The Red Lion Inn

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Discover The Red Lion Inn, which has existed as a colorful gathering place in Stockbridge for over 200 years.

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The Red Lion Inn, a charter member of Historic Hotels of America since 1989, dates back to 1773.

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A founding member of Historic Hotels of America, The Red Lion Inn has been one of the most popular retreats in the Berkshires for generations. According to oral tradition, the inn first appeared on the corner of Pine and Main in downtown Stockbridge during the early 1770s. In 1773, Silas Pepoon had specifically constructed the building as a tavern, christening the new business as “The Red Lion Inn.” Pepoon’s quaint inn prospered, occasionally entertaining the passengers of various stagecoaches that made the trek between Boston and Albany. The Red Lion Inn charmed many with its bucolic charm, endearing itself with whomever set foot inside. Nevertheless, the pull of national affairs still managed to affect The Red Lion Inn, despite its relative isolation in western Massachusetts. In fact, angry citizens from several towns gathered at the building to pass resolutions protesting the British Parliament’s Acts of Intolerance amid the buildup to the American Revolution. Furthermore, soldiers affiliated with the Continental Army passed by The Red Lion Inn once the fighting had started. (Some stories even attest that the inn’s original signage reflects Pepoon’s own devotion to American independence. The green tail is said to represent the colonies breaking away from Great Britain, as embodied by the greater red lion.)

Following a series of various owners, Charles H. Plumb purchased The Red Lion Inn in 1873. Renaming the inn as the “Stockbridge House,” Charles and his family immediately set about renovating the site. They gradually developed new sections onto the building, which continued to add an ever-growing number of guestrooms. The Plumbs also introduced a wealth of new décor throughout the building, as well, with Charles’ wife taking the lead. They frequently visited many nearby farmhouses and acquired numerous pieces that she found interesting. Much of the items that Charles’ wife obtained harkened back to the colonial era, which brilliantly enriched the building’s already fascinating heritage. (Her efforts have since given rise to the magnificent collection of antique furniture and china that resides on-site to this very day.) By the 1880s, the size of The Red Lion Inn had grown to such an extent that it could easily accommodate around 100 guests. The Plumbs subsequently operated the Stockbridge House seasonally, hosting guests during the summer months when the weather was the best. Their stewardship over the business saw its popularity reach new heights, with word of the inn’s grand accommodations and colonial furnishings attracting guests from across the nation.

But tragedy struck in 1896, when a structural accident compromised the Stockbridge House. Fortunately, the actions of the Plumbs and their neighbors managed to save the inn’s collections, although the inn itself remained significantly damaged. The Plumbs nonetheless endeavored to restore their beloved inn and set about rehabilitating the Stockbridge House. Amazingly, the Stockbridge House was completely rebuilt in just a matter of months, with the business reopening triumphantly the following spring. It soon regained its prior reputation as one of the Berkshires’ finest retreats. Even some of America’s most prominent individuals visited in the years that followed, including five different U.S. Presidents: Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (The inn had previously hosted numerous luminaries, however, including authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.)

The Stockbridge House subsequently remained with the Plumbs for the next nine decades, eventually falling under the ownership of the their distant descendants, the Treadwell family. The building remained virtually unchanged during that time, save for the additions of private baths and an outdoor pool in the 1960s. Shortly thereafter, the Treadwells sold the Stockbridge House to Robert K. Wheeler, a businessperson from nearby Great Barrington. But Wheeler lost his drive to manage the location and set about finding new owners to take care of the historic inn. The task proved to be daunting, though, as Wheeler had to frequently fend off various real estate developers. After searching for several years, Wheeler finally reached a deal with local Stockbridge residents Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick in 1968. The Fitzpatricks invested themselves dearly into the daily operations of the Stockbridge House, ensuring that it endured for years to come. They continued to thoroughly renovate the inn as such, and outfitted its interiors with even more colonial décor. The Fitzpatricks even renamed the building as “The Red Lion Inn” in honor of its fantastic history. The Fitzpatrick family still remains the stewards of this outstanding historic inn, as Nancy Fitzpatrick and her daughter, Sarah Eustis, continue to maintain Jack and Jane’s deep reverence for the Red Lion Inn.

  • About the Location +

    In 1734, a small group of English missionaries founded Stockbridge, Massachusetts, as a “praying town” for a band of local Mahican Indians. Known as the “Stockbridge Indians,” the English colonists had affirmed their rights to live upon the land in recognition for their services against the French in America. The missionaries even went as far as to have the Massachusetts General Court formally recognize their legal claims. Furthermore, the English also developed a rudimentary settlement called “Stockbridge” that sought to convert the natives to Puritanism. Nevertheless, Stockbridge—originally called “Indian Town”—was only inhabited by the Stockbridge Indians during the first few years of its existence, with the English missionaries being the only foreigners present. Even though Native Americans mainly inhabited the town, it was the missionaries who ultimately presided over its daily politics. The first person to essentially run the community was Reverend John Sergeant, who was later followed by Johnathan Edwards, one of the most prolific preachers in the Thirteen Colonies. (Edwards would have a profound influence on colonial life amid a series of religious revivals referred to as the “First Great Awakening.”)

    The Stockbridge Indians subsequently lived in Stockbridge for many decades thereafter, even inhabiting the site amid the American Revolutionary War. But despite their support of the American cause—they had sided with the colonists—the Massachusetts General Court eventually rescinded their rights to the land. Federal efforts later relocated the Stockbridge Indians first to New York, and then to the frontiers of Wisconsin. In their absence, Euro-American settlers began to occupy the town. Stockbridge endured a pastoral hamlet inhabited by a few hundred people throughout the 19th century, gradually developing a reputation for its tranquil atmosphere and lush geography. In fact, by the 1850s, a beautification society called the “Laurel Hill Association” had formed to ensure that Stockbridge’s bucolic character remained perfectly preserved. This dedication to the town’s conservation eventually attracted vacationers from the coast, who found Stockbridge’s environment well-suited for a break from industrialized society. Those new visitors began to build their own seasonal homes throughout Stockbridge called the Berkshire Cottages, which reforged the town’s identity as an upscale resort community.

    Stockbridge has seen its fair share of special historical moments, too. In 1780, a local enslaved African woman named Elizabeth Freeman would play an integral role in eliminating the institution of slavery from Massachusetts. Based on statements regarding slavery in the commonwealth’s new constitution, Freeman legally petitioned for her own freedom and that of another slave called “Brom.” Attorney Theodore Sedgwick represented her case, arguing that the Massachusetts constitution explicitly stated that: “all men are born free and equal.” Both the county court and the State Supreme Court agreed with Sedgwick, resulting in Freeman’s and Brom’s emancipation. The case had an even greater impact on state law in the future, for it served as a precedent for slavery’s eventual abolition throughout Massachusetts by 1783. Sedgwick himself would later have a prestigious political career, going on to serve as a U.S. Senator and Speaker for the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Centuries later, Stockbridge would also become the home of a vibrant art colony. Many artists subsequently flocked to the town due to its serene ambiance, including the sculptor Daniel Chester French. But Stockbridge’s most famous artist was the revered painter Norman Rockwell. Having lived all around the county, Rockwell evenutally decided to settle in Stockbridge in 1953. He had specifically relocated to the town so his second wife, Mary Barstow, could receive medical treatment from the nearby Austen Riggs Center. Rockwell nonetheless set up his own studio on Main Street, located on the second story within a row of buildings. Rockwell would later paint a few of his most prolific works from inside his studio over the next couple of years, including The Connoisseur, The Rookie, and The Problem We All Live With. He even immortalized his adoptive home in a painting entitled, Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas. Today, Norman Rockwell’s legacy is preserved in Stockbridge at the renowned Norman Rockwell Museum. Located near The Red Lion Inn, it has over 570 original works of his on display—by far the largest single collection of Rockwell paintings in the United States today.


  • About the Architecture +

    The Red Lion Inn still displays the same Federal-style architecture that has defined it for the better part of four centuries. Historically speaking, Federal architecture dominated American cities and towns during the nation’s formative years, which historians best identify as lasting from 1780 to 1840. The name itself is a tribute to that period, in which America’s first political leaders sought to establish the foundations of the current federal government. Fundamentally, the architectural form had evolved from the earlier Georgian design principles that had greatly influenced both British and American culture throughout most of the 18th century. The similarities between the two art forms have even inspired some scholars to refer to Federalist architecture as a mere refinement of the earlier Georgian aesthetic. Oddly enough, though, the architect deemed responsible for popularizing Federal style in the United States, was in fact, not an American. Robert Adams was the United Kingdom’s most popular architect at the time, with his work largely involved providing his own spin on the infusion of neoclassical design principles with Georgian architecture. (This is also the reason why some refer to Federal architecture as “Adam-style architecture.”) As such, his new variation spread quickly across England, defining its civic landscape for much of the Napoleonic Era. Despite the bitter resentments that most Americans harbored toward Great Britain at the time, their cultural perceptions of the world were still largely influenced by the old mother country. Adams’ new take on Georgian architecture rapidly spread across the United States, as such.

    Unlike many other popular American architectural forms, Federal style is easily recognizable due to its unique symmetrical and geometric design elements. Most structures created with Federal architecture typically stand two to three stories in height and are rectangular (sometimes square) in their overall shape. While the buildings normally extended two rooms in width, larger structures would usually contain several more. In some cases, circular or oval-shaped rooms functioned as the center living space. The outside façade of a Federal-style building was simplistic in their appearance, although some detailed brass and iron decorations made their appearance, too. Perhaps the most common form that the ornamentations assumed were elliptical figures, as well as circular and fan-shaped motifs. Architects concentrated those features around the front entrance, where cornices, iron molding, and a beautifully sculpted fanlight resided. (Fanlights are a regular design element for Federalist buildings, appearing in other locations throughout the top of the structure, as well). The exterior walls themselves were primarily composed of clapboard out in the country but consisted of brick in urban areas. Palladian-themed windows also proliferated throughout the façade, installed in a way that conveyed a deep sense of balance. Roofing was also hipped and contained simple gables and dormers that allowed for natural light to more easily infiltrate the upper echelons of the structure.


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Nathaniel Hawthorne, author known for writing The Scarlett Letter and The House of the Seven Gables.

    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, famed poet known for writing “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

    Thornton Wilder, author and playwright known for such works like Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth.

    John Wayne, actor known for his roles in The Man Who Shot Liberty Vance, True Grit, and The Longest Day. 

    Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th President of the United States (1885 – 1889; 1893 – 1897)

    William McKinley, 25th President of the United States (1897 – 1901)

    Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States (1901 – 1909)

    Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States (1923 – 1929)

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States (1933 – 1945)


Image of Historian Stanley Turkel, Historic Hotels of America Image of Stanley Turkel's Book Built To Last: 100 Year Old Hotels East of the Mississippi, Historic Hotels of America.

Guest Historian Series

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Nobody Asked Me, But... No. 224;


Hotel History: The Red Lion Inn (1773), Stockbridge, Massachusetts*



By Stanley Turkel, CMHS



For more than 246 years, the Red Lion Inn has been welcoming visitors to the Berkshires with traditional New England hospitality. Sometime in 1773, Anna and Silas Bingham opened a general store which became a stagecoach stop, tavern and the Stockbridge House. In 1786, Daniel Shays led a group of more than 100 local farmers and citizens to protest post-war taxation. Stockbridge was the headquarters for “Shays Rebellion.”



In 1807, Anna Bingham sold the eight-room inn to store owner Silas Pepoon. Over time, the Inn changed hands many times and in 1862 Charles and Mert Plumb began a ninety-year family ownership dynasty. The arrival of the Housatonic Railroad in 1842 and its extension to Pittsfield in 1850 made Stockbridge more accessible and attractive to wealthy families who built grand “cottages”. In 1884, the Inn was enlarged to accommodate 100 guests and the quality of food and amenities improved. Under Mert Plumb’s direction the Inn was renamed “Plumb’s Hotel” and became a museum-like repository of antique furniture, crockery, pewter and teapots.



In 1896, a fire nearly destroyed the destination but the Berkshire Courier in Great Barrington reported that “Mrs. Plumb’s noted collection of colonial china, pictures, wearing apparel and furniture, the largest of its kind in the country, and to the delight of everyone who went to Stockbridge, was saved.” Mr. Plumb’s nephew, Allen T. Treadway (aided by his assistant James H. Punderson, whose daughter Molly later became the third wife of famed illustrator Norman Rockwell) undertook the restoration and in May 1897, the Red Lion was opened, more attractive than ever.



From the Red Lion Inn’s inception until it was leveled by fire in 1896, its crest was a red lion waving a green tail. It is believed that while the red lion was symbolic of the Crown, the green tail indicated sympathy for the colonists during the Revolutionary War. At its rebirth in 1897, Mr. Treadway unveiled a new crest in the form of a shield. At the top were a lion and two dates: 1773 and 1897, indicating the birth and rebirth of the Inn. Within the body of the shield were a teapot, plate, Franklin stove, highboy, clock and two large keys representing the Inn’s fine collection of antiques. In the early 1920s, the shield was replaced by the traditional lion that we see today, plump and well-fed sporting the familiar red tail.



In November 1968, the Inn was nearly demolished for construction of a gasoline station. It was rescued by John and Jane Fitzpatrick, the founders of Country Curtains, a mail order business. The Fitzpatricks were so intrigued by the Inn’s history that they installed a large new kitchen and dining room called Widow Bingham’s tavern. On May 29, 1969, the Inn was opened for year-round business for the first time. In 1974, several nearby buildings, including the former village firehouse, were purchased to be used as guesthouses. Mr. Fitzpattrick served four terms as Massachusetts state senator from 1972-1980 and once again the Red Lion Inn became the center of political activity in Berkshire County.



A charter member of Historic Hotels of America since 1989, The Red Lion Inn has been providing food and lodging to guests for more than two centuries. The Red Lion is recommended by National Geographic Traveler, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe. It offers 108 antique-filled rooms and suites, formal and casual dining with an emphasis on contemporary regional specialties, and the Lion’s Den pub with nightly entertainment, a year-round heated outdoor pool and hot tub (with radiant-heated patio).



The inn has hosted six presidents and numerous other notable figures including Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Cullen Bryant and Henry Wordsworth Longfellow. The Red Lion’s quintessential New England charm was immortalized by Norman Rockwell in his painting Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas.



*****



About Stanley Turkel, CMHS



Stanley Turkel is a recognized consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases and providing asset management an and hotel franchising consultation. Prior to forming his hotel consulting firm, Turkel was the Product Line Manager for worldwide Hotel/Motel Operations at the International Telephone & Telegraph Co. overseeing the Sheraton Corporation of America. Before joining IT&T, he was the Resident Manager of the Americana Hotel (1842 Rooms), General Manager of the Drake Hotel (680 Rooms) and General Manager of the Summit Hotel (762 Rooms), all in New York City. He serves as a Friend of the Tisch Center and lectures at the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association. He served for eleven years as Chairman of the Board of the Trustees of the City Club of New York and is now the Honorary Chairman.




Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. More than 275 articles on various hotel subjects have been posted in hotel magazines and on the Hotel-Online, Blue MauMau, Hotel News Resource and eTurboNews websites. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry and Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi). A third hotel book (Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York) was called "passionate and informative" by the New York Times. Executive Vice President of Historic Hotels of America, Lawrence Horwitz, has even praised one book, Great American Hoteliers Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry:



  • “If you have ever been in a hotel, as a guest, attended a conference, enjoyed a romantic dinner, celebrated a special occasion, or worked as a hotelier in the front or back of the house, Great American Hoteliers, Volume 2: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry is a must read book. This book is recommended for any business person, entrepreneur, student, or aspiring hotelier. This book is an excellent history book with insights into seventeen of the great innovators and visionaries of the hotel industry and their inspirational stories.”


Turkel was designated as the “2014 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America,” the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.



Works published by Stanley Turkel include:



Most of these books can be ordered from AuthorHouse—(except Heroes of the American Reconstruction, which can be ordered from McFarland)—by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com, or by clicking on the book’s title.



Contact: Stanley Turkel



stanturkel@aol.com/917-628-8549

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