After 24 years, the Taylor House bed and breakfast is closing its doors to guests from all around the world. Owners David Elliott and Daryl Bichel said they had to make the difficult decision to close after COVID-19 forced many people to cancel their reservations, and they just couldn’t keep up with the mortgage payments with no money coming in.
Taylor House opened on Burroughs St. in August of 1996, after two Zoning Board of Appeal hearings. Elliott said that they had gone for an initial hearing with 25 signatures of support from neighbors who supported the use of the historic Victorian home for a bed and breakfast.
He said that neighbors at the hearing spoke against the project, but “fortunately reporters for the Gazette and the Globe” were at the hearing, and reported on what happened. The Board members were split on the decision, and after coming back for a second hearing, 60 people showed up in support of the project, and the Board approved it.
When Elliott and Bichel decided they wanted to restore the Victorian house to its original configuration as a single family home (they bought it as five apartments), they reached out to Betty Monrad, née Heffenraffer. The Haffenreffers lived in the mansion at one point.
“I knew several Haffenreffers through another previous job that I had,” Bichel said. Monrad was one of the Haffenreffers who was born in the house “and used to slide down the front bannister,” he said. He said they consulted her for things about the restoration that they “couldn’t figure out on our own. She would give us information and brought old pictures,” Bichel said. “She would come once a year to see how things were going.”
Bichel added that Monrad surprised her brother Augie on his 80th birthday by bringing him to the Taylor House to spend the night. Elliott and Bichel weren’t aware of it when they chose a room for Augie to stay in, but it turns out it was the exact one he had shared with his brother growing up.
Aside from sharing the rich history of the building with its guests, Taylor House started hosting weddings and other events in 2001, and in 2007, Bichel started a music and art series where musicians performed three times a month. Up until last year, these programs continued.
“A lot of people who didn’t know we were a bed and breakfast came to the concerts,” Elliott said.
“Along the way, we were a big venue in 2004 and 2005 and 2006 because we had many people from all over the US who wanted to get married as same sex couples,” Elliott said, which “helped us as a business and gave many people a destination to have their weddings.”
Taylor House started out with three rooms, then expanded to five. Elliott and Bichel also purchased the house behind Taylor House and ended up having ten total rooms for the bed and breakfast.
Elliott called 2016 the “best year ever” for the business, and said that each subsequent year has been a little worse for the business. When Airbnb became really popular, Taylor House was able to keep up with the demand for those types of lodging options by advertising more on online booking sites, Elliott said.
Bichel had also started a catering company and was able to cater many of the weddings and showers that were held at the Taylor House, Elliott added.
“We had amazing breakfasts here,” Bichel said. “That’s a really wonderful part of a bed and breakfast—people sharing that meal together and talking…you don’t get that at a hotel or Airbnb.”
Elliott also said he believes the closure of the Taylor House will negatively impact the surrounding shops and restaurants, such as Boing! Toy Shop on Centre St., where many grandparents would buy toys for their grandchildren back home.
“I don’t think a lot of people in JP realize how many of our guests use the restaurants and shops at the end of the street,” he said. “The restaurants are going to see a big hit on this because there aren’t as many of our guests going there. We had guests saying they’d come back every night” to certain restaurants.
Elliott said that over the years there were many repeat guests, including “many, many grandparents,” as well as sports fans because the Orange Line was so easily accessible.
The Taylor House was also home to several dogs over the years, beginning with golden retrievers when it first opened, and most recently Sienna, a Bernese Mountain Dog.
“The dogs ended up bringing more people to us,” Bichel said, as people missed their own dogs at home while they were on vacation. Taylor House was also dog friendly, and brought in many people who came to Jamaica Plain to bring their pets to the Angell Animal Medical Center as well as people coming to Boston for human hospital stays. A medical rate was offered for people who were staying at the Taylor House while awaiting a medical procedure.
As the pandemic hit, Elliott said that they started getting a lot of cancellations, including cancellations for the marathon that was originally postponed. He said the marathon is typically a $10,000 weekend for the business.
He said as the weeks went on, more and more people started cancelling for things like graduations and weddings in May, and cancellations spread into the summer.
“It just became a snowball where we had no income coming in,” Elliott said. “We have huge mortgages that we had to pay;. We don’t know when this is ever going to go back to normal.”
He said that a previous guest offered a hefty loan, but “at this point we had loans, but need grants to keep us alive,” Elliott said, adding that he was “touched” by the guest’s offer.
A yard sale was recently held to sell a lot of “simple furniture,” Bichel said, including twelve televisions, some Keurig machines, glassware, and miscellaneous furniture that was being stored in the basement.
“A lot of peple just showed up to say hello,” Elliott said. They said they might have another yard sale and a large one after they find a buyer to see if the buyer would want any of the larger items like the baby grand piano and a conference table, as well as other items that are int he music room.
Elliott and Bichel said it would not be feasible for someone else to continue this as a bed and breakfast, so “we’d love to see a single family purchase it; a family who appreciates the historical significance of the house and would keep it up,” Bichel said.
“It was five apartments when we bought it and we took it back to a single family and we’d love to see it continue that way,” Elliott said. “I’m not entertaining any developers.”
The two are currently making some updates to the house and hope to have it on the market the weekend of June 20, but they are accepting offers before then, and have already had a few inquiries.