by Marti Mayne
Neither grasshopper plagues, droughts, fires, floods nor more recently the 2011 tropical storm Irene can keep the Deerfield Inn down for long. Opened in 1884 the inn has been through its share of disasters, and like the phoenix has risen from the flames to continue its enduring mission of hosting travelers in Historic Deerfield, MA.
Hurricane Irene sent a 5-foot wall of water through the lower level of the Deerfield Inn in August, 2011, resulting in $2 million in damage to the inn and its restaurant. Along with the water came a deluge of sewage, fish and mud, creating a horrendous clean-up project. While the upper floors escaped the inundation of water, it did not take long for the water to seep through the historic building’s horsehair insulation, creating damaging mold on every floor. The water took out the inn’s central telephone system, and destroyed much of the restaurant’s kitchen too.
Water, mud and muck also surged through the inn’s adjoining carriage house, where 13 guest rooms were similarly destroyed either in the flooding or subsequent mold damage.
Yet determined, tenacious and stalwart in their mission to rebuild, planning and reconstruction of the inn started within six months of the storm. Great care went into preserving the “old bones” of the building. While balancing the mission and authenticity of Historic Deerfield with guest comfort was no small job, in the end was accomplished with majesty. Things like the signature beehive wallpaper in the main parlor were recreated and rehung and a framed score of “Good Night Irene” was hung in the carriage house hallway.
The process of re-building took about a year. The Carriage House re-opened quietly in May, 2012 offering “construction specials” in guest rooms adjacent to the inn and breakfast delivered in handmade baskets. The four-floor main inn followed with a soft opening on April 1, 2013 and is now fully up and running with beautifully redecorated rooms sporting modern amenities with a nod to historic styling. New additions included a function room and bar on the terrace level which was formerly a cafeteria-style cafe, plus a smaller dining room and larger tavern on the first floor along with beautifully renovated guest rooms upstairs and in the Carriage House.
The restaurant maintained its name, Champney’s Restaurant and Tavern, and is perhaps the place where changes are most apparent. Going from a formal dining room with a small tavern to a contemporary yet expanded tavern with a smaller intimate fine dining room, one thing has not changed. Champney’s continues to be Historic Deerfield’s most popular watering hole, with such a stubborn dedication to locally sourced food, they refer to it as “nano-local”. Even the beer selection is locally sourced from brewers within 10 miles, including a specially brewed recipe with a heritage back to the 1800s combining locally sourced pine, molasses and hops into a distinctly different and signature offering.
“While the inn was closed the mood was grim,” said Jane Howard who has managed the Deerfield Inn for 27 years for Historic Deerfield, along with her husband, Karl Sabo, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. “Now that voices, smiles and toasting of glasses have returned to the inn and restaurant, the walls are smiling once again. At long last we can finally say with confidence “Good night Irene,” finished Howard.
Deerfield Inn is located on Old Main Street amidst the historically preserved homes of Historic Deerfield and adjacent to Deerfield Academy. Serving lunch and dinner to the public and overnight guests, the Deerfield Inn is restored with contemporary amenities in a stately setting.
Had one not visited the inn prior to the flood, they might observe a refreshing novelty to the décor. For most of the regulars, however, it’s simply a relief to have their old friend back and while sporting a refreshing and innovative approach, it doesn’t feel entirely new. To Jane Howard and Karl Sabo, who were stalwart in their persistence to historic preservation, this is music to their ears.
When you go:
Deerfield Inn, 81 Old Main Street, Deerfield, MA, www.Deerfieldinn.com, www.champneysrestaurant.com, 413-774-5587.
Visit the Distinctive Inns of New England blog to learn more about Jane Howard and Karl Sabo, Deerfield Inn innkeepers for 27 years.