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Virgin Islands couple wins keys to historic Maine inn

An essay contest was held to collect the keys to the Center Lovell Inn, a classic New England hostelry and restaurant with a view of the White Mountains.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

Prince and Rose Adams wrote touchingly of marriage and hospitality for a global essay contest to win a 210-year-old Maine inn.

That was the easy part.

In a head-scratching reversal of human migratory patterns, the Adams family will pack up and leave the US Virgin Islands for their first-ever trip to Maine. Oh, and they haven’t seen snow for a decade.

“This is a crazy, crazy, crazy journey,” Prince Adams said by telephone Friday.

The couple were chosen last week from thousands of entrants in an essay contest to collect the keys to the Center Lovell Inn, a classic New England hostelry and restaurant with a view of the White Mountains.


Prince and Rose Adams, both 45, think they know the drill: The Caribbean restaurant they run in St. John requires long days, plenty of passion, and a genuine desire to entertain people — traits they will need in abundance at the seven-room, labor-intensive inn three hours north of Boston.

“We love pleasing our customers — that’s key — and we’ve been cooking together since we’ve known each other, which is 26 years,” Rose said.

That love is certain to be tested. Maybe it’s when the pipes freeze, or the snowed-in driveway needs to be shoveled, or the inn’s beams and joints complain about their creaking age.

From left: Jacob, Rose, and Prince Adams.Adams family

But that is for another time. For now, the Brooklyn, N.Y., natives and their 10-year-old son are welcoming a reacquaintance with snow, and cold, and a cycle of seasons.

“We’ve been trying to go back to the East Coast,” Prince said. “I thought, ‘If this is an opportunity to go back home, I’ll put my 200 words together.’ We’re not as beachy as we thought we were.”

The departing innkeeper, Janice Sage, won the rambling bed and breakfast 22 years ago in much the same way. She was managing a busy Maryland restaurant, wanted a change, and heard about an essay contest to win the inn.


When thoughts of retirement beckoned more than two decades later, Sage gave the formula another try. She bumped up the entry fee to $125 from $100 and called for a maximum of 7,500 entries to be judged by an anonymous, local panel.

At $125 apiece, those entries would cover the property’s estimated value of $900,000. Sage said she received fewer than 7,500 essays, but that she received enough to make retirement possible.

Sage said she hoped to pass along the Center Lovell Inn to someone who envisioned more than a business attachment. She found that bond in an essay that began: “Twelve years ago, we embarked on the journey of painstakingly converting a dilapidated building into a charming guesthouse and restaurant.”

The decision was made, and Rose Adams heard the news on the morning of June 6 — between bites of an egg sandwich in a waterside apartment with spectacular views of Coral Bay.

“At first I thought it was a dinner reservation,” Rose said. “Within 2 seconds, I realized what it was. I started choking on my egg sandwich and said, ‘I’ll get my husband.’ ”

The deal was done, and Sweet Plantains, their restaurant in St. John, will close on Saturday. The couple hopes to open for business by July 10 in Center Lovell, where they will continue to operate the dining room that kept Sage busy for so long.


Rose will be the chef, and Prince will flex his mixology muscle to concoct many of the rum drinks available at Sweet Plantains. The restaurant also will rely heavily on local, fresh foods, Prince said.

“From what I’ve been researching on-line, they have really great produce, lots of organic farms, and all those things we love. We can put together an awesome menu,” Prince said.

The adventure is about to begin — marathon days and all.

“If you love what you’re doing, it doesn’t seem that cumbersome,” Rose said. “Our son was born in a hurricane, there have been water outages, and I’ve cooked in the dark. You talk about the work hours — they’re intense — but frankly I wouldn’t trade it.”

There might be one trade Prince would make. He promised his son two years ago that he could have a Great Dane dog — “the size of a horse’” — if they ever moved to a “big, big, big, big house.”

Now they have that house, and a promise is a promise.

“I’m trying to convince him to get a Chihuahua,” Prince said with a chuckle.

The departing innkeeper, Janice Sage, won the bed and breakfast 22 years ago in much the same way.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at