Washington: A $70 million inn to rise in the Litchfield hills

WASHINGTON — The long battle to turn the old Wykeham Rise School for Girls site into a luxury inn is over for siblings Matthew and Erika Klauer, town residents who bought the 27 acres on Wykeham Road and fought to develop it for the past decade.

The old school site will become become the $70 million Wykeham Rise inn in 2019. It will be a “family friendly” luxury inn and condominium campus with 49 rooms, three restaurants, a spa and an outdoor pool managed by Ocean House Management Collection, a hotel company that runs several inns in New England. Construction will begin in spring, and the inn is expected to be finished in two years.

Of the 49 rooms, there are 16 suites, and 10 of those suites are listed for sale as condominiums. They range in price from $1 million to $7 million, and are eligible for what real estate agent Jeffery Philips described as a “sweet deal.”

If you buy a Wykeham condo, you can sign up to have it used as hotel room when you’re not in town, Phillips said. The condo owner and Ocean House then split the proceeds. Hotel rooms will go for $600 to $900 a night.

Phillips said there has been “significant interest” in the 10 condominiums listed this week.

The inn, or “gentleman’s farm,” as Ocean House President Daniel Hostettler described it, will be also be a community asset, he said.

There will be Easter egg rolls and tree lightnings, said Hostettlereltter, the managing director of all four Ocean House properties. Town residents and neighboring townspeople can also sign up to be a Wykeham member and have access to a private restaurant and attend inn-sponsored hiking and skiing trips, he said. Ocean House has yet to price the annual membership, but they are hoping 125 families sign up.

From 2007 to 2013, the Klauers faced neighborhood concerns and legal conflicts with the town’s Zoning Department. Then in 2013, with zoning and Inland Wetlands Commission issues put to bed, the Klauers battled with Paligroup, a California-based hotel firm, after a deal in which Paligroup was to pay Erika Klauer $6.7 million to build a hotel on the site fell through.

The Paligroup concept for the inn — which was California sleek — is no longer the plan, Hostettler said. But the footprint is the same.

“We made it more New England,” he said. Instead of snazzy “modern” looks, the inn is outfitted with rustic sensibilities such as rough lumber used in construction, he said.

Erika Klauer declined to comment on this story, deferring to Hostettler instead.

Hostettler said the new inn will be a nice complement to Washington, a town in which officials estimate only 25 percent of residents live there full-time. The other luxury inn in town, the Mayflower Grace, is truly “black tie,” and doesn’t allow children younger than 12 years old, Hostettler said. Wykeham will be more kid-friendly, more “sport coat, open collar,” he said.

While Klauer had several legal battles to get the inn approved, her history didn’t worry Ocean House, Hostettler said. Ocean House’s first property, on a Rhode Island beach, also took six years of planning before that inn was approved and built in 2010, he said.

Of the two neighbors who fought the inn in court, one has since sold their property to Klauer and the other could not be reached.

The property has a rich history. The Rolling Stones rehearsed for their Steel Wheels Tour there in 1980s.

In what might sound more like a schoolmaster’s nightmare than a real-estate transaction, the Rolling Stones, legendary rockers and agents provocateurs of the sexual revolution, have taken over Wykeham Rise, a former boarding school for girls here,” The New York Times reported in July 1989.

According to the Times article, Washington residents were dismayed with the Stones’ presence in the little town, population 3,578.

“They could come in here right now, and I wouldn’t know them,'” a Washington resident told the Times about the Stones. “I don’t want to know them.”

blytton@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3411; @bglytton