Monday June 4, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A single mother of seven, a grandmother of 11, and a great-grandmother of two, Louise Filkins has plenty to keep her busy.

Especially on weekends in the summer, when she serves as hostess for guests in her three-room bed-and-breakfast, Hollyhock House on Barker Road.

After raising a family, tending to a few weekend guests is not problem, Filkins said.

"When you have seven kids, you get pretty adept at that sort of thing," she noted.

Filkins and her former husband built their family home on her grandfather's land in 1964. After her divorce in the mid-1970s, she continued working as a legal secretary until her retirement in 1978.

She raised her children, and when they were grown and out of the house, she traveled for a while, and returned home to an empty house.

"I didn't know what to do with myself," Filkins recalled.

So she decided to put her hard-won skills to good use and refitted her home as a three-bedroom bed-and-breakfast. She opened Hollyhock House, named after the many hollyhock flowers around the property, in 1999.

Today, at 82 years old, Filkins cherishes her time with guests from around the world, who seem to enjoy her hospitality and the serenity of the gardens behind the house.

Her rosy outlook is a part of the place -- part of the karmic umbrella that permeates the property and contributes to the tranquility and cheeriness.


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"I've always felt blessed," Filkins says. Nice things always happen to me. And my guests say my house has very good karma."

Filkins books the rooms from June through October. By February, she noted, almost all the rooms are booked up for the weekends, and for some of the weekdays as well.

She does all the work herself, including designing and maintaining the gardens.

Throughout the house are photographs of her family, including many of her ancestors. Guests enjoy viewing the family galleries, and chatting about her family's history in the area, Filkins said.

She tries to keep her prices low -- the master bedroom rents for $150 per night -- because she remembers the frustration of trying to find an affordable, and acceptable, room for a night during her travels.

"How much does it really mean to you to put your head down at night and have a cup of coffee in the morning," Filkins said. "It just seems like a lot of money to me."

Many of her guests are former Pittsfield residents returning to visit family, and many are in town to visit Tanglewood, just seven miles away. Some are repeat customers that return every summer.

Filkins knows that many of her visitors are hard pressed to make the time for travel.

"People are super-busy," she said. "We're lucky they come at all."

Mostly, though, it's kind of like having family over for the weekend, and the homey atmosphere adds to that charm.

"That's what they want -- a beautiful, comfortable home where they can relax," Filkins said. "It's just a happy place."

The notes left by visitors in her guest book attest to that philosophy.

"Thank you," one guest wrote. "We felt right at home, only better."

To reach Scott Stafford:
sstafford@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6241.
On Twitter: @BE_SStafford