is in the air! Fragrant ribbons of flowering bushes blossom
around the Victorian inn. Throughout the year, fresh ocean
breezes dance poignantly. Anyone can fall in love with the
White Lilac Inn; but more accurately, most couples who visit
cannot resist magic realized, their romance rekindled by such
“Very peaceful. Very Clean.
Very Victorian,” innkeeper Mari
Kennelly says, explaining the feel that she strives to evoke at the circa 1880
inn. In fact, she conceived of the inn’s name before planting the
lilacs! After a one-year renovation, she opened the inn in 1994. Today, the
enterprise continues to leave one with a delightfully pungent sense, or shall we
say scent—especially when Mari brings lilac bouquets indoors!
Upon arrival, the
three-tiered porches—about 180 feet of outdoor space—command attention. The
architecture with a
southern flare makes you think twice. No, this isn’t New Orleans. This is
Spring Lake, an easy jaunt from Manhattan, Philadelphia, Princeton and Atlantic
City. This charming, tree-lined affluent community is named after its numerous
sparkling underground water springs.
Lilac Suite has a queen size canopy bed, fireside sitting area and
double French doors leading to a private second-floor porch.
Adjacent to Wreck Pond, the inn
has the added advantage of being less than five blocks away from the Atlantic
Ocean. Quite memorable is a stroll through two miles of secluded beach on the
two-mile boardwalk, the longest non-commercial boardwalk in New Jersey.
Back inside the inn, the magical
setting continues; enhanced further by a friendly staff. Mari’s eye for style
is apparent; she lists the title of art teacher among her previous occupations.
Furnishings, while Victorian, often antique and eclectic, are always
The common area includes a
spacious parlor. Cooler months entice intimate interludes in front of the
fireplace. “In the parlor is probably one of our most unusual pieces. We have
a dual octagon; it predates Lincoln,” Mari says, describing two of the tables.
The library inspires quiet
reflection. In the morning, the garden room accented with a fireplace stirs the
taste buds with such signature fare as peach-baked French. Diners can relax at
a cozy table setting or on the enclosed porch.
Couples who reserve the
Victorian Treasure Suite, one of the eight guestrooms, have the benefit of
breakfast delivered to their room. Soak and unwind in the double whirlpool
bath, a feature available in some of the other rooms. The two fireplaces will
surely take the chill out.
Whether you choose Gatsby’s
Getaway, Victorian Treasure Suite, Vermont Cabin or any of the other aptly named
guestrooms, with or without the Romance Package, memory making is the house
specialty in an environment that draws many repeat guests. The inn’s own
history is distinct, like that of the former residents who once lived here and
the many travelers who have frequented it since the 1920s when it became a
guesthouse, first known as the Rainbow Cottage.
“My favorite story is about a
woman named Sally Mann Randock Francis. She had the inn the longest period of
time. It was about 46 years. Her idea of a summer vacation started at Easter
and ended at Thanksgiving. So that’s how we got the fireplaces in all the
rooms,” Mari says.
Sally, as it turns out, was a
New York model. Out of her three husbands, her second husband, Steven Randock,
was in advertising and they were notorious entertainers to such notable company
as the Ziegfield Follies! During the prohibition era, the original butler’s
pantry served as "the bar.”
Mari, the 13th owner, has every
deed to the house down to the original blueprints and is knowledgeable about the
house’s history as well as the area. Her personal itineraries create a special
touch. Perhaps, for instance, a visit to the Spring Lakes Historical Society
Museum or the Sea Girt Lighthouse, minutes away. The local boutiques are
irresistible; of course, premium outlets define New Jersey. Point Pleasant,
home to the Antique Emporium, is yet another interesting day trip.
Then there’s canoeing on the
Manasquan Reservoir, hiking at Allaire State Park, boating or deep-sea fishing
at Belmar Marina or horseracing at historic Monmouth Park. Golf enthusiasts can
tee off at Spring Meadow or Bel Aire’s public golf courses. Tennis anyone?
Games are convenient at Devine Park or Marucci Park. Back on premises, everyone
loves to scout for the secret garden!
“I’ve lost count of how many
proposals we’ve had and the same thing with brides,” Mari says.
Recalling one story, she adds,
“We had a couple that had been coming and meeting here because they lived in two
different directions. They decided to get married on Valentine’s Day. They
actually got married on the boardwalk and came back to the inn; it was an
This goes to show, lilacs may
only bloom in the spring, but the inn manages to create a sweet sensation season
after season. Smell the magic at the threshold.