You don’t have to travel the world – the world comes to you.

Dave and Linda Bennett, owners of the Hillcrest Bed and Breakfast, have not forgotten that keen insight, shared by one of their many guests. It is a hidden gift, received in exchange for the “little piece of heaven” they offer to all who step through their door.

Discovering how the Bennetts’ journey led them from being teachers to proprietors begins by stepping back in time to the 1970s.

In 1971, Dave and his two college friends walked into a local restaurant, the Velvet Hammer. It was Valentine’s Day, and, as fate would have it, three women were sitting there. Linda was one of those women. Within a couple years, they were married. Linda and Dave have a son, Kevin, and a daughter, Kristina, who are now young adults.

To many in Barnstable, the Bennetts are household names—not as B&B owners, but rather as Barnstable schoolteachers. Each has spent over 30 years teaching. Dave taught Social Studies at Barnstable High School, and Linda taught sixth-grade English at the middle school. Combined, the two have touched the lives of thousands of children.

In 2002, Dave and Linda moved from their Centerville home to 70 Gosnold Street in Hyannis, just steps from the ocean. It was a neighborhood familiar to Linda, having summered there with relatives who lived across the street.

With the vision of a new path when they retired, in 2004 the Bennetts made a decision to remodel the home that had been built in 1899. Although it had other names over the years, they returned it to a former moniker: the Hillcrest Bed and Breakfast.

Leaving their teaching careers after so many years did not feel as overwhelming as the Bennetts had anticipated. “We knew we were coming here when we walked away,” Dave reflected. Their final day of teaching was on a Monday in 2005, and the first B&B guest arrived that Friday, the beginning of their next venture.

Comparing planning menus with creating lesson plans, Linda noted that her teaching skills have come in handy in her daily routine at the B&B. In addition, they juggle knowing when to converse with guests and when to pull back. Because many individuals who visit are unfamiliar with the area, Dave and Linda love to help them plan their agendas for the day.

The three-room B&B is bustling throughout the summer months, and fall weekends are popular as well. The biggest challenge is the physical demand of turnover and being ready for the next group. “We once went 27 days with out a break,” Dave added.

Pointing out the guitar sitting in the corner of the room, Dave commented that it is available to any guest who might want to strum a few notes. A visiting band comprised of two doctors and a real estate developer especially enjoyed the instrument. While admitting that he misses the camaraderie of teaching, Dave said  the B&B has given them an opportunity to fill their days with meeting people from all walks of life.

The list of guests is long and diverse, ranging from a Supreme Court justice visiting from Austria to a member of the Swiss symphony, who sat in the living room composing music. A painting of the B&B hangs on the wall, done by an artist who had stayed there.

The Hillcrest has even been the setting for many international discussions. At one morning breakfast chat, four nations were represented among the guests. Dave and Linda made sure to fly a flag for each.

For Dave, a particularly poignant discussion stands out. Two visitors sat chatting on the porch, one a Jewish guest, the other of Palestinian heritage. While serving them breakfast, Dave overheard the question: “So what do you think of the situation in the Middle East?” Dave nervously anticipated where the conversation might lead. In step with the welcoming tone set by the Bennetts and the peaceful atmosphere of the Hillcrest, the two guests went on to exchange perspectives without discord, with only thoughtfulness and respect.

Returning guest and now friend Brian Hart best defined why Dave and Linda are special.

“From the moment we walked in, we knew we were not just guests,” Brian said. After raving about the incredible breakfasts, he emphasized that the Bennetts are far beyond hosts. “Over the 11 years, they have always treated us like family. We can’t imagine staying anywhere else,” he remarked.

The Bennetts are dedicated to the friendships from the past that continue today. Longtime friend Phil Cwynar, a college friend of Dave’s, was at the Velvet Hammer that day in 1971 when Linda and Dave met. He highlights the significance the friendship has had in his life, recounting that it was Linda’s invitation to come in and teach a mini chess course at BWB that propelled him into a 35-year teaching career. “It’s rare that people change your trajectory in life, but both Dave and Linda have done that for me,” Phil said.

This year, the Bennetts celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary. Their hope is to some day travel to Europe and visit the guests they have had the honor of hosting. But for now, they have found their niche. They will postpone traveling the world and continue to let the world come to them.


Columnist Barbara Dunn is a retired teacher who lives in Barnstable.