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Robert and Linda Castagna
Chestnut Hill on the Delware
Milford, New Jersey

The Joy of Innkeeping

Robert and Linda Castagna

You might say we fell in love with innkeeping before we ever began. We lived in Detroit in the 1980s and were being transferred, through our work, to New Jersey. Before starting over in a new part of the country, we decided to take a vacation to the British Isles with our thirteen-year-old son, Michael. Never having seen the term, "bed and breakfast," we were startled to find so many homes sporting these welcoming words. We loved our English B & B experiences - a different one each day - and it didn't take our son long to discover the fascinating guest books, which he took to bed each night, falling asleep to the words of grateful guests from all around the world. They came from Kenya, New Zealand, Germany, Iceland.... Within a few days, Michael declared that we should begin such an adventure upon our move to New Jersey so we also could have the same wonderful experiences of the English innkeepers.

With the British Isles and Detroit behind us, we made our big move to New Jersey in the middle of August of 1982. The three of us love history so you can imagine our delight when we discovered an immaculate 1860 Victorian house (with only two previous owners) located directly on the Delaware River in the quaint little town of Milford.

Having been seriously tied to our careers in Detroit, moving to this rural area and our new business in the hospitality industry was a breath of fresh air, We were eager to learn about the life of an innkeeper, but had much to accomplish in order to make our dream a reality. Our desire was to open within the first year of our new life in Milford. We were barely unpacked, a few weeks after moving to 63 Church Street, when we heard a knock on our door. There stood a couple begging for a room. They heard that possibly we were a bed and breakfast inn. They asked, "Will you take us in?" Little did they or we know that this premature visit was the very beginning of literally thousands of people who would cross our doorstep and visit our inn, Chestnut Hill on the Delaware.

Over the years, we painstakingly restored our gracious Victorian to its original grandeur and transformed it into a comfortable haven for retreat. We purchased the Victorian next door, which also required Rob's careful restoration, and are now blessed with two grand painted ladies, side by side, wearing history well. Together, they provide travelers elegant, tranquil, and finely appointed romantic lodging set among landscaped and terraced gardens that slope down to the riverbank.

Where do we stand now all these years later? Have we grown weary? Yes, sometimes we are incredibly busy, and bed seems a long way off. But we cannot imagine living any other way. Not only do we love the historical aspect of preserving our corner of America, but more importantly, the opportunity to offer an oasis to the world-weary coming to us out of the chaos of life. Over the years we have witnessed countless people stressed to the limit. We love to have them slow down and leave here refreshed. Life's pace is too great, our worries too heavy. Simplicity is an ancient-sounding word. Life is fragile and precious. These are not platitudes, but rather pleadings for all of us to slow down - yes, to smell the roses....to go away, rest, reflect on what is good in our lives and what needs to go. We are helping to preserve Americans and foreign guests as well!

What could possibly cause anxiety in this fantasy world of ours? Watching America rapidly destroying its charm. We are concreting America, tearing up the farms, by-passing the villages and, in some cases, trashing our heritage. We need to cherish our little towns and encourage the family business. We need to value the ingenuity of the people who have the courage to start their own companies and keep them going, This is what has made America great. Bed and breakfast inns are being sold at an alarming rate to be turned into multiple housing units. Independent stores are closing for the inability to compete with the big box stores. We don't have to be a generic country, but we will have to fight hard for what we have left. We treasure the thought that we have preserved the home that Wilson Thomas built for his bride in 1860. And, with pride, we look around and see that our neighbors share our vision. What a privilege and joy to be part of the old world and yet live comfortably in it today!

We live by Henry David Thoreau's quotation which graces the wall in our newest suite:



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