Stepping through the doors of Maple Hill Bed and Breakfast, nestled on a rise overlooking Lake Barkley in Old Eddyville, is akin the taking a stroll back in time. Now, after 19 years in business, the owners of Maple Hill are selling this historical gem.
The picturesque house was built by slaves in 1850, and expanded by inmate labor a few decades later. The first owners, Dr. Alfred and Mary Louise Scott Champion, sold the house in 1883 to Benjamin Franklin Groves, who in turn sold the home to Mason and Foard Company in 1892.
They had been awarded the contract to complete the 'Branch' penitentiary in Eddyville in 1888, and that contract gave them the use of convict labor in return for providing workshops inside the prison walls, feeding and clothing the convicts, and paying salaries of the staff, in addition to finishing the construction.
Mason and Foard employee J.J. Montgomery, general manager for the Eddyville project, moved his family into the home and proceeded to enlarge it.
Jeff and Sherri Rickard are the latest in a long line of owners throughout this home's history, and when they purchased it in 2001, the home was badly in need of restoration.
Sherri Rickard said it took them around 8 months of constant work before they were able to open the bed and breakfast. The only furnishings included when they purchased Maple Hill were an old organ and a sewing machine, though to see the carefully cultivated collection of antiques that grace the home's halls now you would never guess it had ever sat nearly empty.
Rickard said she has been collecting antiques for over 30 years, and this home has provided the perfect gallery for her treasures.
"I always knew that one day I wanted to open a bed and breakfast," she shared. "I just thought it would be when the kids were grown and gone."
As it turns out, that dream came true much earlier than expected for Rickard, and they moved into Maple Hill when her third, and youngest, child was four years old.
The ample space and picturesque surroundings turned out to be the perfect place to raise her three children. In fact, the lake view provided an ideal backdrop for her two sons' lofty ideas.
"When we first moved here, our boys had watched Tom and Huck Finn and I overheard them saying to one another, 'Hey Brad, why don't we build us a raft and we'll go on down the river?'" she laughed. "They wanted an adventure."
Throughout the years, they've hosted a plethora of interesting folks at the Bed and Breakfast; some just passing through, and others looking for their own adventure on the Cumberland River.
Rickard said Maple Hill has been host to everyone from Nashville singers and songwriters, to Dreamworks employees, to nuclear weapons inspectors; with people coming from as far away as New Zealand to rest their head.
Along with the interesting people they've been able to meet, Rickard said the history is her favorite thing about the home.
"When we bought this place," she began, "and when we sell it, you're buying a piece of history, not just a house, and I hope other people will see that... If the walls could talk..."
Now that their kids are grown, the Rickards have decided it's time to move on from running the bed and breakfast in order to have more time to spend with their family.
While the home is tailor-made to serve as a bed and breakfast, Rickard said it would be just as perfectly suited as a family, or multi-family, home. All of the antiques and furnishings will stay with the house when it sells.
Until it sells, however, the Rickards will continue to welcome guests to Maple Hill.
For more information about the bed and breakfast, and to see more photos of the building, the beautiful antiques within, and even photos of former occupants, visit www.maplehillbnb.com.