Today the road has brought me to Lake Mills, WI.
Yes, sir, it’s time once again for my favorite event and, I hope, yours. It’s the annual Christmas B & B review.
This year’s review brought me to Lake Mills and The Fargo Mansion Inn owned and operated by Tom Boycks and Barry Luce.
Fargo Mansion Inn is an 1881 Queen Anne mansion which had been bought by E.J. Fargo, son of the founder of Wells Fargo, in 1883. Fargo was also a bit of an inventor as he created the central vacuuming system still used in homes today. He lived in the mansion until his death in 1921 and his third wife continued to live there before moving to a nearby nursing home where she passed away at the age of 67. At that point, the mansion was transformed into apartments for years before falling into disrepair and condemnation.
Boycks and Luce bought the mansion in 1985 and spent two years restoring it and were actually one of, if not the first, B & B proprietors in Wisconsin. In fact, the partners are the founding members of the Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association. If the inn and the association don’t keep them busy enough, Boycks and Luce also have several other business interests in the community.
Unlike a great deal of my outings, I was only going to have one day to enjoy the inn and community so I had to hit the ground running. Once I spotted the mansion, I knew I had hit the jackpot.
One of the inn’s calling cards is that the owners like to decorate it according to a 19th century Victorian Christmas and I felt my Christmas juices flowing when I saw the Christmas tree and pine strings decorating the outside of the inn along with cutouts of toy soldiers.
Tom opened the door before I even had a chance to ring the bell and welcomed me into the home where I also met Barry. Tom gave me the quarter tour of the home and I marveled at the decorations and period antiques in the common areas. He then led me to the Enoch J Fargo Suite which was my room for the night.
This is Fargo Mansion’s largest room and dubbed the honeymoon suite containing a queen-sized bed, English writing desk, and a secret. Don’t worry, I won’t keep you in the dark. The bathroom has a secret entrance behind one of the bookshelves and is the closest I’ve come to seeing a true secret passage.
Once I got settled, I returned to the commons where I took a really good look around and enjoyed the fresh, piney smell of a real Christmas tree and took a close look at the intricate Christmas decorations and enjoyed some photos of the mansion back in its original heyday.
Before I knew it, it was time to go to church. I visited St Francis Xavier and this was a mighty small chapel; about on par with my visit to Our Lady of Victory in Limon, CO over the summer. Father Bob conducted the service and he was a gregarious and entertaining pastor. This was the third Sunday of Advent known as Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday and is represented by the rose-colored candle on the Advent wreath. Rejoice was the key word of the service as Father’s sermon centered around rejoicing that our Savior was coming and our Savior was here and with us. It was definitely a good one to feel the Spirit moving and I left worship with a flutter in my heart and a rumble in my stomach.
It was indeed dinnertime and I headed over to the nearby town of Johnson Creek to eat at Crawfish Junction.
Crawfish Junction is a bar/restaurant known for its Cajun fare. Surprisingly it does not seem to serve gumbo (unless it pops up as a soup of the day), but does serve an excellent plate of jambalaya to which I added some delectable shrimp and forewent the hush puppies for homemade mashed potatoes and gravy. The gravy had a great taste, but was much too thin, but the potatoes were right on the mark.
Satiated, I then headed to Janesville, WI to enjoy one of the region’s premier holiday events: the Holiday Light Show at the Rotary Botanical Gardens.
I had read of the event prior to my arrival, but, thanks to Sandy, whom I met in my previous review, I learned that the tickets had to be bought in advance and would not be sold at the door. So keep that in mind if you want to visit.
This truly is a popular event as there was a large line of people still waiting to get into the gardens, but it is well worth it. A million lights transform the gardens into a Christmas wonderland where you get to see flowers, Christmas trees, old-fashioned lampposts, sea serpents, Old Glory, and many other colorful surprises guaranteed to make your eyes pop.
I could have spent hours there, but had to settle for 40 minutes as plummeting temperatures were turning me into a Chrisicle. Afterwards, I returned to Fargo Mansion for some article prep and then sunk under the thick quilt for the night.
I wish I could sleep like that all the time. I closed my eyes and when I opened them it was nearly 6am. I had some time to write and ablute and then went down to breakfast.
Tom served up some lemon bread with a granola/yogurt/fruit dish and a main course of cheesy scrambled eggs, orange slices, and sausage links. Tom is easily one of the best conversationalists I’ve had as a host and he may be the future version of myself as we seem to share similar senses of humor and personality traits. But he is truly a master at the art of hospitality as we talked about the B & B industry and the events of the day.
Alas, I had to start heading the preparations for my drive home. But if you’re in Lake Mills, especially around Christmas, stay at Fargo Mansion. You’ll have an excellent pair of hosts, a wonderful mansion to relax in, and a fine feed in the morning.
And that wraps up this review, join me in about two weeks when I close out the year with a special holiday series when I travel to Orlando, FL to experience Walt Disney World for the holidays. It’ll be a grand adventure.
Until the next time. . .happy travels.