STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — The Red Lion Inn bakes more than 6,000 muffins and some 1,300 of its famous apple pies every year.
So when the bakeshop in the multiroom kitchen showed signs of structural distress, inn management decided if it was time to revamp this very important area, why not do the whole kitchen over?
After more than two months of construction, inn officials cut the ribbon on the newly renovated $1 million kitchen on Thursday afternoon, capping the latest update of the historic structure whose roots date back to the 1770s.
Owner Nancy Fitzpatrick joked it was the kind of project done only about every 75 years or so.
"So you're all participants in an historic event," she told the gathering of employees and trade representatives in the inn's chandelier-lit dining room.
The renovation was designed to improve workflow and use of space and included updating structural elements, ventilation, lighting and flooring.
Sarah Eustis, chief executive of Main Street Hospitality Group, and General Manager Michele Kotek raised glasses of champagne and apple cider to thank the many individuals and entities who helped make the project a success, including Executive Chef Brian Alberg, financier Berkshire Bank, Lacey Thaler Reilly Wilson Architecture and Preservation LLP of Albany, N.Y., general contractor David J. Tierney Jr. Inc. of Pittsfield and Comalli Electric, also of Pittsfield.
"We are responsible for this campus and for this historic property, which involves more than one building, and all of these buildings need nurturing and care over time," Eustis said. "We wanted to work with people who understood historic buildings, understood us."
Tierney also worked on the award-winning renovation of the 82-room inn's south wing in 2006 and on the 17-room 1850 Maple Glen guest house added in 2012.
Architect Beth Lacey said the footprint of the 1,600 square-foot kitchen didn't change, but the "several building campaigns" as the structure was added onto over the past century were better integrated.
"As you moved from this doorway to the back of the building, you go through three different floor structures, and different ceiling structures and framing," she said. "One of the things we resolved by doing the renovation is the floor had many dips and tilts and probably had a 2-inch differential. ...
"It's all within the same footprint, it just got moved around ... as buildings morph you had spaces that just got moved ... now we have a much more intentional design."
The floor was level throughout and covered with a red (natch) non-skid material and new drains installed. As the structure was peeled back, floors were reinforced where needed, new supporting columns put in, and fixes were devised for unexpected finds, said David Tierney III, who applauded Lacey for being quick in responding to the trades' needs.
That teamwork was also evident in the kitchen, Kotek said, as employees worked around construction needs and continued to serve guests from the smaller facility in the Lion's Den pub.
"There's nothing new or fancy that the guests can really see," she said. "But it makes it more efficient and we certainly hope it will help the guests enjoy their experience a little more."
The dish-washing room was moved away from the kitchen entrance, reducing residual noise and creating more space for a new ice machine and beverage counter, and a new walk-in was put in, but about 90 percent of the equipment was reused. The walls are a smooth fire-retardant paneling that also offers easy cleanup, the LED lighting is bright and energy efficient in the new drop ceilings. The area was opened to the elements at one point as new roofing and ventilation was put in but a mural from 2013 featuring Hancock Shaker Village's Round Stone Barn was saved and still gives the kitchen a bucolic view.
"We did decide on all of our mechanicals that we were going to do water-cooled rather than air-cooled," Kotek said. "It helps them run more efficiently, they're less noisy and really what we can do is the water that runs through the pipes, once it heats up, it can be used to heat our domestic water ... so it saves."
The inn received its certificate of occupancy on Good Friday, allowing the kitchen to reopen for Easter Sunday. It will now resume regular hours and the menu prepared by chef de cuisine Adam Brassard.
"It's beautiful, it really pops," Brassard said of his new digs. "We're getting used to it still so efficiency will come in time."
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