A biweekly staff review of East Coast and regional lodgings.
Well, aren’t we special. Our room is an only. Twice over.
“You have the only room with a fireplace,” says the desk clerk checking us in at the Lord Jeffery Inn in Amherst, Mass.
That’s fabulous! Except that it’s July.
“Of course, you may not need it,” he concedes, “but if you want to be like Nixon and crank up the air conditioning . . . .” We all laugh knowingly.
“And you have the only room with steps,” he adds. “So just be aware in the evening as you move around.”
Now that makes me curious. Steps in a hotel room? Where could they lead?
Why, to the bathroom, it turns out, as my husband and I explore our top-floor room. It has a dormered ceiling with windows tucked on either side; the promised fireplace (with flat-screen TV above); and a state-of-the-art, key-card-controlled energy system (the lights are powered to come on only after you insert your key card into a slot in the wall). And those four steps, which lead down to a narrow hall, at the end of which is the closet and, to the left, the bathroom.
Nice. I like it. It makes me feel as if I’m in a room in someone’s house, not a hotel.
But then the Lord Jeffery — or “the Jeff,” as locals call it — is a most homey kind of hostelry. The 1926 inn even looks like a house — okay, a big one; there are 49 guest rooms — with its whitewashed brick facade and the porches at the entrance and along the side, just off the restaurant, 30Boltwood (the hotel’s street address, in case you were wondering).
That restaurant, by the way, is the inn’s new pièce de résistance, the result, the young bartender tells us as we enjoy some wine at the sparkling new copper-topped bar, of a major renovation that closed the hotel for three years until its 2012 reopening as a proudly “green” lodging. (Wow. What did Amherstians do for all that time without the Jeff, I wonder? My brother, who attended the University of Massachusetts here, says it was the place for events of every kind.)
The restaurant replaced an old-fashioned tavern, and it’s a lovely space, to be sure, painted in a warm light-chocolate brown, with arching doorways and elegant leather banquettes and copper tabletops. Very chichi, in a good way. The food’s quite good, too — farm-to-table, naturally, and a far cry from tavern fare — as we discover at dinner after a leisurely stroll through the charming downtown that’s right outside the front door. There’s nothing like a small New England town on a balmy summer evening, I’m reminded, being a New England-bred gal myself.
By the time we’ve finished eating, though, balmy has turned to breezy, and even a little cool. Which draws us irresistibly toward the lighted outdoor fire pit (gas, sigh, but pretty anyway) on the flower-lined brick patio. The cushioned benches on either side of it were full when we went in to dine, but now we spy an empty space and grab it, quick. We order drinks and settle back and soon strike up a nice conversation with the couple across the pit, who are transplants from the Boston area and fill us in on the pleasures of life in less stressful environs.
I’m listening rapturously when my husband suddenly pulls his feet away from the fire, which has grown quite hot, it seems. Whew, time to move on! We say our good-nights and head to our room, where we can’t help ourselves: We switch on the (yes, gas) fireplace for some atmosphere and sit there for a while, dreaming of a quiet life in the country (well, that’s what I dream about, anyway), before retiring to bed.
The next morning, after a lovely breakfast on the covered porch behind the restaurant, we undertake an exploration of the inn. We check out the brand-new ballroom on the lower level (big!) and the outdoor pavilion area where a white tent is set up (so that’s where all those sounds of wedding revelry were coming from the night before). On the second level, we come upon a spacious outdoor deck with a huge brick fireplace chimney rising into the air — wow! Gotta come and enjoy this fire someday.
And speaking of fireplaces (okay, I admit, I’m a little obsessed with fireplaces, which makes this place perfect), take a gander at this one, I say to my husband while we’re looking around the pleasant, sofa-filled country-style library at the front of the inn. It’s huge, just the kind he likes, almost big enough for a person to stand up in. And why, would you look at that: There’s a little window in one corner! Yes, in a corner of the firebox itself — you know, the place where you pile the wood. Now, what on earth would there be a window there for?
We ask a desk clerk about that later, and she offers various theories — an escape hatch, a vent, etc. “But what I really think is that it was where they used to load the wood in from the street,” she says (in the days when it was a wood-burning fireplace, ’cause now it’s, you guessed it, gas).
That makes a lot of sense, I think. But whatever the explanation, that’s just a great little window. Another delightful detail in an inn that’s full of them. I don’t know what Amherstians — and drop-ins like me — did while the Jeff was closed all that time, but I’m quite sure that we’re all glad it’s back once again.
Lord Jeffery Inn
30 Boltwood Ave.
Rooms from $205.