WESTERLY — The Shelter Harbor Inn is undergoing a transformation inspired both by the vision of Dr. Franklin Lawson, who used it decades ago as part of his musical enclave, and the property’s history as a farm.
“We’re going back in time by bringing back the music colony,” said Brian Gates, a principal in the new ownership group that purchased the inn on March 14, during an interview on Monday.
Lawson purchased the property in 1912 along with the land that is now the Shelter Harbor neighborhood and marketed it as Musicolony, a country getaway for New York City opera singers and other artists.
On Monday, Gates provided a quick tour of the inn building as construction crews and movers worked at a frenetic pace preparing for an auction scheduled for Saturday. Nearly everything will be available during the auction, from sinks to linen and guest room furnishings.
The Gates family — Brian and his wife, Ulrika, and their children — is one of the three new owners, along with Dr. Denis Flanagan and Fotis and Candice Georgiadis. They purchased the inn property for $2 million as Shelter Harbor Holdings Limited LLC from James Dey’s Shelter Harbor Inn Inc. Chris and Amy Randall of The Chris Randall Group, part of Randall Realtors Charlestown office represented both the buyer and the seller. The transaction involved an additional $1.1 million for the sale of the business, according to Chris Randall.
In addition to paying tribute to the inn’s musical roots, the property’s original use as a farm will be highlighted throughout the facility and guest rooms, Gates said. Barn wood will be used for trim and wainscoting and the hardwood floors will be refurbished. Each guest room will be dedicated to a specific composer just as the streets of Shelter Harbor pay tribute to composers, including Wagner, Brahms, Verdi, Rossini, and Gounod.
“So rather than Room 10 for instance, this might be the Wagner Room,” Gates said as he showed a room.
A written history of the composer of choice will be posted in the room bearing their name, and the rooms will reflect an aspect of the composer’s work or personality, Gates said. While televisions will be available they will not be a standard amenity in each room. It’s a move toward rest, relaxation, tranquility and connection with others.
“Music brings people together, television segregates,” Gates said.
The rooms will have at least one modern flourish — Duxiana mattresses and custom Matouk bedding. The guest-room bathrooms will be heated and outfitted with marble floors and tile work.
A variety of musical acts will be booked Thursday through Sunday.
“We’ll always have performers whether it’s reggae, opera, jazz ... We’ll always have an array of music,” Gates said.
The ownership group is working with Randolph Duke, a noted interior decorator and women’s fashion designer. His outfits have been worn by a coterie of celebrities, including Barbra Streisand, Sharon Stone, Laura Linney, and Mary J. Blige. Duke is handling the interior decorating. His connections to the New York City theater world will help the new inn attract musicians, Gates said.
“Up-and-coming stars. If you want to be seen you will come here,” Gates said.
New sweeping porches and new windows are planned, as well as a highly renovated kitchen to be staffed by world-class chefs, Gates said. Butlers will tend to the needs of overnight guests. “It’s about creating an experience. With the best service and the best story,” guests will hopefully return several times a year, Gates said.
With an eye toward community relations, Gates invited residents and property owners of the Shelter Harbor neighborhood for a recent forum at the Spicer Mansion in Mystic. Gates and his family restored the mansion and operate it as a high-end boutique hotel.
“We want to be good neighbors,” Gates said.
According to Gates, the neighbors were relieved the property was bought by a small local company as opposed to a national corporate chain. One change will be made with the neighbors in mind — paddle tennis courts on the property will be removed and the area used for parking. The parking area will be secluded, with newly planted arborvitae to keep the cars out of view. Valet attendants will park the vehicles.
The new owners are shooting for a June 3 opening.
The auction is scheduled for Saturday at the inn at 10 Wagner Road starting at 8 a.m.
This article was edited at 3:11 p.m. on March 26, 2019 to add further details on the sale.