BARBARA BAEKGAARD has always had a thing for wallpaper. Before she started Vera Bradley with her good friend Patricia Miller, they owned a wallpapering business in Fort Wayne. Baekgaard still hangs her own at home. That explains why visitors to The Bradley ($170/night) are first captivated by the designs festooning the boutique property, Fort Wayne’s first. In the lobby, pink and blue dots resemble an abstract braille. Around the corner, a paper with Indiana’s state flower and bird was designed exclusively for the hotel. The lobby restaurant, Arbor, contrasts an updated Victorian floral motif with sophisticated neutral seating. It’s pure Baekgaard—polish and panache.
Lauded by Architectural Digest and Veranda magazines, The Bradley is ideal for a pampering weekend getaway. You’ll stir from a plush bed for loaded overnight oats or a smoked-salmon charcuterie board at Arbor, then look forward to cocktails and a languid dinner at Birdie’s, a rooftop restaurant. The view of downtown’s majestic courthouse is lovely enough to consider taking your fried walleye tacos and pretty drinks to the heated outdoor patio, despite the season. Both restaurants are run by Ring on Hook, a pedigreed company that operates one of Baekgaard’s favorite dining rooms in New York City.
Baekgaard spends a lot of time in the Big Apple, but she is just as happy in Fort Wayne. She loves The Landing, a pedestrian-only shopping-and-dining street one block away. Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island sits across the intersection, too. Nearby, the Allen County Public Library just opened the Rolland Center for Lincoln Research with important papers and photos on display. Upstairs in the world-renowned genealogy center, it’s a Hoosier rite of passage to hunt for one’s surname on a spine in the Family History section—a tradition right up there with experiencing The Bradley, now one of Indiana’s best hotels.