The best B&B in the country — and the second best in the world — is about a three-hour drive from Chicago, according to the travel website TripAdvisor.
On a global scale, the six-room inn and former county jail ranked just behind The 25 Boutique B&B in Torquay, England.
“It’s kind of a juxtaposition, going from being a place nobody wanted to be, to being a place everybody wants to be,” innkeeper Matthew Carroll said about his historic hoosegow that housed prisoners for nearly a century in this charming northwest Illinois city.
The 140-year-old regal, four-story brick building stopped serving as a jail in 1977. It has changed hands a few times since then and was languishing in foreclosure when Carroll snapped it up in 2015.
“It was kind of an eyesore when I bought it,” said Carroll, who spent several years managing the Inn at Irish Hollow in Galena’s countryside before branching out on his own.
“With my hospitality experience and being a lifelong Galena resident,” he said, “I was able to bring a team onboard to restore the property … and bring some luxury lodging to downtown, which was sort of lacking.”
Situated at 319 Meeker St., just a short walk from this tourist-friendly town’s historic Main Street, Jail Hill Inn has half a dozen spacious suites, each measuring 800 square feet.
The property’s old cells were demolished long ago, although a few vestiges of the past remain, like inmates’ names etched into the window frame in one of the third-floor suites.
Rooms come tricked out with a fireplace, wet bar, king-size bed, high-end linens and a Bluetooth-connected sound system. Champagne and chocolate are complimentary at check-in. Carroll serves a three-course breakfast each morning, and an afternoon wine and cheese reception is held 4-8 p.m. daily in the lobby.
“It’s about really pushing that luxury and having pampering amenities that make it over the top,” he said.
Overnight rates start at $295 for a midweek stay and can go up to about $445, depending on the season.
Guests, many of whom are “repeat offenders,” seem to think it’s well worth the price. The inn’s 300-plus reviews on TripAdvisor are overwhelmingly positive: “Hands down the best place we have stayed,” “I wish I could give more than 5 stars” and “AWESOME!!” are a few of the enthusiastic props.
It’s that kind of gushing feedback that won Jail Hill Inn the No. 1 spot in the Travelers’ Choice awards, now in their 17th year.
Jail Hill Inn isn’t the only Illinois property to get top billing from TripAdvisor travelers. The Peninsula Chicago rated top of class in the luxury category for U.S. hotels.