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McGrady Inn, Charleston, Illinois

We arrived in Charleston on Tuesday in the mid-afternoon after spending a pleasant last morning visiting with my mother near Springfield. Charleston is my old stomping ground, Jeff's as well although he was here for a shorter length of time. While Jeff joined the military after high school, and I stayed in town to go to the local University, Eastern Illinois. I was twenty-three before I flew west.

I was a rebounder in my twenties and by the time I got into my early thirties I had decided that Charleston was as good a place as any to settle down and make a life. It was a town that made sense to me, a place with history. It was home, and I had finally hit a point where the home wasn't just where I wanted to be when I need time to recover from my latest life adventure/catastrophe. I remember the building that now houses the McGrady Inn long after it stopped functioning as United Brethren of Christ Church. It was vacant all the years I lived in Charleston. The building, constructed in 1919, features a nine-panel stained glass window at the center of the 23-foot sanctuary ceilings and pine floors. The beautiful restoration work is suggestive of the builder's original craftsman style decor.

In July of 1968 the United Brethren in Christ Church became the Otterbein United Methodist Church, and in 1978 the congregation relocated to a different building. The site of the McGrady Inn was vacant until 2005 when David McGrady purchased the building and began a three-year restoration project. The Inn features four bedrooms and the one we stayed in offered a choir loft where the master suite was accessible via a ladder or externally by stair.

As I said, we arrived at our sanctuary for the rest of the week late afternoon and spent only a few minutes settling before we headed back to visit with family. We returned hours later when dark had fallen and settled in for the night. We were alone in the Inn until nine-thirty with another pair of guests arrived. We heard them come in, saw lights turned on, heard the hostess again give the explanations about the amenities, then the new arrivals retired to their rooms and the night was silent, peaceful.

I dreamt all through the night of the big old house I grew up in, images remembered and refreshed by the dark wood appointments at the inn. My parents sold that house many years ago and ever since it has never felt quite like coming home to me. I miss that old building that raised me, where we slept with open windows all through the summer, where we could sometimes see our breath in the cold winter mornings before my father piped heat to the upstairs. I have missed that home like a friend, like family.

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