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, our romantic Florida 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.
The 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 owners and current Innkeepers, have a history with them as well. It all began with a knock at the door . . .
My mother, Giovanna Holbrook, frequently drove by the home in which you now find yourself. The McKenzie Home. It wasn’t long before she came to love it. Being the visionary that Giovanna is, she saw past the massive work the structure needed to fix its curled paint and deteriorating condition. Instead she saw the glimmers of what the McKenzie Home could become again.
One day Giovanna stopped at the McKenzie Home and knocked on Mary McKenzie’s door. Giovanna informed Mary that she was interested in purchasing her home if it were ever to go up for sale. In 1978, Juan and Giovanna Holbrook purchased the McKenzie Home. After an initial and extensive restoration process, the home was brought back to its former glory and placed on the National Registry of Historic Homes. During those early days, my parents had difficulty keeping the house rented, so my mother decided to move herself and my 14-year-old sister, Andrea, into the McKenzie Home in 1982. The McKenzie home remained their private residence until 1998.