A Touch of Disney on the Housatonic (With All Due Respect)
Marty Ianonne is an arborist turned innkeeper, who never planned on moonlighting as a wedding planner. When he bought a fly shop, 18th century lodge, and some rundown cinder-block cabins ten years ago across from the Housatonic River on the Cornwall/Sharon border, he thought he would mostly cater to fishermen like himself—men’s men who get misty-eyed only when they talk about brook and rainbow trout. But he’s discovered that Breadloaf Mountain Lodge & Cottages, the rustic, unprepossessing compound that he’s created across from Housatonic Meadows State Park, is an ideal spot for down-to-earth weddings, corporate retreats, yoga seminars, and family reunions. A few years ago, he finally tore down the pre-World War II cabins that were just 200 square feet, after getting permission to build new wood ones that are triple the size. He’s made sure the bungalows look as if they’ve been there for generations, but added state-of-the-art conveniences like WiFi, satellite radio, flat-screen TVs and kitchenettes with granite counters and full-size refrigerators. He constructed them for year round use (“The skiers from Mohawk Mountain made my winter”) with thoughtful touches like radiant heat beneath the Mexican tile floors in the bathrooms and gas fireplaces that look like traditional wood stoves Each bungalow has a screened porch with a built-in daybed. “We’ve discovered that many guests are spending the night on them in the summers,” he says. In the mornings, a pot of coffee and a basket of muffins is left on each porch before guests arise, so the overall feeling is like staying in a guest house on a well-run estate.
Since many of his guests are stressed out New Yorkers who rush up from the city without dinner reservations, he devised his Chill and Grill package. If guests order in advance, he’ll leave uncooked chicken, fish or steak in the cottage’s fridge, along with a cart stocked with side dishes and condiments, so when guests arrive they can barbecue dinner on the hibachi outside their cabin. “It makes them get into the county mode right away,” he explains. “They put all their dirty dishes on the cart so they don’t even have to clean up.”
Iannone has done extensive landscaping in front of the cabins so you can barely see or hear nearby Route 7. “That’s a tapestry hedge,” he says, pointing to a line of conifers in every shade of green, which acts as a buffer in front of the screened porches. “I call it the Disney berm.” As in Walt Disney? “Yes. you’ll see the same thing at Epcot,” says Iannone, who trained for two years at Fantasyland itself. “It was a very tough job to get, but I had the skills and smiles. At Disney, if you’re a happy person you’re more likely to be hired.” One of the Disneyesque touches he gave to the five cottages was to name each one after a type of tree—Dogwood, Birch, Pine, Maple, Oak—and then to use the tree as a motif for decorating the rooms, which includes using the corresponding hand-scraped antique wood for the floors. The main lodge, which he used to run as a bed and breakfast, is now rented as a single house that sleeps 12 -14, for $650 a night. “We get families, we get book clubs, and it’s great for wedding parties,” he says, noting that he has carved out a space by the woods where he can erect a tent that will hold 75 people for dinner and dancing. His favorite guests remain the fishermen, who appreciate being able to walk to the Housatonic. “I’ve been fishing this river since I was thirteen-years-old and I’ve fished all over the world,” he says. “And the Housatonic is one of the best.”
Breadloaf Mountain Lodge & Cottages
13 Route 7, Cornwall Bridge CT; (860) 672-6064
The Dogwood cottage’s screnned porch
The view of the lodge from Housatonic Meadows State Park, where you can fish year round.