Photo by Alison Shaw.
For the first time in more than a quarter of a century a full-fledged inn is open year-round in Edgartown center, serving meals as well as offering accommodations.
The restored 13-room Kelley House and the 43-room Kelley House addition opened last weekend on the street of the same name and brought back many a memory to oldtime Edgartonians who recalled the days when Bill Kelley played gallant and agreeable host during the spring term of Superior Court to the lawyers, court officers and judges who came for that annual event. Mrs. Kelley’s “delectable cod steak fried in deep fat” was remembered with particular affection by at least one of them.
“There was something homey, something very comfortable about the Kelley House in those days...with Bill Kelley holding the floor and telling stories,” Cooper Gaw, New Bedford newspaperman, reported in 1935.
The same hominess and comfort seems to be in prospect for contemporary guests from the new manager, Mrs. Robert J. Carroll; the same sort of merry storytelling for the new host, Mr. Carroll, and the same fine cooking Mrs. Kelley offered is being put on the pine tables in the dining room by Willy Weber, summer chef at the Harbor View Hotel, and his wife, Marie. Mr. Weber has been chef at Mount Holyoke College in past winters.
The old Kelley House with its high piazza is said to have stood at its present location since 1748, when it was opened as a tavern by John Harper, who was succeeded in 1772 by his son in law, Lamuel Kelley. In 1801, it passed into the hands of his son, William. For a time it became the Marcy House and then it was the Kelley House again under the Bill Kelley of recent times.
In the 1930s it became the property of Richard L. Colter, who changed the name to Great Harbour Inn. Last year it was purchased by Mr. Carroll and his associate in the Harbor View Hotel, former state Sen. Allan F. Jones.
A 20-room hostelry hardly seemed large enough for today’s travelers, so a long addition was constructed to bring to Edgartown, MR. Carroll said, an inn like Nantucket’s famous Jared Coffin House.
Roses are being planted along white picket fences; cedars and spruce and rhododendron decorate the front and side yards. Golden chrysanthemums are in bloom just now along the inn’s brick walks.
Inside, in gracious hallways and reception rooms, some of the antique piecrust tables, Boston rockers and Victorian sofas that graced the old Kelley House remain in evidence. The dining room of the old inn has been redecorated and enlarged to accommodate 100 and breakfasts, lunches and dinners are being served on rich blue tablecloths. Cranberry glass candleholders glow crimson, and gold goblets gleam.

Colonial Furnishings

Upstairs, Colonial bedspreads cover pine, cherry and birch beads. Wing chairs, imitation Windsors, sconces, and wallpaper in Colonial patters fill sunny rooms. There have been 4,500 square yards of carpeting used in the new and the renovated Kelley House, 1,700 rolls of wallpaper and 175 lamps. (The arrival of 26 extra cartons of lampshades from Chicago took Mrs. Carroll rather aback in the last days before the inn opened as did the slashing of a spring cover when an overly energetic new employee sought to open its wrappings with a knife too swiftly.)
There have, of course, been delays and frustrations as construction has progressed, but they could have been worse, the Carrolls agree, proudly showering off their new hostelry, “a place of sanctuary and warm welcome.” Mr. Colter called it, “where guests come to swim and yacht, fish and bicycle, read on the lawn, and enjoy sea air and sound sleep.”