The Amelia Island Williams House- Fernandina Beach, Florida
As you drive through Amelia Island, you can`t miss the hulking towering trees overhanging the narrow streets. It appears that if a tree were growing where a road had been planned, the road would be built around the tree.
Such was the scene, as we made our way to the front door of the Amelia Island Williams House that sits on a five thousand square foot lot between Ash and 9th Streets, with its original 19th century fence guarding its entrance way.
A wealthy Boston banker, who certainly was not tightfisted, when it came to using the finest of material in its construction, built this grand style Victoria mansion in 1856 that was subsequently purchased in 1858 by Marcellus Williams.
Williams was notable for having married the great-great-great-great granddaughter of the King of Spain. And as a U.S. Deputy Surveyor, he was involved in many Floridian projects as David Levy Yulee`s railroad from Amelia Island to Cedar Key, the Intracoastal Waterway from Lake Worth to Fort Myers, and many other important land surveys.
What is particularly captivating about this B&B and something the present owners, Paul and Nancy Barnes pointed out to us, was that it is believed that the house was used as one of the stops of the Underground Railroad.
Apparently, slaves who participated in escaping their masters would follow a particular route and where they saw such items as candles in the window, certain kinds of lawn statutes or even quilts adorning the front porch, they would know that they are in the presence of a safe home. It is here where they would hide.
In the dining room of The Amelia Island William House there is a closet that provides for an access to the outside of the house.
It was amazing and at the same time very sad to see where these runaway slaves hid-a mere crawl space.
If you enjoy the atmosphere of a Victorian mansion but loathe doing without present day luxuries, you will certainly want to make this B&B your headquarters, if you should choose Amelia Island as your romantic getaway.
When it comes to designing an elegant mansion it is agreed by many in the know that the architectural plan must be a reflection of more than its structural soundness but it also must evoke a reaction or make a statement.
Elements such as the shape of the building, the arrangement of its lines and planes, its exterior veranda, its interior design, the aesthetic appeal of the materials used in its construction, are just some of the components that come into play.
No doubt, all of the above were taken into account when Robert Sands Schuyler, a very prominent architect in the 1800s, designed the Williams House. In fact, Schuyler even signed an agreement where he agreed not to duplicate the striking design of the property.
Today, this Florida Heritage Landmark reflects a combination of nineteenth century period charm and Southern hospitality that permeates throughout the home. This is quite in evidence by the many splendid carefully placed antiques and bibelots, such as the original light fixture, that are definitely collector items. There is even a 1650`s portrait of the niece of Charles II hanging over the staircase. Nancy mentioned to us that the picture was given to her great aunt and the original painting hangs in the Charles Russell House in Charleston.
Charming, clean and well appointed, each guest room reflects a distinct decorative flavor, for example, the Chinese Blue Room contains a 1700`s armoire while the Empress Eugenie Anniversary suite has an 1850`s hand carved French walnut camelback bed. Our favorite was the Chinese Blue Room and would probably consider it to be the most romantic. This room was even featured in Women`s Day-Walls and Windows and includes a king size bedroom suite, a solid rosewood, desk card made in China in the mid-1800s and a large bay window.
Particularly appealing is the large dining room with its pocket doors that constructed of heart pine on one side and mahogany on the other. The flooring is made of heart pine and mahogany.
It is here where breakfast is served and where you have the opportunity to exchange notes with some of the guests.
This warm and efficiently run inn wins hands down as a great choice for a romantic getaway with its luxuriously private atmosphere that can compete with the best. Innkeepers Paul and Nancy Barnes are friendly, very knowledgeable about the area, and extremely helpful.
Romantic cuisine is alive and well in Amelia Island and just minutes away from the Williams House.
Coincidentally, when I recently interviewed an author and expert on Florida asking him his favorite romantic restaurants in the state, one of his choices was The Beech Street Grill. We had the good fortune of savoring the fabulous food served at this dining establishment, that is the winner of Wine Spectator`s Award of Excellence, and yes, we have to conclude their food reflects a great deal of imagination that served to perfection.
Be sure to try their seared scallops with wilted spinach or perhaps their grilled tenderloin of beef with Yukon Gold Potato.
Another must place to experience first class dining, and likewise, just a short walk from the Williams House is the Florida House Inn- a favorite with locals and tourists alike.
This restaurant is located in Florida`s oldest surviving hotel in the very heart of the Fernandina Beach Historic District, and the building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
There is even live entertainment and their menu is quite impressive with a wide choice of fish and meats.