Saravilla B&B, an elegant stay in Alma

What does a 19th Century dad do to entice his daughter to stay close to home after her marriage? He builds Saravilla for her, a three-story, 11,000-square-foot, 1894 Dutch Colonial mansion. And did it work? What did Sara Wright do? Well, you’ll have to ask the innkeepers when you stay at this elegant home in Alma. Owner Rolando Labadan and manager Malcolm Frisbie will love to share its history as well as its opulence.

Exterior of Saravilla B&B
Saravilla is located on a street of historic homes.

Located right in the middle of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula near US-127, Saravilla is within walking distance of Alma College, the Michigan Masonic Home, and Alma’s original business district, which offers restaurants, antique stores, a microbrewery, and other services. Saravilla also receives many guests who are visiting nearby Mt. Pleasant, home of Central Michigan University and Soaring Eagle Casino.

Ammi Wright suite at Saravilla
Ammi Wright Suite is a favorite of romantic getaway couples.

Among the state’s B&Bs, Saravilla ranks among those that have been operating the longest.

Seven spacious guest rooms are available in this distinguished home, with its impressive architecture and beautifully maintained woodwork. For a romantic getaway, Frisbie recommends the Ammi Wright Suite. “It is very private and by far the grandest room in the house. It was designed for the guest of honor when Sara was having a ball.”

Foyer at Saravilla
Gleaming woodwork in Saravilla’s spacious foyer.

The public areas include a 1,200-square-foot ballroom, a billiard room, 24-hour guest kitchen, library, and a huge front porch. The spacious common areas attract group bookings for weddings, family gatherings, business groups, conferences, and the occasional media production.

Asked how Saravilla compares to other lodging choices in the area, Malcolm, the manager, said: “First off, what choices? We are truly unique in central Michigan, and as many guests tell us, the entire state.  Walking into Saravilla is like walking into a child’s storybook. It is truly massive, with amazing woodwork throughout, a real ballroom, and no fairy tale is complete without a turret, right?”

What brings travelers to Alma? In addition to the college and the Masonic home — second largest in the U.S. — people enjoy playing at four golf courses with 14 minutes of the B&B or setting forth on the 41.8-mile, paved Fred Meijer Heartland Trail. Saravilla also gets business travelers and theater buffs coming to a performance of the Gratiot County Players.

Long, welcoming front porch at Saravilla.
Long, welcoming front porch at Saravilla.

For pike fishermen, Alma offers a hidden gem: the Pine River, which has boat access as well as a few miles of riverside access in town. There are also family parks and walking paths along the river.

A $6 million project in Alma to restore a historic opera house has a direct connection to the bed and breakfast because it, too, was built by Ammi Wright, the father of Sara of Saravilla. Scheduled to be open this summer, it is sure to bring more people to town to experience Ammi Wright’s legacy.

Many guests spend hours just exploring the house. The history is well documented and is available in the home’s library. Weather permitting, a stay at Saravilla isn’t complete without a stroll on historic State Street from Saravilla to downtown. Why? Because the street has a number of restored homes and because the majority of us, who don’t live in a quaint small town, seldom get to ditch the car and walk to town.

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Don’t fall for the low-ball come-on prices displayed by those giant online booking sites. They’re designed to lure you in and keep you clicking. They flaunt the lowest prices for the smallest room for the least-popular time of year. The lesson: #BookDirect on the B&B’s own website for best prices and widest selection of rooms and dates.