The Reviews Are In
Serenity Spring on U.S. 35 has welcomed 350 so far
BY DANIEL PRZYBLA - JUNE 7, 2000
Rich and Laura Ostergren wait eagerly to read the comment card from the guest who just depart their 85 acres of secluded woodland north of LaPorte back to their over-crowded urban jungle. And why not? The Ostergrens haven't had a disappointed guest yet at their adult lodging getaway. Serenity Springs 5888 N. U.S. 35, according to Rich. Rich, 45, and Laura, 40, LaPorte residents since 1988, said it's the personal reward they feel in getting positive feedback from their guests that's most delightful. "We want them to feel like they're a visitor in our home," Laura said. But the Ostergrens admit their enterprising venture will also help pay for college for their three children. Open since Labor Day weekend of last year, Serenity Springs has welcomed guests from Indianapolis, Detroit, Chicago and points in between to its five separate bungalows due in large part to its convenient location off I-94 and U.S. 20. One might think the speeding traffic 100 yards away on the intersecting highways contaminates the romantic hideaway. But that's not the case based on the hundreds of comment cards from guests who, before leaving the grounds, wrote beaming statements regarding their visit. Serenity Springs advertised as the "Adult Escape" prohibits pets, children or maybe the most refreshing absence - the phone. "They want to know they can be away from the hustle and bustle," says Laura. So a ringing telephone is replaced with a butler door, an invention of Rich's near the front door of each bungalow the ensures privacy. Whether it's the nightly snack or the breakfast tray, the valet staff deliver the food items into a small cubbyhole where the guest can then pick up the food without ever coming into human contact. It is these small touches that the Ostergrens felt was so important in order to create an a atmosphere of solitude, intimacy and most of all, the idea of a home away from home. Other meticulous details include: a horse-drawn carriage ride to and from their bungalow, a gas grill, a stocked refrigerator, heated tile floor, fishing poles, flashlight and bug spray. Each bungalow contains a waterfront deck, king-size bed, couch, TV/DVD, dining table, microwave, sunken whirlpool, surround sound system, fire place, double bowl sink and seated shower stall. Of the five bungalows made with cypress wood that are located north of a 2-acre lake, each has a different theme, including The Loft and The Vineyard. The Ostergrens still have a lot of work to do. Rich laid the foundations for 36 waterfront bungalows back in July 1996. That means 31 have yet to be built and they intend for each one to have a unique theme as well. How the two South Chicago natives discovered the land was by accident really. It had been Rich's dream to open a hospitality lodge of some kind. While returning from Illinois to their LaPorte home back in 1990, the Ostergrens noticed a For Sale sign on the wooded property. Not long after, the Ostergrens bought the property that was formerly a firing range. At first, things moved slowly as Rich and Laura gathered the funding and outlined the design for the land. The Ostergrens still own a real estate office in Oak Lawn, Ill., and Laura is a registered nurse who no longer practices. It was Rich and a small team of builders who constructed the bungalow. "I got the vision for the whole thing, When the time comes, it will all come together." Rich said. The rest of the land sits bubbling with anticipated construction. However, the property remains true to its nature by allowing nature to be itself and do as it pleases. The Ostergrens admit they don't want a "country club, manicured" look. In nine months, Serenity Springs has had 350 guests, which has included some 30 honeymooning couples. Serenity Springs is open 365 days a year. Sunday through Thursday, a one night stay costs $149. Friday, Saturday or holidays, a one-night stay costs $249.