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May 22, 2005
By Jane Lasky Business
Britt Scripps Inn a San Diego gem
Quaint isn't a quality I usually look for in a business hotel. Neither is a fully functioning bed-and-breakfast in the middle of a big city. But, during a recent sojourn to San Diego, I found both.
The BrittScripps Inn is a real gem.
Opened earlier this year after extensive restoration by owner Gordon Hattersley III, the Queen Anne-style mansion looks like a vision one usually discovers in the San Francisco area. Not surprisingly, the nine-room property is a historical landmark, a striking sight a block from Balboa Park in Banker's Hill.
A nice respite from the busier enclaves of this urban jungle, I was attended to by a super fellow named Terrence immediately upon arrival. We chatted as he joined me to tour the place, proclaiming that this was his first day on the job. I would never have known, since he was so proficient and comfortable in his new environment.
While we walked around, I learned that Terrence had formerly worked for an admiral in the Navy. He had traveled the world for quite a few years before settling down to work at this inn in San Diego, so we had a lot in common, swapping war stories about working on the road.
There is no doubt Terrence is a good fit for the BrittScripps Inn and there is also no doubt that the BrittScripps Inn was a good fit for me during that brief stay in San Diego.
My assigned home away from home was deemed the Gothic Room. How perfect! As I only wear black, my clothes complimented the dramatic decor, which includes a metal tracery headboard with sweeping arches, a Baronial lounge and a claw-foot tub. Deep purple and green fabrics and an austere oak writing table also adorn the room.
Other rooms offer different themes, including: the Balboa Room with its decorative French accents like woven toile bedding and fleur-de-lis crown molding; the Renaissance Room with its triple windows adorned in layers of trim and tassels; and the Library Room with its tapestry pillows, pre-Raphaelite mural and travertine- tiled bathroom floor.
Entrance to this impressive Victorian retreat featuring seven gables and a wraparound porch is through a security gate where each guest must punch in a secret code. The main foyer is dominated by a hand-carved oak staircase winding around a vibrant, two-story stained glass window depicting the changing hours of the day. Beneath the spiral centerpiece is an 85-key antique grand Steinway piano signed by the maker himself.
Out back is a lovely garden dominated by a giant camphor tree that shades the Carriage House, a detached residence also for let at the BrittScripps Inn. According to Terrence, the tree - planted in 1865 - was the first camphor planted in North America.
My favorite place in the house is a common room with beautiful chandeliers, comfy seating arrangements and lots of books on the first floor just off the main vestibule. It was there that I met other residents of the BrittScripps Inn. We happily mingled while the sun set, snacking on stalks of asparagus wrapped in smoked salmon and sipping red wine from the region.
This was a lovely environment in which to hold discussions that revolved around travel and family. In fact, none of the talk that evening had anything to do with business, which was the last thing I wanted to rehash after a very exhausting day of wheeling and dealing.
Breakfast the next morning was also served in a communal environment: a small, sunny room to the right of the front door. From a diverse menu I chose berry-laden French toast and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Before I left the inn, I said goodbye to Terrence and the rest of the staff, promising to return soon to this charming - and yes, quaint - bed-and-breakfast, the perfect place to do business in California's second-largest city.
BrittScripps Inn is located at 406 Maple St., San Diego, CA 92103. For further information, call (619) 230-1991 or visit www.brittscripps.com.