Our Norhtern Kentucky lodging accommodations consist of two buildings, a 1830s federal building and a restored 1850s real log cabin. This unique property maintains a sophisticated charm in a relaxed, country setting. “Here is our story…”

About The Innkeepers


History of Burlington's Willis Graves

Originally founded as Craigs Camp in 1799, the settlement was renamed Wilmington in 1800. Around 1816, it changed to Burlington and became the county seat of Boone County, Kentucky.

Willis Graves was a prominent political figure in county government at the time, and served as county clerk during the new century's early decades.

Sometime in the 1830s, he built an attractive federal brick home that featured Flemish bond brickwork and federal style mantels. This was the future home of Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn.


Diamond in the Rough

For many years, Cincinnatians Nancy and Bob Swartzel routinely passed the Willis Graves home, without a glance, on their way to the Burlington Antique Show at the Boone County Fairgrounds.

By then, the house was sporting dirty, white siding and a hip roof over the front porch.

One day a "For Sale" sign appeared in the yard and they took a closer look. In December of 1991, the Swartzels bought the property and began renovation under the direction of Master-carpenter Bob Brames.

Brames and his wife Jean (who are Nancy's parents) worked with Nancy and Bob as they all poured sweat and determination into the project. In August 1995, the inn opened for business. It was declared a National Register of Historic Places Home on June 19, 1979.


About the Innkeepers

Things have a way of working out.

If Nancy and Bob Swartzel had to guess early on, they would have never dreamed they would be living in Boone County or running a bed and breakfast.

After the complete restoration of the Federal house in 1995, Nancy's parents became the innkeepers. By 2001, it had gotten to be too much for Nancy's parents to run. Nancy and Bob had to make a decision.

Nancy and Bob lived in Edgewood, Kentucky (suburbia), a no weeds in the yard kind of place. They knew that they didn't want an empty house. Their two children, at the time in college, were not living at home. Nancy and Bob asked them what they thought about selling the house that they were raised in, and they were fine with the idea. (Now the kids say, "Never sell the bed and breakfast.")

The decision to become innkeepers came at the perfect time. Years before, it would have been difficult to sell the house in Edgewood with so many memories, but one day it became the right thing to do. They don't regret selling the house, maybe because the bed and breakfast has so many memories as well. It was an easy adjustment - Nancy says the hardest part was getting rid of all the stuff that accumulates over the years.

These days, life sure is different compared to living in Edgewood. Nancy says that innkeeping requires 3 major things: You need to be a morning person, like people, and have lots of energy. Everyday these three things are necessary, along with a multitude of other skills.

Their daughter who lives out-of-state says that everything smells "green and good" when she comes home. Their son, who lives in another state with his wife and the Swartzel's first grandbaby, helps with just about anything mechanical. He is responsible for the pleasant sound of music all around the house, inside and out, along with other home improvement projects.

Nancy and Bob's kid's rooms may be long gone, but there are plenty of rooms for guests visiting the bed and breakfast, many of whom find themselves returning again and again to this special place.


Cabin Rescue

About ten years after purchasing the Federal house, the Swartzels made another purchase – for $1 – to salvage a second historic landmark. This time it was an 1850s log cabin, originally owned by farmer William C. Rouse.

The cabin sat squarely in the middle of a proposed runway at the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. It was wrapped in battered white siding and lined with layers of faded wallpaper. Nancy and Bob arranged to have the two hundred and sixteen poplar logs dismantled and hauled on flat bed trucks over four miles to their inn. After two years of reassembly and renovation, their log cabin getaway opened to guests in November 2004.

Holidays at the B & B

During the holidays, there is no shortage of decorations at Burlington's Willis Graves Bed and Breakfast Inn. It takes everyone almost two weeks to decorate the main house and log cabin. Rooms are available during the holidays unless otherwise posted.

Click HERE for Holiday Photos