Just when you might have thought no one would ever carry out a big construction project around here again, along came the rebuilding of the Weekapaug Inn in Westerly.
Now in the home stretch, the $30 million renovation is scheduled to be finished in late summer, in time for the historic inn to reopen in early October.
Not only is the Weekapaug project one of the largest private construction projects in the region since the start of the Great Recession, it will complete what is shaping up to be the premier seaside resort in New England.
The managing partner of the Weekapaug Inn is Langdon Wheeler, a longtime resident of the Weekapaug section of Westerly. Another investor is investment fund manager Charles Royce, the principal owner of the Ocean House in Watch Hill, and the two properties will be run as sister resorts, sharing facilities and management.
A shuttle between the two hotels, soon to be luxury bookends on the Westerly shore, will connect their many amenities, like the outdoor lap pool and restored catboats for sailing on the pond in Weekapaug or the spa at the Ocean House.
The two resorts together will rack up all kinds of stars and diamonds from the travel rating services. They will be among the nicest, if not the most expensive and luxurious, ocean resorts in the Northeast.
Rates at the Weekapaug Inn will be on a par with those at Ocean House, starting at more than $500 a night in season.
That won't buy you one of the inn's four new signature suites, though, the ones with two to three bedrooms, fireplaces, separate elevators and entrances and sweeping views down Quonochontaug Pond or out to the ocean.
The old Weekapaug Inn opened on the pond in 1939, after the original 1899 hotel, nearby on Weekapaug Beach, was destroyed in the Hurricane of 1938.
The inn, owned all that time by the Buffum family, closed after the 2004 season for renovations. In the end, it never reopened and was sold in 2010.
The exterior of the restored inn will look just as it did in 1939, including the wood shingles, clapboards, brown trim and red shutters. Parts of the original building have been retained inside, including some of the old floors, the reception desk and some of the stairs.
Modern amenities, though, will include separate bathrooms for each hotel room, most with heated marble floors and heated towel racks. That kind of luxury would have surprised guests in the old inn, which tended to showcase Yankee thrift and austerity.
The new inn will retain some of the quirks of the old place, though. There will be no televisions in the rooms, adhering to the notion that guests should go and mingle in the common spaces, share a card game in the evening, for instance.
There will be no outside phones in the rooms, either, although guests can order up a TV or a phone if their own tablets or cells don't suffice.
The total number of rooms has been reduced to 27.
The inn eventually will employ about 80 people in the high season and about 40 year-round, according to Candice Traskos, communications manager for both Ocean House and the Weekapaug Inn.
Some of the first hires for Weekapaug will come from Ocean House, as it gears down from high summer season to fall.
The hotel owners also have acquired a motel at Misquamicut Beach to house some of their summer workers, Traskos said.
Not only is it unusual to see a major construction project under way here, it is unusual to see anyone hiring dozens of new employees.
As a bonus, the new Weekapaug Inn and the Ocean House have put a big gold star on Westerly on all the best travel maps.
This is the opinion of David Collins.