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.

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 Innkeeper

Nancy and Bob Swartzel took the words right out of my mouth when they said, “things have a way of working out.”

As a young chef, when I graduated from Johnson and Wales, I had a dream but I probably couldn’t clearly define it at the time. What I did know was that my goal was to own something where I could weave my own creativity that I learned both from school and my personal journey.

I had many restaurant, catering, and country club jobs. Chefs tend to move around a lot! In between all of that moving around, I was also a stay-at-home mom for a few years. In 1995, I moved with my two young sons, Cory who was eleven and Eric who was seven. You’ll get to know more about my family on my blog. But after my move, I did the typical chef thing. I worked in many different food-related places until I connected with Williams-Sonoma simply because of my love for their products. My love turned into becoming one of their corporate chefs. This role afforded me the opportunity to meet other chefs as well move around the country. It was an amazing job. I learned so much about hospitality while I taught cooking classes and learned great cooking techniques using fantastic products!

Ultimately, the dream of owning “something" was always in the back of my mind as I decided whether to leave Williams-Sonoma. I took three years to really think about what I wanted to do next. While doing an Internet search of bed and breakfast properties, I found Willis Graves was up for sale. I knew I had to visit. I had a wonderful stay last November and decided that this felt like home. Everything has come full circle.

Just a couple months into this new venture, I’m learning how to preserve the essence of what makes Willis Graves so great while adding my own flair. I’m really excited to share what’s new with guests who have stayed here before and those who are new to this experience. Stay up-to-date on my journey with this beautiful property via my blog http://willisgraves.blogspot.com/ where I’ll share my family, food, and stories about my experiences running the Inn.

Most Sincerely,
Jennifer Goodman


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