LENOX — After a three-month shutdown for a major interior modernization, the landmark Gateways Inn has reopened under the ownership of Mill Town Capital.
The Pittsfield-based private investment firm purchased the downtown inn in July, in a $1 million real estate transaction that included the three-bedroom, three-bathroom residence tucked away behind the inn, built in 1997. It now is available as a contemporary guesthouse for families, couples and for longer stays.
The 1912 Gilded Age “cottage,” built for Harley Procter, of Procter & Gamble and Ivory Soap fame, remains an imposing mansion with 12 guest rooms, a locally popular lounge for nightlife featuring area performers, and a full-service, year-round restaurant, the Walker Street Grille, set to reopen in early May for indoor and seasonal outdoor dining.
The goal was to update the design with enhanced broadband and other technological improvements, Milltown Managing Director Carrie Holland said in a phone interview. She declined to specify how much was spent on the project.
“We won’t be in this pandemic forever,” she stressed, “and we saw an uptick over last summer of a different type of visitor. I think the Berkshires are primed to be back and healthy in the tourism and hospitality fields, hopefully sooner rather than later, and we will get back to normal at some point.”
The COVID-19 pandemic’s restrictions on travel and dining provided the opportunity to close and complete the upgrades all at once, she pointed out. “Best practice” cleaning protocols and upgraded air-quality ventilation were included as a permanent feature.
But, the inn’s authentic New England charm has been preserved, Holland acknowledged.
“We tried to blend the balance of old and new, so, a lot of the antique furniture pieces, light fixtures and all the beautiful architecture of the house will all be the same, anchoring the historic design with a modern refresh,” she said.
Carpeting and wallpaper were replaced, enabling the original features “to shine more brightly, revealing a beautiful wood floor in the foyer, highlighting the molding and all the ceiling detail,” Holland pointed out. “There’s more natural light, helping to key your eyes into some of the amazing craftsmanship put into the house. It will feel familiar, but freshened up.”
Emily Gabriel, the design director at Mill Town, stated that “every room needed light both literally and figuratively. Choosing subtle and brighter colors to fill the space immediately transformed the feel of each room. Keeping things simple means the spaces aren’t fussy. The result is a very airy but still-inviting vibe.”
Holland promised a full commitment to a revitalized indoor music entertainment program for locals and guests once restrictions on live performances and gatherings are eased and, eventually, lifted.
Outdoor dining under a tent, and music on the lawn, will resume in the spring.
“We’re very much looking forward to having live music again, and a bustling bar and restaurant scene,” Holland emphasized.
Initial venture into lodging
The purchase of the inn represented Mill Town’s first venture into the lodging field, although the firm has “dabbled in some restaurants and events,” Holland noted. Although she had chosen the Gateways for her wedding reception several years ago, that was not a factor.
“No,” she said, laughing. “The Gateways chose us.”
“We’re certainly expanding our focus and interested in all types of investment opportunities across the community, recognizing that tourism and hospitality is such a strong economic driver in the county,” Holland explained. “It made sense to take a hard look at the Gateways when it came up. My gosh, you don’t get this opportunity every day right in downtown Lenox.”
The former owners, Eiran and Michele Gazit, had been trying to sell the property for several years, but the full stop of tourism starting in March heightened the urgency to dispose of the inn through an online auction.
The timing of Mill Town’s highest-bid purchase “seemed a bit counterintuitive,” Holland agreed, “but we can all see that there will be life beyond the pandemic. A slower rollout gave us the opportunity to be thoughtful about the design and technology changes.”
“We want to balance a blend of historic character, functional luxury and modern convenience,” she noted. The result: Higher internet speed, streaming options for guest room TVs, expanded keyless entry and contactless ordering.
Rooms are being advertised for $180 to $340 per night, rising to $240 to $480 nightly for Memorial Day weekend. Two-night minimums begin June 1. Information: gatewaysinn.com.
Voicing cautious optimism about the upcoming summer, Holland commented that “we can be creative with how we present the inn to visitors to make them feel safe and secure. The Berkshires has so much outdoor space, there’s not the crowding that people experience in urban environments, and we have more flexibility to open more things because the outdoor space is where the comfort is for a lot of people.”
In May, Mill Town purchased the historic Bousquet Ski Area in Pittsfield for $1.07 million. In December, it added the adjacent Berkshire West Athletic Club, to be rebranded as Bousquet Sport, and the former Lakeside Christian Camp nearby on Richmond Pond, with plans to promote the three properties for year-round outdoor recreation, indoor athletics training, water sports, lodging and dining.
“We’re all in on the outdoors,” Holland said. “That trend will last well beyond COVID.”
The firm’s most recent venture is the $750,000 purchase of the former Skyline Country Club in Lanesborough, though not for recreational use, since its golf course has been closed. The property will host two solar fields, complying with agreements reached with developers by the former owner.
Mill Town’s wide-ranging investments include at least 22 residential and commercial properties along Tyler Street in Pittsfield, three buildings in the 400 block of North Street, including The Lantern restaurant reopened in 2019 by Bjorn Somlo, owner of the Nudel restaurant in Lenox.