How Carl and Sandra Discovered Bisbee
No “newby” to hosting guests, when Sandra was a starving writer and urban guerilla in Center City Philadelphia in the late ’70s, she opened her tiny historic cottage on the city’s smallest square as the first B&B in Philadelphia. “I only had one pair of sheets so when I got a reservation, I had to run to the laundromat,” she recalls of those early days. “I loved it, meeting all those wonderful people who would return time and again to my little sanctuary.”
When she finished her 7-year spiritual odyssey sailing the Pacific alone (or occasionally with her teenaged daughter), Sandra ended up in 1992 by magic in the Victorian artist colony of Eureka Springs, AR nestled in the Ozarks. “I had taken on a nice young man to help me through the Panama because they said I couldn’t go through alone. The first night, I think he fell asleep at the helm. Around midnight, I heard a horrible loud noise and thought we had been hit by a freighter. When I got up on deck, I saw that he had jibed the boat through the eye of the wind which caused the boom holding up the mainsail to snap off the mast, almost pulling the boat over. It was a nightmare! I shouted to the Universe, ‘This is no fun anymore…I’m moving to Arkansas!’ I had no idea where it was but I figured it was far away from the ocean.”
It took Sandra four hours to bring the boom back up onto the deck and when she limped her beloved boat back to Puerto Vallarta for repairs, she ended up selling it in less than an hour to a Mexican yachtsman and then had to figure out what to do next. An American traveler from Missouri told her, “You ought to go to Eureka Springs…there are people like you there.” She didn’t know if it was an insult or a compliment, but to make a long story short, she found herself standing in the middle of Eureka Springs a week later.
There, she created her Cliff Cottage Inn, the only B&B in the very heart of the Historic Downtown, starting with buying the city’s first mayor’s house built in the 1880s. The Eastlake design was the prototype for Sears’ first kit home. She had the cottage divided into two elegant suites with jacuzzis, private porches, their own living rooms and sumptuously large bedrooms.
Next, she built The Place Next Door, a Victorian replica which she had actually designed while sailing when she was somewhere off Easter Island. “I discovered I was homesick for terra firma when I found I was drawing houses in my logbook and this was one of them.” She created a large kitchen with Mexican floor tiles she brought back from the Baja alone in her van, a huge Great Room with wood-burning fireplace and marble she also brought back from the Baja. “I had to drive 25 mph the entire way and check the tires’ pressure every 2 hours, my van was so heavy loaded down with all this neat stuff I was going to use in the house I knew I would be building.” Next, she bought an 1880s Victorian cottage down the street and spent a year remodelling it, putting in a 3-story waterfall coming down the hillside into a pond she built large enough to hold the 32 giant koi she would acquire, fish-by-fish. After that project, she bought a 1920s arts/craft cottage and restored it and then a 1930s Edwardian cottage with a 2-story artist’s studio behind built sometime in the late 1800s.
“I just loved restoring these beautiful buildings, tearing off all the “junk” people had added over the years and finding the gorgeous original “beginnings” I could restore and renew,” says Sandra. “It took me over a year to do each of them, and then hunting for just the right furnishings and fixtures took another long time. I covered three states just looking for the perfect stained glass for these cottages.”
In 2009, Sandra met Carl (a retired widower from St. Louis who also loved symphony, opera, theater and travelling!) on the Internet. They dated for a year and then “tied the knot” in the Missouri Botanical Garden’s “Chinese Garden”. Carl became the inn’s elf and enjoyed delivering breakfasts and chatting with guests.
In 2017, Sandra decided it wasn’t fair to Carl to have to be “working” when he had retired to travel so it was either “inn” or “hubby” and hubby won. She put the inn up for sale and by magic, a couple came to stay from Tucson who told them about Bisbee, saying it was similar to Eureka Springs. The next week, the two hopped in their car and drove to Bisbee, had 20 minutes to look around before having to rush back to Eureka Spgs to greet arriving guests. In those few minutes, they found a realtor, saw some houses, said they needed a bigger one and the realtor said she had just put her 1916 home up for sale on Quality Hill. She had also just built a guesthouse in the garden behind the manor house for her mother but her 82 year-old mom wanted to return to Alabama so she put her house up for sale. They spent 10 minutes looking at it and bought it. Three months later, when they drove back to Bisbee to look at their new home, it took them over an hour to find it — GPS didn’t show where it was!
The two took on creating a special place for guests in the guest house and opened it in March 2018. They love sharing the beautiful space with visitors who come to enjoy Bisbee.
Our Vision For Our Guests
We want to offer our guests exactly what they are looking for in their Bisbee experience. If guests wish solitude and quiet time, we have it. If guests wish to share travel stories, we’re certainly up for that as well. So you can have as much privacy as you wish or some friendly times with your hosts whenever possible.
Sandra CH Smith
Sandra was born in Palo Alto, California, and when she and her twin brother were 11, their Scottish mother took them to Scotland for a year of ‘real sound Scottish schooling’.
“We were the first Americans in that village Mother chose, way up in the Highlands, and the kids kept calling us ‘damn yanks’. I finally had to beat up the school bully to get them to stop and then we were in like Flynn! They even invited me to play on the cricket team and I was the only girl!” recalls Sandra.
It was during that trip that Sandra had her first experience staying in a B&B and she would remember what fun it was many years later when she opened her home to guests in downtown Philadelphia.
Carl, a native of St. Louis, attended and graduated from Country Day School where he earned varsity letters in tennis. He went on to study History, English and Theater Arts at Washington University and was very involved in acting and doing techie work at all the school’s theatrical productions. He then got a full scholarship to Stanford University where he earned his MA in History.
Carl then went on to USC for a Ph.D in Medieval History. He spent a year in Barcelona working on his thesis (“Catalan Commercial Consulates in the High Middle Ages”) and then took a teaching job at SMU in Dallas. He now enjoys being the Casita Chiquita’s head elf.
Albert, Our Assistant Elf
What a wonderful gift we had under our 2018 Christmas tree ….a fur baby! We adopted Albert from a rescue foster home and we already love him. He’s a 9 year-old min-pin mix and only has one eye — we figured it would be hard for him to find a new mom and dad and when he looked up at us and smiled, we just knew he was “the one”. The best part…..he’s just delighted to be a casita “elf” in training.
Contact us for rates and availability.
Guests can phone the Casita Chiquita (479-981-0473) to check for availability and rates which vary depending on weekdays, weekends, holidays or festivals/local events. All reservations are made through Airbnb via our “Book Now” button.
We try to answer all messages and reservation requests the same day unless we are off adventuring in our RV — in that case, it might be 24 hours before we can respond.