Twenty-five years ago last month, Lynda Fort of Ulysses was one of nine people to show up for meetings organized by the Kansas State University Small Business Development department that she said focused on “promoting alternate income for families in the late 1980s after the wheat embargo to Russia caused many farmers into bankruptcy.”
Fort had operated Fort’s Cedar View bed-and-breakfast since September 1987, when she converted the home where she raised her five children into an inn. She and the others at the meeting studied the standards and regulations of other states and developed the Kansas Bed and Breakfast Association on April 1, 1990, with 31 original member inns. Through the decades there have been about 175 association members – as many as 130 at one time – and today there are roughly 83.
Because each bed-and-breakfast is a unique property, the association formed to help new innkeepers and to provide the public with assurances that member properties “have very strict standards and the inns have liability coverage, comply with state health codes and fire codes and are licensed with the Kansas Department of Agriculture,” Fort said.
“There are probably 100 inns in Kansas that do not have KBBA membership, may not have licenses or standards that we have, and some have infrequent guests and don’t have to collect sales tax or transient guest tax,” she said.
In 2004, Fort was hired as the association’s executive director, a role she still holds. Her inn is one of two association charter members still active, along with the Barn Bed and Breakfast Inn in Valley Falls.
“I love my job and enjoy all the member inns in our association,” Fort said. “They are the frontline to events, attractions, history and where the good food is located in their areas. They host retreats, reunions, extended-stay guests and offer a great bed-and-breakfast experience.
“In the national average, an innkeeper’s life is five years, which isn’t true in Kansas,” she said. “Many inns have been in operation for over 20 years, and any closing is the innkeeper’s desire to retire, not sell the property.”
One of the goals of KBAA-member inns is to provide unique accommodations. A wide variety of B&B settings are available in Kansas – old barns, new barns, Craftsman homes, bunkhouses on working ranches, Victorian mansions and small historic hotels, for example. Fort said 82 percent of KBBA inns are five rooms or fewer.
The best way to get a feel for the property is to visit KBBA.com and search for inns by location, amenities or specialty. From there, Fort advises to visit the inn’s individual website and check review sites such as TripAdvisor. If television and Internet connection are important to you, for example, be sure to ask ahead of time.
Kansas Bed and Breakfasts
About a dozen B&Bs show up in south-central Kansas on the association’s online map, and many more are reasonable driving distances from Wichita. Here is a sampling of some of the closest, unique KBBA inns.
Barns @ Timber Creek, Winfield
Martin and Cheryl Rude opened their bed-and-breakfast in 2004 after moving an 1890s post-and-beam barn to their 35-acre farm, reconstructing it and adding modern comforts. An original stone barn is on the National Register of Historic Places and was restored in 2011 into an event space. Late last year, they added to the five rooms inside the beam barn by building a treehouse. “We’re pretty sure it is the only B&B guest room in a tree in the state of Kansas,” Martin Rude said. “Perched in a hedge tree that’s not going anywhere, the treehouse is dominated by native cedar stairs and trim. The queen bed is in a loft, and the main floor has a fully equipped bathroom and kitchenette.” Rooms start at $105 per night. www.timbercreekbarns.com
Beaumont Hotel, Beaumont
The four suites and six deluxe rooms at the Beaumont Hotel are average motel-type accommodations; what’s unique is that it’s a renovated hotel that was built in 1879. It’s a popular stop for motorcyclists and pilots, who can land at the nearby grass airstrip and taxi right up to the property for an overnight stay or a meal. The diner-style restaurant is known for its hearty breakfast, hand-breaded chicken-fried steak and fried chicken and excellent desserts. Right across the street is an 1885 Old Frisco wooden water tower, which is on the National Register of Historic Places as the oldest one still operating in the U.S. A caboose was added next to the tower earlier this year. Rooms start at $99 per night. www.beaumonthotelks.com
Bunkhouse at Wildfire Ranch, Medicine Lodge
Guests who book at Bunkhouse stay at the Ringer family ranch, situated in a pasture on top of a hill in open range with a 360-degree view of the Gypsum Hills. The bunkhouse is a log-sided building constructed eight years ago with wood interiors decorated with cowboy art and mounts. It has two bedrooms and a pullout bed available in the dayroom. A two-bedroom cabin is also available, and when a large group of hunters or a wedding party books, there is overflow in the walkout of the family’s ranch house. Although the facilities have kitchenettes, Roger Ringer said one of the most popular amenities is the big country breakfast they serve. So far, he’s counted guests from 24 countries, 43 states and at least 174 Kansas towns. Rooms start at $89 per night. www.bunkhouseatwildfireranch.com
Circle S Ranch & Country Inn, Lawrence
Circle S has been a working ranch through six generations since 1862. In 1998, the ranch was opened to the public when an inn was built to look like an old Kansas barn, with a lean-to and a silo that houses an eight-person jacuzzi. A large party barn hosts many weddings, reunions and retreats. The inn has 12 suite-style rooms covering three separate floors. Each floor has its own large common area and beverage station, and each room has a different country chic decor theme. Guests will see a small bison herd, longhorns and, for a fee, can book horseback riding, hayrides and bonfires. “Breakfast is always included, but we can also provide additional meals,” said owner Mary Beth Stewart. “We’ve been doing a lot of garden-to-table meals for our guests who get here and just don’t want to leave to go anywhere else.” Rooms start at $150 per night. www.circlesranch.com
Inn at Glenstrae, Wichita
Robert Elliot and Tracy Sloat are the fifth owners of the 1900 Craftsman-style house in Wichita’s Sleepy Hollow neighborhood tucked away a few blocks from northeast of the corner of Central and Hillside. They bought the well-maintained home in 2004, and after their children were grown, they realized the home and their interest in entertaining and hospitality were the perfect mix for a B&B. Touring the house and learning its history is half the fun of staying here; the other half is the luxurious furnishings and personal treatment. There are two guest rooms: a smaller first-floor room and a spacious upstairs Flint Hills Suite, with a third room in future plans. Guests have access to five common areas: a front porch, screened side porch, living room, dining room and garden. Everything inside and out matches the boutique luxury experience the Elliots have created. Eggs Benedict is the house specialty. Rooms start at $149 per night. www.theinnatglenstrae.com