Socially Savvy: Home Away from Home


Spending a few days in a Duluth B & B

On cool summer days, Duluth’s mystique draws you closer to the lake. The steep hills spilling onto the rocky shoreline inspired architects to create amazing homes in the heyday of Duluth’s business class. One such architectural wonder is the Olcott House on Duluth’s historic East End. Built for a mining magnate in 1904, this Georgian colonial mansion is just the right place to watch the end of summer unfold when the 25th annual Duluth Pride takes over Labor Day Weekend.

Proprietor David Vipond and his partner, Jerry, happened upon the old house on a vacation five years ago. Visiting from Los Angeles, they were drawn to the grand home and the idea of running a bed and breakfast. “It’s something I always wanted to do,” says Vipond. With a background in marketing, advertising, and event planning, he set out to create an unsurpassed lodging experience as Duluth’s only gay-owned B&B (there are six other lovely bed and breakfasts in town, all part of the Historic Inns of Duluth, where David serves on the board).


The home boasts five suites and there’s a larger suite in the carriage house. Each room is tastefully decorated with a collection of period antiques and comfortable furniture. This is not your grandma’s doily-filled attic, but a clean-lined colonial revival of white enamel and mahogany furniture. Guests are encouraged to explore the house and use the gracious rooms—even to play the grand piano in the music room.

At Olcott House, the famous candlelight breakfast is its specialty. A rotating menu of breakfast favorites, depending on the crowd, keeps everyone nourished for a day of adventure in Duluth. Guests who arrive around the cocktail hour are greeted with wine, lemonade, and hors d’oeuvres, a lovely light snack before returning to the sights of the Twin Ports.

A bed and breakfast is a more intimate experience than staying at a hotel for the weekend, not to mention much more interesting. A B & B is usually a small operation run by its owners, incorporating their personal tastes and standards of operation. The code of conduct for guests at a B & B lies somewhere between hotel lodging and staying in a friend’s home for the weekend. Here are a few simple steps to make sure your visit to a B & B goes perfectly:

• Book, cancel and rearrange your schedule far in advance. Understand the cancellation policies and you’ll be fine. When booking, remember that B & Bs don’t have 24-hour call centers; call during business hours (your host needs to rest, too!). Ask for directions, dress code (if any), restaurants, upcoming events, etc., in advance. Tell your hosts of any special needs and occasions. Most B & Bs are on top of this; few will fail to accommodate your needs if notified in advance.

• Divulge your allergies and food preferences. Gluten-free, no shellfish, vegetarian–whatever they may be–giving your hosts notice allows them to easily meet your needs. Respect check-in and check-out times. Proprietors often do the work that several people might do in a hotel, so their time is valuable—and limited.

• “Please be on time to meals, everyone else will be,” says Vipond. Give your hosts feedback. They’re here to make your stay the best possible. If they’re doing everything right, let them know!

Olcott House Bed & Breakfast
2316 East 1st Street
Duluth, MN 55812

To find the associated B & Bs in Duluth, visit

To find other gay-friendly bed and breakfasts on all your travels, domestic and foreign, check out

Make It at Home
Try this signature breakfast item served at the Olcott House for your next large brunch gathering.

Sausage & Spinach Strata with Smoked Gouda Cheese
Serves 12-15. Prep time 30 minutes. Rest period 8 hours. Bake time 1 hour, 15 minutes.

1-1/2 pounds sausage
16 slices sturdy bread (1 loaf homemade bread), remove crust, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 16 oz frozen cut leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess liquid
1-1/2 pounds Monterey Jack cheese, grated
(3 packages)

1/3 to 1/2 pound smoked Gouda cheese, rind removed and grated
8 large eggs, beaten lightly
3 cups milk (skim is fine)
1 teaspoon salt
pinch cayenne
2 tablespoons mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire

Brown sausage and drain thoroughly. Microwave spinach with a little water for 5 minutes on high. Divide bread and Monterey Jack cheese into thirds. Put one-third bread cubes on bottom of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish (Le Creuset Stoneware works even better). Sprinkle a third of the Monterey Jack cheese and half the smoked Gouda over the bread cubes. Arrange half the sausage and half the spinach on top of the cheeses. Repeat with another third of the bread cubes and Monterey Jack and the remaining Gouda, sausage and cheese. Top with the last third of the bread cubes and Monterey Jack. Combine eggs, milk, salt, cayenne, mustard and Worcestershire in a bowl, the pour over the assembled strata. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Let the strata stand at room temperature for 45 minutes before baking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place dish in a water bath, with water halfway up the side of the dish (a large roasting pan works for this).

Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

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