was known locally for his sympathetic views on slavery.
Hamilton House B&B, Whitewater, WI:
Rumor has it that a number of secret tunnels led from this historic inn to nearby homes and the train depot. These tunnels are believed to be a part of the Underground Railroad.