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Enjoying the ambiance of a quaint inn in a far-flung paradise with your sweetheart would be great, but would you believe that you could have the same type of amorous adventure in Bedford-Stuyvesant?
Nestled among the brownstones of a neighborhood where you might least expect it is an opportunity for a romantic in-town getaway, Akwaaba Mansion.
The building, an 1860s Victorian mansion, fell into disrepair until 1995 when Monique Greenwood and her husband Glenn Pogue, who lived down the street at the time, purchased it with the intention of replicating a B&B they had visited in Cape May, New Jersey.
After a nine-month renovation that cost close to $100,000, they opened Akwaaba — which means “welcome” in Twi, one of the languages of Ghana. The inn offers four rooms decorated with African textiles and Victorian antiques, as well as a library, courtyard and glass-enclosed porch.
“In the mid ’90s, there were no major hotel chains in Brooklyn, so we figured we could be successful housing the friends and family of people who lived in the neighborhood as they came to visit,” Greenwood told GO Brooklyn. “But what we quickly learned is that in a place as hectic as New York, a lot of [local] folks just need a quick getaway with lots of special touches.”
Early on, Greenwood noticed the trend of New Yorkers looking for a quick weekend vacation without leaving town. But as Brooklyn has become a more popular tourist destination and Bedford-Stuyvesant has been tagged as up-and-coming, foreign business has boomed for Akwaaba.
This summer, three times as many European visitors have stayed at Akwaaba than in years past, Greenwood said. “ It’ s because Brooklyn is the borough where everybody wants to be.”
But whether they’re from near or far, couples have become the majority of guests filling the rooms.
“We get quite a few local couples that come to celebrate wedding anniversaries or spend their wedding night with us before leaving for their honeymoon,” she said. “We’ve even had a number of proposals.”
Chris and Sara Evans, who recently visited Akwaaba, were delighted by its amenities. “It’s a very charming bed and breakfast,” said Sara. “The candles and the rose petals were such a nice touch.”
In response to the inn’s popularity, Greenwood and her staff now offer a variety of services to heat up a weekend. “We offer a turndown service; we draw their bathwater and place candles and rose petals throughout the room,” said Greenwood. All four of the guestrooms, she noted, come with either a large Jacuzzi or claw-foot tub, perfect for a soothing bubble bath for two. If a bath isn’t enough, Greenwood said that, “one of our more popular requests is for the couples’ massage.”
Echoing Evans’s sentiment, Demetria Silvera, who stayed at the inn with her fiance this past May, praised Greenwood and her staff of two. “After [he] proposed, this was a wonderful surprise,” said Silvera, who added that she was astonished by the beauty of the property given its urban location.
The elegance of the inn is the result of the ongoing renovations that Greenwood and Pogue have done to the property. The arduous task of turning the single-family house into someplace that people would pay to stay was even showcased on a 2003 episode of the home improvement television show “Restore America.”
And it’s certainly paid off. Remember the Cape May inn that inspired Greenwood and Pogue to open Akwaaba? In 2006, the couple purchased it and added it to their stable of luxury inns, now five strong with locations in Washington, DC and New Orleans.
And for many long-time residents of the neighborhood where it all started, Akwaaba is a welcomed addition. Monetta Harris, who has lived across the street from the mansion for the past 30 years, witnessed its gradual deterioration and eventual rebirth. “That couple did a full 360 on the place,” she said. “It was such an eyesore — kids used to say it was haunted. But now it’s a bustling part of the neighborhood, attracting all kinds of visitors.”
Akwaaba Mansion (347 Macdonough St., between Stuyvesant and Lewis avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant) has rooms available from $160 per night on weekdays and $175 per night on weekends. For information, call (718) 455-5958 or visit www.akwaaba.com.
©2007 Community Newspaper Group
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