Step Back in Time
By Kathie Farnell
Photos by Jack Purser Jr.
Five miles north of the little central Alabama town of Andalusia, a historic home is entering its second incarnation. Built in the 1880s and known as the Old Savage House, it was a fixture across from the courthouse in Evergreen, Alabama, until it was abandoned in the 1940s. By the time Ricky and Laura Oswald ran across it, the Old Savage House was a ruin, smothered in kudzu vines. Under all the foliage, however, the house—which had never been modernized—was sound. So the couple had it cut into three pieces and moved to their twelve-acre property in the area known as Sweet Gum Bottom. After a fourteen-month renovation, the house reopened in 2001 as the Sweet Gum Bottom Bed and Breakfast.
Visitors here find four luxurious guest rooms, three of which include Jacuzzis. The inn’s fourteen-foot ceilings, spacious porches and original woodwork harmonize with period touches such as the old Victrola and pump organ in the hall. Other amenities include everything from wireless internet to a baby grand piano inside and a shady hammock outside.
Breakfast at Sweet Gum Bottom is served on a glassed-in porch overlooking an azalea-fringed patio and may feature homemade cinnamon Danish, pineapple cheese casserole, or a pastry wrapped Sausage Swirl. The inn has won a number of awards for its food, including Best Breakfast in the Southeast from Arrington’s Bed and Breakfast Journal.
A popular spot for weekend getaways, Sweet Gum Bottom has also been discovered by couples looking for a romantic, secluded spot for a wedding. The grounds include a wedding chapel which will seat 100 (and which was built from lumber milled from trees growing on the property), and a reception center, although couples also have the option of a garden wedding in the jasmine-covered gazebo.
Laura and Ricky cater to guests celebrating a special occasion with packages including a spa massage special, a birthday celebration featuring a cake and roomful of balloons, and even a Dinner and Dancing package—a steak dinner for two followed by a private dance lesson.
Hiking trails wind through the property, which is located near two lakes and the Conecuh National Forest. In the spring, visitors enjoy driving the Dogwood Trail which gives a close-up view of the spectacular flowering trees. Year-round, the Antique Trail is popular with shoppers who enjoy exploring the region’s past. But Laura Oswald notes that most guests come here to do nothing—”People come here to relax. That’s what we’re known for.”
Sweet Gum Bottom Bed and Breakfast is located at 27761 Straughn School Road, near Andalusia, Alabama. For more information and reservations, check the website at www.sweetgumbottom.com or telephone 334-222-8007.