Deerfield Inn to reopen in April
Innkeepers Jane Howard and Karl Sabo, left, and other staff behind the new wrap around bar at the renovated and improved Deerfield Inn.
Karl Sabo and Jane Howard with the sign of the Deerfild Inn
Innkeeper Jane Howard shows how high the Deerfield River flooded the lower level of the Deerfield Inn.
The new bar at Champney's at The Deerfield Inn
DEERFIELD — In April, the Deerfield Inn on Old Main Street will open its doors for the first time after 18 months of recovering from flooding of Tropical Storm Irene.
With the opening, the inn will combine past favorites with change, which will mainly be in the Champney’s Restaurant and Tavern.
The 129-year-old inn in the heart of Old Deerfield has 24 guest rooms and dining.
In August 2011, Irene sent a swollen Deerfield River rushing into the historic white wooden building, flooding it with 5 feet of water. The flood drowned the basement, but the damage spread throughout the 2 1∕2 story main inn as the moisture seeped into the walls and ceilings.
The old blue nameplate hanging at the entrance was cracked. The sidewalks and brick siding of the building loosened and splintered.
Like many of the rooms, inside the Beehive Parlor, the front room used for tea and cocktails, the yellow historic wallpaper as thick as parchment began to peel from the walls. By the doorway of the Fireplace Lobby, the white ceiling severed and split.
The flood damage required the innkeepers to upgrade the electrical, heating and ventilation systems and redo the sewer lines. The inn also needed to meet new fire and building codes that have become law since the inn first opened in 1884.
With the help of the inn’s owners, Historic Deerfield Inc. — the nonprofit dedicated to the heritage and preservation of Deerfield and the Connecticut River Valley —the innkeepers, Karl Sabo and Jane Howard pumped $500,000 of insurance money into the project.
Along with the restorations, the innkeepers have taken a chance to combine the old face of the inn with a new style.
Champney’s Restaurant and Tavern is where guests will see the biggest change. The innkeepers have re-configured the main floor of the tavern to accommodate a 20-seat bar and dining for about 110 people. Previously, the bar only had four seats and the tavern had 35 seats.
“We wanted a place for the community to gather,” Karl Sabo said. “The small tavern we had previously was popular. We wanted to build more of what we thought was popular.”
The plan is to emphasize New England dining featuring local foods and beer.
The mastermind behind that plan is newcomer and executive chef Matt Skobrak of Connecticut.
Combining his experience as a farm worker at Crab Apple Farm in Chesterfield to round cook at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort casinos, the New England Culinary Institute graduate will introduce casual local dining to the inn.
“I know both experiences on the farms and restaurants,” Skobrak said. “I know (farmers’) struggles and I also know what it takes to put food in a restaurant.”
Using his experience selling farm produce to local restaurants in Chesterfield, Skobrak connected with local farmers to use local vegetables, herbs, and beef.
“It’ll be a hyper local restaurant. We want to promote local products,” Skobrak said.
The tavern will get its produce from the Small Farm and Atlas Farm in Deerfield and the Kitchen Garden in Sunderland. It will get its goat cheese to make flat bread dishes from Sangha Farm in Ashfield. The pork and hamburgers will come from the inn’s neighbor, Yazwinski Farm.
Outside between the Carriage House and the inn, the tavern will have its own herb garden to grow parsley, chives and tarragon.
The menu is designed to accommodate farmers, Skobrak said.
It will be fluid and flexible. Dishes will change depending on what farmers drop off at the inn’s doors. And the menu would be seasonal to reflect the products available. Two-thirds of the menu would be available year round, while one-third would feature whatever the inn can get from the local farms.
Skobrak has crafted the menu to create an experience where customers can casually share plates. It would be similar to a steak house, but New England cuisine.
At the new 20-seat bar, customers can expect 12 local beers on taps. The restaurant has a new beer program, in which half of the taps are devoted to local breweries. There will be three taps each for Berkshire Brewing Company, People’s Pint Brewery and Lefty’s Brewing Company. And the breweries will get to pick one beer of their choice to put on tap.
Four other beers — Dogfish Head (a nationally known Delaware brewery run by a Greenfield native), Jack’s Abby, Allagash and Guinness — will also be on tap.
For the opening, People’s Pint and Lefty’s are brewing two special beers.
For dessert, Champney’s will serve up maple ice cream in the spring, made from local syrup, and custards cakes and pies. The popular Indian pudding, a cornmeal custard with molasses and maple syrup, also stays on the menu.
Prices run the gamut from $6 for a bowl of soup to $85 for a 24-ounce steak.
Not everything has changed, however. Guests can still sense the old and familiar when they enter the Fireplace Lobby. The innkeeper’s desk below an arch will still greet people as they walk across the restored blue carpet and sit on the red lounge chairs.
Next door, the stark yellow Beehive Parlor remains the place for cocktails and tea with its historic yellow wallpaper covered with beehives and large yellow couches and armchairs.
The owners worked to keep the popular parlor the same. A local wallpaper manufacturer, John Christianson, found the print of the beehive on plates at Historic Deerfield. With ink screening, he was able to recreate the paper.
The inn will also keep its formal dining section, albeit smaller. Champney’s Restaurant will have the same feel as it did before with its warm fireplace and bright open windows and hanging chandeliers.
The seating has decreased from 120 seats to 50 to add more space to the abutting tavern.
“It is what people will expect and recognize,” Howard said.
Although they will have new curtains and furnishings, the 11 second-floor guest rooms will also look familiar. And each room keeps its original name in honor of a historical Deerfield man or woman, such as Chester Harding, Joseph Gillett, Frank Boyden and popular past innkeeper Cora Carlisle.
In June, the Deerfield Inn will have a grand opening.