NORTH ADAMS -- In July 2002, Nancy Fritz Torkington decided to drive past her family's old homestead at 182 East Main St. -- a move that would lead to her purchase of the Victorian-era home and put in motion plans to turn it into a bed and breakfast.
Almost 11 years later, the historic home will open as The Inn on East Main Street, with an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
"I was in the Berkshires for a trip to Tanglewood and I thought I'd go up and see the old homestead. When I did, I found that [then owner] Bill Cummings had put out a ‘For Sale' sign on the lawn," she said. "I thought that it would make a wonderful old bed and breakfast. I called my sister out in San Francisco about it. I just knew I had to get in back in the family. "
Fritz Torkington purchased the house and adjacent carriage house in October 2002, from Harold "Bill" and Judy Cummings, owners of Cummings Studio, the former world-renowned stained glass studio. Since then, she's been lovingly restoring the house to its 1880s glory.
"The house was built by my great-grandparents, Charles and Effie Cutting, in 1881," she said Friday, during a telephone interview from Boston. "I was born in North Adams. We lived there for a time with my grandparents, until my father returned from the war [World War II]. When he established his medical practice, we moved to southern Connecticut, but we visited my grandparents regularly."
Charles Cutting arrived in the city in 1878 and opened a store, Cutting and Co., with a partner. The store, which was located on the corner of Main and Marshall streets, was owned by Cutting until his death in 1940.
"Back in 2004, I met someone who remembered my great-grandfather," she said. "He was on the street every morning, sweeping the sidewalk and greeting everyone. He knew everyone by name. The store eventually became Roberts & Co."
The East Main Street house remained
"I'm very excited about the opening," Fritz Torkington said. "I'm very excited about the Conte School renovation project and what's happening in the city. In general, I think it's a really cool time for North Adams. There are so many signs that things are happening there -- it hasn't exactly been a steady line forward. But I really think North Adams has a great future ahead of it."
It wasn't until 2010 that renovation work inside the house really got underway.
"All during 2010 and 2011, we put in new electrical, new windows, painted and wallpapered all the rooms and upgraded all bathrooms," she said. "When we moved into the house in 2004, we renovated the kitchen. It had four or five small pantries in it. We opened it up into a large kitchen. My daughter, Joslin, and I like to make dinner. It's a great place to work and visit."
The inn features four guest rooms, each named after a 19th century author her great-grandparents would have been familiar with -- Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Charles Darwin and Edith Wharton.
"In the library, we have some wonderful pictures of my great-grandparents, and my great-grandfather's cane," Fritz Torkington said. "We're also really trying to promote the local community. We're going to have a space to exhibit local craftsmen and artists. Currently we have work from Shadowbrook Custom Cabinetry, which has its studio in the carriage house. We're also going to have local foods in our breakfast offerings."
Although the inn officially opens on May 29, she said the first reservations have already been taken, for the weekend of June 21-23, during Wilco's Solid Sound Festival at Mass MoCA.
But Fritz Torkington wants the community to see the inn before it opens.
"On Sunday, I want the public to come see the inn -- I think it will appeal to all generations," she said. "My sister is going to dress up as our great-grandmother, Effie, and we have someone dressing up as Charles. I just want people to see this wonderful testament to the city's history. We need to make more connections between the past and the future."
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