Maple Hill Manor Alpacas
1851 Historic Maple Hill Manor B&B in Springfield
Sitting atop a gentle hill in Washington County is Maple Hill Manor. Completed in 1851 with money made from bourbon, tobacco and banking, it’s the quintessential Kentucky antebellum home. With its perfectly manicured lawn, majestic columns, 9-foot windows and rustic brick exterior, it could well be the backdrop for numerous Hollywood films. Inside, the extra-wide winding staircase and graciously appointed rooms add enough Southern charm to make even the most ardent New Englander start elongating his vowels and saying, “y’all.”
“It’s certainly a home rich with history,” says Todd Allen, who co-owns the inn with Tyler Horton. “We’re fortunate to have records of slaves that lived and worked here. We also know that it was used as a Confederate encampment and later Union hospital during the battle of Perryville.”
For all its historical charm and hospitality, Maple Hill Manor isn’t your typical B&B. While some visitors may expect to see horses on the hillside or even dewey-eyed heifers, a quick glance to either side of the driveway lets guests know this place is unique. On land where tobacco once grew now reside rare and exotic Suri alpacas and llamas. These South American animals are quickly finding a niche in the United States, where they are prized for their luxurious, silky fleece.
The Maple Hill alpacas are lanky but graceful and have personalities as wide-ranging as the people who visit, although they’re generally quiet by nature. They’ve been known to show a special fondness for small children and seem to enjoy listening to music or lying placidly in the sun soaking up rays when the weather permits. And, like most any species, the males will strut and pose in an effort to impress the ladies.
“Our guests seem to enjoy sitting and relaxing while watching the animals in the fields around the home,” Allen says. Guests can sit in some well-positioned outdoor furniture just outside the pastures or enjoy the nearby walking trail. Either way, you’ll find yourself smitten with the odd-looking celebrities of the manor. “People often comment on their graceful nature and calming effect,” Allen says.
Occasionally, when the seasons change and the nights turn a bit cooler, the animals have been known to play King of the Hill. “We build up a dirt mound. We watch them run in a big circle hopping on all fours. It’s like seeing a live carousel of animals jumping up and down,” Allen notes with obvious enjoyment.
Touring the grounds is not only permitted, it’s encouraged, and guests are free to interact with the animals. But be warned! Llamas and alpacas are known to spit, mostly at each other, but Allen admits a few unfortunate souls get caught in the crossfire. Both species also seem to have a fairly acute sense of humor. “When guests laugh, they laugh, too.”
These two farmers have a deep admiration for their animals, and they’re on a mission to educate others about the benefits of raising alpacas and llamas. Those who want to learn more about the care and business of a fiber farm are encouraged to take advantage of one of the inn’s farm vacation/education packages.
Raised on a dairy farm in Harrodsburg, Allen says he grew up knowing the value of hard work and the farming lifestyle. His initial career endeavors took him to the corporate world, where he worked in places such as Silicon Valley and Manhattan, but he and Horton already were looking into alpacas as a way to reconnect with their rural roots. “There was certainly a bit of a longing,” Allen admits. “Something about farming gets in your blood.”
After he saw an alpaca at the Kentucky State Fair, an idea began to germinate in Allen’s mind. He was familiar with the business of cattle stock, and the idea of raising animals that didn’t have to be killed in order to obtain an end product had a definite appeal. At that time, U.S. farmers were just beginning to consider fiber farms as viable agribusinesses. Then, in the aftermath of 9/11, Allen and Horton lost their jobs and needed to turn an idea into a livelihood. When Maple Hill Manor came up for sale, the concept of a B&B in conjunction with a fiber farm was formed.
The combination of a farm with elegant, historically rich accommodations may have been somewhat accidental, but it makes for a truly unique “haycation.” In the short drive up the winding driveway, guests get a quick glimpse of the long-limbed creatures they are welcome to engage during their stay, but the first friends to greet visitors likely will be the dynamic duo of Sophie and Sammie, the farm’s resident golden retrievers. A quick scratch behind the ears, and they’ll be friends for life and perhaps show guests to the front door.
Guests will then enjoy staying in one of the seven meticulously appointed rooms, each with names such as the Stephen Collins Foster, the Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Lincoln Library, which pays homage to the 16th president’s ties to the area. Each room has a private bath, and every bed has soft alpaca fleece linens that make getting out of bed all the more difficult, but the award-winning breakfast that awaits makes the effort worthwhile.
Maple Hill Manor’s morning meal has been voted “Best Breakfast in the Southeast” twice by readers of Arrington’s B&B Journal, so the innkeepers are understandably proud. Various fruits and juices are available for the health-conscious, but the not-so-figure-friendly menu includes cheesy hash brown casserole, bacon or sausage, and a signature egg dish, all made with Kentucky Proud products and served on fine china, with crisp linens and crystal. The centerpiece of the meal is Horton’s lemon soufflé pancakes with blueberry compote. The decadent dish recently was named “International Best Breakfast Recipe” by the esteemed website BedandBreakfast.com, beating out recipes from inns across the globe.
After breakfast, guests are welcome to tour the region. Several nearby jaunts will appeal to those with a historical bent, including Harrodsburg, with its replicas of Fort Harrod and Kentucky’s first schoolhouse. Nearby Perryville is the site of Kentucky’s largest Civil War battle, and Constitution Square in Danville is where Kentucky’s first constitution was signed. The most recent historical attraction in the vicinity is the Lincoln Legacy Museum, situated inside Springfield’s 1816 Courthouse. Theater buffs also will find something to their liking with options including Pioneer Playhouse, Norton Center for the Arts or Stephen Foster - The Musical. The Twin Theaters Drive-In is a short distance down the road.
Allen and Horton say the Kentucky Bourbon Trail attracts many out-of-state tourists. “The trail is what has allowed us to stay open year-round,” Allen says.
If you go ...
1851 Historic Maple Hill Manor B&B and Alpaca & Llama Farm
Springfield, 1-800-886-7546, maplehillmanor.com