Tourists, A Hospitality Industry Of Its Own, Grows In North Adams
The Farmhouse/The Airport Rooms. Photo: Peter Crosby
The Lodge. Photo: Nicole Franzen
Tourists room. Photo: Nicole Franzen
When Ben Svenson, TOURISTS motel’s lead investor, and team embarked on opening a hotel property in the Berkshires, the goal was to create an 18-room property in downtown North Adams. Four years later, the result is an artfully appointed motel in the Blackinton area of the city focused on the history and ecology of the region. The end result, a 48-room property on the site of the former Redwood Motel, TOURISTS offers outdoor amenities that according to the motel’s in-room field guide, “offers many opportunities for recreation and meaningful connection with nature.”
Currently the darling of major travel outlets, TOURISTS, a “riverside retreat,” has received significant coverage from the likes of Vogue, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times and Vanity Fair. The team has felt the warm reception not only from the national media but from the 4,000 guests who have come through its doors since the property opened in July.
According to Svenson, the vast majority have come from New York, and for the most of the guests it’s their first visit to the Berkshires. “There is a whole new audience that is coming that hasn’t been to this place, it’s a wonderful experience watching them discover it. It’s thrilling,” he said.
Svenson partially credits the group’s deep dive into all things North Adams as part of the project’s success. They “put their blinders on” and explored why people visited North Adams, both now and over 100 years ago. What they found was that the catalyst behind travel to the city, during both time periods, was the area’s geographic beauty.
Ecology ended up becoming the driving force for the motel and the lens for how the group approached all aspects of the guest experience, from the materials used to construct the property (unpainted white oak, native to the area) to the building of trails and public spaces, with a goal of creating a property that is “of the area.”
But there’s more here than just natural beauty — there are the cultural offerings. “We all came here for the museums, such as MASS MoCA and The Clark, and then we fell in love with ecology,” admitted Svenson.
After a successful soft opening last month, the newest addition to the property, The Airport Rooms, is now open to the public. Located in an 1813 farmhouse adjacent to the motel, The Airport Rooms takes its name from The Airport Rooms and Tourist Home, a nine-room accommodation that occupied the farmhouse between 1944 and 1994. Operating as the motel's bar and lounge, the new space is currently open for cocktails and soon will be serving hearty bar fare from Greg Thomas, formerly of Austin's Elizabeth Street Café, with occasional live music in the cozy living room space.
Among the musical offerings, TOURISTS’ Sing for Your Slumber music series is in full swing, with touring musicians playing in both The Airport Rooms and motel’s Lodge area. The intimate music series has featured a solo set from Michael Nau, a stripped-down performance by Caroline Rose and, this week, a two-day residency by the Nashville band Cordovas. For those looking for more TOURISTS-inspired music, there's TOURISTS radio, a Spotify playlist featuring folk and indie rock tunes curated by co-owners Eric Kerns and John Stirratt, bassist for the bands Wilco and The Autumn Defense.
As TOURISTS transitions into the spring season and laps its first year, there is an opportunity for the complex to welcome visitors and locals alike to discover (or rediscover) the city of North Adams.
“The ecology is ever changing,” says Svenson. “The museums are ever changing. You can come here and then come back here two months later, and things are different. It’s dynamic here.”
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