LENOX — Two business partners who recently purchased the historic Church Street Inn for $2.6 million have added two more downtown bed-and-breakfasts to their portfolio for a total downtown Lenox lodging industry investment of $5.5 million in March.
Seth Johnson and Russell Lange spent a combined $2.9 million for the Birchwood Inn on Hubbard Street, across from the Church on the Hill just north of the business district, and for the Rookwood Inn on Old Stockbridge Road, adjacent to Town Hall.
The two latest real estate transactions were recorded March 30 at the Berkshire Middle Registry of Deeds. The partners acquired all three properties through Lenox Collection LLC, an entity controlled by 388 Ventures, the New York-based company co-owned by the partners, Johnson told The Eagle.
Under the new ownership, all three inns are partnered by 388 Ventures with the boutique hotel operating company Life House, which provides branding, interior design and management services. Life House also would manage the Days Inn on Pittsfield Road, after its prospective sale and major renovation by the Ross Group Development LLC, based in Tulsa, Okla. The motel, awaiting town permitting for the expansion, is under contract for $1,950,000.
The three downtown inns will be operated under the existing branding through this summer, according to Johnson and Lange. Then, the properties will undergo “cosmetic renovations and improvements” ahead of a relaunch as “a cohesive collection” in spring 2022, they explained.
Johnson told The Eagle that the inns will not be competing directly, since they will be aimed at different sectors of the tourism market.
“We are honored to have been afforded the opportunity to steward these beautiful and historic Lenox properties into their next chapter,” he stated.
“We look forward to providing the warm hospitality that visitors to Lenox have come to expect, enhanced with a few modern touches that will only enrich the experience of visiting this New England destination,” Lange added.
In a prepared statement, Life House executive Bryan Dunn pointed out that “with a growing list of unique independent hotels under management from Nantucket to Martha’s Vineyard, Lenox was a natural target for the continued expansion of our portfolio. We look forward to exploring opportunities to expand together throughout the Berkshires and beyond.”
The three sellers were represented by James Nugent of The Kinderhook Group, a real estate brokerage firm based in Pittsfield.
The Rookwood Inn property at 11 Old Stockbridge Road, with 21 guest rooms, was sold by longtime owner Amy Lindner-Lesser for $1,637,750. She and her husband, Stephen Lindner-Lesser, purchased it in 1996; he died three years later.
The inn dates to 1825 as the Williams Tavern, originally located at Main and Cliffwood streets. According to a history of the property, since Lenox had the original county courthouse and jail, the tavern was popular among “watering holes” for judges and lawyers.
The tavern was relocated to its current site in 1880 by new owner Frederick Constance Peters, a real estate speculator and entrepreneur. He added the Victorian front of the building a few years later and offered lodging for the secretaries of the wealthy owners of Berkshire “Cottages” such as Elm Court, Belvoir Terrace, Ventfort Hall, Bellefontaine and Blantyre.
The original stone wall, surrounding the present-day garage, defines the boundaries of a stable that Peters built to house horses for hire. The original hitching post remains on the side of the inn, operated as the Quincy Lodge under multiple owners from 1946 to 1996. It has been renovated extensively under Lindner-Lesser’s ownership.
The Birchwood Inn at 7 Hubbard St., which just sold for $1,262,000, was purchased in 2016 for $1,660,000 by Berrydale LLC principals Tom Johnson (no relation to the new owner) and Debbie Lancaster, from Ellen Gutman Chenaux. It has 11 guest rooms.
The inn, completed in 1767 by early settler Israel Dewey as one of the town’s first residences, hosted the first Lenox town meeting, March 11, 1767, as the community was incorporated, and became a tavern in 1798, under the ownership of Col. Laddock Hubbard.
Later, as a private home, it was expanded and renovated by several owners, notably Florine and Richard Dana, who held it for 68 years, until 1953, when it was converted to an inn and then served as a home for World War II veterans during the 1960s and 1970s.
It became a full-fledged B&B in 1981 and went through three ownerships before Gutman Chenaux purchased it in February 1999.
According to the inn’s website, since 1999 Birchwood has welcomed guests from 47 states, seven Canadian provinces plus the Northwest Territories, six of the seven continents and 28 countries, including Turkey, Dubai and Iceland. A repeat guest traveled to Lenox from Siberia.