Sweetwater Branch Inn History

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places located in Gainesville’s historic district, the Sweetwater Branch Inn is an eclectic blend of Victorian charm and Southern hospitality. Devoted to guests who are seeking the exceptional, the Sweetwater Branch Inn is well known for its comfort, beauty, and hospitality.

Featured on the popular PBS television series, “Inn Country USA,” Sweetwater is a Victorian complex of two carefully restored Victorian-era mansions (the McKenzie House and the Cushman-Colson House), charming guest cottages, a modern reception hall and beautifully sculptured gardens. At every turn, one can see a true testament to the finest in preserved Victorian Florida. Historic conservation is an important aspect of the goals of Sweetwater Inn’s owners. In addition, sharing the beauty and comfort that are a hallmark of Sweetwater’s reputation is a high priority.

The historic McKenzie House, circa 1895, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. This magnificent three-story Queen Anne style Victorian home is known as one of the most elaborate Victorian buildings in Gainesville’s history. It has intricate Eastlake details and a fanciful restored massing. Of special note are the three-story octagonal turrets on the west face, and the wrap-around veranda which culminate in an octagonal gazebo.

Perry Colson purchased the home in 1903 and sold it to William Turner Pound, the first husband of Mary Phifer. In the 1920’s Mary Phifer married Reid Hill McKenzie. She lived in the McKenzie house until she was 83 years old. This is the location of five beautifully appointed Sweetwater Inn guest rooms.

Historic Sweetwater InnThe Cushman-Colson house, a Victorian, circa 1885, was one of the original Gainesville homes that lined old Alachua Avenue which is now University Avenue. The house is named after the Cushman family who lived in the house until 1905 and the family of Dr. James Colson, who lived there for 20 years. It has since been the home of several influential Gainesville families and reflects the tastes of the affluent at the turn of the century. The Cushman-Colson House hosts seven beautiful and unique Sweetwater Inn guest rooms.

While the homes have a history of their own, the Holbrook family, the current owners and Innkeepers, have a history with them as well. Neglected over the years, these beautiful homes had fallen into a state of disrepair until, in 1978, Giovanna and Juan Holbrook, purchased the McKenzie home and began restoring it to its original beauty and charm. Giovanna Holbrook and her daughter Cornelia later purchased and restored the Cushman home in 1992.

The process of taking these buildings from their dilapidated condition to the beautiful and historic works of art they are today was one of love and patience, not to mention a lot of sweat and hard work. This hard work and dedication has resulted in two City Beautification Awards from the City of Gainesville. Sweetwater Inn is now a source of pride for its owners as well as the community. The Holbrook’s invite you to take a closer look at their website and call anytime with questions. Of course, if you’re in the area, please visit, stay, and enjoy!