B&B, reception venue blends old and new in Fredonia countryside
Joanne Van Dyke, owner of the Hilltop Haven inn and reception venue in the Town of Fredonia, admits her latest business venture is a bit of a work in progress.
Part of that is because she believes in hands-on ownership, preferring to do as much of the demolition and construction as possible herself.
While getting the site ready to become a reception destination, Van Dyke has been busy running two other ventures â a cleaning business called Jo Mama Cleaning and a home-health care service.
Still, even a quick visit to the sprawling property at W4907 Hilltop Rd. in the far northwest corner of Ozaukee County is sure to leave any guest with an inviting impression.
The property has been the scene of family gatherings, which gave Van Dyke the idea of opening it to the general public.
The five-acre parcel combines the charm of a restored pre-Civil War era log farmhouse with a newly built guest suite.
The grounds include a gorgeous covered pergola, stunning patio and open-air bar.
Van Dyke said there is ample space for large reception tents amid towering shade trees.
Nearby, a chapel is being built on one end of a stone barn. That project is expected to be completed by July.
The chapel is expected to have a seating capacity of 60, and the reception venue can easily handle 500 guests, Van Dyke said.
Because there is no commercial kitchen on site, all catering has to be brought in.
Adding to the out-in-the-country feeling, a veritable menagerie of companion animals wander about â including chickens, roosters, peacocks, ducks, geese, dogs and cats. Donkeys, sheep and a horse amble about in an adjacent corral.
âIf someone comes here, they will certainly know they are in the country. If they want, guests are welcome to just sit out back in the evening and listen to the frogs and crickets,â Van Dyke said.
She approached Town of Fredonia officials in January with the notion of opening the business on the hobby farm she and her husband Pat have owned for 10 years.
âI guess this is something that I have had in the back of my mind for years because I have been accumulating all sorts of old things â like church pews and folding chairs â and now I have a use for them,â Van Dyke said.
She grew up on the neighboring farm of her parents, Dan and Judy Arndt, which she describe as being âjust a stoneâs throw away.â
Thirty-five acres she inherited have been added to the parcel that is home to Hilltop Haven.
It took several months for town officials to figure out how they wanted to regulate the business, because no one else in the town offers such a reception destination.
It was not the sounds of nature that concerned town leaders, but the prospect of live music and DJs playing tunes well into the night.
To head off problems, Van Dyke went to neighbors and told them of her plans ahead of time.
âThese are all people I grew up with. I would never do anything they wouldnât approve of,â Van Dyke said.
The town had to craft an ordinance governing reception venues, setting an 11 p.m. cut off for entertainment that parallels the restrictions officials have put into place for taverns offering outdoor music.
âThat is late enough for me, since this is a one-person operation and I am the one who will have to do the cleaning up,â Van Dyke said.
The lengthy review process virtually eliminated Hilltop Haven from the plans for this yearâs weddings, but several other receptions are planned.
âWith the time it took to get the approval I figured this year would be shot, but I have two bookings for next year already,â Van Dyke said.
âI am confident business will kick in next year, after word gets around about what we have to offer.â
The guest suite â which sleeps four â can be rented independent of any reception, and she said guests are welcome to make themselves at home on the farm.
âWe offer a kennel for dogs and have plenty of room for anyone who wants to bring their horse up in a trailer and use our pasture,â Van Dyke said.
Acknowledging the rural setting, she said vacationing visitors will be directed to whatever amenities they are looking for, including restaurants and golf courses.
Reservation forms can be printed from the business website, www.thehilltophaven.com.
Image information: THE HILLTOP HAVEN, a newly opened bed-and-breakfast inn and reception facility in the Town of Fredonia, blends old-world construction and modern amenities. This photo captures a chapel that is being added to a fieldstone barn. Photo by Mark Jaeger. Additional photos are displayed in this week's edition of your Ozaukee Press.