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Kemble Inn’s grandeur is in the details

By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff

Posted:   07/17/2012 12:07:11 AM EDT

Renovations to the Kemble Inn in Lenox include new windows and bathrooms, and subtler overhauls like raising the ceilings 18 inches. (Photos by Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

Tuesday July 17, 2012LENOX — Scott Shortt owns an historic inn, but he doesn’t want his guests to feel as though they’re staying in a museum.

Two years after buying the Kemble Inn for $1.6 million, Shortt has embarked on an ambitious renovation plan designed to modernize the 19th century structure built as a country home for President Chester A. Arthur’s secretary of state in 1886 and preserve the building’s historic feel.

He’s also added a few amenities, like a commercial kitchen, to open a restaurant. And, he recently hired an executive chef, John athan Pratt, who has extensive experience working in small boutique-style hotels.

The goal?

“To restore this property to the grandeur that it should be,” said the

37-year-old Shortt, a native of North Bay, Ontario, who moved to Lenox in 2010 from Hartford, Conn.Shortt’s plan includes attention to some extremely small details. He recently raised the ceilings 18 inches in three of the inn’s rooms so that they would correspond to their original heights.

“Everybody thinks I’m crazy, but it feels right,” Shortt said. “It feels the way the room is supposed to feel.”

It’s taken a while for Shortt to embark on his renovation plan, which he hopes to complete within five years. First, the plan needed approval from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. At issue was whether the Kemble Inn was considered a Great Estate under the town’s Great Estate bylaw, which allows eight designated locations that operate as inns to obtain special permits or variances to hold outdoor events that include more than 175 guests.

The Kemble Inn is grouped under the series of buildings that currently house nearby Shakespeare & Company, a property that includes the former Springlawn mansion, and is designated as one of those eight areas under the bylaw. The two acres that that the Kemble Inn sits on were originally carved out of the Springlawn parcel, which housed a boys boarding school, a religious

institution, and the now defunct National Music Center, before it was purchased by Shakespeare & Company.Following a series of meetings early last year, the ZBA ruled that the Kemble Inn was included under the Great Estates bylaw.

Shortt then needed to address a lawsuit brought by a neighbor who had complained about late evening noise from amplified music during special outdoor events, and challenged the Kemble Inn’s status under the Great Estates bylaw. Shortt said the parties reached an out of court settlement.

In addition to adding the commercial kitchen, Shortt said he has spent the last year renovating six of the Kemble Inn’s 13 guest rooms, which includes the addition of new windows and bathrooms, and fixed up some interior spaces. He also turned the former owner’s quarters into a dining area. He’s spent around $1 million so far.

He’s thinking about adding a swimming pool behind the inn, and possibly linking it to some “spa-like amenities” in the inn’s basement.

“That’s a way-down-the-road phase,” Shortt said. “I’m not sure yet. But I know that I want to do a swimming pool. I thought there would be a natural connection between the pool and some spa-like amenities down there.”

Pratt, who was hired as the inn’s executive chef in late June, most recently served as the executive chef at the Vanderbilt House Hotel in nearby Philmont, N.Y. A 1989 graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Pratt has also been employed by several establishments located in New York’s Hudson Valley, and served in high-ranking culinary positions at several restaurants in New York City, including City Hall in Tribeca.

“He obviously has a real good pedigree,” Shortt said of Pratt. “He understands the food service in a small hotel.”

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:,
or (413) 496-6224.
On Twitter: @tonydobrow