You know how you feel when you’ve discovered a gem of a place and just can’t wait to take some of your friends there to share the experience? Well, that’s how I felt after experiencing the elegance and gentility of a bygone era while enjoying a delicious small plate five course luncheon at the Maple Shade Mansion Bed and Breakfast on Main Street in Brockway.
This beautifully restored Queen Anne Victorian mansion was built in 1889 and was home to several families over the years. During one period of time the mansion also served as a boarding house for single teachers who taught at local schools. Much later, after having been unoccupied for seven years, the mansion was seriously in need of repairs. Sharon and Peter Varischetti lived next door to the mansion and had watched its sad decline, until in 2014 they bought it at sheriff’s sale and brought in architects to determine if it was worth restoring or if it needed to be razed. The experts declared the basic structure of the house to be sound, and the couple began three years of research and restoration, aiming to remain true to the era and to save as much of the original house as possible, while adding expertly chosen complementary modern amenities as needed.
There are now six beautifully appointed guest rooms and suites with private baths, stained glass windows, rich woodwork, parquet flooring, and stately antiques. Downstairs has an elegant dining room complete with an impressive crystal chandelier, original fireplace, pocket doors and comfortable seating for 16. Other smaller dining rooms accommodate eight or 12 and are tastefully furnished with antiques and unique window treatments. From the moment you walk up the steps to the front porch at 1017 Main St. and are greeted by Karl, the innkeeper, you feel that you’ve stepped back in time and are surrounded by elegance at every turn.
Sharon Varischetti and Karl McCall are the only employees and it’s so obvious that they love what they do. Both of them research recipes and cook, while Karl describes each course to the guests as he expertly presents it on antique china. They like to feature foods that are a bit different from everyday fare, freshly made and incorporating many seasonal items from the on-site vegetable and herb gardens. They buy locally produced eggs and come as close to farm to table as they can. The menu is changed monthly and is sure to please a variety of tastes.
Sharon has always been interested in domestic pursuits like cooking, crafting and decorating, and knew she wanted to turn the mansion into a Bed and Breakfast. Her expert touch is clearly evident throughout the mansion, as well as in the breakfasts served to their overnight guests. They can enjoy homemade pastries, muffins, scones and specialty breads, along with hot homemade breakfast entrées that vary from day to day. Karl has a strong background in hospitality, a pleasant radio announcer’s voice on the telephone, and he’s a knowledgeable and friendly Maître D extraordinaire. Together they are the very capable team that has been managing the mansion’s operations since it opened about a year ago.
One of our visits to the mansion was on a lovely summer day, and we were led into the Victorian inspired gardens with grand old maple trees, a water fountain and a gazebo. We were offered a refreshing drink as my friends and I visited before going into the Cherry Blossom Room for lunch. The table was beautifully set with antique flowered china and an assortment of flatware that made some of us try to remember which fork was used for which foods! Our first course was a caprese salad with juicy tomatoes, sliced mozzarella and fresh basil, drizzled with a sweet balsamic reduction. Not exactly the kind of salad that I usually manage to put together at home. It’s so nice to experience foods that are not only good, but a bit unusual. That course was followed by a small dish of savory stuffed pepper soup, after which we were served raspberry sorbet to cleanse the palate before the main entrée of a chicken wrap with fresh spinach and a very tasty spread. And of course, the best part of any meal is always the dessert. This was a brownie confection on a shortbread crust, served with a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce. Oh, my…. It tasted heavenly, and was worth every nasty calorie! Why not get a group of six or more of your friends together and treat yourselves to a tasty lunch in elegant surroundings?
The rescue of this beautiful Victorian mansion from ruin and the restoration of it to its former grandeur brings welcome benefits to the town of Brockway. It has hosted many visitors and business travelers, bringing tourism dollars to the area. It has added to the beauty of the town’s main street and has become a lovely venue for weddings and a gathering place for friends and families. It’s the type of inn that you might expect to find in New England, but it’s our own small town jewel!
Even though it’s only October, I am really looking forward to attending a luncheon at Maple Shade Mansion with my friends in December. I’m sure Karl and Sharon will be performing a labor of love as they work to transform the Victorian mansion into a Christmas wonderland. Congratulations and much success to this new business venture in Brockway!
q q q
“Marilyn Secco is a retired teacher and the author of the book “Front Porch Tales.” She has two children and five grandchildren and lives in Kersey with a temperamental cat named Tidder.”