Thursday July 19, 2012

LENOX -- Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club has unveiled the multimillion-dollar reconstruction of its historic Carriage House, which had been destroyed in a December 2010 conflagration.

Reopening the 18-room guest house brings the flagship full-service resort back up to 114 rooms, said General Manager Carl Pratt during a tour of the building on Wednesday.

Pratt said demand for rooms this month is the best for any July since 2007, before the Great Recession, as a result of strong programming at cultural attractions and a rebounding economy. Cranwell is considered a bellwether for the Berkshire hospitality industry.

Carriage House rooms include 15 classic, queen-bed doubles, two king-bed rooms, and a suite.

Firefighters work to contain the fire at the Carriage House on Dec. 22, 2010. The fire left the historic building nothing but a pile of debris and
Firefighters work to contain the fire at the Carriage House on Dec. 22, 2010. The fire left the historic building nothing but a pile of debris and smoldering ashes. (Eagle file)
The classics fetch $369 midweek and $429 on weekends (with a two-night minimum) during prime time in summer. The suites cost $50 more. In September, the rates go down to $199 during the week and $349 on weekends.

The restoration cost well more than $3 million, according to Eagle files; insurance payments for the resort totaled more than $4 million, including coverage for the loss of business during the 18 months since the fire.

Pratt noted that the reconstruction was aided by a mild winter with "fantastic building weather, no delays at all. That was a big surprise and a huge benefit."

He also observed that the building was repositioned and raised slightly in order to capture scenic views.

Maureen McCormick of Northport, Long Island, N.Y., a guest at Cranwell this week, told The Eagle that she has been a regular visitor to Cranwell for nine years and had stayed in the original Carriage House before the fire.

"The new Carriage House is equally nice," she said, describing the decor as "warm and inviting."

Vintage photos of the Cranwell property are displayed in the new building's entrance lobby as well as in each room.

"Many concepts from the original Carriage House were incorporated," said architect Kevin Kozak of Cutler Associates, "including the tower, cantilevered floors at the upper level, as well as roof lines and gables, to create a new design that will respect the original structure."

But, in a nod to contemporary amenities sought by travelers, complimentary Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs are provided.

Cranwell caters to leisure travelers ranging from 35 to 85 years old, and hosts weddings, other celebrations and corporate business retreats.

According to Pratt, the resort's occupancy rate is "well ahead" of the county average of nearly 70 percent in the summer and 48 percent year-round, as reported by Smith Travel Research, which surveys two-dozen major lodging eatablishments.

On Dec. 22, 2010, a devastating fire leveled the original Carriage House, built in the 1890s, leaving only a pile of debris and smoldering ashes.

Investigators blamed the fire on a faulty space heater between floors, but the cause of the malfunction was never determined officially.

Cranwell opened as a residence in 1897, originally owned by John Sloane. It became the Berkshire Hunt Club in the late 1920s; then, Edward Cranwell acquired it, again for private use. In 1939, it was purchased by a Jesuit order that operated a boys' school on the property until 1972. The current owners, led by managing partner Daniel Burack, have run Cranwell as a resort for 19 years.

To reach Clarence Fanto:
cfanto@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6247.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto