Berwood in the News
Spring '10: Minnesota Bride - Nov '09: Bluff Country Reader
July '09: Minnesota Bed & Breakfast Association Blog - Jan '09: Fillmore County Journal
Dec '08: Inspire(d) Magazine - Nov '08: WCCO News "Finding Minnesota"
Aug '07: Midwest Living Magazine - Aug '07: BOOM - Life and Style for Baby Boomers
Apr '06: Minnesota Moments Magazine - Jan '06: AAA Living Magazine - Jan '06: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Summer '05: Minnesota Bride - Dec '04: Bed & Breakfast Journal - Oct '04: Midwest Living Magazine
Aug '04: Preston Republican-Leader - Aug '04: Fillmore County Journal - June '04: Victorian Homes Magazine
Dec '03: Bed & Breakfast Journal - Sept '03: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Dec '02: Bed & Breakfast Journal - Dec '02: KCCO Radio - Oct '02: Minnesota Monthly
June '02: Travel + Leisure - Jan '02: Midwest Home & Garden - Oct '00: Better Homes & Gardens TV
May '00: Rochester Magazine - Feb '00: Midwest Home & Garden
More Accolades


Article by
Jane Caffrey

These Minnesota Bed-and-Breakfasts
offer an escape into the world
of luxury, romance and charm.

The whisper of a deep forest, a stretch of rolling green fields, vivid flowers in elaborate gardens, and charming and historic towns; these are the backdrops for bed-and-breakfasts, a Minnesota tradition that offers elegant luxury and simple delight. These romantic retreats also have something for every bride and groom: the settings for beautiful destination weddings, intimate elopements, festive groom's dinners, or a long and relaxed honeymoon. And the morning after the big day, waking up on a wide feather bed to the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and hot scones provides the perfect way to welcome those first moments of marital bliss.

Shades of Summer
Berwood Hill Inn
Lanesboro, MN

Berwood Hill Inn stands out as a bright jewel in the crown of Lanesboro's scenic bluff country, with grounds for romantic summer weddings and intricate flower beds bursting with tangerine, fuchsia, crimson, and violet blossoms against a lush green backdrop. With acres of award-winning gardens designed by owner Fran Scibora, many couples seek out this flowery paradise to exchange vows under a blooming trellis that overlooks the Minnesota countryside.

"We have acres and acres of phenomenal gardens, especially in the summertime, and that's what really draws people," says Jan Engstrom, special events coordinator. "The gardens are very innovative."

Bride Jaclyn Roverud McMurray was overwhelmed by the beauty of the gardens, and chose to hold an outdoor ceremony at Berwood in July. "Our guests were seated on little white folding chairs and we were under a canopy of trees in the garden overlooking the valley. It was just such a beautiful setting," she says.

Roverud McMurray took advantage of the multihued scenery during her outdoor reception as well, serving fresh mojitos and using the wide lawns for lively wiffleball games, a wedding tradition among her husband's friends. The festivities later moved into Berwood's Lu Lu Belle's Roost, a reception space dreamily adorned in tulle and white lights, which comfortably accommodates 120 guests.

Much of Berwood Hill Inn's charm comes from the restored 1880s Victorian farmhouse, available to host the bridal couple and guests over a long weekend. Impeccably decorated with fine furnishings and antiques, the inn offers five cozy sleeping spaces, including the intimate Owl's Nest. "That's where I got ready with my bridesmaids, and it was really very romantic," Roverud McMurray says. Many brides don their gowns in this old-fashioned attic suite before walking down a rose-petal aisle in the most colorful summer ceremonies.

"The gardens are amazing," Roverud McMurray recalls. "We knew we wanted our wedding there just because it was so beautiful. We're hoping that in 10 years we could come back and have that be our anniversary location."




Best of
Bluff Country

Article by
Sonya Hemrich

Readers weigh in on
'Best of Bluff Country' categories

The results are in! Readers in Bluff Country have voiced their opinions for the Bluff Country Reader's fifth annual Best of Bluff Country contest. They gave input on everything from favorite foods like pizza, steak and ice cream to favorite places to bike, hike, camp and search out antique treasures.

The annual contest results were tallied from surveys printed in the Reader and sent in by readers by mail or votes from the online survey on the Web site,

The following are winners in some "best" categories surveyed by the Bluff Country Reader. There were a total of 33 categories ranging from best local band to best scenic view.

Best Scenic View

The winner of the best scenic view for the second year in a row is Inspiration Point, located between Preston and Lanesboro. Other awesome views, according to readers, are the top of the ridge between Preston and Harmony and Berwood Hill Inn in Lanesboro.

Best Bed-and-Breakfast

Looking for a place to hold up for the night? Jailhouse Inn in Preston is once again the winner of the best B&B in Bluff Country. It was voted No. 1 for the fourth consecutive year. Berwood Hill Inn was voted Second Place.

Best Lodging

Trail Head Inn in Preston received the most votes for the best place for lodging in Bluff Country. Tied for Second Place are Cedar Valley Resort in Lanesboro and Berwood Hill Inn.




Lanesboro: Minnesota's
Bed & Breakfast Capital

Minnesota B&B Blog

Senator Sharon Ropes and
Representative Greg Davids present the B&B Capital proclamation to Lanesboro

The quaint town of Lanesboro, nestled in the valley of southeastern Minnesota, has been known for its bike trails and rhubarb for years, but this week, the small town received another designation.

On Monday July 6, state Sen. Sharon Erickson Ropes and state Rep. Greg Davids officially declared the city the "Minnesota's Bed and Breakfast Capital." The Minnesota Senate bestowed the honor in a resolution near the end of the 2009 session.

With 15 bed and breakfasts in Lanesboro, and the immediate surrounding area, there is a great display of history and architecture, including Victorian homes, Craftsman homes, and new homes. Innkeepers extend their Minnesota hospitality to today's traveler and offer a unique experience in their comfortable and nationally recognized B&Bs.

Lanesboro's entire downtown district is on the National Register of Historic places. The downtown has been revitalized; the arts flourish, gift shops intrigue, and restaurants satisfy a variety of tastes.  The Cornucopia Art Center features original art works from more than 70 artists in the region. The Commonweal Theatre Company performs in new 3 million dollar state of the art facility that opened in 2007.

Lanesboro is near one of the largest Old Order Amish settlements in America. The rolling country side offers an ideal location for their lifestyle. Educational tours are available to see the Amish as they really live, to see the items they produce (baskets, quilts, furniture and crafts). The Amish tours offer an appreciation for the Amish way of life.

Lanesboro is in the center of Minnesota's Fillmore County where there is only 1 stop light in the entire county. The pace in Lanesboro is quieter and slower. It is a perfect place to relax. Lanesboro is 2 1/2 hours from Minneapolis/St. Paul, 4 1/2 hours from Milwaukee, 5 1/2 hours from Chicago, and 4 1/2 hours from DesMoines. Visit to learn more about our special town.




Wedding Dreams Come True
Article by
Carol Thouin

From Nostalgic to New Age

What could be more special to a young couple than their wedding day? Weeks, months and sometimes even years of planning and fine-tuning go into preparing for the perfect event. Whether a casual affair or black-tie occasion, it's a bride and groom's prerogative how that special day will be celebrated. The following are excerpts from several brides and grooms who have planned their wedding day at Berwood Hill Inn, a historic country estate bed and breakfast located between Preston and Harmony, MN.

A winter wonderland

Getting married smack dab in the middle of winter may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for Deb (Peterson) Kwasek, it made for a storybook, dream-come-true wedding. Deb's parent's farm is located adjacent to the Berwood estate so the rolling landscape was one she knew well. "I have always thought that winter and Christmas are one of the most beautiful times of the year," Deb said.

Growing up around horses and being proposed to by her husband, John, in a horse-drawn sleigh, Deb knew she wanted that same romantic feeling for her wedding. "I dreamed of having a wedding that included a horse and sleigh," she said. Thanks to her dad, the perfect combination was procured for the December 31, 2005 wedding. Dressed in a custom designed, floor length sheath of imported lace and silk, Deb donned a velvet cape and muff before boarding the sleigh with her new husband. "I wanted something original," she said. "Our family and friends watched as we took our first champagne toast in the sleigh with my brother handling the reigns.... it was perfect!" Deb said.

Deb and John chose to have a private ceremony for about 25 at the Inn, which was beautifully decorated with Christmas trees and white lights. "It made for a very elegant setting," recalls Deb. For the reception, 75 more guests joined the celebrants for winter themed drinks, dinner and dancing. "Because it was New Year's Eve, we had lots of party favors at midnight, a special champagne toast and gifts to our guests of mini bottles of champagne," Deb said.

While her winter wonderland wedding went off without a hitch, Deb recommends having alternate plans in case of inclement weather. "We had a car service and transported our guests to and from the wedding," she said. "Many of our guests were not from the area and we didn't want then getting lost on possible bad roads," she said. "We also knew they'd be safe."

A family affair

When Stephanie Hinsch married Tom Scibora on June 28, 2008 in an upscale garden affair, 140 family and friends gathered to share in their joyful union. Even the couple's bulldog, Bosco was included in the ceremony. "Bosco was going to be our ring bearer, along with my Godson, Brock," Stephanie said. "But he was far too exhausted for the task so caught up on his sleep while the ceremony took place.

Stephanie recalled the first time she set eyes on Berwood. It was in 2001 when Tom took her for a weekend getaway to celebrate her birthday. Berwood was a familiar place for Tom. His mother, Fran Scibora, grew up there and is the Inn's owner. It seemed a perfect location for a family function as important as a wedding. "I wanted an outdoor affair and Berwood, by far, has the most exquisite setting," said Stephanie. "To share in Fran's love and passion of the Inn and to watch her design my dream wedding was wonderful," she said.

Months of preparation went into making the grounds absolutely perfect for the event. Berwood's staff, following Fran's lead, made sure every last detail was completed before guests arrived. Despite a dark cloud of rain that set in, nothing could have dampened the mood. "I was in my glory," said Stephanie, who was dressed in a stunning gown by Spanish designer La Sposa. "It truly reflected my personality and was the first wedding dress I tried on. I instantly knew it was the perfect dress." she said. While Stephanie focused on décor, Tom pitched in by choosing the couple's wedding band, menus, groomsmen's suits and programs. "Tom set the agenda for the week, ensuring we had fun during the planning process," Stephanie said.

When asked about a favorite experience during her wedding day, Stephanie was hard pressed to come up with an answer. "I can't pick a favorite because I truly enjoyed every minute of the entire wedding weekend," she said. From gardening and decorating days before to our fabulous groom's barbeque on Friday night to the excitement of getting ready, every last moment seems etched in her memory. "It was especially exciting to see Berwood transform as the final touches were completed and then meeting my dad in Berwood's Garden Cottage to walk down the aisle with him." She said. "Seeing Tom for the first time and celebrating with all of our dearest friends and family.... it was a magical weekend and certainly surpassed all of my dreams."

Guardians of the earth

Planning an environmentally friendly wedding is at the forefront of Carrie Hove and Daniel Stephens' to-do list for their special day on August 29th, 2009. "We intend to utilize the natural surroundings of Berwood Hill Inn," Carrie said. "Our wedding will be held outdoors among the lovely gardens," she added.

Being stewards of the earth is more than just a passing fad for the pair. "It's our lifestyle," Carrie said. "To find ways to conserve and protect our earth really should be important to everyone," she added. "We are noticing the effects of past carelessness and irresponsibility. Now, more than ever, it is important to try to turn those effects around."

To help with the couple's green-themed wedding, both the ceremony and reception will be held at Berwood to conserve gas for the 100 guests they plan to invite. "Berwood offers many amenities to use porcelain china, silver flatware, crystal stemware and table linens that are all reusable," Carrie explained. Specific requests also have been given to the caterer to use biodegradable paper products for any extra supplies that might be used throughout the event. "I want to reduce the amount of waste as much as possible," Carrie said. The couple also plans to rent or borrow items used in their wedding to further cut down on consumables. "I don't want to end up with a bunch of things that will not be used again, and then eventually thrown away," she said. Daniel and Carrie also plan to give their guests wedding favors with a Minnesota environmental theme. "Daniel and I have been researching issues that affect Minnesota, specifically," she said. One that the couple is honing in on is the endangered bee population, but they're keeping other ideas in mind as well.

Berwood's formal gardens will be the backdrop for the couple's semi-formal event. Carrie plans to wear a dress that has a vintage, earthy look to it, yet is classic. "Your wedding should reflect YOU as a couple," Carrie said. "Do what it is that you like, not what everyone else expects."

As supporters of small business owners, Daniel and Carrie plan to make a big effort to use local vendors for their wedding. "After living in the city for many years, you realize that 'Big City' does not always mean better services — just more expensive," Carrie said.

Pedal Pushers Café in Lanesboro will cater the event with meat products from Hilltop Pastures Family Farm in Fountain. Memories by Lizzie in Harmony will capture the event in photographs and wine from the Scenic Valley Winery in Lanesboro will be served to guests. The horse and carriage will be provided by Melvin Greenlee from Chatfield and local properties were recommended for those who need overnight accommodation in Lanesboro. "We also sent our guests a good listing of area tourist information so they can enjoy all the area has to offer," said Carrie.

When planning an eco-friendly wedding, Carrie had some thoughts to convey to future brides. "No one said you have to do all the conservation methods at once. Find and practice one or two smaller techniques and build from there," she said. "That is what I hope to convey at my wedding."

As far as planning a wedding at Berwood Hill Inn, Carrie recommends requesting a wedding tour so you can get a good look at things. "Berwood Hill Inn has much to offer for a beautiful wedding day," she said. "The Inn is a hidden gem."

A long distance weekend soirée

When it came to choosing Berwood Hill Inn as a wedding destination, it was a no-brainer for Megan Dee and Adam Berland who have slated June 20, 2009 for their nuptials. Adam's grandparents once lived on the Berwood estate and he has fond memories of the picturesque acreage. "I've been visiting Berwood regularly since I was born," said Adam, who is working on his PhD in Geography at the U of M. "My grandparents lived on the farm and I tagged along with my father to help with chores," he recalls.

Originally from Louisville, KY, Megan, an account executive for Procter and Gamble, now lives in St. Paul. While many in her family will be making the long trip from Kentucky, she feels the atmosphere at Berwood will be well worth the trip. "We knew we wanted to make a new family memory at this venue," she said. "Also, the land and gardens highlight the beauty of nature and we wanted to share our important day with our families and friends in a refreshing place."

Megan and Adam plan to show their out of town guests a good time by planning a weekend long event, which includes canoeing, hiking and bike riding along the Root River. "June is such a beautiful time of year in this area and will be a welcome retreat from the heat in Kentucky, "Megan said. Their 180 friends and family guest list will include folks from New York, Washington, D.C., Kentucky, Alabama and even New Zealand. They'll all be treated to a magnificent garden wedding followed by a champagne and hors d'oeuvres reception and formal dinner in Lulu Belle's Roost, Berwood's beautiful reception facility. A live band will provide music for anyone who wishes to dance until the sun goes down. And it could be a long evening. As Megan pointed out, "June 20th is the second longest day of the year!" Megan will be the center of attention that day in her nostalgic gown, once worn by her aunt and mother on their wedding days. "It has a combined 70 years of good marriage karma!" Megan said.

Not all the couple's plans are fine tuned yet, but soon will be. Megan's mother, and friend and future mother-in-law plan to have a girl's weekend at Berwood this month to officially kick-off the wedding planning process. "Our girl's weekend at Berwood is the perfect way to kick off the planning and begin building memories at this special venue," Megan said.

Adam isn't left out of the planning process. "He wants to make our wedding a wonderful experience for us, our families and our friends," Megan said. "But when it comes to the tough decisions, he always supports my choices.... I suppose he's on track to be a great husband," she said. "Having our families and friends together will be wonderful, but I'm most excited to know that we will be married from that point forward," Adam added.




Growing Up

Article by
Aryn Henning Nichols

Inspiration from Inspire(d) Magazine

Nothing Fran Scibora does is by chancenot a single seed planted, rooster situated, ribbon tied, or book placed is done so without purpose.

So when her Preston, Minnesota, parents
Lawrence and Lennie Berlandcalled her at her home in the Twin Cities more than 10 years ago and asked, "What would you say if we gifted you the farmhouse and buildings around it?" Fran said, "I'd say yes," with conviction.

Oddly enough, this could very well have been the first decision Fran ever made that she wasn't completely sure about.

"I was worried about it being too rundown," she says. "I can't stand when things are not well taken care of."

The farmhouse had sat empty for 16 years and now it was time for another generation to take over. Along with passing the home on to Fran, her parents decided to pass the land onto their son, Larry Berland.

"My parents thought it'd be nice to have the farm stay in the family," Fran says.

After the phone call, Fran took the two-hour drive down from the Cities to visit Berwood. The day was perfect
the sun was shining, the Root River Valley was its usual stunning self, and Fran fell in love with her childhood home all over again.

"I thought to myself, 'This is the right thing to do,'" she says.

And so Berwood Hill Inn was born.

Renovation and restoration on the 19th century Victorian home began shortly after. Originally built in 1873, the house boasts pine ceilings, floors, and walls and beautiful trim. The Berlands called it home since 1936 and two generations were raised inside those wood walls. But since Fran hadn't lived in Southeast Minnesota for some years, her father, Lawrence, helped to match the right local contractors with the right projects. It was fun for Fran to involve her parents in the process, although they didn't always agree.

"I remembered the old walls in the kitchen. When I was a kid they just covered them up with drywall, but I knew the originals were still behind there," Fran says. "So when we removed the newer walls, my parents were shocked. They wanted to know why I would get rid of such a nice wall!"

They did agree on paint colors, though. It's a perfect chameleon-like greenish-yellow that changes as the sun makes it way over the valley. It feels completely part of the land around it. This, of course, was no coincidence.

"I like the house to blend in with nature," she says. "I don't want it to obstruct the view, the beauty of the land."

Behind the house, that land stretches out in a picturesque scene that seems to go on forever. Fran's younger brother, Larry ("Oh please call him Larry Jo, he'll just hate that," she says gleefully), plans to convert some acreage into native prairie. Inside the house, Fran has converted many things to their original era as well. Claw foot bathtubs, a fireplace, fine wood walls, a tin ceiling, ornate fixtures, beautiful wood and glass doors, and, of course, furniture and details matched perfectly to each room.

The Berwood Hill Inn bed and breakfast opened its doors in October of 1998 with an open house. Many came to check it out
some just curious about the Twin Cities lady who was putting all this energy and money into an old farm.

"They probably heard I was a crazy woman," Fran says with a laugh.

Crazy or not, the woman did an amazing job. It's warm and inviting inside, but not frilly. Her furniture, while beautiful and often antique, is always comfortable. And her style has a fun quirkiness to it: you never know when owls, cows, parrots
you name itwill show up in the décor. The look of Berwood also alters regularly as Fran takes something out or adds something in. She collects her design fodder in various places: European antiques, estate sales and auctions, family pieces. She has an entire storage space for all her great stuff.

"I'm always changing things here," she says. "I like there to be a mystique about it."

The unique guest rooms in Berwood are all aptly named (actually, most things at Berwood are named)
the French Room is more feminine and airy. The Sunrise Room, that's right, is on the east side of the house and gets lovely morning light. The Wood Room has a wood floor, ceiling and walls, and the Owl's Nest has a number of owlssome hidden and some in viewplanted throughout the entire luxurious third-floor suite. Guests are invited to count the owlsthe right guess gets them a discount on their next stay at Berwood.

As Fran gives the tour, a constant stream of stories are spurred as she points out pictures of her family, keepsakes from her childhood, and changes she's made to the layout that truly improve the flow and beauty of the place. She's also made changes that improve the comfort
like central air and heatingand enough bathrooms for each room. Fran even managed to make the summer kitchen, situated just out the front door, a comfortable warm-weather retreat. With just enough room for a fluffy bed, The Garden Cottage is like really, really plush camping.

Spaces are meticulously created outside just as they are in. The gardens, with names like Sadie's or Grandma's Garden, provide relaxing private getaways. Family pets, Drummer, a Boxer and Bosco, a Bulldog, romp around like toddlers seeking attention as Fran and Innkeeper and Events Coordinator Carol Thouin talk about various garden sculptures, antique farm equipment, reused cupolas and corn crib roofs, and the different events that have taken place amidst it all. Not far from the house sits Lu Lu Belle's Roost, an amazingly renovated chicken coop that acts as a charming headquarters for numerous weddings, teas, dinners and meetings. The Roost, as staff refer to it, is a cozy spot during our Midwestern winters with its toasty fireplace and comfortable ambiance. The Berwood events team, led by Joylin Womeldorf and Carol, is on hand to customize Roost events such as spa retreats, chocolate tastings, sledding parties, or quilters or scrapbookers groups.

Carol and Joylin are just two of the staff that helps keep Berwood Hill Inn running flawlessly. You see, on top of all of this, Fran has a day job: she works with her husband at their technology company in Minneapolis. Fran commutes just once a week to Lanesboro to stay abreast of affairs at Berwood. Someone is staffed at the Inn 24 hours a day.

"I have really good people working for me," Fran says. "I like to empower people."

Comfortable staff quarters are located away from the main part of the house. Fran and Carol both feel this added privacy makes guest that much more comfortable and Berwood that much more unique from other Inns. "We're classified as a B&B, but we're not, really," Carol says. "We're a new genre."

A variety of guests come to check out this new genre of overnight stay: birdwatchers frequent, authors have extended stays to write, executive chefs come check out their fare, they've even had visitors from Japan. "We get the whole spectrum of people here: from honeymooners to retired age to red hat ladies," Carol says. "It's an eclectic mix that really works."

Their favorite guest to boast over is Sally Forth cartoon illustrator Craig MacIntosh. After a vacation at Berwood, he went on to create a comic where Sally goes to a B&B
and it's Berwood! And of course, Fran has all of itthe history, renovation, events, and special guests documented in scrapbooks for visitors to peruse in the Berwood living room. Scrapbooks too. Amazing.

"Oh, I don't get much sleep," Fran says with a smile

Aryn Henning Nichols was also amazed to see that when she got back into her car after this interview, nearly four hours had passed. They were blissful indeed and she could see four days at Berwood easily whizzing by.

Berwood Hill Inn, 22139 Hickory Road, located just outside of Lanesboro, Minnesota, off Highway 16. Rates vary depending on season.

But what about the food?
You can't have a bed and breakfast without breakfast. Berwood's breakfast is a five-course meal
it's even served outside in nice weather. They offer three and five-course dinner options as well. See for more information.




Minneapolis -
St. Paul Nightly News

Finding Minnesota:
A Cozy Room With a View

"Two hours from the hubbub of the cities, the quiet of the countryside and the decadence of a stately old home on the hill await..."

The WCCO news team paid a visit to Berwood Hill Inn to uncover the Inn's broad appeal to guests seeking rest and relaxation.

To watch the video of the news broadcast, click here.

To read Jeanette Trompeter's report, click here.




Ultimate Travel Guide:
Lanesboro, Minnesota

Where to STAY in Lanesboro: Berwood Hill Inn includes spa services and great meals in an 1878 country house just a few miles out of town.




Where Did
You Go?

Submitted by Mary Jedlicka Humston of Iowa City

"In the May issue, we asked readers to share stories of their recent vacations. Here is one response we received."

A Biker's Dream Vacation  

What could be better for boomers than bicycling, homemade pie and staying in an elegant bed and breakfast? Not much, my husband Jim and I concluded after our trip to the Root River Trails and The Berwood Hill Inn in Lanesboro, Minn., about 170 miles north of Iowa City.

Our love for biking was the impetus for this trip. Besides having a variety of routes from flat and easy to hilly and challenging, the paved trails are free to ride (

The first day we rode the 28-mile round trip from Lanesboro to Peterson. We did the Lanesboro to Preston route, a 22-mile round trip, on the second day. Both flat trails meander along the Root River, jutting to its bank or winding through bluff-lined valleys, farmland, scenic countryside and small towns.

To make the ride complete, a stop at the quaint Aroma Pie Shop in Whalan for the extremely generous serving of pie à la mode was a must.

We hit the jackpot with the Berwood Hill Inn (, located four miles south of Lanesboro. The once abandoned farmhouse was renovated into an award-winning country estate. A five-course breakfast outside, elegant furnishings and antiques inside, and an atmosphere of peace and quiet everywhere rounded out this magical getaway.

The countless gardens adorning the grounds are a flower-lover's dream. Several barn cupolas, bird statues created from farm implements, and gazebos and waterfalls of various sizes and materials are scattered among the breathtaking blooms.

If you enjoy biking, pie and pampering at a beautiful B&B, this might be the trip for you. We had such a fun time, we're going back this summer and taking four boomer relatives with us.

We took this trip (Aug. 12-14, 2006) because we both love to bike, and it was my husband Jim's Christmas gift to me. Since we had never stayed at a bed and breakfast, we decided to try that too. We enjoyed our time so much that we booked it again for July 20-22, with four of our relatives joining us.


Berwood Inn - Lanesboro
Story by Cheri TollefsonLehse, Photos by Chris Lehse

Berwood Inn provides treasures to discover

Berwood Inn is the childhood home of the current owner, Fran Scibora.
The 125-year-old farmhouse sat empty and in disrepair for 15 years
before Scibora decided to refurbish the house and opened the bed
and breakfast in 1998.

Located high atop a bluff overlooking the Root River Valley, the Berwood Hill Inn is an elegantly appointed 19th century Victorian country house. The crowning glory of the inn is its award-winning gardens.

Around the house, the gardens wind along paths dotted with whimsical art, rural antiques, and cozy sitting areas. The lush greenery under the stately pines creates an oasis from the busy modern world. From corncrib roofs which cover gazebos to a ringer washer used as a planter, you never know what treasures you will stumble upon during your meanderings.

The inn features four rooms decorated with gorgeous antiques, replicas and fanciful treasures: the French Room, the Wood Room, the Sunrise Room and the Owl's Nest. Scibora's grandparents' iron bed still is used in the Sunrise Room. The Owl's Nest is a suite that encompasses the entire third floor. During the warmer months, guests also can stay in the Garden Cottage behind the house.

Of course, B&Bs are about food, too. The guests will find gourmet snack mix, caramel apples, and sumptuous chocolate treats in their rooms. Breakfast is a five-course meal served in the gardens during clement weather. Berwood offers an array of amenities, themed getaways and entertaining packages from chocolate-tasting getaways to countryside weddings, and business conferences to arts and crafts workshops.


Berwood Hill Inn offers facilities for weddings of any size. Nuptials can take place anywhere from in front of a cozy fireplace to a woodland garden gazebo. Receptions can be hosted in the banquet and meeting facility, which was a large farmyard building, or outdoors on the croquet lawn.

Berwood Hill Inn's wedding coordinator ensures that every wedding is charming and splendid with the finest of cuisine. As a special bonus, Berwood Hill Inn offers the bridal couples rides in a beautiful 1952 Bentley.

Spa Experience

Design your own spa experience from these services available in your room: therapeutic body massage, aromatherapy body massage, reflexology, facials and chair massage.




A Chocolate Affair
Article by
Donna Tabbert Long


For those whose chocolate tendencies lean toward bed-and-breakfast getaways, a stay at the Berwood Hill Inn, near historic Lanesboro, is a good option. The Berwood stages Chocolate Tasting packages that consist of an assortment of desserts awaiting you at check-in.

Past tastings have featured warm chocolate fondue with marble angel food cake, a Death by Chocolate torte and white chocolate blueberry cheesecake. The goodies may be served in front of the fireplace, in your room or in the gazebo.



Hot Hangouts
Article by
Julie Pfitzinger

Ten places to kick back
in front of a warm fire.

On a bleak Minnesota winter day, there's hardly a better place to be than curled up on a couch in front of a roaring fire. Whether of the wood-burning or efficient (and less messy) gas variety, the soul-soothing properties of a great fireplace are much the same.

If you don't have a humble hearth to call your own, you're still in luck. Comfort can be found in Twin Cities restaurants, coffeehouses and even a grocery store, where blazing fireplaces entice you to grab a latté or a glass of wine, pull up a chair and crack open your latest read. Winter sports enthusiasts can find plenty of cozy spots for warming frozen hands and feet before heading back into the elements.

We visited a few places in the Twin Cities with noteworthy fireplaces and rated them on the admittedly unscientific basis of "best curl-up factor"with one log being "lukewarm" and four being "flaming wonderful." Fuzzy slippers optional.

THE METRO:Berwood Hill Inn

Sample delicious chocolates and hot beverages in front of one of this bed-and-breakfast's two elegant main floor fireplaces — a perfect wintertime retreat.



A Garden

The Berwood Hill Inn provides a romantic wedding setting in Lanesboro where couples can marry amid the lush environs.

Berwood Hill Inn, located in Lanesboro, is a Victorian country-style estate with picturesque gardens, wraparound porches, and antique decor. The inn is nationally recognized and was featured on the Lifestyle Channel's Better Homes and Gardens series, as well as in Midwest Home and Garden magazine. A stroll through the property's vibrant gardens seems the perfect way to settle any pre-wedding jitters. Acres of adjacent woodlands await your guests, as does a path that snakes through the forest to a romantic gazebo. Opt for an outdoor ceremony and reception among these beatutful, fragrant surroundings and you can celebrate with up to 300 guests. If it happens to rain (a sign of good fortune on a wedding day), you can make good use of the inn's tents. On chilly days, everything can be moved inside to Lu Lu Belle's Roost Banquet Facility, which can accommodate 125 people. The Berwood Hill Inn welcomes off-site caterers for large weddings. Call 800-803-6748 or visit



Best Holiday Getaway
Selected by
Arrington's Inn Traveler

Berwood Hill Inn has been recognized with the BEST HOLIDAY GETAWAY award by Arrington's Inn Traveler in the
2004 Book of Lists!


The Valley,
So Lovely

Article by Berit Thorkelson
Photos by Vance Dovenbarger, Clint Farlinger, & John Noltner

When fall hits southeastern Minnesota, those in the know explore the riverside towns by car or by bike, at the foot of the Root River Valley's color-steeped bluffs


"[Lanesboro is] known as one of Minnesota's bed-and-breakfast capitals. A good reason why is the Berwood Hill Inn. The Victorian country home four miles west of town on State-16 offers antique-filled rooms, a five-course breakfast, lush gardens and a valley view that's especially breathtaking in the fall."



Sally Forth vacations at Berwood Hill Inn
Article and Photo by
Lisa Brainard

Rather than sell their pioneer-era farm and house, a Minnesota family created the elegant yet bucolic Berwood Hill Inn


While creating cartoons is a great way to make a living, even cartoonists need to take vacations once in awhile.

When Sally Forth cartoon illustrator Craig MacIntosh took a vacation at the Berwood Hill Inn between Preston and Lanesboro, he took Sally and her husband, Ted, along for the trip. Sharp-eyed friends of Berwood owner Fran Scibora spotted the obvious, but unidentified inn portrayed in the Aug. 8 comic strip.

When MacIntosh received the story line about Sally and Ted visiting a bed and breakfast, he knew just what to do, MacIntosh said in a telephone interview. A resident of Rosemount, he and his wife had stayed at Berwood a couple times and enjoyed it.

"It's a wonderful spot... a beautiful piece of country," he said of the inn.

Not a bad picture

He and his wife had stayed in the Owl's Nest, a room on the top floor of the inn. MacIntosh took some pictures while he stayed there, from which he made his sketches for Sally Forth.

"The gardens are so magnificent and the house is restored so meticulously... it's hard to take bad pictures there," laughed MacIntosh.

"Cartoonists store scenes... the color... the character. Then you call on it when you need it," he said.

He did refresh his memory a bit when it came time to sketch. MacIntosh went back to his photos and also looked at the inn's website, While Scibora and her employees theorized that MacIntosh must have stayed recently at the inn, it appears he found new additions to the inn — such as the outside lamp and blooming flowers — from the website's photos.

While he hasn't showed up in the comic strip yet, Berwood part-time chef Wayne "Vin" Skjelstad also left an impression on MacIntosh.

"That chef was the closest thing to Garrison Keillor," he said of Skjelstad's low-key sense of humor, folksy jokes, voice and mannerisms.

Scibora, a Preston High School graduate, was understandably thrilled to see her restored childhood home become Sally Forth's home-away-from-home in around 700 newspaper comic strips nationwide. She said it also appeared in at least one other frame of the cartoon, but it was much more visible in the Aug. 8 chapter. MacIntosh verified there were two sketches, also noting Berwood was placed a third time in the back of a picnic scene, but was pretty small.

As Sally Forth and husband Ted complete their vacation and comic-strip-stay at the bed and breakfast, this conversation transpired:

Sally: "I can't believe our stay at the B & B is already over... The last few days I kept hoping time would slow down or stop completely... On the other hand, I guess the fact that a vacation is so fleeting is what makes it so special... Either way, looks like we have to go, huh, Ted?"

Ted: "Unless you get a job making breakfast here and I get one making beds. Then we'd never have to leave."

Sally: "Great. Then we just have to get Hilary (their daughter) to do the dishes and we can all have the time of our lives."

Scibora said she had written to MacIntosh through King Features Syndicate, which handles syndication of the comic strip. Laughing as she explained, Scibora wrote MacIntosh that they just happened to have two job openings at Berwood Hill Inn. While MacIntosh apparently missed the job interviews, he confirmed he had received the note.


When asked if anyone has ever been upset or disturbed to see something from their "real" world show up in Sally Forth, MacIntosh chuckled and said, "No. Publicity is good."

He then gave a few examples. In illustrating the first Christmas together for Sally and Ted in the comic strip, MacIntosh said they talked about a Lionel train set. Later, he and Sally Forth writer Greg Howard each received a letter from the wife of the president of the Lionel company as well as a train set.

Unfortunately, someone in the mailroom apparently stole the train sets. When the wife wrote to see how the two men liked their train sets, they told her they appreciated the gesture, but the sets had been stolen.

"She sent a whole new set to our home offices," said MacIntosh. "I told Greg, we need to do something about Mercedes (in the strip)," he laughed.

He has used shirts from various locales in Sally Forth, often receiving the real shirt in return, as well as a story in the hometown paper. One such example amazed MacIntosh. After a stay at Bluefin Bay on the North Shore, he put its tiny lettering on a shirt. Noting it was minute by the time what he drew was reduced to comic strip size, MacIntosh didn't know how anyone could read it. But someone did.

Sally Forth history

MacIntosh started illustrating Sally Forth in September of 1991. He explained Twin Cities attorney Greg Howard started the comic strip in 1982. Howard both wrote and illustrated the strip himself until he asked MacIntosh — at that time an editorial cartoonist at the Star Tribune — to join the effort.

Howard had told MacIntosh he could change the characters and their styles. He did — and there was a backlash against the changes.

"We had to re-do three to four months of artwork so the people would accept it," said MacIntosh.

After working four days at the Star Tribune and one day a week on Sally Forth, he quit to do the comic strip full time in May of 1992. He would occasionally contribute to the style, but now just draws it.

Around 2000 or 2001, Howard sold the idea to King Features Syndicate, while acting as what MacIntosh called "supreme editor."

Two guys were writing Sally Forth, according to MacIntosh, and now it is done by one of them, Francesco Marciuliano.

The illustrations by MacIntosh take quite a route to reach publication. He said they are done in black-and-white. The later colors are marked in by colored pencils and numbers, which denote specific colors.

The strip is first sent to Orlando, Florida for proofing and then to Buffalo, New York for printing.

Over the years, MacIntosh has tried to keep Sally Forth true to her Minnesota roots. "Greg (Howard) and I would get together once a week. We'd try to keep a distinct Midwest flavor. I still try to keep that intact," he said.



Sally Forth visits Berwood Hill Inn
Article by
John Torgrimson

Over the years, Berwood Hill Inn, the elegant Victorian Bed & Breakfast, located between Preston and Lanesboro has received its share of publicity. The country estate, with its exquisite gardens, has long been featured in tourist magazines as a "must see" vacation and weekend retreat.

For example, this June Victorian House magazine did a 10 page spread about the country inn; back in 2003 the Minneapolis Star Tribune chose Berwood as its Connoisseur's Favorite; and, a few years ago, Better Homes & Garden TV shot their program from the Berwood front yard.

While publicity may not be new to Berwood, it came as a suprise to many employees to see their Victorian house as the backdrop of a Sally Forth cartoon in the Sunday, August 8, 2004 editon of the Star Tribune.

The cartoon, which is syndicated by King Features, has Ted and Sally finishing their stay at an unidentified B&B, lamenting the fact that their vacation must end.

But those in the know clearly see the cartoon B&B's resemblance to Berwood. In fact, the angle of the illustration of the house is identical to the picture Berwood uses in their own promotional material.

Jan Engstrom, who handles reservations for Berwood, said that she was totally surprised by the cartoon.

"A colleague asked me if I had seen the Sally Forth cartoon, and I responded that 'I don't read the cartoon page,' but then she said, 'Well, you better read this one'," Engstrom recalled.

"I could hardly believe it, the cartoon had everything down to the last detail," Engstrom said. "Even one of the cartoon frames had the newly arranged pillows in the third floor room - the Owl's Nest."

Unbeknownst to the Berwood staff at the time, it turns out that Sally Forth illustrator Craig Macintosh was a recent visitor to the inn. The cartoon, which is written from a woman's perspective, was created by Greg Howard in 1982. Today it is written by Francesco Marciuliano and appears in nearly 700 newspapers.

The funny pages aside, if imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Berwood Hill Inn can stand proud as the real world inspiraton for an idylic cartoon vacation.



Roots in the River Valley
Article by
Cathy Taylor

Rather than sell their pioneer-era farm and house, a Minnesota family created the elegant yet bucolic Berwood Hill Inn

APRIL PREVIEW: Lured by Berwood

In the hill country of southeastern Minnesota is an inn that has it all — rich history, superb design, fine cuisine and gardens you'll want to get lost in. Fran Scibora assumed ownership of Berwood after growing up on the rural property and immediately turned it into a retreat for guests from all over the country. She has retained original features of the house like natural pine walls, added Palladian view windows on the top floor, extended the front porch, and has turned the old summer kitchen into a guest cottage. Lots of French inspired touches, warm paint colors and unexpectedly marvelous antiques are a treat for lovers of Victorian eclecticism.

JUNE FEATURE: Roots in the River Valley

City folk seeking rural relaxation have penetrated the hill country of southeastern Minnesota in recent years. It's more like New England than the Midwest — green bluffs overlooking the Root River valley, neat farms carved from pine and oak forests.

In the 1850s, stagecoaches carried pioneers to the newly opened region, and one cluster of homesteads became the village of Lanesboro. There, on 200 acres outside town, stands a bed-and-breakfast now known as Berwood Hill Inn, owned by Fran Scibora.

Friends marvel at how fast Scibora transformed the farm between the spring of 1998 and opening day that fall. To her, however, Berwood isn't a purchased project. Her family is only the second one to own it in a century and a half. Family memories, more than antiques and improvements, give Berwood its welcome-home personality.

The three-story farmhouse was built in the 1870s by a pioneer family of Scandinavian background. In 1936 the last member of the family died, and Scibora's grandparents purchased the farm.

The house and the equally early barn had no running water then, and pressure pumps were not yet available. Fran's father Lawrence and his brother Paul dug deep trenches to lay narrow pipes, and hauled in bricks to line a cistern; the pressure of gravity rushed water from the cistern into the buildings. They enlarged the barn and kept the original granary, which included storage for wagons and carriages.

Lawrence and his wife took over the farm and Fran Scibora and her brother grew up there. After Scibora's parents retired and moved to a nearby town, the house stood empty for 16 years while her father mowed the lawn and winterized the house regularly.

When her parents were ready to sell, Scibora says, the house called her name. She owns a Minneapolis business with her husband and had never thought of running an inn, but decided she wanted to turn the property into a bed-and-breakfast. The parents gave the house to her and the surrounding land to her brother. "Berwood" combines their family name [Berland] with a dominant feature of the home and grounds.

Still commuting about 100 miles each way, Scibora now has the help of a small but expert staff. Friends have helped furnish the house with a potpourri of antiques and art: local, exotic, historic and whimsical, mingling serious Victorian style with Scibora's offbeat sense of fun.

The Family Way

Most 19th-century farmhouses in the area were built on lathe and plaster, but Berwood's original owners built their entire house of hand-sawed, double-grooved pine. Each wall is formed of two airtight layers with a space between.

Scibora removed the existing wallpapers to expose the warm reddish pine walls in most of the rooms, and she believes the rich natural-wood look is original. She cleaned and revarnished the wood before opening day, and simple soap and water have maintained it since.

Floors are still straight with no sign of sagging. When an old radiator was removed from the entrance hall floor, Scibora ingeniously covered the hole with an inlay design. Two new furnaces and central air were installed.

She spent that first summer choosing and sewing textiles and planning interiors. She loves French furniture, but wouldn't undercut Berwood's naturalism with too much fuss and formality. Wanting a no-frills parlor to welcome guests of all tastes, she draped the windows in Waverly plaid.

In the dining room, to evoke old French oilcloth walls, she hung toile paper and applied coats of shellac over it for a warm candlelight hue. Here, an antique blanket chest serves as a china hutch. A Victorian music box, once a coin-operated hotel lobby diversion, now announces breakfast. In the adjoining library Parisian furniture, c. 1900, is banked with cushions covered in antique textiles and trims.

In the big farmhouse kitchen, the chef prepares gourmet meals and tea treats including scones, finger sandwiches, cakes and fruit breads. Holiday season guest enjoy lavish Victorian teas.

Upstairs, shellac-coated toile reappears in the 18th-century-style French Room. Scibora used light green and yellow paint in the halls and in muted shades on the exterior, similar to the milk-based paint colors that had been on the doorframes since the early years of the house.

In the Sunrise Room near the stairs, two generations of parents had slept in the iron bed, with an ear open for the one creaking board that betrayed late-returning offspring. Scibora decorated the room with cockerels as a morning greeting to guests.

The entire third floor is a guest suite called the "Owl's Nest." Here, antique decorating goes wild: screens, landscape paintings, marble tables, a carved post from Berwood's original porch, Gothic "gingerbread" cornices from a flea market, a Victorian Chinese-style birdhouse and caved doors from an old mansion in Decorah, Iowa. A cherub head from an old church seems to float over the Victorian bed.

Guests are challenged to "count the owls," 14 owl-shaped curios hidden in plain sight. To convert the long attic dormer into a bath, Scibora lined it with a lavish tin ceiling from an old store and a horizontal landscape by a local painter. Larger Palladian windows were installed on this floor so that guests could enjoy breathtaking views of the garden, and watch seasonal changes take place.

Prize-Winning Gardens

Outside, the old porch was on the front and back of the house. Scibora had the trim remilled and added a third section to achieve a true wraparound.

A large farmyard building became a reception hall and meeting room. Behind it, Grandpa's Garden, combining prairie flowers with cavorting "junque art" animals, was named when Scibora's father died last year. Her brother maintains the fields under the government-sponsored prairie reclamation program.

Around the house, Scibora planned ingenious garden vignettes with winding paths and woodland flowers. Rural antiques strewn among the pines look staunchly Victorina at a distance. Close up, they turn out to be a 19th-century barn cupola and chicken coop, heirloom farm implements and an iron lich gate from a rural church. A round corncrib roof on iron posts with a wood floor became a gazebo for dining and parties. Some distance from the house a tiny cottage, originally the summer kitchen, provides an overnight retreat for warm-weather guests.

Berwood has two Book of Lists Awards from Arrington's Inn Traveler: "Best of the Midwest" for 2003, and the 2004 Garden Award. The inn was featured on the Better Homes and Gardens cable TV show, and a leading daylily grower plans to name a new variety "Berwood."

With its picturesque gardens and fields as background, Berwood is popular for wedding and reception rentals. People from all over the country and even Europe come to experience the pastoral charm this homestead has to offer.

Cathy Taylor, owner of Victori Limited, is a freelance writer and editor, a founding member of the North Star Chapter of the Victorian Society in America, and the editor of the quarterly newsletter of the Costume Society of America. She writes, lectures and serves as a consultant on antique and vintage clothing. Her website is


Best Garden
Selected by
Arrington's Inn Traveler

Berwood Hill Inn has been recognized with the BEST GARDEN award by Arrington's Inn Traveler in the
2004 Book of Lists!


Star Tribune

Article by Sarah Tieck
Confessions of a B&B Lover:
A Connoisseur's List of Places to Relish
Berwood Hill Inn:

This place is clearly loved, which perhaps isn't surprising. After all, it was owner Fran Scibora's childhood home, and now as an adult, it is her passion. Striking color schemes — goldenrod, maroon, green — define this 1800s Victorian inside and out. Rooms are decorated with eclectic European antiques, but retain an easy comfort. Of the five well-designed rooms, two caught my attention. The cozy Garden Cottage is in the garden and has a private porch. My favorite was the French Room, which evokes the sexy ambience of the Moulin Rouge.

The Berwood Hill Inn is a great place to think indulgently — get a massage in your room, sniff the flowers that scent the air as you walk the acres of ever-changing, award-winning gardens or simply sit in the new gazebo and enjoy the view of the entire valley. A bonus is chef and innkeeper Vin Skjelstad, who creates five-course breakfasts that are nothing short of art (and dinners by request). Typical fare: Belgian waffles with a caramelized orange syrup, quiche, a seasoned hash, fruit and pastries. Actually, a stay at Berwood is nothing short of art.

Love Inns - Confessions of a B&B Lover

I've crisscrossed the country battling bugs in soggy tents; settled into sterile motel rooms with two beds and no character, and fought off herds of resort-goers to stake out spots at the pool, the dining room and the beach.

After all that travail, it's no surprise that I'm a lover of bed-and-breakfasts.

There is something about seeking a true retreat, and I love the personal touch. The core of the matter, however, is that I'm a hopeless romantic, and what romantic doesn't love candlelight, feather beds, whirlpool tubs, garden views and a bit of history?

For me, a bed-and-breakfast or small inn is all about sensuality and creature comforts. These are the places where chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne seem right at home, while the phone, the television and the normal stuff of day-to-day life aren't allowed. Romance comes easier unplugged.

The best part of all is that I don't have to set this scene. I might have made the reservation and picked the place — but I never remember that as I set down my suitcase in a gorgeous suite that feels as if it was created and cleaned (this is important) just for me.

It isn't always easy to find romance and refuge. There are a lot of sad and shabby places that call themselves inns.

I've been staying in Minnesota bed-and-breakfasts for five years and writing about them for three. I've waded through my share of doilies, knick-knacks and potpourri in search of the truly worthy — the gorgeous, hospitable inns at which we've stayed and that I recommend to others.

The prices for one night and one meal range from $75 to well over $200 — it all depends on the time of year and week, the size of the room and whether it has extras like a whirlpool. With that kind of outlay at stake, a little research is in order.

The internet is invaluable because I never stay anywhere without seeing pictures, and Web sites offer pages of insight.

With B&Bs, a picture truly is worth 1,000 words. If the bed looks a bit worn, or the room seems a bit gaudy, I trust my instincts, knowing that it is probably worse in person, and that I'd feel like crying as I closed the door. Another clue is the voice on the phone when I make my reservation. The best innkeepers return calls promptly. They're genuinely friendly, and ask if you need any extras or have special requests.

As for what I consider a gorgeous interior, I don't mean frou-frou and floral prints all over. I mean elegance, luxury and design that would feel at home in House Beautiful. A fireplace and a whirlpool tub surrounded by candles are musts, and on the occasion when I found a place with a roof garden, I was mightily pleased.

The frosting on the whole experience is the little extras — really good bath robes, or a complimentary bottle of champagne and a basket of treats that remind us that we are eternal honeymooners. The true prize is the privacy and solitude to be found in such a grand place because ultimately, we go to reconnect with each other, not to meet new people.

After we greet the innkeeper and settle into our room, the evening is a date night. We savor the room, venture out to splurge on a nice dinner, then come back to our cocoon for the night.

Morning is softer — and it always seems to come too soon. But, it is a gentle return to real life, as sunlight trickles in and the scent of stuffed French toast, quiche or some other sinful breakfast slips under the door. It isn't easy to climb out of a bed that feels like a cloud, but somehow, I always feel ready and relaxed, as I begin my day with a gourmet breakfast waiting at a grand table.

This brings the part we like least — sleepy, sometimes awkward, conversations with other guests. Seeing them is a reminder that the next steps are toward home, along with the responsibilities and work that go with it.

I close the door to each visit, and leave carrying a little bit of that magic and love that come with staying at each new bed and breakfast.


Best In The Midwest
Selected by
Arrington's Inn Traveler

Berwood Hill Inn has been named BEST IN THE MIDWEST by Arrington's Inn Traveler in the
2003 Book of Lists!


Minnesota Business Focus
Interview conducted by host Susie Johnson
KCCO Business Focus features Berwood Hill Inn and interviews owner Fran Scibora

In December 2002, Susie Johnson, host of KCCO radio's Minnesota Business Focus, highlighted Berwood Hill Inn in a holiday broadcast.  During the show, Berwood's founder, designer and owner, Fran Scibora, spoke with Susie regarding Berwood and the wonders of the Bluff Country Region.  The following is a transcript of their on-air conversation...

Susie Johnson, KCCO:  With us on the phone is Fran Scibora, who is the owner of the B&B.  Fran, thanks for being with us today.

Fran Scibora, Berwood:  Well, thank you for inviting me.  I've looked forward to this opportunity to talk to about Berwood Hill Inn.

SJ:  Great.  Give us a little bit of an idea about your place, describe it for us.

FS:  Well actually, I'd love to do that — it's my home.  I grew up there.  And when I moved away, my parents continued to live there until they retired.  And it sat empty for sixteen years, and my dad asked me if I'd like to revitalize it, and I said, "yes, I'd love to keep the home."  And it's been something that I've done with great pride in my heritage, in connecting back to my childhood.

SJ:  Wow, that's great, I didn't know — so this was where you grew up as a child. 

FS:  Yes it was.

SJ:  Well that's outstanding.

FS:  Right.  It actually sits out of town, from Lanesboro about three-and-a-half, four miles.  It sits on two hundred acres, it overlooks a huge valley and vista, so you get a panoramic view of the total valley.

SJ:  Oh wonderful.  And it's Victorian?  Describe it.  What is the style of the house?

FS:  It was built in the 1800s — the late 1800s — and has mainly kept its same structure.  It has two wraparound porches, so that you can sit out in the spring and summer and fall, and overlook the valley or take in the views.  We are gardeners — I love to garden, and we have probably about six to seven acres of gardens now.  And they're open to the people that stay there, to sit and relax.  We serve lemonade, teas.  Being that I'm in the business world in the Cities it's kind of nice to know that there's a place you can go and just kick back and relax.

SJ:  Get away from it all. 

FS:  Right. 

SJ:  So what do you do in the Cities, then?

FS:  We own a company, my husband and I.

SJ:  What's that called?

FS:  It's called Advanced Communication Design.  And we're located in Bloomington, and we deal in previewing and merchandising and digitizing for customers such as retailers like Borders and whatever.


SJ:  Wow.  And then you do this...

FS:  This is my passion. 

SJ:  Wow.  Isn't that something!

FS:  It is, and I usually take a load of plants down to my inn every week in the summer, and I have a gardener that works with me.  And then we just go to work and we work until it's dark, and then I come back and that was my relaxation — a way to get away.

SJ:  Well, isn't that something?  Then you don't really have days off, but it doesn't bother you because you do something you love on the weekends.

FS:  That's exactly right.  And I have an innkeeper that stays there.  He is an executive chef; he actually worked in the Twin Cities and worked in some prominent places — I think he helped start Muffuletta.

SJ:  Now tell me how to say his last name.

FS:  Wayne "SHELL-STAD."

SJ:  It's spelled...

FS:  He calls himself "Vin," in a Norwegian way.  Wayne means Vin. 

SJ:  And you don't pronounce the J. 

FS:  Right, right.  And he's been with us since we opened in 1998.

SJ:  1998 is when you opened for business. 

FS:  Right.

SJ:  So how many rooms do you have?

FS:  We have five rooms, and we have a cottage that we rent in the summer, where people can sit in the gardens, and they have their own little porch.  And it's open from the first of May through the end of October.

SJ:  Now, do you stay open in the winter as well? 

FS:  Yes, we do.

SJ:  And what do you think... I mean, obviously some of the fun of Lanesboro is getting outside and taking a walk or a bike ride on the wonderful trails.  Are there opportunities in the winter for cross-country skiing?  Tell us a little bit about what's available.

FS:  Yes.  As you probably know there's 52 miles of bike trails available, and in the winter those same trails are groomed for cross-country skiing...

SJ:  When we have snow.

FS:  When we have snow.  Actually, because the weather is so nice today you could be biking down there.

SJ:  You could!  Or taking a nice walk.  It's beautiful.

FS:  Exactly.  And that part of the area is more bluffy than the rest of the state because the glaciers never got there.

SJ:  Yeah, it's beautiful; I lived in La Crescent for many years.

FS:  Did you?!  Of course, and I went to school in Winona.

SJ:  You did?  I worked in La Crosse, at a TV station, and so, our TV station was up on the top of the hill, on County Trunk 25.  So it was always a very fast race to try to get your story done on time, up the mountainside.

FS:  I can believe that.

SJ:  Well, it's so nice to talk to you.  Fran Scibora's our guest; she's the owner of Berwood Hill Inn.  It's our Minnesota Business Focus this hour on KCCO.  It's in Lanesboro, which is just amazingly growing in popularity.  Tell us what you've seen there.

FS:  Well, what I've seen is that... there's, of course, the Commonweal Theatre has made tremendous strides in being well known across the country, and they do great live plays.  And I know people have really rated it as one of the highest play theaters in the area, and it brings a lot of people to the area.  And there are of course a lot of things going on in the Harmony area with the Amish, and the other surrounding communities have really linked up with those activities to create their own.  And there's a Laura Ingalls museum.

SJ:  Yes, yes.  The Laura Ingalls home.

FS:  So that's wonderful.

SJ:  Yeah.  You think bed-n-breakfasts that you've seen... obviously you got into this business, a growing trend toward them.  And what do you think they offer that a more traditional hotel doesn't? 

FS:  I think what they do is that they give a little more personalized, individualized treatment.  So each inn has its own feel and environment.  That makes it seem more quaint, or perhaps it makes it seem more romantic.  And there's always those uniquenesses that draws each of us to come to those places.

SJ:  Yeah, sure does.  Well, before we run out of time, it's a great time... it's the holidays, so maybe, do you do gift certificates, that kind of thing?

FS:  Yes we do.

SJ:  Do you have a phone number people can call?

FS:  I do.  You can either call, either on the 800 number...

SJ:  And that is 1-800...

FS:  800-803-6748.  Or 612-867-3614. 

SJ:  Fran Scibora, with Berwood Hill Inn, on KCCO-AM 950, Twin Cities Business Radio.



Midwest Traveler
Article by Nick Fauchald, Terri Foley, Jennifer Franklin,Pamela Hill Nettleton, and Sarah Tieck

9 Weekend Getaways

Morning comes too fast.  Most days.  But at these bed and breakfasts — perfect for a one night getaway or a whole weekend of escape — it's impossible to choose between the land of the waking with its sweet and savory kitchen scents, and the land of sleep and retreat with its soft-as-a-feather beds, crackling fireplaces, and bubbling hot tubs for two.  Aaaaaah...

Berwood Hill Inn
At the Berwood Hill Inn in Lanesboro, the beauty is in the details.  Owner Fran Scibora renovated her family home, an 1880s farmhouse, filling it with an eclectic mix of antiques.  You could spend hours perusing every corner of the large Victorian house looking at everything from the beds to books to curios of all kinds.  Or just try to count all the owls hidden in the decor of the attic suite, named the "Owl's Nest."  It features a plush pillow-laden iron bed, a ceiling fan, large windows overlooking the grounds, and a whirlpool bath in the bathroom.  Other rooms the French Room, the Sunrise Room, the Wood Room, and the Garden Cottage — each have their own feel and theme.  Guests are treated in the afternoon to a tray of crackers, cookies, and nuts.  Each night, rich homemade chocolates accompanied by a hand-written note are placed discreetly on the pillow.  After a day of biking the Root River trail or poking around area antique shops, you can enjoy a five-course gourmet dinner created by chef and innkeeper Vin Skjelstad.  Then before retiring for the evening, relax on one of the two wraparound porches or stroll in the elaborate gardens that surround the house.  In the morning Skjelstad serves an elegant breakfast delicate Swedish waffles with fresh berries, pork tenderloin medallions, quiche Florentine, and fresh pan-fried rainbow trout.


Try elegant fine dining at the Old Village Hall Restaurant and Pub with a great view of the Root River Bike Trail.  Try Mrs. B's for a four-course, prix fixe meal.  Sample homestyle cooking at the charming Apple Dumpling Cafe.  Take in a show at the local Commonweal Theatre Company.


Travel + Leisure Magazine
Article by Kendell Cronstrom
Bluff Country

On an overcast Sunday in June, I make the two-hour drive from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport to Lanesboro, the hub of the 42-mile Root River State Trail and its adjunct, the 18-mile Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail. ...

ON MY LAST NIGHT, I drive to the Berwood Hill Inn, a restored 132-year-old farmhouse in Lanesboro's rolling hills. Dripping with antimacassars, burled-wood antiques, and fireplaces, it's as luxurious as a B&B can get, down to the bedtime truffles and the next morning's decadent five-course breakfast, which includes an asparagus frittata and thick farm sausage. But I'm happiest with its sweeping Technicolor vista of hills and farmland, bad weather be damned. Even though I don't live [in Bluff Country] anymore, I assure myself before loading up my car, I'm still a native son.

"rest your head":


A former farmhouse, Bluff Country's most luxurious inn is set on a hilltop with valley views. The handful of rooms, all idiosyncratic, are stuffed to the gills with a mishmash of American antiques.

Midwest Home & Garden
Article by Kristie Greve

Holidays at Berwood Hill:
Nestled deep in the Root River Valley, a historic B&B is a feast for the holiday senses.

The fragrant scent of oranges and cinnamon waft through the rooms.  Hot apple cider and chocolate truffles delight taste buds.  Brocade pillows add plump mounds of comfort to sofas.  These sensory delights are the creation of Berwood Hill Inn's owner, Fran Scibora, who turned her 1870s family home near Lanesboro into a dramatic country inn two years ago. 

The home is constructed entirely of lumber; pine floors, pine walls, and pine ceilings now glow with a rich sheen.  Hand-painted floral patterns grace the stairways and accent the ceilings.  Today, the inn has four unique bedrooms, each with a private bath, on the second and third floors.   The main floor hosts the common areas of living room, dining room, library, and kitchen.  Wraparound porches on the first and second floors add a special welcome.  A seasonal cottage near the house provides an additional guest room in summer months.

Holiday decorations adorn the tabletops, mantles, and corners of the inn.  Seasonal evergreens, bright berries, dried shafts of wheat, delicate feathers, and gauzy strips of ribbon twine together into whimsical creations.  She begins to transform the home in late November after collecting natural and dried materials from Twin Cities floral shops.  Seasonal ribbons, braided cords, and fragile ornaments become part of what she dubs her "harvest."

Then, with the aid of husband Marco, friend Geri Charlston and other energetic helpers, Scibora sets up shop in an old barn near the house and begins to work her magic.  Everyone pitches in over a marathon weekend, and holiday cheer seeps into the nooks and crannies of the inn. 

"I bring nature inside to express the beauty of the holiday season," she says.

Guests appreciate this philosophy as soon as they drive up to the inn.  Perched on a high ridge overlooking the Root River Valley, the inn is surrounded by gigantic white oak, spruce, and maple trees.  Fresh evergreen garlands with bright plaid ribbons drape gracefully over porch railings.  Hundreds of tiny white lights cast a welcoming, starlike glow.

Stepping into the entryway, guests first spy a large Christmas tree laden with eye-pleasing plums and clusters of grapes, sprigs of holly, and tufts of feathers and flowers amid fragile glass ornaments and more shimmering white lights.  A sage green and burgundy antique silk tablecloth serves as a tree skirt.  Dried oranges, cinnamon sticks, a and fragrant cloves decorate a second tree in the upstairs hallway.  Bright red and pink berries accenting evergreen bouquets grace fireplace mantels in the living room and dining room.

Innkeeper and gourmet chef Wayne "Vin" Skjelstad presents memorable breakfasts:  poached eggs in puffed pastry, fresh fruit, French toast with seasoned pears, designed to encourage visitors to linger over just one more cup of coffee.

For Scibora, decorating the inn is a labor of love — a way of sharing her memories of past holidays and recapturing the spirit of Christmas.


Better Home and Gardens
Television Show
first aired October 21, 2000
BHG TV visits Berwood Hill Inn
An episode of the nationally televised Better Homes and Gardens show, hosted by Jeannette Trompeter, was devoted to Berwood Hill Inn's history, gardens, decor, hospitality and cuisine. BHG TV produces twenty-six shows a year, choosing remarkable locations around the globe. It is truly an honor that they chose Berwood as one of their locales!

Rochester Magazine
Article by Michelle L. Saxton
The Guide to B&Bs
Regional retreats for the 21st century traveler
"I remember as a little girl going out behind the house to go berry picking with my grandma," says Berwood Inn Owner Fran Scibora. "When we refurbished the house and opened it as a B&B in 1998, it was done as a labor of love. This home has the spirit of the family in it."

Indeed Berwood Inn is Scibora's childhood home. And once you set foot inside the door, it'll feel like you're in a 19th century romance novel. However, prior to its amazing transformation, the 125-year-old farmhouse sat empty for 15 years. Fran and her brother Larry spent that time planning what to do with the home since it was badly in need of repair. The house also had 200 acres that accompanied it. So they decided to divide it up. Fran took the house; Larry took the property. Fair enough.

Today the B& B offers guest their choice of four rooms meticulously detailed in Old World charm. A fifth room is available during the warmer months in the garden cottage behind the house. "The house is beautifully located high atop a bluff overlooking the Root River Valley. Our guests really appreciate the quietness of this place." And when it comes to detail, Scibora says, there's no holding back.

"We added upper and lower wrap-around porches so that in the summertime, guests can sit outside and enjoy the breeze coming from the valley. We have antiques throughout the house that we've collected from all over the world. And we even have an old Bentley on the property that we use to chauffeur people following weddings," she says.

Fran and her husband Marco have even gone all out on dining. Because the couple lives in the Twin Cities and operates a business there, they thought whom better to be their innkeeper than a chef? Vin Skjelstad pampers guests with a gourmet, five-course breakfast they won't soon forget.

Address: Off County Road 16 between Lanesboro and Preston
Room Rates: $105-$205 a night
Meals: Gourmet breakfast included with room rate.
Children: No
Phone: toll-free 800-803-6748
Nearby activities: Enjoying the many beautiful gardens on the property, hiking, antiquing, and shopping.

Midwest Home & Garden
Article by Donna Tabbert Long
Valentine's Day Delight
For a romantic breakfast in bed, serve up these sweet specialties from chef Vin Skjelstad of Berwood Hill Inn.
If ever there were a day meant for late-morning lounging while feasting on a luscious breakfast, Valentine's Day is it. For such a special occasion, Vin Skjelstad, chef and innkeeper at Berwood Hill Inn, a charming Victorian B&B near Lanesboro, recommends a time-tested treat: homemade waffles.

Waffles make an elegant impression but don't take hours to prepare. That's one of the most important criteria when planning such a morning meall, says Skjelstad, who often makes waffles as part of Berwood's multi-course breakfast for overnight guests. Prepare batter the night before. In the morning, simply add beaten egg whites, preheat the waffle iron, and within minutes you've got an easy entree, ready to be embellished with an assortment of delicious toppings.

"Toppings are the creative part," says Skjelstad. A former executive chef at several Twin Cities restaurants, Skjelstad now looks to his own garden-as well as to nearby berry farms in the Amish community of the Root River Valley-for inspiration and ingredients. His favorite homemade fruit-flavored syrups include those prepared with fresh raspberries, blueberries, apples, or Bosc pears. And he likes to jazz up butters with a unique chocolate hazelnut mixture, a local honey, or a hot-pepper peach preserve.

The honeycomb surface of a traditional waffle is perfect for holding pools of such syrups, sauces, and butters. And the deeper recesses of Belgian waffles allow for an even more spectacular presentation-perhaps filled with fresh whole berries, a dollop of Chambord-scented whipped cream on top, and a decadent drizzle of chocolate over all.

Sample these recipes from Berwood Hill Inn for especially romantic occasions like every Saturday morning...
Belgian Waffles

The difference between Belgian waffles and traditional waffles is the depth and the rise of the grids in the iron (not the recipe). This multi-purpose yeast recipe is made the night before and can be used as a base for a variety of dishes.

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup cake flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. yeast
2 cups milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. baking soda

In a large bowl, combine first five ingredients and mix well. Pour in milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Stir until combined. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight.

In the morning, while waffle iron is preheating, separate eggs and add yolks to the overnight mixture. In a separate bowl, heat whites until they are at soft peak stage, then gently fold into batter.

Spread one ladle of batter into iron to bake until the waffle is done, usually 3 to 5 minutes. Add toppings, serve immediately. (See the following for presentation idea.)

Makes approximately 6 to 8 waffles, depending on size of the waffle iron.

Valentine Waffle
Use a heart-shaped waffle iron to surprise your sweetheart on Valentine's Day with this presentation: Top a heart-shaped waffle with fresh strawberries. Use melted dark or white chocolate to decorate plate and waffle. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen vanilla yogurt. Pipe on a flavored whipped cream and drizzle with fudge sauce. Finish with a chocolate-dipped strawberry.

Belgian Banana Split Waffle
Use shell-shaped waffle iron to create a container or layer two or three square waffles for an equally nice presentation.

Top or layer waffle with bananas and a combination of strawberries and blueberries. Add a scoop of frozen strawberry or vanilla yogurt. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream spiked with Chambord liqueur, melted dark chocolate, and chopped nuts. Finish with a sprinkle of cocoa powder.

Chicken Mornay Waffle
For an appetizing entree waffle, leave out the sugar in the basic waffle recipe. Julienne a cooked or grilled chicken breast and fan it around the top of the waffle. Drizzle Mornay sauce over the waffle and the chicken. Top with chopped chives or garnish with a nasturtium.

Mornay Sauce
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp. Blonde Roux**
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch white pepper
freshly grated nutmeg to taste

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat milk. Stir in Blonde Roux to thicken. Add the rest of the ingredients.

**Blonde Roux
Skjelstad likes to prepare roux ahead of time and keep it on hand.
To make a Blonde Roux, melt butter and add an equal amount of flour to the butter (i.e., 1/4 cup flour plus 1/4 cup butter). Stir while cooking, until the flour is cooked but not browned. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Hazelnut Butter

Skjelstad adds syrup flavoring (usually used for flavoring coffees; e.g. Torani) and powdered cocoas (e.g. Ghirardelli) to butters for extra flavor on waffles. Tip: Instead of buying a big bottle of the expensive coffee-flavoring syrup for this recipe, ask your favorite coffeehouse if the shot of hazelnut syrup you usually add to your coffee can be put in a little container to take home.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 Tbsp. Ghirardelli hazelnut-flavored cocoa
2 tsp. hazelnut-flavored syrup

In a small bowl, whip softened butter for approximately one minute. Add flavored cocoa and flavored syrup. Mix until combined.

Spoon onto plastic wrap. Shape into a cylinder, then refrigerated until firm. Wrap in parchment paper and label. Store in refrigerator or freezer.

Honey Butter

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 Tbsp. honey

In a small bowl, whip softened butter for approximately one minute. Add honey slowly and mix until ingredients are combined. Spoon onto plastic wrap. Shape into a cylinder, then refrigerate until the mixture is firm. Wrap in parchment paper and label. Store in refrigerator or freezer.

Hot Pepper Peach Butter

Don't be afraid to experiment with jams and jellies mixed into butter, says Skjelstad. Add blackberry jam or strawberry preserves to taste.

1 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 Tbsp. hot pepper peach jam

In a small bowl, whip softened butter for approximately one minute. Add jam and mix until combined. Spoon onto plastic wrap. Shape into a cylinder, then refrigerate until the mixture is firm. Wrap in parchment paper and label. Store in refrigerator or freezer.

Fruit-based Syrups

Delicious syrups can be made quickly and easily by using a combination of two parts sugar and one part water, also known as a simple sugar syrup. The combinations and kinds of fruit you can use in this recipe are as endless as your imagination.

To make a simple sugar syrup:
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar

In a small saucepan, stir sugar into water. Heat to boiling and boil until sugar is dissolved, about one minute. Store covered in refrigerator.

3/4 cup fresh sliced strawberries or blueberries, or 2 peeled and cored tart apples, or 2 peeled and cored Bosc pears
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
(Add a touch of honey or maple syrup to enhance flavor.)

Breakfast Fruit Smoothies

Use a blender to mix all the ingredients, says Skjelstad, who likes to serve these refreshing and healthful drinks in the morning. They're also great for helping you cool down on hot summer days. When using fruit with lots of seeds, such as raspberries or blackberries, you may wish to strain the smoothie before serving.

Skjelstad usually prepares smoothies with a fruit-juice base, but a milk- or cream-based smoothie makes for a nice change. As a general rule, add a tablespoon of honey to the smoothie if using orange juice or a juice/fruit with a high acid content. Two of Skjelstad's favorite fruit combinations follow:

Triple Berry:
1 ripe banana
1 cup cranberry juice (or cran-raspberry)
1 cup raspberries, frozen
1 cup blueberries, frozen
Garnish with a slice of star fruit

Hawaiian Crush:
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
1 cup lemon sorbet
2 cups milk (or half and half)
1 Tbsp. honey
Garnish with a strawberry and a slice of pineapple skewered with one of those tiny paper umbrellas.

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