What’s Up at The Inn?

By Katy Flato P’10,’12; San Antonio, TX

Early this year, many parents received an email from the Deerfield Inn, not, as they hoped, confirming their room reservations for Parents or Commencement Weekends (which, by the way, they had persevered in obtaining years ago) but, sadly, cancelling them. “Now that the renovations have begun in earnest, it is clear that we will not be operational in May and are therefore releasing all May reservations,” wrote Marci White. Hearts sank, not only because of the missed opportunity to stay in the comfy, floral rooms and to congregate with other Deerfield parents in the Tavern, but also out of concern for the daunting task still ahead for the Inn. It has been closed since late last August, when severe rains from Hurricane Irene caused the Deerfield River to burst its banks, flooding campus and Historic Deerfield. The muddy, debris-filled water was six feet deep in the Inn’s basement and over the beds in the first floor rooms of the Carriage House annex. Everything in those rooms, including some valuable pieces of furniture, had to be thrown out. “We are starting from scratch,” explains Jane Howard, who with her husband, Karl Sabo, manages the Inn.  While other places in Historic Deerfield, including the museum and three other buildings, recovered from the awful mess, the Inn’s progress has been hampered by “surprises and discoveries,” according to Howard. “The ruined sheetrock comes down and all that is there is the original foundation.”

For those new parents who haven’t had the chance to enjoy the Deerfield Inn, it is located less than a block north of the Main School Building, just on the other side of the Brick Church, and feels like an extension of campus.  Built in 1884, the Deerfield Inn has a charming front porch, 24 guest rooms, a large dining room, tavern, and living room, all individually decorated with traditional antiques, bright wallpaper, and floral curtains. It is in many ways a home away from home: a quiet retreat to meet with your student for a family meal, a special celebration, or a genial gathering spot after Academy events.  Its absence this year as a destination has been palpable. “Parents Weekend just wasn’t the same without being able to get together at the Inn,” notes Sidney “Skip” Evans ’73 P’10,’12. “It’s just a nice place to get to visit with your child’s friends and their parents.” Jenny Anderson P’10,’12,’14, adds that she and her husband Rick ’72, “never realized how much the Inn meant to us in terms of the convenience it provided for a ‘home style’ meal with our children after a Wednesday game. We also miss it for its ‘classic New England ambiance’ and for impromptu gatherings with other parents.” For Philip Zea, President of Historic Deerfield, which owns and operates the Deerfield Inn, the lack of revenue is “not good.”  With the Inn shuttered, the whole community is impacted. “We are realizing just how much the Inn animates the street. Without it, it is harder for people to fall in love with Historic Deerfield.”

With work now well underway at the Inn, the news is exciting. “We were already planning to do a major renovation,” explains Zea. “So, in a way, this is a good thing.” Howard says she and Sabo also “keep thinking of all the positives. It is better to be code compliant, we have planned an accessible guest room for the Carriage House, and when else would we have made the time to repaint all the corridors?” They have also taken this opportunity to rethink the Inn’s dining experience−from ambiance to local ingredients−with an upgraded kitchen. “We plan to have a smaller fine-dining area and a larger tavern, with a bigger bar and fireplaces, a pizza oven, local beers, and new wine program.” This is all very good news for Deerfield parents: “The Tavern has always been a gathering space, now it just won’t be as crowded,” she says. And, there’s good news for our kids as well: “We are expanding the take-out service, such as burgers and the many other menu items the students love.”

“When it opens, it’s going to be fabulous,” says Zea, who estimates that “the Carriage House should be ready in May but the main building probably won’t be full-throttle until October.” So, soon enough visitors will once again step inside the historic Deerfield Inn and experience what Howard describes as “more of what was a success and what people really loved about the Inn.”

To book a reservation, call 413-774-5587 or email frontdesk@deerfieldinn.com.

For updates on the renovation, “friend” the Deerfield Inn on Facebook.


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