By Noah Austin | Photograph by Steven Meckler
If your time in grade school was less like The Family Circus and more like Calvin & Hobbes, the School House Inn could bring back some bad memories. Luckily, those bad memories don’t stand a chance against the charm of this nine-room Bisbee bed and breakfast, housed in a building whose owners gleefully embrace its nearly 100 years of history.
As the name implies, the School House started out as the Garfield School. It was built in 1918, on a hill above present-day Tombstone Canyon Road, in anticipation of the mining town’s continued growth. For two decades, first- through fourth-graders got an education in the red-brick building. After the school closed in 1938, an attorney bought it and turned it into an apartment building — adding bathrooms and interior walls to the large classrooms, but keeping their signature high ceilings. It was converted to a B&B in the late 1980s.
The current owners, John Lambert and Paula Roth, got into the lodging business the same way their predecessors did: The couple booked a stay and fell in love with the place, then ended up buying it. That was 11 years ago. “I still love it,” says Lambert, who’s quick to call himself the School House’s “hall monitor.” The guests, who’ve come from as far away as Egypt and Australia, love it, too.
In keeping with the property’s history, each of the nine rooms has a school-themed name. For solo guests, there’s the cozy Art Room, with a full-size bed — that room’s décor includes reproductions of oil paintings and tools used by portrait painters. Couples might prefer the queen beds in the spacious Geography Room, decorated with a variety of maps, and the Music Room, which features musical instruments and a potentially melody-inspiring view of the hills and canyons around Bisbee. And larger groups can spring for the Principal’s Office Suite, which has a queen bed in one room and two twins in another. All rooms have private baths and free Wi-Fi.
Lambert and Roth take care of everything at the School House — there’s no hired help. “We always joke that she runs around with a potted plant and I run around with a monkey wrench,” Lambert says. And their work includes the daily meatless breakfast, which changes daily — during a recent stay, it included frittatas with homemade salsa, fresh fruit and muffins. Shared tables in the dining area give guests a chance to mingle, and an extensive library and a lounge with a TV and DVD player offer after-hours entertainment.
You might expect those with careers in education to steer clear of the School House Inn — after all, everyone needs a break. But Lambert says teachers make up a good portion of the B&B’s guests. So, if teachers can book a stay there, so can troublemakers. Just maybe not in the Principal’s Office Suite.
The School House Inn is located at 818 Tombstone Canyon Road in Bisbee. For more information, call 520-432-2996 or visit www.schoolhouseinnbb.com.