On a wooded back road, deep in the heart of Bryan County, Steve London may very well be cooking breakfast for a small group of guests at the Heron Cove Bed and Breakfast at Silverstream Plantation.
As the first and only inn of its kind in Richmond Hill, the chances are good that London and his wife Ginny Schoenen will be frying up eggs and bacon for guests from all over the Coastal Empire and beyond — it’s only their third week open for business and already the proud owners can barely book reservations fast enough.
“We’ve already got calls from as far away as New Mexico,” said London. “We owe our website designer Byron a huge debt of gratitude — we’re all over the Internet and we’ve been busy since the day we opened our doors.”
London was hesitant to accept any credit for the inn’s early success, but the home — described by one guest recently as “equal parts inn and art gallery” — is quite arguably a masterpiece in and of itself.
Designed predominantly by London and his late wife, Lilly London, the Victorian-style home is a living memento to the life she lived as an artist painting scenes from coastal Georgia and South Carolina’s Lowcountry. Before her death in 2006, she had hoped that Heron Cove might serve as an artist’s retreat — a place that she and others like herself could create their work in near silence — interrupted only by the sounds of wildlife outside their windows.
Her passing occurred shortly before construction at Heron Cover was completed, but the idea of a “retreat” was one that London and Schoenen just couldn’t let go. They married in September 2012 and made it their mission to care for the property and preserve the same essence of “retreat” that Lilly might have imagined during her lifetime.
“We have always been preservers of the land,” London said. “That’s why we didn’t bring in the bull dozers and cut everything down. We’ve made it possible to see the marshes, but we’ve done it without wiping out the hundred-year-old azaleas and the oak trees and everything else.”
London and Schoenen’s preservation of the area has granted tourists the opportunity to venture off the beaten path — and likewise, residents of Richmond Hill now have their chance to showcase the city they’ve always known and loved.
“Our hope was that people would see this location, Richmond Hill, as the gateway to the lowcountry coast,” London said. “We’re part of Richmond Hill — even though we’re in the county part — but we’re a part of this town. And I want Richmond Hill to be known as a place that people can go on their way to Savannah or Charleston or anywhere else they want to go. We’re close enough for a daytrip.”
And while their visitors might flock to Savannah during the daytime, London and Schoenen have found that many guests retreat to Richmond Hill to experience the quiet that has become rare in bigger cities.
“Our friends and family asked us, ‘How can you compete with Savannah?’” said Schionnen. “Well we can’t. But why would we want to?”
For more information or to book a reservation, visit heroncovebnb.com or call 912-727-3408.