The Melrose Inn (Ms. Bess’s House) | Putnam County, FL c. late 1800s
Originally built in the 1880s and updated in the 1920s, this home would come to be called an Inn, although it was most known for the home-cooked food that owner Elizabeth ‘Bess’ prepared for guests in her dining room.
Locals who knew her tell stories of her waking up at 5:00 am every day to begin the day’s cooking. Everything from butter to whipped cream to dressings and ice creams were made from scratch in her kitchen. Her pies and mashed potatoes were legendary.
Visitors would come from out of town to visit the Inn and enjoy Bess’ cooking, but she only ever kept a few long-term boarders who were mostly elderly. As a Registered Nurse, Bess would care for them as they lived out their days in her home.
I had the opportunity to chat with a local woman who grew up just down the street from here. She recalled the smell of lima beans and ham coming from the windows and the porch lined with Bess’ guests after dinner when the weather was nice.
Another local tells the story of walking passed the inn often and Bess passing a slice of whatever pie she had left to him as a teenager.
But nowadays, all of the windows are boarded, the overgrowth is taking over much of the property and vandals have used the interior walls as a canvas for crude graffiti.
The building is for sale but renovations would be costly. I’m glad Mrs. Bess doesn’t have to see it like this.