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Historical Site Since 1908

The luxury cottages, built in 2001, were designed in keeping with the period architecture to help guests experience the nostalgia and romance of Africa. Swedo House at the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden and Cottages, Ltd. is the site of the original farm manager’s house of the Swedo African Coffee Company. Dr. Dunbar purchased the property from Frank Sutton and restored the old house in 1999. The Mbogani House (now the Karen Blixen Museum  where the movie, “Out of Africa” was filmed) was commissioned from this house.

Karen Blixen became famous for her novels (under the pen name Isak Dinesen), for her friendship with Dennis Finch Hatton, and for her love of the Kenyan people.  After the farm went bankrupt in 1931, she left Kenya never to return, and eventually died in 1962. Swedo-House is a typical example of the architecture that existed during the pioneering days of Kenya.  It was built raised on stilts (still in place today with reinforcement) which were to protect the building from water and termite damage.

Another historic feature, the  Grogan/MacMillan Manor House was built by E. Grogan in 1905 and later moved brick by brick from downtown Nairobi to the Coffee Garden in 2007 to save it from demolition, thanks to the efforts of Mr. John  Lee and Dr. Dunbar. Gorgan was known as “Kenya’s Churchill” and  nicknamed “Bwana Chui” (the leopard by the Kikuyu).  He distinguished himself in both world wars, fighting behind enemy lines in German East Africa. He established the country’s timber industry, constructed Mombasa’s first deep-water port (1925), built East Africa’s leading hotel (Torr’s, ‘the Carlton of East Africa’) and its first children’s hospital (now Gertrude’s Children Hospital, named after his wife.)   He and Gertrude were married after he impressed his father in law by his famous “Capetown to Cairo” trek.

The Grogan Lodge was sold to Sir Northrup McMillan in 1910, the same colonialist who helped found the Coffee Plantation.  He was an American (Canadian parents) and married to fellow American Lady McMillan, who founded the first national library in Nairobi. He was subsequently knighted in 1918 as a tribute to his services to the Empire and East Africa during WWI. Grogan was well known, and was said to be gentle, tolerant, with a wide sense of humanity. He was also associated with the progress of the mining industry and it is largely owing to his efforts and knowledge that a new mining law was framed”  (from “Muthaiga” by S. Mills ). When he died, his wife built the first National Library in his honor. The Karen Blixen Coffee Garden is now a place to visit and experience the romance of the early colonial era in Kenya, while dining in the restaurant, or while enjoying the ambience of your cottage verandah or by the fireplace in your luxury room.

Download a full history of the Karen Blixen Coffee Gardens here.