When Greg and Shauna Wellman decided to build an eco-friendly bed and breakfast in 2009, they had no idea that their dream would sit on the totality path for not one, but two celestial events that most people are lucky to see just once in a lifetime.
Wellman, a 1983 graduate of SIU's college of aviation management, serves on the advisory board for the program. He became interested in natural building and developed skills to match his interest.
In 2006, while teaching a course at SIU, Wellman stumbled on what he calls "18 beautiful acres" for sale. He knew he had found the site for the Makanda Inn.
The Inn, which operates as a bed and breakfast, was completed in 2009. The Cottage expansion followed and was completed three years later.
In 2015, Wellman contacted Loraine and Malcolm Leigh, business owners from New Jersey, who were looking for relocate.
"Southern Illinois had never crossed our minds," said Loraine, also an artisan whose photography works decorate the walls of the Inn. "We fell in love with this area."
The couple sold their construction business in Oct. 2015 and arrived in Makanda two months later. "We kind of hit the ground running," said Malcolm.
The two have settled in to life in the town of 450, though, and treat their duties at the Inn with pride.
The Inn is unique, a prototype development site of Camp Zest, a business venture meant to bring together and create a network of small scale retreats featuring all forms of natural building materials and techniques.
The Inn houses four suites, each tastefully decorated and sporting natural local textures such as Black Walnut and river rock. Each suite offers amenities including hand made soap, Tesla and electric car charging, wireless Internet, and freshly ground steam shovel coffee, a local micro-roasted bean.
The lower level of the Inn features a dry bar, seating areas around a stone fireplace, books, and even a chess table at the ready.
A choice of one or two bedroom cottages offer a private setting and feature a kitchenette, soaking tub, fire pit, and seating areas with satellite service.
All of the buildings are eco-friendly, with straw bale walls and living roofs.
Visitors to the beauty of the Shawnee Wine Trail or Giant City State Park can check out the Makanda Inn on the website at www.makandainn.com.
But don't expect to grab a place this weekend. "We've been booked for a year," said Malcolm.
Do you know a Hidden Gem that we can explore and share? Drop an email to email@example.com.