South Bend’s Oliver Inn: Ranked Higher than the Irish

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South Bend, Indiana, may be best known as the home of Notre Dame University and the Fighting Irish, but there is a lot more to the city than legendary college football. And when visiting, it’s good to keep in mind that the Oliver Inn B&B ranks higher in lodging polls than the green-and-gold do in coaches’ polls these days.

The Oliver Inn is one of the ancestral homes built by the inventor of the Oliver Chilled Plow, a farm implement that revolutionized American agriculture. Now meticulously restored — down to the rare and still operational early lift chair — and continuously cared for by devoted innkeepers Tom and Alice, this imposing Queen Anne-style property has merited inclusion in the exclusive nationwide roster of Select Registry B&Bs.

The Oliver Inn’s welcoming embrace begins the moment guests enter and are offered freshly home-baked cupcakes and cookies. These and other complimentary snacks and beverages — including gourmet coffees and teas, as well as fine wines — are available 24/7 in the the Butler’s Pantry. Also downstairs are a cozy library and elegant dining room, complete with fireplaces and Waterford crystal sconces. Delicious breakfasts are cooked to order and served to music played by a tuxedo-clad, if inanimate, pianist.

The main house contains seven guest rooms and a suite, all with flat screen cable TV’s, CD players, heated towel bars, air conditioning and ceiling fans. There are choices of king or queen beds — three of the rooms feature the former — while the suite comprises two bedrooms (one king and one queen, although these rooms may also be rented separately). In addition, every room can boast at least one special feature, be it a fireplace, veranda, sleeper sofa, spacious whirlpool or clawfoot tub, and/or window seat or other architectural highlight.

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Guests wanting to kick up the luxury yet another notch can opt for the Carriage House, a separate two-bedroom, two-bath mini-chateau constructed in Bavarian Tudor style 100 years ago. With its own living room, full kitchen, double whirlpool tub and private, screened-in veranda, it has earned its “retreat” sobriquet.

As an added bonus, the Oliver Inn has come up with some special packages to enhance any stay. One popular one is the Three Mansions: sleep in one mansion, dine in another and tour a third, all in walking distance to the centrally located B&B. Dinner is at neighboring Tippecanoe Place, an elegant restaurant occupying four floors of the fascinating Studebaker Mansion, while the tour is of the Copshaholm House Museum (in the original Oliver Mansion) — an integral component of South Bend’s Center for History, a complex that includes the Studebaker Museum, which features Abraham Lincoln’s presidential carriage.

A package that connoisseurs will especially appreciate includes a gourmet dinner at the LaSalle Grill, the only AAA Four-Diamond restaurant in South Bend’s historic downtown district. The Oliver Inn has also come up with an array of money-saving promotions for business travelers and couples seeking a romantic getaway.

The Oliver Inn

Number of rooms: 9

Published rates: $90-339. Compare rates at Priceline or Travelocity.

Text and photos by Buzzy Gordon, who was a guest of the Oliver Inn for purposes of review.

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