Last week I visited my beach home-away-from home – the Rehoboth Guest House in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I try to go every spring and fall for the best weather and rates, and more tolerable crowds crowds. This B&B is stylish and charming inside but the exterior is best of all, the front being a destination in October when it sports the most outrageous Halloween decorations in town.

Like these guests, I love the front porch for hanging out and greeting people on their walk down Maryland  Avenue to the beach.

I love the back garden even with no blooms yet. Those red maples with the yellow umbrellas are perfect with the grey and white of the building.

In the before-and-after above (from its Facebook page) yellow was in the original but everything else has changed for the better.

From the balcony.

When I visited in mid-May the annuals had just been planted, due to our unusually cold spring.

Photo by Tom Kelch.

Above and below, the back garden in summer.

Photo by Tom Kelch.

I want a B&B that has great outdoor spaces to hang out and this one has many to choose from. The upper deck is the most private, and I like to settle down here with my laptop. Planters recently filled and lit for evening drama. 

I was a little too early to catch the rhododendrons in bloom.

The Innkeeper who Uncovered a Notorious History

Meet the friendliest, best-omelette-making, most creative B&B manager you’ll ever meet – Tom Kelch, who’s manned the Rehoboth Guest House since 2013. Tom and owners Frank Colonnello and Garrett Wood have transformed it inside and out.

I knew that about Tom but what I learned last week is that he’s unearthed the B&B’s amazing history, which was published in a first and then second installment in a local publication and soon in a book.

He learned that in 1979, it became the town’s very first openly gay-owned and operated gay business for gay men, going by the name “Paradise Guest House.” As the name implies, it was a place of sexual freedom for gay men.

(And yes, it was weird hearing from Tom and learning from his articles the wild shenanigans that had gone on in the very room I was staying in! Though really, do we ever want intimate details about what’s happened in the hotel rooms we stay in? The hotel beds we sleep in? I think not!)

But it’s a story about more than just sex. In Tom’s words, while it “seemed at face value to be a big party scene filled with debauchery….After extensive research, I find instead it’s a place of sanctuary and self-acceptance. A trailblazing, history-changing, incredible business that provided a unique safe haven, in a very unlikely location…”
There’s lots more to the “amazing story of pride, sex, diversity, protest, scandal, drama, comedy, race, origin, determination, pandemic, growth, and sadly loss,” including the shockingly anti-LGBT people still running this beach town thought to be so gay-friendly.
Maybe by telling the whole story, Tom can help to change that.