The Fitzpatricks did well enough to buy Blantyre, a Gilded Age estate in nearby Lenox, now a small luxury resort run by Nancy's sister, Ann Fitzpatrick Brown. Nancy helped develop Porches Inn, which opened in 2001 in a row of Victorian mill workers' cottages near the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams.
Country inns come and go; new owners sink millions into well-loved properties, find they can't pay their way and close the door. But the Fitzpatrick clan seems to know the secret to making old places thrive. At the Red Lion it has to do with modesty and respect for the inn's personality.
A partial renovation in 2006 gave it an outdoor pool and spruced-up guest bathrooms with white beadboard walls and gold-colored fixtures. But the inn still offers a few humble shared-bath chambers; in-room espresso machines, sound systems and other chichi touches that drive rates high — and make the country inn experience like staying at a Hilton with ruffles — have been avoided. After all, Mrs. Plumb would have looked dimly on such contrivances.
My room at the Red Lion was cozy, with floral wallpaper and painted floorboards covered by a woven rug. Small, but amiable, it had lots of lamps, a writing desk, a wing chair and a plump four-poster queen for which I yearned even though the old grandfather clock in the lobby hadn't yet struck 4.
I spent what was left of the afternoon admiring Tiffany stained glass at St. Paul's Episcopal Church across from the inn, choosing penny candy at Williams & Sons Country Store on Main Street, looking through the book sale shelf at the 1862 town library and walking to a stone footbridge over the Housatonic River. Then it was dinner time at the inn: a salad with blue cheese and pistachio nuts and succulent duck breast, accompanied by a glass of Pinot Noir from Oregon.
Afterward I could have gone to the Lion's Den, where there's almost always live music, or watched a DVD from the inn's large collection. Instead, I retired to my room, savoring the winter quiet, got into my jammies and took a ride in my Currier & Ives sleigh with sheets, pillows and four posters.