Airbnb tours: Bring Your Own Horse! We explore 3 unique stays in Wabash County

Amidst the daily rush, uncertainty, and claustrophobia of pandemic times, you might be wondering where you can find peace, solace, and room to reconnect with nature.

Whether you’re looking for an escape or a simple change of scenery, renting an Airbnb in rural or small-town Indiana can offer more options than you might realize.

In Wabash County alone, only about an hour Southwest of Fort Wayne, you can find three unique accommodations on Airbnb that are sure to provide a relaxing, interesting, and cost-effective retreat for your family, friends, or coworkers.

We tour a carriage house, a church-turned-castle, and a historic downtown destination all welcoming guests across the U.S. to experience life as a local in Northeast Indiana. 
 

The Carriage House


The Carriage House is a popular rustic loft getaway for Airbnb guests in Wabash County, located above a horse barn within walking distance of Salamonie State Park & Reservoir.

Surrounded by Salamonie State Park and Reservoir, The Carriage House shares approximately five acres of rural Indiana meadows, woods, and ponds with the family of Jennifer Bailey and her husband/chief contractor, Ben.

Jennifer got her start in the Airbnb business as an event coordinator for a local gold and silver buyer in Wabash. She used to manage the company’s business trips, booking hotels and making travel accommodations for buyers.

“It was basically a hospitality gig, and it just rolled over into starting my own Airbnb business,” Jennifer says.

Jen Bailey owns the Airbnb the Carriage House in Lagro, a renovated loft above a horse barn within walking distance of Salamonie State Park & Reservoir.

She and Ben have lived on an expansive farm on Salamonie State Park for about 21 years, which long had a huge, dilapidated horsebarn on its property. For years, Ben, who owns Ron Bailey Construction with his father, had been telling Jennifer they should fix up the barn and convert its old haymill into a modern loft apartment, but she wasn’t sure. 

“I thought: Why would anyone want to come to Wabash and stay in a barn?” Jennifer says.

Jen Bailey owns the Airbnb the Carriage House in Lagro, a renovated loft above a horse barn within walking distance of Salamonie State Park & Reservoir.

But once Airbnb came into vogue, she agreed to give it a go. Since the Baileys opened the Carriage House in Sept. 2018, it has been booked solid every summer and most weekends throughout the year, Jennifer says.

For only $130 a night, you and up to five additional guests can enjoy a rustic loft with two bedrooms, one bath, and modern appliances above a functioning barn with a horse, a mischievous cat, and 10 chickens. You also have easy access to the Salamonie Bridle Trails and Reservoir right outside your backdoor, offering more than 12,000 acres to explore.

The Carriage House has rustic decor, but modern living features, and it is meticulously clean.

The Carriage House has rustic decor, but modern living features, and it is meticulously clean.

Jennier says the price point and the walkable nature access are big draws for guests both near and far.

“It’s a true retreat where you can walk directly off our property and hop on the trails, which lead to Salamonie Reservoir,” she says. “People like it here because you don’t need to drive to extracurricular activities once you arrive.”

The Carriage House has rustic decor, but modern living features, and it is meticulously clean.

As a nature-immersed, countryside retreat, the Carriage House attracts many visitors from Chicago, Indianapolis, and across the U.S. seeking respite from their busy, noisy city lifestyles.

“Many of our guests have little access to trees, space, and quiet back home,” Jennifer says. “So they’ll come here, bring a book, and sit in one of our Adirondack chairs by the fire and just enjoy a beer or glass of wine.”

Views of the Bailey's backyard within walking distance of the trails at Salamonie State Park and Reservoir.

Her goal is to amplify this “getaway” experience for guests by taking care of nearly everything they need on-site.

“When guests arrive, all they need is their weekend bag and groceries,” Jennifer says. “We do all the cleaning and the laundry. We don’t even ask them to strip their beds.”

A bedroom at the Carriage House.

While Jennifer and Ben wanted to provide guests with all the small-town charm of rural Wabash County, they made the Carriage House a luxurious stay, too. While you can hear horses and other animals rustling beneath your feet, you can’t smell them indoors. And all of the Carriage House’s accommodations are top quality, modern, and meticulously clean.

“We realize the average person likes the idea of going to the country for the weekend, but they don’t realize everything that comes with rural living, so we make it approachable by marrying the comforts of your city home with an elevated country stay,” Jennifer says. 

The Carriage House has rustic decor, but modern living features, and it is meticulously clean.

While you can’t ride the Bailey family’s horse, you can bring your own horse to board at the Carriage House and ride on the Bridle Trails (with proper arrangements made ahead of time on Airbnb). Jennifer says guests can help feed and care for animals on the property, too.

“We don’t ask guests to help with the barn chores, but many of them want to,” she says. “A couple who recently stayed with us from the city brought their kids with them and said, ‘We want our kids to understand that the life we’ve created for them doesn’t have to be their only option. We want them to learn to respect animals and to think outside of the box.’” 

The Bailey's horse, Flash, stays inside the barn below Airbnb guests.

 

The Sanctuary


The exterior of the Sanctuary features castle-like details.

Along with the Carriage House, Jennifer and Ben also own a 1903 church, known as The Sanctuary, in Wabash County that they’ve turned into a chic and contemporary “Overnight Event Hub.”

Designed like a castle, the church’s first floor (including its former sanctuary) has been transformed into a large living and dining room space with a fireplace, a 16-seat dining table, and a commercial-grade gourmet kitchen, as well as bathrooms and three walls of dreamy stained glass. 

The dining room table on the main level of the Sanctuary seats 16 guests.

The main floor also has the “Intimate Hub” master bedroom suite on Airbnb, which can accommodate up to four guests, with a king bed on the main level and an additional queen bedroom in the basement. There is also a separate “Group Hub” in the basement of the church, which includes five bedrooms and access to downstairs living accommodations, including two full bathrooms, a kitchenette, a living room, and a dining room.

Jennifer says the basement bedrooms can be rented together or separately.

“It’s a very versatile space because you can rent it in sections, where you might only need one floor or one bedroom, and we can lock off the rest of the facility,” she says.

Details inside the master bedroom "Intimate Hub" at the Sanctuary.

Rent for the Intimate Hub, including main floor access, is $250 per night, and rent for a basement bedroom is $330 per night. A full facility rental costs $660 per night. 

The basement of the Sanctuary in Wabash.

While the basement is typically booked by out-of-town guests on Airbnb, Jennifer says the main level of the Sanctuary is frequently used by itself by locals in Wabash County as a near-downtown event venue for weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, corporate retreats, and more. 

“Occasionally, we’ll get a full facility rental, but usually, people either want to rent the basement on Airbnb for hotel accommodations or to rent the main level common areas as an event space locally,” she says.

The dining room table on the main level of the Sanctuary seats 16 guests.

The basement of the Sanctuary in Wabash.

Oftentimes, full facility rentals are for weddings, which provide visiting families with both space to hang out, eat together, and get pictures on the main level with gorgeous stained glass, and then retreat to private bedrooms in the basement at night.

“When you’re traveling with family and friends you don’t see often, you want to spend quality time with them, but you also want some alone time, and this facility allows for that,” Jennifer says.

A private bedroom in the basement of the Sanctuary in Wabash.

The Baileys bought the church about four years ago, when it was rundown and sitting on the market for years, creating an eyesore in the community. They did a full renovation of the facility as a side project for Ben’s business and opened it to guests in June 2021. Since then, the basement has been booked solid on Airbnb, Jennifer says.

Jennifer Bailey on the main floor of her Airbnb the Sanctuary in Wabash.

All together, the Sanctuary includes 8,000-square feet of space, and many guests locally book it for the perks of its fully-equipped gourmet kitchen on the main level. A caterer herself, Jennifer offers catering services on-site, but also allows guests to hire any certified caterer of their choice, driving business to fellow entrepreneurs in Wabash county.

The Sanctuary's main level offers a commercial-grade gourmet kitchen where guests can invite their own caterer or use Jennifer's catering services.

Gas burners in the Sanctuary's commercial-grade kitchen.

Since the Sanctuary is within walking distance of downtown, she often sends guests to small businesses there, too, as another way to share the wealth in her community and help guests experience local culture.

“We have a bakery that makes delicious donuts and wedding cakes and a locally owned coffee shop that has great coffee, smoothies, and lunch items,” Jennifer says. “There’s lots of cool, vintage clothing and home decor shops downtown, too. Wabash has so much to offer, and by going downtown, you feel the soul of it.”

Bellazo and the Good Vibes Gift Shop 35 W. Market St. in Downtown Wabash.

 

The Clarkson House

The historic Clarkson House in downtown Wabash is within walking distance of the Ford and Eagles Theatres.

Speaking of great stays in downtown Wabash, another Airbnb in a historic home has been keeping busy with guests.

Phil Meek, the de facto Property Manager for the Clarkson House on Airbnb, came into his role in a round-about way. He initially became the new Director of Movie Operations for the Honeywell Arts & Entertainment Center just before the COVID-19 pandemic began, putting a pause on all in-person shows and events. Phil Meek

Around that time, Honeywell Foundation board member Lisa Gilman and her husband Michael Rheinheimer donated the historic Clarkson House to the Foundation, only a short walk away from their arts and cultural facilities, like the Ford and Eagles Theatres downtown. As a result, Meek became the property manager for the house, overseeing Airbnb rentals as another way to generate revenue for the arts and to provide guests with an extra-special experience, living like a local in downtown Wabash.

“The property was already listed on Airbnb, so we took it on as a way to offer a VIP experience to guests we were already serving at the Honeywell Foundation’s facilities,” Meek says. “The Clarkson House is a popular place for bridal parties to get ready for weddings at the Eagles Theatre Ballroom nearby. We’ve had family reunions, class reunions, and traveling sports teams rent the home, too.”

The entryway of the historic Clarkson House in downtown Wabash.

The living room at the Clarkson House has a fireplace.

With five bedrooms and 2,800-square-feet of space, the Clarkson House sleeps up to 12 people for $399 a night total (plus a $100 cleaning fee). It comes with a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, living room, and parlor, as well as full bathrooms both upstairs and downstairs.

“It has a very interesting layout where two bedrooms are on the main floor and conjoined, as you would see in a hotel with conjoined rooms,” Meek says. “Then there are three bedrooms upstairs.”

A cozy bedroom with an alcove at the Clarkson House.

A cozy bedroom at the Clarkson House.

Along with its original wood accents and trim, the historic home boasts a patio and many beautiful windows and alcoves for guests to relax, find solace, and cuddle up with a book.

Gilman, the home’s former owner, has conducted research on the property’s history, and found that the house was formerly owned by several notable residents of Wabash and Indiana, including Clarkson W. Weesner, who she named the property after. Clarkson was a prominent citizen of the late 19th-century, who owned the first building and loan association in Wabash and was elected Mayor in 1876.

The Clarkson House in downtown Wabash has two full bathrooms: One on the main level, and one upstairs.

While Gilman hasn’t found any records to indicate when exactly the home was built, she knows that it was constructed sometime between 1853-1875, according to city atlases. Since it was constructed, it has undergone several renovations and additions, most recently giving it a Neo-Jacobean style. 

“It’s really gorgeous,” she says. “And it’s filled with antiques and beautiful light figures.”

A dining room table at the Clarkson House.

Since events have resumed at the Honeywell Foundation’s facilities in Wabash, the Clarkson House has been a popular place for out-of-town guests to stay after a late-night show at the Ford or Eagles Theatres. After all, nearly 80 percent of live performance ticket buyers at these venues travel from outside of Wabash County. The home has also provided accommodations for music fellows at the Foundation’s annual acclaimed Honeywell Arts Academy, which involves three weeks of intensive musical training for artists of multiple genres with some of the world’s classical music rock stars who converge in downtown Wabash.

“The Honeywell Arts Academy fellows participate in 12 hours of intensive musical training every day for the week that they’re here, and they stay in the Clarkson House because it’s only a short walk from the Eagles Theatre, where they attend training sessions and host performances,” Meek says.

The fully renovated Eagles Theatre at 106 W. Market St. in Downtown Wabash.

For other guests on Airbnb, the Clarkson House provides a unique, central space to explore the community, too.  

“It’s been interesting to see all of the different people who visit downtown Wabash,” Meek says.
 

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.