he Morgan Inn in Pawcatuck is more than a B&B. It's an interactive museum of American history from the 1920s to the 1940s. It's a delightful piece of 1928 architecture. It's a history, art, music and popular culture lesson. It's an example of decorating around a theme. And it's a warm and inviting place to
It's all of those things thanks to the owners' passion for collecting and sharing.
"I'm saving pieces of history. That's what I do," says tireless collector Linda Allen, who owns the inn with her husband,
A Waterford native who taught for years in Florida, Linda Allen is drama director at Stonington High School, which is just down Route 1 from the inn. Her flair for the dramatic and love of musicals and nostalgia tie together all the rooms in the house and immerse guests in a simpler time.
"I have the old ration books" from World War II, Allen says.
"They're not worth anything, but you'll never see them again."
An old hardcover Tom Swift book, a set of dominoes, algebra and chemistry textbooks, a tin toy, old cameras, a working Victrola, a camelback sofa, a foot-pedal operated Singer sewing machine, a canister for transporting movie reels, a portrait of Shirley Temple all of these artifacts add atmosphere and an intrinsic value to the Morgan Inn, regardless of whether they'd fetch a tidy sum on "Antiques Road Show."
After college, Allen spent a few months traveling around Europe staying in small inns. Overseas, she furthered her appreciation for antiques and collectibles, and she began musing about someday having a B&B of her own. She kept this thought in the back of her mind during her 23 years as a full-time teacher.
Her dream and her years of collecting came to fruition in 2002. That year, the Allens, who have two grown daughters, bought the house and opened it as a B&B in the summer of 2003, after moving up from Florida. The inn had regular tenants when the Allens bought it, and while it had been refurbished, it needed "tender loving care," Allen says.
The couple kept the name, which Allen thinks comes from the framed wallpaper mural in the living room that depicts Mystic with the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan at the dock.
The house originally was home to a family that had nine children, and despite decades of heavy use, retains virtually all of its character. An arched front doorway leads into the entry hall where an arched French door opens to the living room. A pair of French doors divides the dining room from the living room, and another pair closes off a front sun room from the living room. Built-in bookshelves filled with old hardcovers line either side of these French doors.
The arch motif is repeated in a pair of windows in the bright dining room where guests have breakfast and again at the foot of the open mahogany staircase at the back of the living room. All the original trim and woodwork remain, as do the hardwood floors.
Allen says she loves it when guests actually spend time around the house, exploring. It's particularly fun, she says, when she has older guests, and her artifacts spark memories and conversations.
Each of the five guests rooms has a theme based on a popular song of an earlier era, and the sheet music of that song is framed on the wall.
"I blame my mom and Pfizer," Allen jokes. As a kid she began acting in the Pfizer troupe her first play was "Carousel." Ever since then she's been hooked on musicals and the culture and times of the early and middle 20th century.
The "As Time Goes By" room, for example, is tucked like a little oasis in a rear corner of the house overlooking the tree-shaded back yard and has a Casablanca-style ceiling fan over the bed. The "Sentimental Journey" room across the hall has old maps of Rhode Island and Connecticut and more of a country feel.
Each room differs slightly based on the song that gives it its theme, but each is tied together with an old print of a sailing boat on the wall, plush bathrobes hanging on the back of the doors and a small table adorned with fresh flowers from Pot of Green in Stonington and a bottle of white wine.
"I try to make you feel at home while you're here," Allen says.
And if you're a dog lover, there's an added bonus: The Allens' Dalmation-spaniel mix, Precious, who is just that. This affectionate sweetie is hard to resist, but Allen only lets her out of the private living area if her guests are dog people.
The guest rooms all with private baths and televisions in a nod to modern "necessities" are on the second floor. Instead of closets, each has its own unique Art Deco-era armoire imported from Britain for hanging dress clothes and keeping extra towels and blankets.
The teacher in Allen is evident throughout the home, too, as you look over her beloved belongings. An Escher print on the wall is complemented by a nearby book on Escher. The same goes for the Lautrec print over the fainting couch that Allen's parents found for her. Books on art and an album of historic postcards tempt guests to sit, read and learn.
What makes the Morgan Inn different from some other B&Bs decked out in antiques is that Allen wants you to settle in and touch things, pick them up, play with the toys and games, browse through the books, sit on the furniture, fiddle with the antique cameras. "My things, you use," she says. "They have a life."