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Hotel on North

by Kathryn Boughton

When General Electric took most of its operations elsewhere in the 1980s, Pittsfield MA fell on hard times. Over three decades it lost a third of its population, ranked below state averages in areas such as home ownership and above average for joblessness.

But Pittsfield would not stay down. It has energetically attacked its problems by rebranding itself as a place where the arts and a creative economy can thrive. Increasingly, empty storefronts are filled with galleries and studios and the municipal government invested $1 million to help refurnish the Colonial Theatre, attracting the vibrant Barrington Stage Company to the city.

Today that sense of sophistication is enhanced by the town’s first boutique hotel, a handsome variation on other local hostelries, which tend to evoke country charm. Hotel on North is anything but country—it is sleek and modern, with just a little nod to the past.

The concept for the hotel has been growing for years, according to Sarah Eustis of the Main Street Hospitality Group, which includes the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge and Porches Inn at MASS MoCA in North Adams. David and Laurie Tierney- she is manager of the real estate firm MM&D - purchased the historic property and invited Main Street Hospitality to join in the project.

“The building dates from the 1880s and holds a lot of sentimental feeling for a lot of people,” Eustis said. “Within the hotel, there are subtle references to what it was before, the site of the Besse Clarke menswear and sporting goods store, so people feel in place. People are pleasantly surprised to find themselves in a place that has a sophisticated vibe that is not out of place.”

The architectural bones of the building form the foundation of Hotel on North’s distinctive design. Guestrooms have tin ceilings, exposed brick walls, and wood columns. A historic palette of colors in soft, yellow, blue and gray was adopted. Custom furniture was sourced from local craftspeople and original art and richly patterned area rugs adorn the rooms. Some rooms have working gas fireplaces and kitchenettes with washer/dryers for extended stays. Work spaces accommodate the business traveler with fiber optic high-speed Wi-Fi.

The 650-square foot Library Suite is lined with floor-to-ceiling bookcases along two walls and features a sitting room with a wet bar, dressing alcove and oversized bathroom.
Bathrooms are spacious and spa-like, featuring walk-in showers, Carrara marble vanities, claw-foot tubs for soaking, lush amenities and spa robes.

The hotel lobby has an art gallery and adjoining lounge, bar and restaurant and within walking distance are dozens of restaurants, shops, galleries and the Berkshire Museum. Next door is the Barrington Stage Company and the hotel is centrally located for Tanglewood, Jacob’s Pillow, Berkshire Theatre Group, MASS MoCA and the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

“We wanted to create a heartbeat for downtown,” said Eustis. “Even with all the great places to stay in the area, there was a need for a boutique hotel. Our demographics are tourists, people coming to the Berkshires and some of them are looking for something a little more urban, a design experience.”

Nancy Fitzpatrick, owner of the Red Lion and vice chairman of the Fitzpatrick Companies, led the design process. “She has an intuitive sense of how to mix old and new, to infuse humor and irreverence in the design,” said Eustis. “Hotel on North is not meant to be nostalgic, but our intention was to keep it as local as possible. Each room is very different in shape, ceiling type or color story.”

“We wanted the feel to be unpretentious but with high-quality design,” she continued. “It’s a fine line to walk and we are still tweaking it, but we’ve gotten a great response from the business community. And we’re really happy when we see locals at bar. We bring a global design sense, but it wasn’t our purpose to plop down a New York City hotel in Pittsfield.”