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Red Lion Inn celebrates 50th anniversary since reopening

STOCKBRIDGE — A lot can change over the course of 50 years.
In the U.S. in 1969, the average cost for a gallon of milk was $1.10, television series Sesame Street first debuted and Apollo 11 launched the first men on the moon. During the same time in Stockbridge, the reopening of one venue has helped shape the community’s identity as a cultural landmark destination.

And to commemorate this moment in time, the historic Red Lion Inn, is celebrating its 50th anniversary since its purchase, rehabilitation and reopening with a series of special events as well as packages catered to its guests.

The celebration is a vision of Stockbridge as a vibrant, vital and creative community for residents and visitors that Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick had when they bought the hotel and reopened it 50 years ago this May, said Sarah Eustis, third-generation owner and operator as CEO of Main Street Hospitality.

“The Red Lion Inn has been operating for more than 240 years, but this last chapter has been our family’s contribution to its ongoing stewardship,” said Eustis.

Photo contributed
The late Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick pictured at their home in Stockbridge.

The inn was originally established as a small tavern in 1773 through a succession of owners until 1873, when it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Plumb, according to Eustis. Following a fire, the tavern was rebuilt as a 100-plus room hotel in 1897.

Though the fire consumed the original building, the antique furnishings were among the items that were saved. The preservation of the art, antiques and furniture are an essential part of the inn’s charm that draws guests from all over, said Eustis.

Former state Sen. John H. “Jack” Fitzpatrick and his wife Jane moved to Stockbridge with their daughters in 1956 with their budding business, Country Curtains. As the business achieved success, the couple invested in the community, and when the Red Lion Inn was slated to be razed in 1968, the Fitzpatricks stepped in to save the historic venue. After renovating the venue, the Fitzpatricks reopened the inn on May 29, 1969.

Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick’s daughter, Nancy Fitzpatrick, took over as the owner and operator of the Red Lion in 1993. Eustis, Nancy’s stepdaughter, took the helm following Nancy’s retirement last year. The Main Street Hospitality portfolio includes five properties in the region and into the region with the recent addition of the Hammetts Wharf Hotel in Newport, Rhode Island, which is slated to open next year.

“We are grateful to Jane and Jack, who started something remarkable in Stockbridge 50 years ago, and to Nancy for shepherding the vision and deepening our commitment to the Berkshires,” said Eustis in a statement. “Our generation was given some great material to work with, and it is our job

As more modern travelers are seeking experiences rather than stays in the Berkshires, the Red Lion has been working to develop new guest programming and activities to connect its guests with places and opportunities, said Morgan Russell, guest experience manager.

Among some of those wants of the modern traveler is the need for wellness, Russell explained. With that in mind, the Red Lion has partnered with Bess Dillman, the Berkshire Hiker, to institute a walking tour of downtown Stockbridge on Saturdays. Russell said he’s also purchased bicycles for guests to rent and get out and explore on their own.

They’ve also partnered with outdoors-based organizations like Zoar Outdoor and Ramblewild.

And while the town has a lot of historic opportunities, the inn itself is a living museum, said Eustis.

The Red Lion has enlisted Jane Church, who has worked for the inn for many years, as its docent to tour the venue, showcasing some of its finer collectables, including first edition signed Norman Rockwell pieces.

In honor of the half-a-century celebration, the Red Lion is undergoing a major restoration of the first-floor space that will extend the lobby into the front dining area in an effort to create a living room that will serve as the hotel’s social center. The dining room, located adjacent to the lobby, will be renovated and named the “Fitzpatrick Room” catered toward additional dining and events. The restoration will return the first-floor spaces to the way they were when the Fitzpatricks purchased the Red Lion in 1968, said Eustis.

“The restoration of the lobby and dining spaces of the Red Lion Inn will honor the past while welcoming and meeting the needs of our current and future guests,” said Eustis. “We take our stewardship of this historic building and the art, antiques, and artifacts within it to heart. This thoughtful restoration will preserve the legacy of the Fitzpatrick Family and offer enhanced experiences for our guests.”

The restoration is slated to be completed by the end of the year.

In the meantime, the inn is hosting a “Fifty Years of Fitz” gala dinner on May 29. The dinner will feature an interpretation of the menu from the day the venue reopened in 1969.

For ticket information and reservations, call 413-298-5545.