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Amherst's "Living Room"
By Peter Rooney
The outdoor seating area
Opening day was fast approaching, and General Manager Robert Reeves was a whirling dervish of energy as he led an impromptu tour through the Lord Jeffery Inn, more than three years after it closed for extensive renovations. On today’s to-do list for Reeves and his crew: unload boxes, hang paintings, clean construction dust, arrange restaurant furniture, begin staff training and compile invitation lists for various opening events.
Inside one of the hotel’s two sparkling kitchens, fresh produce and meats from area farms were being delivered, along with pots, pans and other equipment. Wearing a starched white jacket, Executive Chef Dino Giordano presented, for Reeves’ approval, an exquisitely arranged roasted-beet salad, one of many menu possibilities under consideration.
The renovated restaurant
Reeves predicts that diners from throughout New England will savor the ambience at 30Boltwood, the new restaurant that anchors the renovated inn and features “farm-to-table” contemporary American fare.
“Everyone is expecting the Elijah Boltwood Tavern with a facelift,” says Reeves, referring to the New England-themed eatery formerly in the Lord Jeff. “This is not that at all. The dining here [is] unique, cutting-edge, with an unbelievable décor. We’re trying to elevate the dining experience in Amherst.” This is not “another pub or tavern with sandwiches, wraps and French dips.”
The first-floor library
As employees unpacked dishware, Reeves listed some features of the $18 million renovation: 49 extensively remodeled guestrooms and suites; a well-equipped exercise room; a garden with a wedding pavilion that can accommodate a tent as large as 40 feet by 80 feet; energy-efficient features, including a heating and cooling system powered in part by 50 geothermal wells; a ballroom; and expanded conference space. The inn reopened Jan. 5.
Although the brick-clad exterior remains, every interior section of the 46,000-square-foot building was gutted “down to the studs,” Reeves says. The building was then refurbished with an attention to historical detail that earned it inclusion in the downtown historic district. Reeves expects the inn will also garner recognition as one of about 200 members of the Historic Hotels of America.
The indoor staircase
Charles Longsworth ’51, former chair of the Amherst Board of Trustees, estimates he’s stayed at the Lord Jeff more than 100 times and counts his engagement to his wife, Polly, as one of his fondest memories there. After heading a renovation planning committee, he volunteered his time to ensure that the inn features reminders, including books by alumni and faculty, of its connection to the college. (The Amherst Inn Co., a subsidiary of Amherst College, owns the inn. College treasurer Peter Shea is the company’s president.)
The Connecticut-based Waterford Hotel Group manages the Lord Jeff. “We expect this to be a viable business,” says college trustee Cullen Murphy ’74, who chairs the trustees’ Buildings and Grounds Committee. “It may not generate the profits that a chain innkeeper might want, but we expect that it will be a good investment for the college.”
To Alumni and Parent Programs director Betsy Cannon Smith ’84, the Lord Jeff’s absence made her better appreciate its importance to the college. For all of its admittedly threadbare appeal before the renovation, the inn remained popular with visitors to campus.
“The Jeff’s reopening is like the return of a living room for Amherst College,” she says. “It’s a comfortable place, and you know that you’ll be welcome there.”
Photos by Rob Mattson