By Hilda Mitrani
A winding and oak-laden road leads to Amelia Island. At night, it is several steps beyond pretty as the forest envelopes you. When I arrived at Fairbanks House, I was thoroughly enchanted by the vision before me, and initially sat in the car gazing at this immense Victorian abode. Like a little girl dreaming of a dollhouse, I wondered which room was mine.
Built in 1885, Fairbanks House is a four-story, 20-room mansion cum bed and breakfast. It was designed in the Italiante style and built of the finest materials by Robert V. Schuyler, a New York architect. A private home for its first three decades, the residence had the most modern innovations of its day, including a telephone, an elevator, indoor running water and a concrete sidewalk.
The exquisite interiors boast 12-foot ceilings, floors of heart pine, a marvelous staircase built of Honduras mahogany and a 15-foot tower. Architectural details such as the 10 exquisite fireplaces, mouldings and wainscotting remain as evidence of the glory days. And yet, upon entering, the first impression today is one of luxury but also of welcome and comfort.
This is thanks to dedicated innkeepers, Theresa and Bill Hamilton, who fell in love with Fairbanks House in 1997. Today it is a marvelous bed and breakfast that specializes in gourmet food. Guests are absolutely pampered.
Whether it is gluten-free cookies left on the mantel before bedtime or a favorite muffin in the morning, it seems that Theresa charms even the most reluctant guest into revealing their preferences. With her knowledge of the area, I was quick to discover that Theresa is an excellent travel guide too.
It’s no wonder then that so many couples opt for an Elopement Package, allowing Theresa to plan their nuptials. She is a dream come true for those who dread losing the magic of the perfect betrothal due to making all the mundane arrangements.
An Elopement Package includes such romantic touches as a horse-drawn carriage that transports the couple to the shore at sunset. The newly married couple exchanges vows then enjoys a romantic gourmet dinner in historic Fernandina Beach. Afterward, they arrive at the inn to find cake, champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries in their suite.
Fairbanks House appears like a scene out of a fairy tale book. And like the fables, I’m sure many of the couples who come to enjoy a carefree wedding expect their lovely weekend to auger a lifetime of joy.
In places like Fairbanks House on Amelia Island, these types of dreams do seem to come true.