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Overnight in the country: The Interlaken

The Lakeville Journal begins a three-part series on three notable Salisbury inns and hotels that are popular with leaf-peeping visitors. Nature’s Notebook this week carries a list of prime spots for viewing fall foliage — including several in Kent,which Yankee magazine has called the top foliage town in the region.

LAKEVILLE —What you see is not always what you get. If you drive by the Interlaken Inn in Lakeville you see a nice big parking lot and a nice-enough looking contemporary building, which was constructed in 1972  after a massive fire destroyed the old main building in 1971.

You don’t necessarily see a cozy New England inn.

“People don’t know what we have unless they look at our website or stop and visit,†said Sales and Marketing Manager Dan Bolognani, who has been with the inn for 23 years. “It’s easy to drive by and not be impressed.â€

Iron Industry roots

That may be true, but step inside and your first impression disappears. The Interlaken was built as an inn in 1892, but bits and pieces found on the property indicate that, even as far back as 1750, the grounds may have been used for lodging in one form or another.

“The iron industry was a significant source of employment and income in the 1700s, and it was around for 200 years, give or take a few years,†speculated Bolognani (who is also executive director of the federal Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area). “The workers had to live somewhere, and they may have been housed here for a time.â€

Situated on 30 acres of land (on both sides of Route 112), the Interlaken is (and always has been) really more of a resort than an inn. It has lake frontage on both Lake Wononscopomuc (known to many as Lakeville Lake) and on the smaller and more secluded Long Pond.

There are tennis courts, a swimming pool, intimate gardens, grand views, walking paths.

Three meals a day are served at Morgan’s Restaurant, which has a contemporary menu that relies on local farms for much of its produce.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the inn was more of a summer resort for families, who would leave their city life and stay (at an all-meals-included price) for a month or more at a time.

Those days ended in 1971. The devastating fire coincided with a decline in families leaving the city for the entire summer. The economy started to slow down, gas lines started to grow and the face of an “easy†life changed for many Americans.

Race cars in the parking lot

In 1981, Paul Reisman bought the Interlaken Inn.

An enthusiastic race car driver, Reisman had stayed at the inn during one of his racing visits to the track at Lime Rock Park. He liked the place so much, he made an offer to buy it.

The offer was accepted, and a cordial relationship between the Interlaken and Lime Rock Park began.

On weekends, the parking lot is often like a mini-concours of exotic and well-tended automobiles.

These types of alliances and group visits have become increasingly essential, as the old ways of doing business have died out here in the lodging industry. Innkeepers no longer can count on families filling rooms for an entire season; and they can no longer sit back and wait for day trippers to check in throughout the summer and in the fall leaf peeping season.

 â€œOne of the biggest challenges that faces all of the inns in this area, is our ability to change with the times,†Bolognani observed. “We have to identify trends in the ever-changing economy, evolve our markets and keep growing.â€

One of the fastest growing markets for the Interlaken and other inns, is the wedding trade. The Interlaken, with its extensive grounds, can offer a wedding party privacy, security and ample sites for lovely photos.

The Interlaken, like other inns, works hard to create packages for weddings and other types of groups. And one advantage it offers is that it has a restaurant, spa, beach and sports facilities right on the hotel grounds.

For the auto enthusiasts, there are secure parking lots for valuable cars and the sizeable trailers that haul them and their equipment. There are designated areas for particular car clubs and facilities for car washing.

And for those who still crave the comforts of old-fashioned architecture, there is a Victorian-era house for guests to use for a weekend, a week, a month or more.

To learn more about the Interlaken Inn, go to the website at interlakeninn.com.

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