Monday, September 5, 2016

Morningstar Inn: A Souvenir

The Morningstar Inn of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, one of our all-time favorite places to stay, closed in June. We happened to be there, visiting my family, on the last night it was open. It was bittersweet and not unexpected. The place had been for sale for a long time; the innkeepers want to do something different. (Safety tip: Innkeeping is exhausting work.) They sold it a few weeks ago — we happened to be back in town and drove past while the first moving truck was filling up. The new owners will convert it to a private home again. 

We already miss the place and the innkeepers, who quickly became our friends. I hope that whatever they decide to do next will bring them to the Boston area. They are Red Sox fans, so there's a chance.

Since the inn's website will be disappearing soon, I'm preserving some of their photos here (with their permission) and adding with a few of my own. 

This folk-art portrait of the house used to hang in one of the downstairs rooms:

We always enjoyed sitting by the fireplace, reading, dozing, and fiddling with a wooden puzzle cube, an annoying one with a missing piece. It was always on the coffee table, daring me to pick it up. I thought I wouldn't miss that thing, but I do.

On Thanksgiving in 2014, as we sat by that fire, I told my husband about a kitten named Lion in Maine that I wanted. "Should we drive up to see him this weekend?" he asked. (And then it was months before he came around to the idea again.

The mantel decorated for Christmas. Bethlehem is the Christmas City of the USA, and the inn was dressed accordingly. There were candles in the windows year-round.

The front door, decorated with a pinecone wreath:

The entry hall:

 The beautifully detailed staircase to the guest rooms:

On our first visit to the inn, some years ago, I kept noticing how well the innkeepers' tastes matched mine. And mine are picky and unusual. Our favorite room, for example, called "GQ," was a variation on our own bedroom: gold walls, oak floor, black iron bed with brass trim, a dome-top chest at its foot, antique furniture, and a cheerful floral rug. 

It was just like home, only bigger and cleaner. The was even a copy of Edward Gorey's The Doubtful Guest. I've been a Gorey fan forever and that story has always resonated with me.

Sometimes we'd get to visit with one of the innkeeper's cats, visiting from their top-floor quarters. Of  course they are cat people, and also horse people. (I rode for years in my 20s; I'd love to get back to it.)

There were five guest rooms; we stayed in four of them over the years. The only one we missed out on was this one, "Casablanca," which had elegant furniture:

This room, "Sleigh Ride," had lavender walls and a sleigh bed. Many of the rooms had swivel gliders, which I love, and hand-painted armoires. 

The most expensive room, "Parapet," had original built-in cabinetry, a little woodstove, and a large porch overlooking the pool and garden:

The bathrooms were comfortable and classic, with white subway tile, roomy showers, and handsome sinks. I found myself taking mental notes on their design in case I ever have a similarly sized bathroom of my own. Of course, the innkeeper stocked my favorite Neutrogena shampoo.

Downstairs, there were many inviting places to hang around. In addition to the sofas by the fireplace, there was this pretty sitting area:

A large sunroom/sitting room ran along one side of the house, filled with with cozy furniture, plants, games, and books:

We never used the billiard room or this gaming table:

The dining room was the scene of many memorable breakfasts. The innkeeper is a superb cook and baker. Resistance was futile. I was in gluten heaven. No wonder we get along.

Between the dining room and the kitchen was a butler's pantry with clever cabinetry  as well as ice, coffee, tea, beer, and soft drinks. (The glassware was the same as ours at home, of course.) In the late afternoon, there was wine and cheese. 

Did I mention the cookies? I didn't? Along with baking two kinds of bread evert day for toast, plus scones, muffins, or coffee cake for breakfast, the innkeeper made cookies every day. They'd appear in a glass jar in the butler's pantry in the late afternoon, and there were usually a few left when we'd return around midnight from visiting my family and realize we were starving. Oh, the cookies! All kinds. All wonderful.

Breakfast was also predictably wonderful, luring me out from under the covers no matter how cozy they were. It always started with something sweet and warm from the oven — scones, muffins, or coffee cake. Then bowls of fancy fruit appeared — berries, star fruit, kiwi, broiled grapefruit, pomegranate — and fresh juice. Then our server, the innkeeper's husband, would describe three options: a rich egg dish, fancy waffles or pancakes (all with artisanal bacon or sausage on the side), or homemade granola. I never had granola.

Since the innkeepers are my kind of people, they had a pool. The blue object in this photo is an inflatable dolphin. My sister, who lives one town over, used to have several them in her pool until they were stolen. They were known as the Flippy Family. I don't think the innkeepers stole theirs from my sister.

The pool had another inhabitant, a robotic vacuum that would emerge unpredictably, spewing water a few feet in the air, onto the concrete, and sometimes onto us and our books and laptops, before we learned not to bring them out there. Every paradise needs a serpent, and the Pool Terrorist filled that role with its long, soaking hose.

A few more scenes: a Victorian settee on the second-floor landing. Note that the walls are pale gray — not a favorite color of mine, but the perfect choice for this house, since there was so much color and warmth emanating from everything else in the place. I don't think any other color would have worked so well.

This photo of the kitchen was taken for the real-estate listing. I never saw it looking empty like this. Whenever we carried our breakfast dishes in there, the island and counters were loaded with everything that went into our breakfasts, and other things destined to become baked  and delicious later in the day.

Writing this makes me homesick for the place. It was our haven, a place of friendship, comfort, and beauty. (Also cookies.) Whatever the innkeepers do next, I know it will be brilliant because they bring intelligence, skill, style, energy, and a lot of heart to everything they they do. That shines through all of these photos, doesn't it?

Thanks for the memories!


  1. It is easy to tell how much that Inn will be missed.

  2. We share your remorse in the loss of a wonderfull place to call our home away from home. We loved staying there and enjoying all of its assets - from wonderful hosts to the comfortable rooms to the great breakfasts - and the cookies!!! (and wine)
    We usually stayed inn Casablanca but also stayed in 2 other rooms and hold fond memories of it all. Nice that we got to meet you there too.


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