Northville landmark under new ownership

NORTHVILLE – Sometimes to move forward, you have to embrace the past.

That’s what the new owners of the Inn at the Bridge have done, spending about half a year stripping layers of tiles, panels and paint to reveal the original masterpiece of a 19th century village icon.

Now original wood-patterned flooring shines in the dining room and an original tin ceiling painted white looks down on the guest entry.

“It’s the rebirth of an icon,” said Michael Intrabartola, whose family including his wife, Lorrie, son, Michael, called Mikey by the family, and daughter in law, Michele Drozd, purchased the inn.

Many may recognize the family as the owners of The Orendaga, a lodging and artists’ retreat on Northville Lake.

After the overhaul, the lakeside bed and breakfast is ready to reopen with an open house event taking place this weekend. The open house continues today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 641 Bridge St.

The inn features six guest rooms with private bathrooms, several common areas, an apartment for the innkeepers and about 30 rentable boat slips on the Great Sacandaga Lake.

Four of the guest rooms have lakeviews while the other two feature garden views. One room is located on the ground floor by the dining area that overlooks the lake, while the others are on the upper floor.

Guests enter a renovated space by the large gazebo overlooking the lake. The space is white, clean and fresh, and mixed with the blues gives the feel of a seaside escape. Around the corner is the dining area, one of the bedrooms, and a large parlor with a fireplace and bar. A large open staircase leads to the other rooms.

The inn has a tentative full market value of $532,794 for 2013, according to property tax-map data. According to Fulton County data, it was built in 1855 and spans about 3,000 square feet.

The inn sat closed for two years before it was purchased by Stephen Ryan and Michael Vuotto in March 2011. But six months after an open house, it was placed on the market again.

According to tax map data the pair purchased it for $560,000 and before then, it sold for $600,000 to multiple owners. The last listed purchase price is $415,000.

The new owners not only have an investment – literally – in the community with The Orendaga, they also have experience with renovating historic structures and an eye for ascetics.

The Orendaga, an 1850s inn, had fallen into disrepair before its owners restored it. Now, a decade later, it has become a thriving vacation spot and artists’ retreat.

Now the same family is taking on the Inn at the Bridge and has restored the village icon that welcomes traffic into the village from the bridge that spans from Route 30 over the Great Sacandaga Lake into the village

They say paying attention to detail is one of the most important keys to running a successful lodging business as well as making proper restorations.

“The key is in the owner,” Michele said. “It’s all about the people running the business, their personality, interaction with guests, attention to detail, being there for those people, and fulfilling their needs and making sure they have a great time.”

It was the father, Michael, and daughter-in-law Michele, who had the vision for the inn, the family said.

“It started with the Orendaga, and then the Inn became available about a year and a half ago,” Michael said.

Michael was still commuting back and forth for eight years from Long Island, and he wanted to retire to the area and have more things to keep himself busy here, so the timing was perfect.

“It was a lot more work,” said son Michael, of The Orendaga, which consists of multiple buildings including cabins, suites, an artist’s studio, a wood shop and the main house gallery that displays the artwork of Michele and Michael as well as other local artists.

“We knew we needed more places to stay in town because of so much overflow at The Orendaga,” Michele said. “On our end, Mikey [Michele’s husband] and I love old buildings,” Michele said. “We loved working on The Orendaga, and Mikey has his own carpentry business, so this was a great project for him.”

In fact, he constructed the arch in the guest entry where bakery goods are sold, as well as the rounded staircase to the entry area that matches the 19th century staircase that leads to the wrap-around porch in the front.

“They especially like to restore old buildings, not just redo them, but restore them,” Lorrie said.

The inn had a test weekend earlier this month with guests remarking their favorite thing was the food prepared by Michael and Lorrie.

Speaking of food, the inn also will be open to the public for sale of Chick and Hen Baking Company’s baked goods including sweet and savory items. They’re also planning to open it Friday and Saturday nights for a few hours.

When the family rescued the Inn at the Bridge, they noted how much the building means to the community with it housing so many memories.

In budgeting for restorations, Michael said it’s hard to give a figure with such an expansive project.

“Our budget, not in using dollars and cents, we figured you look at the building and you just get a little bit of a feel for a number you’re going to spend,” Michael, the father, said.

“Then double it,” Michele added.

“You’re going to go way beyond that. You get to a point where the budget goes out the window,” Michael said.

“You don’t know what you’re going to find,” Lorrie said, ” and you want to do it right,” Michael added, finishing her sentence.

There are several examples. The moldings on the walls were redone, constructed to look original with special attention to detail. The ceiling in the parlor had tile glued to it, which had to be removed, and panels were taken off the walls. When someone didn’t like something, they just covered or painted over it in the past, Michael, the son, said.

“For years and years the previous owners didn’t do that,” Michele said. “They’d do the minimum necessary to make it aesthetically pleasing and functioning, but after a while that isn’t good enough anymore. You really have to address the problems.”

The family installed a new heating and air-conditioning system, which son Michael designed to blend in with the building. A white-painted pipe that goes unnoticed in the corner of a room -resembling an old heating pipe – actually houses electrical and other lines for the system. Its design makes it easy to take apart, too.

“Mikey came up with electrical conduit pieces that come apart,” Michael said. “Where if that was boxed in, we’d have to rip the wall apart. They’re artists, so they see things from a different perspective.”

When the family bought the inn, they said people began telling them it was nice just to see a light on when they drove across the bridge.

“Here in Northville, the Inn at the Bridge is an icon. It’s the first building you see when you come over the bridge into the village,” Michael said. “It’s been on a downward swing and it definitely needed to be brought back, and I think a lot of people are looking forward to it knowing what we’ve done over at The Orendaga and the way that’s changed and been brought from a piece of property that was in complete disrepair and falling apart.”

His son added, “I think people in the town are also very attracted to this building. I don’t know that any other building in town really has that.”

Michele said the original owner was a timber baron “who played a large role in the community.”

“This building has always been viewed as the center of activity in a sense,” Michele said.

“We have some really beautiful houses in this town, and it’s great to see them restored and renovated. We’re seeing all these other houses painted, refreshed and redone, and this house in the meantime had been taking a few steps backward, and it scared everyone. Now people are taking care of it again giving it a facelift and keeping it open for the public. It gives them hope for the whole town.”

In addition, the inn also serves a place for local artists to present their work. William Coffey built the custom black walnut bar with a mosaic made form locally-mined mica.

Also, Harry Wirtz’s photography hangs in the parlor.