Restoration amidst the renovated
Recently upgraded New England retreats offer relaxation close to home

Issue April 2003 By Jeffrey Klineman

Your summer vacation should be restorative. There are so many forces taking energy out of you when you're on the job, threading your way through interminable motions and appeals, that you need a time to relax, pull yourself together, spend some time with your family.

Of course, finding a place to do that can be just as difficult as picking a jury - too many choices, too much that could go wrong.

But in the spirit of restoration, Lawyers Journal has spent the winter coming up with vacation spots that have recently invested in reclamation projects of their own, renovating themselves into better, more elegant, more enticing and just plain more fun places than they were before.

We think that a stay at these places will help you manage to do something similar: return to work feeling like a better version of the person you were before. And in order for you to be able to deal with any emergencies, we've made sure the places we have chosen are close enough to get back to Boston in just a few hours.

Let the rejuvenation begin!

Mountain highpoint

A pair of New Hampshire hotels have recently finished major renovations, reopening after collecting dust for several years, and provide an opportunity for elegant, family-oriented resort opportunities in either the mountains or on the state's tiny seacoast.

When Duxbury developer Kevin Craffey happened upon the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield, N.H., in 1998, he was looking for a second home in the White Mountains. Instead, he found a major renovation project, one that would take the old example of the area's traditional Grand Hotels, shuttered since 1990, into a new era.

Starting with the Ralph Barton-designed nine-hole golf course, Craffey employed a slate of historic preservation tax credits to quickly rebuild what had been a 200-room hotel into 147 architecturally unique rooms, adding a spa, massive swimming pool and full business center with fax and DSL Internet lines to create an updated resort.

Families can take advantage of a children's program - which includes theme days in touch with the area's natural surroundings - or simply watch the young ones toddle around the pool. Families - or parents fleeing their children - can hike, ride horses from the hotel's stables, or go explore two nearby lakes.

"This place is like Appalachian Trail central," says marketing director Lucinda Heuschkel.

The resort is open year-round - the first time since it first opened, in 1865 - but should come to life in the summer, when the yellow clapboard of the hotel is bathed in sunshine. And there's an added, no-aggravation bonus that anyone who has summered in New Hampshire should recognize, according to Heuschkel.

"We refuse to have any 'no-see-ums' on our resort property!" she says.

 Sea worthy

If the ocean and a nearby city is more to your taste than the solitude of the White Mountains, then you might want to book a room at Wentworth By The Sea, another just-renovated - in this case, almost fully rebuilt - historic hotel, this one just outside of Portsmouth Harbor.

Opened in 1874, Wentworth By The Sea sat abandoned for 20 years on New Castle Island, the site of the first Englishman to touch New Hampshire soil, in 1623. The hotel grew throughout the 1880s and 1890s, part of a coastal tourism boom that became even stronger with the advent of the "motor coach," according to seacoast historian J. Dennis Robinson.

Eventually, the hotel came to host such luminaries as President Theodore Roosevelt, who was able to force Russian and Japanese ministers to reach a peace treaty there in 1905, and 60-year-old Annie Oakley, who became the resort's shooting and horseback riding instructor in the 1920s.

The hotel's popularity went into steep decline after World War II and it closed in 1982; a series of owners gradually sliced off bits and pieces for condominiums, as the island, connected to Portsmouth by bridges, became a quiet suburb of the city, and has been incorporated in a popular jogging and biking loop that shows off the area's historic character.

Guests at Wentworth By The Sea will stay in one of 164 rooms and eat in either a formal restaurant - with a carefully restored, hand-painted ceiling - or waterfront cafÈ, if they decide not to enjoy dinner in Portsmouth. Most of the rooms have views of the Atlantic Ocean or Portsmouth Harbor, and the hotel's Victorian turret towers house several three-level suites. All of the rooms feature high-speed Internet access.

Families have the opportunity to swim or sun at Hampton Beach or Rye, as well as New Castle Island's own small beach. Portsmouth itself is a major historical draw, and the town bustles with old mansions, forts, parks and shopping. Parents can unwind at the end of the day with a full-service spa that includes treatment rooms, saunas, whirlpools and indoor and outdoor pools.

Golf is available at an adjacent private country club, and an independently operated marina on the hotel grounds offers sailing and other amenities.


Hit the links during a getaway to the Cranwell Resort, Spa & Golf Club in Lenox.
Photo by Nicholas Whitman
Relax by the pool and hot tub surrounded by mountains at The Porches Inn in North Adams.
Porches swings

If you want to stay in-state, the Berkshires is a prime vacation spot - particularly if you have no interest in fighting for inches on the Bourne Bridge or on Cape Cod beaches.

From Tanglewood to the MassMOCA museum, the Berkshires offers a mix of elegant classical music and bold new art as well as exciting theater and dance, and both traditional and nouveau hotel concepts to stay at for each experience.

The Web site for the brand-new The Porches Inn says it all, as its graphics gaily shuffle through such catchwords as "Work," "Play," "Savvy," "Dreams," "Style" and "Art" as it shows photographs documenting the reconstruction that took place at the hotel site. Built in seven Victorian, middle-class homes in what had degraded into a run-down area of North Adams, Porches is situated right across the street from the prime mover in the area's redevelopment, MassMOCA, the contemporary art museum that opened in 1999.

Porches' 52 rooms have idiosyncratic layouts that include loft beds, catwalks and skylights, plus a heated lap pool, Jacuzzi and sauna help return you to your senses after a day of viewing mind-blowing art.

Porches' $5 million renovation was overseen by the staff of the venerable Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, although "there's nothing inside that's Victorian or Laura Ashley-ish at all," according to marketing director David Durfee, who adds, "the first reaction when people hear about a 100-year-old property that's been renovated by the Red Lion, you think of a mini-Red Lion - actually it's not anything like that. A lot of people find it a refreshing change from the typical New England B& B."

The change, which includes DVD players in-room and high-speed Internet access, also extends to the second "B," which will be delivered to your room in a tin lunchbox, if you don't want to go to the downstairs buffet.

While Porches is too small for a children's program, MassMOCA itself specializes in keeping children occupied with its "Kidspace," designed to educate and engage children through contemporary art. Families can also go hiking on nearby Mt. Greylock and raft the Deerfield River during the summer.

Enjoy the dÈcor and ambience of the mansion at the Cranwell Resort, Spa & Golf Club in Lenox.
Full treatment

A more traditional Berkshires resort that recently underwent some restyling is Cranwell Resort, Spa & Golf Club, a rambling former summer estate-cum-full service vacation spot that last year added a 35,000 square-foot spa to its already-considerable offerings.

For the past decade, the Lenox-based Cranwell had played second-fiddle to its super-luxe neighbor, Canyon Ranch, but the new spa should satisfy upscale customer demand, according to marketing manager Norma Probst.

"We had a pretty well-rounded resort with the destination of the Berkshires - with the restaurants, art, skiing, hiking - and we thought a spa would really round out our offerings," Probst said. "We've known for years that the spa business has been a very attractive one, it was originally part of our ownership's master plan. Since they bought it 10 years ago, they've renovated and refurbished everything, from the rooms to the golf course to the tennis courts and lobby. This is the culmination."

Additionally, "in the summertime, the swimming and hiking are great for all levels," Probst said. "It's not particularly strenuous for families. There are wonderful boating and kayaking opportunities, and tennis lessons for children."

The Lenox area in the summer is also synonymous with outdoor concerts at Tanglewood, great restaurants and crafts shopping. Cranwell offers both an all-inclusive plan and an American plan, and while it does not have a children's program, it will help parents find babysitters from the area. There is a business center at Cranwell featuring fax machines, computers and in-room dataports, but high-speed Internet access is only available in the resort's conference rooms.

Castle to coastal

Renovated properties in other states include the following:

•  In Rhode Island, the Castle Hill Inn & Resort in Newport, long considered one of the area's most romantic, has undergone major renovations to restore the exterior to a state similar to its appearance upon opening in 1874.

The Inn's main building, the Agassiz Mansion, has been closed all winter to be re-sided; when it opens, it will feature windows that have been replaced to match historic pane patterns and louvered cedar shutters.

The mansion's kitchen will also be updated, and will re-open for meals in April. In addition to the main house, the Inn's 25 rooms are scattered through a 19th-century chalet and a pair of houses on the beach and a cliff.

•  In Maine, the soon-to-open Inn on Peaks Island builds in a new hotel that matches the old style of the island, a Casco Bay community that swells from 1,500 to 6,000 in the summer. Peaks Island is a short ferry ride from the restaurants and art of downtown Portland, but as a seven-room resort, it will offer a quiet getaway for your family at night.

Peaks Island is a community of about one square mile, with a rocky coastline facing Portland and a sandy beach facing away from the town. As befits an area that is being compared to Martha's Vineyard, it is built on had once been an amusement park.

Photo by Nicholas Whitman
Enjoy a relaxing weekend in one of several unique guest rooms at The Porches Inn in North Adams.
The Inn features nicely outfitted rooms, all of which have whirlpool baths and fireplaces and Roadrunner Internet access. On the island, commerce is basically an ice cream shop, post office, grocery store and a couple of bar-and-grill-type places.

"It's very much a Norman Rockwell scene here," says owner Rick Weinschenk. "It's a great area for taking a walk or a bicycle ride - that's about the most popular event here - walking. There are lots of wild roses and deer."

•  In Vermont, the 22-room West Mountain Inn has been hosting families since its owners turned the 150-year-old home into an inn in 1978. Children can eat at an earlier dining hour or with their families; cribs and highchairs are always available and there are llamas for feeding and streams for fishing, according to marketing director Paula Maynard.

The Inn sits on a 180-acre mountainside property in Arlington, Vt., between the Green Mountains and the Taconic range. In the past two years, it has undergone a soft renovation at the hands of second-generation owner Amie Carlson, who has updated sheets, beds, reading chairs and a small bar. Carlson also has added a large conference suite that is suitable for families, who can open it to several bedrooms.

The Inn encourages families to bring their children and can arrange for babysitting in a children's room with a VCR, games and toys, and staff are very familiar with family-friendly activities in the area.

•  In Connecticut, the Lighthouse Inn in New London just went through a $1 million facelift, restoring and updating the hotel, which is registered with Historic Hotels of America, a program with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The 52-room resort's original design features a bevy of the big names: landscaping by Frederic Law Olmstead, mansion design by William Emerson. Once the summer home for steel magnate Charles Guthrie, after its conversion to an inn it became a summer retreat for starlets like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.

As a family retreat, the Lighthouse is just a block away from a private beach on Long Island Sound. It features two restaurants and the surprisingly complete list of art and shopping attractions available in New London.

A pair of public golf courses lie 20 minutes away in Groton.