The Martin Coryell House Bed and Breakfast, Lambertville, NJ logo
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September 2003


The Martin Coryell House Bed & Breakfast opened its doors last fall just in time to meet the growing tide of weekenders headed to Lambertville, New Jersey. Like this quaint yet urbane river town, where a slow-but-steady revival has yielded a true Renaissance, the fully renovated B&B boasts a fascinating history, an artistic flair and a sophisticated sense of style. In fact, it's all that proprietors Mary and Rich Freedman dreamed of when they first considered turning their passion for B&Bs into a second career.

Folk music enthusiasts, the couple met at the Philadelphia Folk Song Society Spring Weekend in 1990 and married just nine months later. 'A wonderful honeymoon stay at a B&B convinced us to try a new one each year on our wedding anniversary,' explains Mary, noting that it wasn't long before she and Rich began to consider running their own inn. In 1997, after taking a 'how to' class at a local college, the couple set out to purchase an existing B&B - a tact recommended by their instructor. After looking at properties from New York's Hudson Valley to Connecticut to Rhode Island, however, they decided it would be more affordable to start their own business in a renovated historic home.

'We pictured ourselves wielding hammers and paint brushes,' recalls Rich, a software engineer and son of a Master Plumber, who knew he could tackle anything from electrical work to carpentry. But when the Freedman's came upon the Martin Coryell House while visiting Lambertville on their 7th anniversary, they realized that the sheer size of the place would make a 'do-it-yourself' approach impractical.

Despite its need for renovation, the red-brick, Federal-style mansion so impressed Mary and Rich that they made an offer within days. 'We knew this was it,' says Mary, who loved the mansion's architecture and size (three stories, totaling 5,500 square feet) as well as its location in the 'up-and-coming' river town. Another selling point was the home's historic significance.

Built around 1864, the house is located in Lambertville's Historic District. In 1876, it was purchased by Myra Coryell, second cousin and wife of Martin Coryell, both direct descendants of early resident Emmanuel Coryell. After purchasing the land between Church Street and Swan Creek in 1732, Emmanuel obtained a charter to run 'Coryell's Ferry,' an enterprise for which the towns on both sides of the Delaware River, Lambertville and New Hope, PA, were originally named. The house was owned continuously by Emmanuel's direct descendants until 1953, when Myra and Martin's granddaughter deeded it to the First Presbyterian Church for use as a parsonage. In 1998, the church sold to the Freedmans.

Soon after moving in, Mary and Rich rented out the second floor and applied to the zoning board for a change of 'use.' Receiving approval in August 2001, the couple began renovations the following January, hiring local architect Michael Burns and interior designer Kate Marchesni of Frenchtown's Acorn Design, who brought in decorative artist Janet Tava of Weehawken. With some drywall repair, painting and papering help from the Freedmans, the team, along with general contractor ARC Enterprises, took a mere nine months to restore the home to its original grandeur and endow it with an elegant yet cozy style.

The designer's touch is evident in each of the six guest accommodations, which bear the names of various Coryells. Handsomely appointed, the rooms (including three spacious suites) are steeped in 21st century luxuries - queen-size featherbeds, plush carpets and window treatments, electric, remote-controlled fireplaces and en-suite baths that feature either original claw foot tubs or Jacuzzis and dual showerheads.

Setting off rooms throughout the house are Janet Tava's exquisite decorative finishes, including a Chinoiserie mural of peonies, birds and butterflies in the foyer and a hand-painted dining room ceiling inspired by a New Orleans ballroom. Black-and-white family photos and antiques handpicked by the Freedman evoke the home's earlier days. Well-preserved architectural details also abound, including a lovely Italianate front porch, a Minton Hollins tile vestibule floor and quarter-sawn oak plank floors.

In keeping with their desire to provide warm, personal service, the Freedman's serve 'scrumptious' weekend breakfasts featuring such house specialties as breakfast souffles, blueberry cornmeal muffins and French toast topped with sweet cheese and seasonal fruits. Guests feel welcome lingering over a cup of tea in the parlor or library and can count on Mary to reserve a table for dinner at a romantic local bistro. Occasionally, the Freedmans even meet special requests like showering a room with rose petals to set the stage for a wedding proposal. During the week, the B&B entices business travelers with hi-tech conveniences (phone, fax, cable, hi-speed Internet access), roomy suites, small meeting areas and special corporate rates.

As an innkeeper, Mary, who earned an MBA from Pace University, finds herself drawing on both business and people skills honed over the years as a foreign language instructor and Human Resources executive.

For Rich, a Senior Software Engineer at New Hope-based Cross Current Corporation, the B&B is a moonlighting venture. Given Rich's foresight in wiring the house for hi-speed Internet access during the renovation and his talent in creating the inn's web site - as well as a site shared with two other inns, - the couple jokes that theirs is the only B&B with a 'Chief Information Officer.'

A year after opening its doors, the Martin Coryell House is right in step with the reawakening of the beautiful river town in which it resides. As the renovated 19th-century homes and factories of Lambertville attract increasingly cosmopolitan shops, galleries and restaurants, the mansion at 111 N. Union offers sophisticated weekenders just what they want - the perfect mix of warm hospitality, elegant accommodations and a fabulous location.