Creating an environment of serenity, elegance, & comfort for our Port Washington Bed and Breakfast guests has been our mission as innkeepers. How we accomplish that mission involves many decisions that impact upon the environment and its limited natural resources. Those resources were more abundant in 1903 when this home was built; a century later, we are more aware of their limits and of their price tags.
We came to innkeeping with an appreciation for the land that harkens back to our rural roots in Iowa. Our parents and grandparents all had vegetable gardens as well as flower gardens; it was a way of life back then. We weren’t exceptional gardeners but we loved picking fresh produce from our garden.
Our move to Port Washington in June 1996 coincided with the worst flooding the city had experienced since 1924. Needless to say, we took a rain check on thinking of planting anything more than a few annuals that summer! The extensive shadiness of our lot didn’t bode well for anything but the most shade loving of plants until a strong windstorm in 1998 resulted in opening up our lot to the sun.
That’s when the fun began, and ever since we’ve been planting more and mowing less. We’ve had vegetable and herb gardens, and all the fun of dividing perennials and moving shrubs as they outgrow their original space. We mulch and compost and dig in the dirt from at least May through October and each year we imagine how we can get rid of more grass!
Understandably, we have been spoiled by our vegetable gardens of the past and now we are loyal farm market customers who patronize as many as we can get to during those busy summer months. But we really depend upon our food co-op which keeps us supplied with organic grains, berries, vegetables, and more. We also have accounts with suppliers of the natural products we use as amenities in our rooms, for laundry, and for cleaning. These mild and highly effective products are much appreciated….by us, by our guests, and by the environment.
Port Washington’s climate is often cooler than that of the surrounding countryside because of Lake Michigan. However, it can be humid as well. Our Unico air handling systems (because we have four levels, we need two of these systems) allow us to circulate fresh air throughout the building or to condition that air to remove humidity and/or cool the air as needed. There is even a heat component that allows us to quickly overcome the early morning chill on a day that will end up being warm enough to wear shorts!
Hot water is oh-so-important in our business! We are fortunate to have excellent water pressure throughout the inn and our water is now heated by a high efficiency boiler.
In 1903 when the home was built hot water radiators were the newest technology. Wood burning fireplaces may be romantic now but back then they meant a lot of work and cleaning. Hot water heat was a clean, quiet, efficient improvement, and it still is today. We love our radiators! Even our apartment is heated with its own zoned hot water heat. It has been a fun and challenging process to upgrade our property while maintaining its original character.
Windows, windows, windows………we love them and we hate them! The light and the views must have been very important to the builders of this house because they spared no expense on windows. Yes, we get lots of solar energy benefit on a sunny day in cold weather, but when it’s a sunny day in hot weather, we need protection! That is why throughout the inn each window has two or three window covering options which allow guests to determine how much light they want coming into their room. In an unoccupied room and in common areas we can adjust the window treatments to take advantage of solar heat or to block it out as conditions require.
When the sun isn’t shining, it can take a lot of lights to brighten this old house. We try our best to use lights efficiently, using a combination of florescent bulbs, low wattage bulbs, and good reading lights strategically placed. We don’t use timers because there is no set schedule that would be workable. Instead, we monitor the lights in common areas relative to guests’ use of those areas, and when guests are on site we use very low wattage lighting for safe passage throughout the inn after dark.
“Clean, clean, and clean some more” may just be the official innkeeper’s mantra! Surfaces that clean easily (such as hardwood floors, granite, marble, tile, and glass surfaces) make life just a little easier. Outdoors, bricked surfaces between the parking lot and the back entrance to the inn are proving easier to clean as well as easier to drain of melting snow and rain.
Frontloading washers use very little water per load and only 1 tablespoon of mild detergent per load and they extract more moisture so that drying times are less. Our commercial dishwasher operates on the same principle and allows us to complete a load of dishes in three minutes. The impact of these savings is significant when we consider how many loads of laundry and dishes are required to run the inn.
We are located in a residential neighborhood and we can’t help noticing on garbage and recycling pick-up days that the amount at our curb is typically no greater than amounts at the curbs of our neighbors. We like to take advantage of designated times and locations for recycling of things like computer hardware and ink cartridges, batteries, etc. It felt good last summer to find a home for the stones and dirt we had to remove as our brick landscaping project progressed. And there are always good homes for the linens that don’t qualify for the guestrooms anymore but still have lots of life in them!
With walnut wood that my husband salvaged from Iowa farmers who were cutting down trees to expand their tillable acres decades ago, we now have custom made walnut furniture crafted in his woodworking shop. He repairs furniture in need of TLC and I repair and create with fabric and thread. In the kitchen, we cook and bake from scratch. I suppose we may be accused of being as old-fashioned as the building we are in!
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could turn back the clock to that era and make some different decisions relative to our natural resources? We can’t, of course, but we must try to move from ignorance to enlightenment, from wastefulness to stewardship, from ‘no problem’ to taking charge. Taking charge can be a lot of fun!
July 2010 Update:
Port Washington Inn is receiving kudos on its new siding and trim which look perfectly wonderful! The improved insulation factor is great, and we now understand how this home was designed to take advantage of breezes from any direction. Being able to open (the new) windows has made us fully appreciate the lake breezes that come up Sweetcake Hill! We realize as well that our landscape is offering more shade again and that shrubs, trees, and perennials are attracting birds and butterflies in abundance.