Nine years ago, Nancy Fitzpatrick (of the Red Lion Inn) teamed up with a development group and architect to rehab five dilapidated Victorian row houses in the rusty old post-industrial town of North Adams—an unlikely tourist destination save for the hulking former industrial complex-cum-contemporary museum across the street, MASS MoCA. Once a textile mill and later an electric company that employed nearly 25 percent of the town’s population, the 100,000-square-foot space is now the country’s largest contemporary art museum. This summer on our way out East, I was completely blown away by Petah Coyne’s darkly magical sculptures made of black wax and taxidermy birds for a intensely stunning take on death and beauty. The vast space gives artists a chance to break out of the white-box confines of a traditional gallery and create outsized pieces you won’t see many other places. In one of the buildings, there’s a gigantic room (as big as a football field) with a long row of windows offering a perfect view of Porches across the street.
Inside the inn, original materials like baseboards, trim and wood panelling were salvaged to give the thoroughly modern rehab a sense of historical integrity. And the antique-outfitted interiors gets a playful nod from paint-by-numbers, silhouettes and framed cross-stitchery. It’s all very tasteful and both granny- and hipster-approved. The cushy amenities don’t hurt either: freestanding clawfoot soakers; slate-surround heated pool in the shade of the forested hill out back; adorable fire pit with handmade wooden benches and tree stump seating; and, of course, the seemingly endless front porch full of high-back rockers.