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Red Lion Inn

Red Lion Inn

by KATHRYN BOUGHTON

A Colonial-era traveler who had bumped and jostled all day over the notoriously ill-kept roads of early America, enveloped in clouds of summer dust or in danger of sinking deep into spring mud, was surely relieved to pull up in front of the little hostelry kept by Silas Pepoon at the junction of what are now routes 7 and 102.

Pepoon, who operated his inn under the sign of a red lion, established his small tavern in 1773 at the height of Revolutionary fervor in Western Massachusetts. It was here that angry citizens gathered in 1774 to pass resolutions protesting England’s repressive Acts of Intolerance.

Today, some 246 years later, travelers are still welcome to alight from their vehicles and enjoy hospitality under the sign of the Red Lion but that experience will be much different from those who arrived at the wilderness outpost of 1773. Today the inn provides luxury and relaxation, a chance to rejuvenate the soul while pampering the body.

The inn has passed through many owners in the past two-and-one-half centuries and this year it will celebrate 50 years of ownership by the Fitzpatrick family. Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick purchased the property in 1969—a seminal year in Stockbridge history—at a time when the inn was in danger of being purchased and razed by developers. Demolition of the inn would have wiped out an illustrious history in which it had welcomed five presidents—Franklin D. Roosevelt, with his usual flamboyance, commandeered a full page in the visitors’ book to inscribe his name—renowned authors and poets such as Hawthorne and Longfellow and entertainment giants such as John Wayne and Bob Dylan.

Instead, the Fitzpatricks revitalized the historic building and set it as a standard for the culturally enriched lifestyle found in the Berkshires today. The same year that the Fitzpatricks purchased and renovated the old inn, two other Berkshire icons had their origin: The Norman Rockwell Museum and Chesterwood, a museum dedicated to the home and studio of renowned sculptor Daniel Chester French both opened their doors in 1969 creating a triumvirate of Stockbridge attractions.

The Fitzpatrick’s daughter, Nancy Fitzpatrick, took the helm in 1993, shepherding its preservation and the establishment of the Main Street Hospitality Group in 2013. Today, her step-daughter, Sarah Eustis, carries on the tradition of hospitality excellence in the Berkshires, with five properties in the region, and into the farther reaches of New England with the recent addition of the Hammetts Wharf hotel in Newport RI opening in 2020.

With the Fitzpatrick empire ever expanding, attention is still focused on its flagship enterprise. In honor of the 50th year, a major restoration of the first-floor space will extend the lobby into the front dining to create a living room that will serve as the hotel’s social center. Located adjacent to the lobby, the dining room will be renovated and an extension added that will be transformed into the Fitzpatrick Room for additional dining and events. The restoration returns the first-floor spaces to the way they were when the family purchased the inn in 1968.

“The restoration of the lobby and dining spaces of the Red Lion Inn will honor the past while welcoming and meeting the needs of our current and future guests,” said Eustis. “We take our stewardship of this historic building and the art, antiques and artifacts within it to heart. This thoughtful restoration will preserve the legacy of the Fitzpatrick family and offer enhanced experiences for our guests.”

The restoration is planned to be completed by the end of the year.

“We are grateful to Jane and Jack, who started something remarkable in Stockbridge 50 years ago, and to Nancy for shepherding the vision and deepening our commitment to the Berkshires. Our generation was given some great material to work with and it is our job to care for and sustain it,” continued Eustis, CEO of Main Street Hospitality. “The Red Lion Inn has been operating for more than 240 years, but this last chapter has been our family’s contribution to its ongoing stewardship. This is a celebration of the vision of Stockbridge as a vibrant, vital and creative community for residents and visitors that Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick had when they bought the hotel and reopened it 50 years ago this May.”

The spring and early summer will be dedicated to commemorating this important phase in the life of the inn and the town. From May 4 through June 23, the Red Lion Inn will host celebrations and a series of special events for guests and the community.

Festivities begin Saturday with a 50-Day Kick-off, culminating in a Porch Pop-Up for the Kentucky Derby featuring special Lucky Jack’s Mint Juleps in honor of Jack Fitzpatrick.

On Friday, May 17, the inn will host the first of a series of Cultural Pop-Ups with the Norman Rockwell Museum. That Saturday, May 18, Berkshire Drinks will be featured during an afternoon Porch Pop-U, including a Rockwell Rum Punch.

The hotel will host a “Fifty Years of Fitz” gala dinner on May 29, featuring a contemporary interpretation of the menu from the day the hotel reopened after the Fitzgerald’s extensive renovation in 1969. For ticket information and reservations, call 413-298-5545.

Visitors and guests are invited to share in the celebrations with a special 50th anniversary package “Fitz’s Nifty Fifty.” The package includes a $50 food and beverage credit and bottle of Red Lion Inn wine on the best available rate on the website (linked below). The package can be booked for stays through June 27 based on availability.

The Red Lion Inn’s “Pop-Ups on the Porch” events will continue throughout the summer and into early fall with a roster of performers and artists from Tanglewood, the Berkshire Theater Group and other cultural institutions as well as drink specials perfectly paired for the occasion.

The hotel recently began hosting tours for guests of the hotel curated by Jayne Church who returns to lead the tours after her 2013 retirement from nearly two decades at the Red Lion Inn. The complimentary hour-long tours, called the Red Lion Inn 50th Anniversary Tours, are held on Saturdays at 11AM. Also Saturdays at 9AM, the hotel’s front porch is the meeting place to begin and end an hour-long walking tour of Stockbridge. The cost is $10 per person.

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