At the turn of the 20th century, it was the scene of lavish parties attended by local dignitaries. Later, it was a convent for nuns spending quiet days in prayer. Most recently it’s been a place where visitors to the North Fork can lay their heads.
But it wasn’t the storied past of the Bartlett House Inn — the three story, 10-room bed and breakfast on Greenport’s Front Street — that attracted longtime part-time Southolder Joan Murray to the property.
“I didn’t need the history,” she said. “I believe walls talk to me. I just knew.”
Murray purchased the building and corner property from former owners Jack and Diane Gilmore on Jan. 15 for $1.85 million, according to public records.
The inn, which is the largest bed and breakfast on the North Fork, was on the market for only a short time, said listing agent Jill Dunbar of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. While village code prevents other B&Bs from renting out more than three rooms, Bartlett House is grandfathered under older laws.
“It didn’t sit,” Dunbar said. “I was showing it the very first day and had many offers from many different people. The Bartlett House is a totally unique property.”
Bartlett House was custom-built in 1908 for New York State assemblyman John Bartlett, his wife, Mary, and their domestic staff. After her husband’s death, Mary Bartlett donated the home to the neighboring St. Agnes R.C. Church on Sixth Street and it was converted to a convent for the Sisters of Charity.
Gilmore, who purchased the inn in 2003 when it was badly in need of restoration, said that although she loved her days as an innkeeper, it was time for her and her husband to move on.
“It was well worth it,” she said. “We love that it was well-received by our guests.”
Murray plans to continue to run the business as a bed and breakfast, but will change the name to Tapestry House. In keeping with tradition, she plans to offer breakfast and maintain the decor in the bedrooms, which ranges from country to modern to Asian-inspired.
But she said wants to create a more relaxed, casual ambiance in the inn’s common rooms.
“I want you to be able to wear shorts and sandals and not be afraid to break something,” she said. “I don’t want you to feel like you’re at a hotel. I want to create an environment where the focus is on you, not the interior design.”
Breakfast at Tapestry House will be provided by Rick and Maryann Palumbo, owners of North Road Deli and Caterers in Southold.
Palumbo said Murray had visited his deli a few times in the past week before he realized she was sizing him up for a possible partnership.
“She came in like a whirlwind,” he said. “But the more we talked, the more we thought about it. I can have the food to her well before the guests wake up.”
Murray, whose husband, Nick, is a financial adviser, author and public speaker, owned a salon in Brooklyn Heights under the same moniker as the new venture. The salon closed in 2006, she said.
“I had a business called tapestry. It was a day spa,” she said. “You didn’t have to go to Elizabeth Arden. You came to me.”
Murray had considered opening a B&B at a Spanish-style home she’s renovating on Main Road in Southold, but put that plan on hold after her mother died in 2010. She and her family have chosen to keep that home as their private residence.
The idea to run a B&B was reborn when she visited the Greenport inn.
“I was just opened up to the universe,” she said. “There are times in your life when you can’t afford not to be.”