Quick, think of something the Columbia area needs. Here’s a hint if you’ve lived here since the 1960s and 1970s: Think former Columbia mayor and his avid gardener wife. If you thought a bed & breakfast or “inn,” not only do you win, but so do all of your friends and family who come to visit. To top it off, you and your visitors just might become intrigued with the inn’s history.
Situated on the banks of Little Bigby Creek, The Inn at Bigby Creek just opened its doors to visitors the weekend of March 13, 2015. Proprietors’ Jo Ann Watts and husband Larry bought the house on Trotwood exactly one year ago and have been working steadily to renovate and open the doors of this charming inn that was the home of former Columbia mayor Buddy Morgan and his wife Peggy, an avid gardener.
Both the Morgans are deceased, but vestiges of Peggy’s passion for flowers, particularly orchids, are still visible in the inn’s expansive backyard in the form of multiple flower beds and a former greenhouse. “The story goes that she was such a consummate gardener that her family had to flicker the lights at night to get her to come back inside,” Jo Ann told Katie and me. By the time Jo Ann and Larry bought the home, nature and time had taken their toll.
Undaunted, the Watts set out to tame what nature had reclaimed. Now, a year later, visitors to the inn can take their coffee or glass of wine down to the fire pit where they can sit by the river and even grille out if they take the notion. A heron or two might drop by, as one did while we were there.
When Jo Ann and Larry bought the house they really didn’t have the intention of opening a bed and breakfast. Actually, before that, they didn’t even know about Columbia. Fate has a way of putting people where they need to be, however. In a casual conversation with a man on a houseboat (yes, a houseboat) in Cuba Landing, he told them they should go look at Columbia since they were considering leaving Collierville but didn’t want to be too far away from Nashville where their daughter lives.
So to Columbia they came. Jo Ann told us, “We were absolutely enchanted on our visit. Columbia is like a little secret. We fell in love with the countryside and decided this was the place for us to retire.” They had planned to downsize and looked at many homes in Columbia but couldn’t find one “they felt a connection to.” However, when their realtor showed them their current residence, they fell in love with its history, charm and proximity to Bigby Creek.
The only problem was the house and grounds were much too big for just the two of them. Eventually Jo Ann and Larry thought “Wouldn’t it be great if we could share it?” Having recently retired from the container shipping business, they realized that they weren’t quite ready to quit working altogether. As Jo Ann put it, “We still have some race left in us.” While they were brainstorming, the idea of a bed and breakfast came to them as the perfect way to justify the large home, share its charm and keep them “just enough in the race.”
When they bought the home, it was dark and empty, having been vacant for quite some time. In addition to taming the yard, they set out to completely remodel the inside. This included a complete overhaul of the dated kitchen, converting closets into bathrooms so that each guest bedroom has its own bath, and lightening up the interior. The results of their efforts are stunning. They have managed to achieve the ideal balance for an elegant but casual atmosphere where their guests will feel comfortable and at home.
Jo Ann and Larry moved to the upstairs, giving their guests domain over the spacious downstairs, which includes three private bedrooms and baths, a formal dining room, the updated kitchen and the comfortable great room, which features a bank of windows that give view of the entire backyard and river. Guests can curl up on the sofa to watch movies and enjoy snacks and popcorn. In the morning, they are treated to a full country-style Southern breakfast made by Larry, replete with country ham, eggs and biscuits with gravy.
The Inn is open seven days a week with a central location and close proximity to Maury Regional Hospital. Animal lovers will enjoy the company of their Golden Retriever “Ben,” a.k.a. “Mr. Bean” and their cats, “Derby” and “Little Black.” Jo Ann and Larry eventually plan to make the Inn pet friendly.
A big welcome to the Inn at Bigby Creek – a bed and breakfast that will truly benefit both Columbia and those guests fortunate enough to stay there.
The Inn at Bigby Creek is located at 1306 Trotwood Avenue, Columbia, TN 38401.
Left: Proprietor Jo Ann Watts in the newly renovated kitchen at the Inn at Bigby Creek.
Top right: Dining Room
Bottom right: Family/great room, which overlooks backyard gardens, fire pit and river.
Top: Family/great room where guests can relax in front of the fireplace and watch a movie.
Bottom left: Ben, affectionately known as "Mr. Bean"