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Urbanites don't have far to go to get away from it all

Sunday, December 07, 2003

By Cristina Rouvalis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It's 4 p.m. on Sunday, high tea time at Sunnyledge in Shadyside.

The elegant Victorian tea room of this boutique hotel is filled with young women holding a baby shower, their "ooohs" and "ahhhs" floating out to the wood-paneled lobby, with its spindled staircase.

 
 

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But even the shower-goers' giggles are hushed. For this is Sunnyledge, which feels like a bit of the English countryside transplanted high above the roar of Fifth Avenue.

The other guests having tea nibble on big crumbly scones with clotted cream, salmon mousse and other appetizers in the wood-paneled library or outside on the high verandah, looking down on Millionaire's Row at the corner of Fifth and Wilkins avenues.

Sunnyledge, which bills itself as a five-star boutique hotel, is a nice place to sip tea or read a book under ornate chandeliers and wallpaper.

A valet energetically greets you at the door, there's turn-down service in the rooms and a complimentary shoe shine.

Cost is $139 per night for an airy beige room with a bathroom across the hall to $275 per night for a pretty floral suite with a separate sitting room, although upgrades are available on slow nights. Meals, including the $16 Sunday tea, are extra.

"It's a good sleep," says co-owner Patricia Romeo, who restored the 1886 house that was once owned by Dr. James H. McClelland, founder of Shadyside Hospital. You can hear the Fifth Avenue traffic, but it's not distracting since the inn is high on the hill. Walnut Street shopping and dining are only a few blocks away.

The marble bathrooms feature Jacuzzis and thick white robes. The only disappointment was several pieces of striped wallpaper peeling on the bathroom wall in an otherwise magazine-pretty rust room with a king-sized bed, covered with Egyptian sheets and a canopy reaching the ceiling.

The inn, which is accessible for the disabled, is putting out garlands and trees and lights for the holidays.

For more information on Sunnyledge, 5124 Fifth Ave., call 412-683-5014 or visit the Web site at www.sunnyledge.com.

Every detail in the Morning Glory Inn, an 1862 Italianate-style brick B&B on the South Side, is just so -- from the floral chairs in the parlors to the queen white wicker bed in the garden room to the pine floors of the breakfast room, where innkeeper Nancy Eshelman serves such breakfast dishes as cinnamon bread pudding French toast served with bourbon sauce.

Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette
Rooms in Sunnyledge, Shadyside, offer a step back into the Victorian era.
Click photo for larger image.

The personable home economics teacher is a chef, but she also is concierge and historian, booking reservations for her clients on nearby Carson Street. She also can tell you about the history of the South Side and the house, where a runaway slave was once housed in the basement. "It proves you don't have to leave the city to have a wonderful getaway."

The historic inn has many modern amenities, including treated bath and drinking water, wireless Internet, even Dish TV.

Overnight rates range from $150 for a room to $190 for a suite, including one with a working fireplace and chaise lounge in the bathroom. A nice touch: a $165 gift certificate lets the recipient choose any room.

This B&B will be all decked out for the holidays with three trees inside and two outside, plus trimmings on the mantel in every guest room and parlor.

For information on the inn at 2119 Sarah St., call 412-431-1707 or visit the Web site at www.morningglorybedandbreakfast.com.

Some Victorian innkeepers decorate their establishments as though they have overdosed on cute pills. But not the Graf family, who have renovated The Priory, the former home to Bendictine monks, with understated elegance.

A monastic charm permeates the 24 guest rooms and main parlors, filled with antiques, American and British period pieces, oil paintings and original prints. Even if you don't meditate inside this 1888 North Side building as its former inhabitants once did, it's a good place to slow down and peer at the skyline from the sitting room with pressed tin ceilings and huge windows.

Cozy rooms and suites range from $119 per night to $155. A hearty continental breakfast and complimentary wine in the evening are included. The exercise room is more extensive than many chain hotels.

The Priory is already festive with a big tree in its entryway.

For more information on The Priory, 614 Pressley St., call 412-231-3338 or visit the Web site at www.thepriory.com.

The Inn on the Mexican War Streets, North Side, is a romantic Victorian guest house. Spend a night there and you will slip into the sumptuous world of a 19th-century financier and department store baron. The townhouse was built in 1888 for Russell H. Boggs, co-owner of the Boggs & Buhl Department Store, and was restored by inn owners Jeff Stasko and Karl Kargle.

Each of the eight guest rooms is different, including the former sitting room of Mr. Boggs that is a romantic red retreat with draped ceiling-to-floor canopy or the feminine blue room with Oriental accents that was used by Boggs' wife.

The inn is one of the best deals around. Rooms and a hearty continental breakfast and complimentary snacks in the evening range in price from $99 to $149 and $169 for a suite that is bigger than many apartments.

Next year, the owners will be offering distinctive pickup service from the airport -- in a bright yellow H2 Hummer they have already ordered.

The B&B will go all-out with Christmas decorations, with eight trees, including one in the entryway that reaches up to an ornate crystal chandelier.

For more information on the inn at 604 W. North Ave., call 412-231-6544 or visit the Web site hometown.aol.com/innwarst/collect/index.htm.


Cristina Rouvalis can be reached at crouvalis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1572.

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