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Inn a longtime center of the community

DEERFIELD — Since it first opened in 1884, the Deerfield Inn has been the getaway for city dwellers, autumn leaf peepers and proud parents of Deerfield Academy students.

In the center of Old Main Street, the Deerfield Inn is nestled within the center of Historic Deerfield and neighbor to 11 preserved colonial homes.

The inn has been the main gathering place in Old Deerfield for roughly 130 years.

In July 1884, two Bradley brothers opened the Deerfield Inn after their first inn on the village common was destroyed by fire. They picked the location, near the Deerfield River, in the hopes that its proximity to water would prevent another total loss from fire. Old Main Street was also on the stage coach stop, a perfect place to attract travelers looking for a place to spend the night.

It wasn’t the easiest time for the inn to open. Franklin County was stricken by a drought drying up local farms and a plague of locusts devoured crops. Desperate farmers began slaughtering cattle for lack of water.

But the inn’s summer guests continued their stays nonetheless.

A year later, the Bradleys hired a local contractor who enlarged the inn.

During the early 20th century, John and Cora Carlile owned the inn. One of the guest rooms of the main inn is named after Cora, and comes with a ghost story According to current innkeeper Jane Howard, guests staying in the Cora Carlile room on the second floor often see their blankets turned down or tissues thrown on the floor mysteriously. Guests often see a spirit, wearing her dressing gown, walking around in various areas of the inn. The innkeepers and staff believe its Cora, watching over the inn.

In February 1979, the inn lay in near ruin after a fire ravaged the 2 1∕2 story wooden structure and killed one female housekeeper who suffered a heart attack during the fire. A kitchen grease fire was the cause.

After the fire broke out at 5 p.m., firefighters from six towns battled the flames for nearly five hours in freezing conditions.

Before fire officials refused to let them back inside the building, about 50 Deerfield Academy students set up an assembly line to help clear out and save most of the inn’s antiques.

With little experience running an inn, Karl Sabo and Jane Howard in 1986, became the hotel’s newest innkeepers. And they have been running the inn ever since, becoming the inn’s longest running innkeepers.

In August 2011, Tropical Storm Irene sent water from the Deerfield River flooding into the inn, drowning its basement and guest rooms in 5 feet of water. In June 2012, the 13 rooms in the Carriage House reopened for the summer and fall. The guest rooms had been gutted and renovated with new furnishings, television sets, walls and floors at a cost of $500,000 paid for by insurance.

The 11 rooms in the main inn and the Champney’s Restaurant and Tavern, however, stayed closed over the winter.

In April, the Deerfield Inn will reopen its doors after 18 months of renovations.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com or
413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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