We started a spotlight series on the Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE) a few weeks ago. To date, we’ve created profiles or spotlights on Manor On Golden Pond, Rabbit Hill Inn, Chesterfield Inn and last week’s Grafton Inn. The spotlights allow armchair travelers that might love to be enjoying a winter getaway to start planning for their next romantic escape to DINE country, when it feels safe once again. Use these spotlights to learn all about the 10 DINE members and their histories, innkeepers and special INNsider tips.
Today, we’ll focus on the Harbor Light Inn in Marblehead, MA.
Picture the Harbor Light Inn
Located just 17 miles north of Boston and 15 miles from Logan Airport, the Harbor Light Inn might be described as part boutique Boston hotel and part beautifully historic inn. Found nestled within the pre-revolutionary Old Town district and surrounded by streets and homes where Washington and Lafayette roamed, both the inn and the surroundings are steeped in history and maritime lore. This boutique-style hotel/inn offers an important nod to it’s legacy in the architecture of the buildings making up the Harbor Light Inn, along with the period furnishings. At the same time contemporary amenities that travelers can’t live without today – like in-room wi-fi, HD TVs plus breakfast and refreshments – are all also included in the stay. And vestiges to the town’s maritime history (it is after all dubbed the Yachting Capitol of the World) are found in the chandeliers, brasswork, hand carvings, paintings, etchings and prints that are reflections of the fortunes and treasures brought home from a thousand different ports and lifetimes as sea. That maritime heritage continues today with owners, Peter and Suzanne Conway, who are avid yachtsmen.
Yet, it’s not the 18th century architecture nor the character furnishings of each unique guest room that makes the Harbor Light Inn distinctive. It’s the warm welcome, the added amenities and the care with which hospitality is delivered at the Harbor Light Inn that makes it one of the finest boutique hotels/inns north of Boston.
You’ll find twenty guest rooms and five private apartments at the Harbor Light Inn; each inimitable in its furnishings and amenities. Rooms vary distinctly from deluxe king and queen rooms with tubs or walk-in showers to King and Queen fireplace rooms, King and Queen jetted spa tub rooms with sundecks or seating areas plus fireplaces in some, and then one and two bedroom extended stay apartments with kitchens and daily housekeeping (presently by request only; limited by Covid restrictions). Whether one is traveling on business, exploring Salem’s witch history and Halloween events, attending a wedding or planning a Boston-based elopement or small wedding, the Harbor Light Inn’s extensive room choices mean that your traveling group will be well accommodated here. The Harbor Light Inn is also the ideal jumping off place for a romantic honeymoon, ideally situated to explore Boston’s North Shore or Boston day trips.
You won’t go hungry at the Harbor Light Inn. The day starts with a robust buffet breakfast included with the stay. While Covid precautions are in place, contactless dining will be in place with personalized trays delivered to your room. However, once restrictions are lifted the buffet breakfast will be once again available in the inn’s dining room or in the garden/pool area in warmer months at individual private tables. Breakfast generally includes fresh coffee, teas, juice, seasonal fruits, yogurts, homemade granola, bagels & toast. Sweet breads and hot dishes are baked daily and might include such selections as brown butter glazed pumpkin bread, Belgian waffles, assorted quiches or hot breakfast casseroles. The inn’s signature fresh smoked salmon platter and crème brûlée French Toast are weekend favorites. A gluten-free menu is available upon request with advance notice.
Afternoon refreshments are a reason to return to the inn after a day of exploring Marblehead or Boston. During the winter months, homemade treats such as cookies, brownies or cakes, are available each afternoon in the dining room. In the Summer, the same afternoon treats are served with iced tea, lemonade or fruit-infused water. Right now, these treat buffets are on hold due to Covid limitations, yet snacks, sodas and bottled water are available 8 am to 10 pm each day at the front desk upon request. Ice is available 24 hours in the guest pantry near the dining room too.
Guests love to gather in the snug tavern found right off the parlor of this beautiful Marblehead inn if they’d rather dine at the inn one night rather than trying some of Marblehead’s fine restaurants. With a decidedly nautical feel from rich woods, brass and artwork, guests can enjoy a selection of wines by the bottle or glass, beers, signature cocktails and cordials. A limited casual menu offers such New England favorites as New England Clam Chowder, shrimp cocktail, grilled cheese and tomato bisque and burgers. While Covid protocols are in place, the menu is a bit more limited and seating is spaced. To accommodate the move toward take-out from local restaurants, the Harbor Light Inn has initiated private and romantic dining spaces this winter so you can relax and enjoy dinner from your favorite restaurant in a more intimate fireside setting. Simply reserve your time and location in one of the inn’s parlors or tavern at the front desk.
During the warmer months, the Harbor Light Inn offers something that most other North of Boston inns don’t have – an inground swimming pool! On warmer days, if you’re not harborside exploring the boating options or exploring Marblehead’s unique shops, you have the option of enjoying a relaxing afternoon sunning next to the pool. At cocktail time, bring a glass of wine or your favorite cocktail from the bar and enjoy it around the gaslight table poolside.
The inn’s common rooms and parlors are spacious and offer a quiet place to gather next to the fire in the winter months or for a game of checkers or a good reading nook year-round. Offering comfortable couches and wing backed chairs, the parlors are designed for socially distanced guest gatherings.
No matter whether it’s a celebration vacation, family get together, business meeting or the need to get away for change of setting, the Harbor Light Inn offers a number of special offers, packages and enhancements to highlight your stay. Perhaps a bag of Harbor Sweets signature sailboat shaped Sweet Sloops will make the trip memorable for your sailor-mate, or flowers and a chilled bottle of bubbly will impress her or him. The inn’s romance packages include many of these offerings. Let the staff do the wrapping and placing in your room for the perfect surprise.
In addition, the Harbor Light Inn has added a fully-equipped meeting room; the ideal alternative to a higher priced Boston hotel. Perfect for socially distanced remote meetings, off-site retreats or even small weddings, this facility features high speed wireless internet connections and a 50″ Plasma screen monitor/TV with the ability to connect to your laptop. Luncheons, receptions or break out snacks can be catered here too.
The Harbor Light Inn has gone above and beyond the state and federal guidelines to ensure that guests who stay at the inn feel safe. Visit their Stay Small. Stay Safe page to read about the changes that will help ensure guest safety here while the pandemic is still a concern.
Meet the Innkeepers: Peter & Suzanne Conway and Carolyn Conway-Pyburn
It’s fair to say that the Harbor Light Inn is truly a family affair; and a growing one at that. Peter Conway had a background in real estate management, commercial sales and appraisals. Suzanne Bodwell was a Registered Nurse in labor and delivery when she met Peter, but soon became enthralled with the hospitality business. After marrying, their decades-long careers in innkeeping started in 1982 when Peter and Suzanne became innkeepers after buying their first inn on Nantucket Island, the Carlisle House Inn). Hooked on innkeeping, but hoping to eventually enjoy a year-round property, they purchased the building at 58 Washington Street in Marblehead in 1985. It took a year to renovate and repurpose the building, but in 1986, they opened the inn . Six years later the building next door was able to be purchased by Peter and Suzanne, which completed their vision for the Harbor Light Inn. They connected the two houses and transformed them into the Marblehead inn it is today. Peter’s stories about what they found when renovating these century old homes are fascinating.
By 2014, they started thinking seriously about the future of the inn. Their daughter, Carolyn, was the logical choice after following her parents lead into the world of hotel management. At the time, Carolyn was living (with her now husband Ben) in Maui, HI and working at the Four Seasons Resort as a Wedding Manager. Carolyn’s career at the Four Seasons started in Boston from 2009 to 2012 where she began as an overnight front desk agent and eventually worked her way up to Hotel Assistant Manager. In 2012 she was transferred to the Four Seasons Resort Maui where she became the Resort Assistant Manager and then was promoted to Weddings Manager.
Carolyn described the job, which she loved. “There were two wedding managers and we usually had an average of 135 weddings per year, so we were each tackling around 60 weddings each. Since these were mostly destination and all-inclusive weddings, I planned every detail from the linens, to the officiant, to the music, to the food…everything! It was hard work but a lot of fun too.”
After six years with the Four Seasons, Carolyn moved back to Marblehead in 2015 to start the process of learning and managing the Harbor Light Inn.
“My parents were ready to slow down and I felt ready to (attempt) to fill their shoes. I’m lucky I came into a well-oiled machine,” Carolyn commented. “I feel lucky for my time and experience at Four Seasons because it was a lot of work, but I got so much out of all their training. I worked at two 5 star/5 diamond properties, so I like to think I bring that mentality to a more accessible boutique environment,” she added.
In 2017, Carolyn married her long-time beau, Ben Pyburn. Last May they welcomed the next generation of innkeepers to the Harbor Light Inn family, with the arrival of their daughter, Riley. In a wonderful juxtaposition of the family legacy, Carolyn now runs the day to day operations of the inn, with occasional advice from her Mom and Dad while Suzanne and Peter fill their days with grandparenting, taking care of Riley as often as they can!
For more information and photos of the family, click here.
Harbor Light Inn History
Marblehead’s history is rich in maritime lore. The sign that hangs outside the Harbor Light Inn reads est1729. The town was in its glory prior to the Revolutionary War, as evidenced by the British Parliament’s declaration that it was ”the greatest towne for fishing in New England.” The wealth generated by the Marblehead fleet, and subsequently the great trading ships that came in afterward, was demonstrated by the fine houses that still dominate Old Town, clustered along Marblehead Harbor. The Marblehead Historical Society says that more than 200 homes and other buildings predate the Revolutionary War in Marblehead and the Harbor Light Inn was one of them.
Tragically, on September 19th, 1846, a terrible storm hit the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, where fishermen from throughout New England were preparing to haul in their catch of fresh cod. The hurricane gales took the local fleet of ninety-eight vessels by total surprise. By the time they returned to Marblehead, they were minus 11 ships and the loss of sixty five men and boys, felt by everyone throughout the town, putting a damper on it’s fishing legacy.
Fast forward to 1985. Peter and Suzanne purchased the original building of the inn in 1985 with an agreement with the developer that they would renovate the property to their design specs and create a ten room inn with living quarters. Renovations were completed in June 1986 and the inn opened.
Then, in the early nineties, Peter and Suzanne negotiated with their immediate neighbor to purchase the abutting property and connect the two buildings together. They created a hallway connector, added the garden pool area and eventually a bar. This addition brought the inn capacity to 20 rooms with private bathsm plus offered two kitchens, two dining rooms and two parlors . On the employment when the inn opened originally were two front desk attendants and two housekeepers. Today, the Harbor Light Inn employs approximately 18 people year round.
While the inn has certainly been updated with everything from initially indoor plumbing and central heat to more recently fine furnishings and the in-ground pool, many of the original vestiges can still be found at the Harbor Light Inn. Working fireplaces, exposed beams and wide planked floors are still evident here, seamlessly combined with the modern amenities that travelers love.
With a nod to the yachting capitol of the world, when you see Peter Conway at the inn, ask him about anything boating related, and you’re sure to learn more than you ever thought any one person could know about the history of Marblehead, its connection to the yachting world and his travels. We promise it’ll be a fascinating conversation!
INNsider Tips from Harbor Light Inn
When asked to share an inside story or wonderful tip that no one would otherwise know, Carolyn was quick to tell us two stories.
“Room 32 is now what I personally refer to as the “Disney room,” she explains. “In January 2020, Disney productions took over the inn for one week and filmed two separate scenes here at the inn. One was in the red parlor while the other was in Room 32. This was for the movie “Godmothered” and the scene filmed in Room 32 featured both of the main actors!” she added. If you want to feel like a Disney Godmother, be sure to choose Room 32.
And here’s a little INNside tip about Room 33. Carolyn’s childhood doll house that her grandfather built just for her is in that room. See if you can spot it on the top left corner of this photo. We’re willing to bet that when Riley is old enough, that dollhouse may no longer be found in Room 33. You’d better book that room soon, while you can still scope it out!
Innkeepers Favorite Recipe – Harbor Light Inn Spinach Pie
We asked Carolyn about her favorite recipe(s) served at the Harbor Light Inn. She said, “I love a good quiche – caramelized onion, red pepper and goat cheese quiche. Roasted Broccoli and cheddar quiche. One of our most popular is the spinach pie.”
Spinach Pie from Harbor Light Inn
1 8 oz. package of fresh spinach, chopped
6 large eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
½ cup grated parmesan
¾ cup of crumbled feta (could go up to 1 cup if you want!)
½ cup pine nuts
Frozen puff pastry sheet, defrosted
2 tablespoons of salted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium sauté pan on medium heat, sauté the onions with olive oil until translucent and slightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the salt and pepper and allow to cool slightly.
Chop the fresh spinach and add it to a bowl.
Gently mix in the onions, eggs, nutmeg, Parmesan cheese, feta, and pine nuts.
Butter a pie dish and then add (thawed) puff pastry sheet, letting the edges hang over the pan.
Pour the spinach mixture into the middle of the puff pastry and neatly fold the edges up and over the top to seal in the filling.
Bake for 1 hour, until the top is golden brown, and the filling is set.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Serve at room temperature.
Contact the Harbor Light Inn
Address: 58 Washington Street, Marblehead, Massachusetts 01945
Local Phone: (781) 631-2186
Innkeeper: Carolyn Conway-Pyburn
Don’t worry, we will continue our spotlight series throughout the coming weeks .We can’t wait to welcome you in the coming weeks and months when you’re ready to travel. Don’t forget to book directly with the inn for the best availability and rates.
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