Throughout our series, we’ve created profiles of DINE members. Today we will focus on the Historic Deerfield Inn, located within a living museum offering insight into colonial America. We’re delighted to have created spotlights on each of the Distinctive Inns of New England (DINE) throughout this series to help travelers start planning romantic getaways to the ten Distinctive Inns of New England once they feel its once again safe to travel. A return to travel may look a little different, but you can count on safe, welcoming, comfortable and delicious getaways offered from the DINE inns.
Our initial spotlights started in New Hampshire, focusing on the Manor on Golden Pond and the Chesterfield Inn. In Vermont, where vaccinated travelers (14 days out) can now travel freely, we highlighted Rabbit Hill Inn and The Grafton Inn. Recently, we traveled to Marblehead, MA to focus in on the Harbor Light Inn. Today, we’ll travel across the state into Western Massachusetts and the Berkshire Mountains to enlighten you all about the Deerfield Inn.
Picture the Deerfield Inn
From the moment you spy the welcome sign on the door of the Deerfield Inn, the convivial vibe draws you in. You know you’re in for a great getaway when you enter the front parlor in fall, winter or spring, to the crackling fire and the communal jigsaw puzzle.
The entire village of Historic Deerfield has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. The inn is still surrounded by beautifully restored period houses which can be toured as part of the museum, along with working farms, and beautiful open countryside. This little part of Franklin County is referred to by many as The Happy Valley — a fitting name for this friendly, welcoming area and the Deerfield Inn which imbues the spirit of the Valley’s nickname.
Among the original New England historic inns, once part of the main stagecoach route from Boston, the Deerfield Inn is steeped in history. In fact, located in the middle of Historic Deerfield, a living museum of colonial history, it’s fair to say that the inn takes center stage as a gathering spot for locals and visitors alike. While much of its history is depicted in the architecture and feel of the inn, all of the amenities that New England travelers seek are carefully blended into the guest rooms, common rooms, restaurant and the character of the Deerfield Inn. It’s clear that just as it did centuries ago, the Deerfield Inn is still offering a hospitable respite from the hustle and bustle of city life and a safe escape from Covid quarantine at home.
The inn offers 24 guest rooms, housed between two buildings. The main inn offers 11 rooms with elevator access, and the beautifully restored carriage house has 13 rooms with a staircase to the second floor. Because the inn is located adjacent to a number of boarding schools, rooms are configured to easily accommodate families or couples traveling together. Between double double rooms, plus an adjoining rooms for families, and more uniquely decorated kings and queen rooms, any traveling party can easily be accommodated. All rooms have a wide range of amenities that travelers look for — each has a private bathroom, chamois robes, individual air conditioning/heat controls, cable television, eco-friendly supplies, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Two fully handicapped-accessible rooms are also available.
A number of special offers, many timed with holidays, and packages are available to add themes and enhancements to your stay. Special dining events such as the Robert Burns dinner, the inn’s yearly celebration to toast the bard Robert Burns and an excuse to wear your clans’ tartan, take place throughout the year too.
The hub of activity at the Deerfield Inn takes place at Champney’s Restaurant & Tavern, located within the inn. It’s here that old New England charm meets creative cuisine and innovative flavors that will surprise you, all with a focus on fresh and local. At the heart of Champney’s menu is a bounty of locally sourced ingredients from nearby growers, foragers, and producers for a garden-to-table culinary experience. Champney’s menus include everything from bar snacks to a wide range of sandwiches and salads, plus an entrée list filled with comfort foods like Mac and Cheese and some eclectic surprises to take advantage of what the farmers bring to the kitchen door. As you’d expect, the menu varies with the season.
A number of themed nights include burger night or pizza night when all the toppings are free, or Prime Rib night and Oyster night…until they are gone! In keeping with the tastes of customers during the pandemic, Champney’s has started offering $40 Meals To Go too. Look for live music throughout the week too, featuring local well-loved musicians.
In the middle of the tavern is a large mahogany bar. Here, everyone’s a local as they gather for conversation and a flight of one of the local microbrews, a glass of wine or a creative cocktail offered by very entertaining bartenders. Just take a seat in the tavern, and you’ll instantly be part of the Champney’s scene.
The dining room is also the place where guests gather for lunch and dinner. With seating for up to 50 guests, the restaurant is bright and elegant with period wallpaper, a fireplace, gleaming chandeliers, and four large sunny embrasures. The dining room offers a formal dining experience with the comfort you’d expect from a historic inn.
During non-Covid times, afternoon tea is served daily in the cheery yellow beehive parlor. Here’s one room that’s stayed true to its colonial beginnings, yet also serves as a comfortable gathering spot for guests too.
Fairy Tale Weddings at the Deerfield Inn
Whether you seek a location for the perfect 100-person Massachusetts wedding or something more intimate, the Deerfield Inn is the kind of historic venue that wedding dreams are made of, mixing elegance with rustic charm.
The Terrace, the inn’s main space for weddings and larger receptions, can accommodate up to 100 guests. Offering plenty of room to mingle and venture outside, the Terrace Room has south-facing windows and French doors that open to a patio with a tented lawn and gardens. Couples have used this adaptable space for everything from elegant ceremonies to casual barbecues, and brides, grooms and guests love this space because it has its own bar and a cozy fireplace.
For smaller weddings or receptions, consider a private dinner at Champney’s Restaurant and Tavern, just for your party. And for even smaller, more intimate micro-weddings or romantic elopements with 15 people or less, the beehive parlor works well for private gatherings. With parlor seating ideal for cocktail-style receptions and the option of setting up a private dining table, the Beehive room is truly special and flexible space.
Whether you seek an outdoor wedding venue in Western Massachusetts or a fabulously intimate Massachusetts elopement location, the Deerfield Inn offers flexibility for brides and grooms hoping to plan the perfect memorable wedding.
While protocols for Covid have been changing as more and more people are vaccinated, the Deerfield Inn has taken extra precautions since the pandemic began. Following state, federal and American Hotel & Lodging Association guidelines, the safety and security of the Deerfield Inn’s guests, and staff have been the utmost priority here throughout the pandemic. Regular safety and sanitization, plus masking, social distancing and careful attention to food and guest safety are primary concerns for the owners and staff at Deerfield Inn.
Meet the Innkeeper: Laurie McDonald
Just about a year ago, we introduced the new General Manager of the Deerfield Inn, Laurie McDonald, on the DINE blog. Here we explained how Laurie’s career at the Deerfield Inn started as a server when she was just 19 years old. For the following eight years, Laurie cut her teeth on restaurant management at the Deerfield Inn with positions as server, then Banquet Coordinator and then the Assistant Restaurant Manager. During this time, her family grew from two to five. And eventually, she moved on to other fine dining restaurants to manage larger operations.
While she was working at the Deerfield Inn, however, Laurie met Mike Kittredge, founder and President of Yankee Candle Company. Impressed by her management skills, Kittredge recruited Laurie to help manage Chandler’s Restaurant, a 250-seat restaurant at Yankee Candle’s flagship store and village in South Deerfield. As the second largest attraction in Massachusetts, Yankee Candle’s restaurant was considered more casual in the daytime, fine dining by night and high-volume all the time. Laurie recalls lighting 250 candles each night for the candlelight dinner service.
For the next 17 years Laurie managed and lead the team at Chandler’s Restaurant until she moved into a new position as Director of Marketing and Promotions for the company where she managed the retail marketing for 580 Yankee Candle company stores across the country, lighting (no pun intended!) the way for retail communications and branding for the next seven and a half years. In this position, she managed a $5 million marketing budget, national advertising campaigns, celebrity initiatives and a myriad of national sales promotions.
Yet, in her heart, Laurie yearned to return to hospitality, so when the innkeeper position at Deerfield Inn opened, it seemed serendipitous and Laurie threw her hat into the ring. Laurie assured the board of directors at Historic Deerfield the career shift is exactly what she wanted and was energized by the opportunity. Laurie was the clear front runner for the GM position, and from the first day in the position has been averaging 60 hours a week, hitting the ground running.
Read here about the positive changes Laurie made in her first 100 days on the job, and about the changes at the inn have been a product of Laurie’s approach.
Deerfield Inn History
The Deerfield Inn was built in 1884, by the two Bradley brothers who had just lost their own inn, which burned to the ground on the village common. They chose the location near the Deerfield River, to rebuild, probably thinking that it would be closer to a water source to prevent another total loss from fire. This location also was on the stagecoach stop, a natural source for customers; travelers looking for a nice place to spend the night.
One of the original New England inns, the Deerfield Inn was accessible via stagecoach, carriages and horseback. Those traveling this way appreciated a “fine place” to stay. The carriage house and stables on the property were built in 1883 prior to the inn’s inception, so all horses could be as easily accommodated as people. In the July 14, 1884 Gazette and Courier, a reporter noted that “Mr. J.M. Bradley has a good business at the new hotel.”
Within a year of opening, the brothers hired local contractor, George Arms, reportedly a local contractor who was a gifted builder with an eye for beauty and skill in constructing upscale inns. He knew just how to enlarge the little inn into a guest-pleasing hotel. For years, the Deerfield Inn was a favorite place to stay for people traveling through on their way to Boston, or Northampton.
Decades later, a trolley line was built and ran through the village – stopping in front of the inn as an old photograph hanging in the inn shows. Soon, by the turn of the century, automobiles began to rumble into town, bringing guests anxious to stay at the inn.
Proving the more things change, the more they stay the same, and good things don’t need to change, a brochure from the 1920s carries a slogan that rings true to this day – “the atmosphere and charm of early days, with modern comfort and convenience.” Then, breakfast started at 30¢, dinner could be had for $1.00, and a double room with running water was priced at $3.00. While a stay at the Deerfield Inn is still filled with value, the price has increased since the 1920s.
Fast forward to 2011. On August 28, 2011, Hurricane Irene flooded the nearby Deerfield River, which caused water to come rushing into the Deerfield Inn. The flood of Hurricane Irene ruined the basement, the first floor of the Deerfield Inn and their carriage house, causing a loss of electricity, and total ruin to much of the inn. Making lemonade from lemons, the Board of Directors chose to invest in updates and changes bringing about the new ground level meeting room, a re-imagined and expanded Champney’s Restaurant and restoring the damaged guest rooms. After more than a year of restoration, the Deerfield Inn re-opened in 2012. Innkeepers then, Karl Sabo and Jane Howard, oversaw all the planning, construction and changes, bringing about many wonderful ideas they’d had during their 30 year tenure as managers of the Deerfield Inn.
Today, the Deerfield Inn has 24 guestrooms, a lively restaurant and tavern, and booming wedding and conference business (especially once pandemic limitations are lifted). Yet, the original hayloft door has been preserved and is still a part of the inn, and the horse weathercock still turns. The front porch ceilings are still robin’s egg blue and native plantings remain in the gardens. The floors in the main inn run up and downhill and around unexpected turns, and we understand from many, many guests that the same inquisitive and sometimes cheeky spirits still wander – supposedly former innkeepers who just didn’t want to leave. Read on to learn about that!
Read more about the Deerfield Inn’s history here.
INNside Tips about the Deerfield Inn
Just as we have done in previous spotlights, we asked Laurie McDonald for a few inside stories or tips that guests might never know unless they heard from an insider. Interestingly, she shared stories about the spirits that have made the inn rather famous among ghost busters.
According to Laurie, and many staff members plus guests of the inn, a number of rather spirited former inn owners are still hanging around the Deerfield Inn, from time to time making their presence clearly known. The most prevalent and active spirit here are John and Cora Carlile, former innkeepers/owners of the inn. Both John and Cora really enjoyed running their Deerfield Inn; perhaps a little too much. People who enjoy a place while alive, sometimes can’t bear to leave. And John and Cora are assumed to be among them.
Cora, whose spirit is experienced as a strong, female (The “bossy” one) often appears as a see-through presence, wearing her dressing gown, and walking around the inn, keeping an eye on things. Late at night, guests have been tapped or pushed gently on the back by Cora, as a reminder that they should go to bed.
Another ghost who has been known to appear is John who likes to move tables into the middle of rooms. Then, there’s Hershel, who makes himself known as a bright box of bouncing light, often in room 148. He’s considered the good-natured spirit who gets his chuckles playing little tricks on the guests who stay in this room. Hershel might rearrange the blankets and pillows, pull all the tissues out of the box, or toss magazines around the room. Hershel also loves children and has been known to entertain them by rocking the chairs on the front porch all night long. If you see a rocking chair moving on it’s own, you’ll know that Hershel is nearby!
Innkeeper’s Favorite Recipe – Indian Pudding, a Champney’s specialty
We ask innkeepers to share their favorite recipe of the inn in each of these spotlights. Laurie shared with us, “I love Indian Pudding served warm with Vanilla Ice Cream… it reminds me of dessert with my Gram.” Thus we bring you the recipe.
Indian Pudding from Deerfield Inn
1 quart milk
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup cornmeal
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 ounce butter
Heat milk in double boiler until skin forms. Whisk in cornmeal, sugar and spices. Cook until thickened, stirring occasionally.
Add molasses and maple syrup, and heat thoroughly.
In a separate bowl, beat eggs.
Whisk a small amount of the milk mixture into the eggs.
Whisk all egg mixture into the original mixture.
Add butter to the mixture.
Pour mixture into dish for baking.
Bake at 350 in a water bath until set (1 ½- 2 hours). Baking time depends on the rise of the baking dish. Add vanilla ice cream if you wish.
Contact the Deerfield Inn
Address: 81 Old Main Street, Deerfield, Massachusetts 01342
Local Phone: (413) 774-5587
Innkeeper: Laurie McDonald, Innkeeper
As we move closer and closer to the time when travel will feel safe again, start planning your next DINE getaway. Don’t forget to book directly with the inn when you make your reservations.
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