As May begins, Connecticut's tourism industry is gearing up in earnest for the summer season ahead. And there's cautious optimism that receipts may be up once again this year. One Old Saybrook business is investing in the future.
It was a rainy day in town, but that didn't dampen spirits at the ribbon cutting for a new guest house at the Saybrook Point Inn and Spa -- the first expansion of the property in its 25-year history. Three generations of the owners, the Tagliatela family, were there to throw open the doors.
Now called Three Stories, the house is directly across the road from the main inn, and it's more than 100 years old. Inside, Candace Engdall showed off the old world charm of the restored property. "All these railings are the original," she said. "They maintained all the original railings. The ones going up to the third floor are like a spiral -- it's really gorgeous!"
It may feel historic, but in fact the house was in such bad shape when the Inn acquired it, it had to be almost completely gutted during the restoration. Owner Steven Tagliatella said he embarked on the project as a labor of love. "This is my neighborhood," he said. "I live across the street, and for many years I've walked by this beautiful Italianate that was falling down. It's built in 1892. And over time, as I've walked across the street, there was an older woman by the name of Mrs. Clark who lived here, and I'd greet her every morning -- give her a wave and hello -- and she'd wave back to me. I'd just start thinking about what's going to happen to this building."
It's taken three years and $2 million to make over this ornate property into a pricey, eight bedroom guest house. Overnight stays begin at $349. Each of the rooms is named for a prominent figure in Old Saybrook's past or present. Katherine Hepburn's mother Katharine Houghton Hepburn is honored, as is the original builder of the house, train engineer William Vars, and pharmacist Anna Louise James. "Miss James was the first African American pharmacist, I believe, in the state of Connecticut," said Tagliateli. "And she had a pharmacy and soda fountain for many years just up the street."
But while this property nods to the town's history, it also represents an optimism about its future. "We're more confident than we've been in the past," he admitted. "We're very happy the state's involved in promoting tourism. We feel it's a good economic generator. It's good for jobs, and it's good for the community. We're feeling that the economy is starting to pick up. It's been a long road."
Next to Three Stories, visible from the balconies on the east side of the house, are the concrete foundations for a second guest house. It's an indication that luxury travelers at least are bringing their dollars back to the Nutmeg State.