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Martha’s Vineyard icon Kelley House marks 275th anniversary with a stunning "boutique" renovation

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EDGARTOWN, Mass. – July 26, 2017 – Kelley House, one of Martha’s Vineyard’s most historic establishments and among the oldest hotels in the United States, is commemorating its 275th anniversary with a brand-new look. The renovation has transformed Kelley House into a stylish boutique hotel for the 21st century while retaining its timeless Vineyard vibe. Guest room linens are in crisp white and nautical blues. “Weathered” wood-plank floors are layered with woven sisal rugs. White planked ceilings evoke the classic clapboard siding of the hotel’s exterior and are updated with recessed accent lighting. And stunning photography of water scenes and sunset views adorns the walls.

Kelley House is located in the heart of quaint Edgartown, whose fortunes grew and declined with the whaling industry before finding new vitality as a summer colony in the late 19th century. Today, Kelley House’s legacy continues as a favorite Vineyard retreat.

The inn’s original structure opened in 1742 as The Tavern – three decades before the Boston Tea Party sparked the American Revolution -- and continued to provide respite for sailors throughout the war and whaling eras.

It was managed by John Harper, master of the sloop Humbird, until he passed the baton to his son-in-law, fellow master mariner Lemuel Kelley, in 1772. As Captain Valentine Pease (1764-1854), a mariner believed to be the model for Herman Melville’s Ahab, recounted, When I can first remember and for years afterward there was a swamp near the shore… [with] but two ways through it to the shore; one, now the termination of Main street; the other leading from the old Tavern kept by Kelley and others to the wharf.”

In the years that followed, ownership passed to Kelley’s widow, Bathsheba Harper in 1798, then to their son William Kelley in 1801. It remained under William’s care until the mid-1800s, when Joseph V. Kelly assumed ownership and brought in William H. Milton as co-owner, and the partners embarked on an expansion of the inn.

The mid-19th century brought a series of changes in management and names, from Marcy House to Marcy Tavern to Vineyard House. It closed in 1878, in the wake of the whaling industry’s decline, then reopened as the Sea View House (not to be confused with the larger Sea View resort in nearby Oak Bluffs) by William Kelley in 1891. The following year, William married Elizabeth Johnston, who worked in the inn’s kitchen, and the couple renamed their inn Kelley House. Elizabeth continued to operate Kelley House for 28 years after her husband’s death, and her own obituary in the Vineyard Gazette in 1935 reported that she had “helped develop a new and wider reputation for the house as a place where only the favored might expect to be accommodated. For such has been the standing of the place and its owner that the same guests have returned year after year, their children and grandchildren with them.”

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William and Elizabeth Kelley had no children of their own, and upon Elizabeth’s death, ownership of Kelley House transferred to Richard L. Colter (“Lee”), the son of her sister. Ownership passed to Lee’s son, Richard I. Colter, in 1964, and in 1972, Kelley House was acquired by Robert J. Carroll and former state senator Allan F. Jones, partners in the Harbor View Hotel.

Apart from a brief renaming in 1946 as Great Harbour Inn – honoring Edgartown’s original name -- the inn has remained Kelley House to this day.

“It is extremely gratifying and humbling to see that, after 275 years, Kelley House continues to be a favorite New England gathering place for families and friends,” said Robin Kirk, principal and CEO of Scout Hotel & Resort Management. “We are incredibly grateful to the countless visitors who choose to stay at Kelley House year after year. Each person who walks through those doors is playing an important role in adding to Kelley House’s enduring heart and soul.” 

Located just steps away from Memorial Wharf, Kelley House is a central starting point from which to discover the Vineyard’s charm. Etiquette expert Emily Post, vaudeville and radio comedian Ed Wynn, and cast and crew members of the blockbuster “Jaws” are among the long list of notables who have chosen Kelley House as their island haven.

A cluster of five buildings comprise Kelley House. They include the inn’s 42-room primary retreat, The Garden House, as well as distinct newer enclaves: Chappy House, Court House, Wheel House and Mizzen Top Suites. Also built in 1742, Kelley House’s popular restaurant, The Newes From America Pub, is known for its authentic Colonial character, welcoming atmosphere, and exceptional New England fare and brews.

Throughout Kelley House’s 275-year history, the inn’s ownership and moniker may have evolved, but its hospitality has remained remarkably constant, providing guests an authentic Vineyard experience to inspire lifelong memories. 

About Kelley House
Located on Martha’s Vineyard, one of New England’s most picturesque destinations, Kelley House is nestled in the heart of Edgartown. Today, the popular Edgartown inn features 60 casually comfortable guest rooms, a pool, and a popular pub, The Newes from America. A member of Historic Hotels of America®, Kelley House offers guests a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere and beautiful New England architecture. Kelley House is a property of Scout Hotel & Resort Management.

About Scout Hotel & Resort Management
Scout Hotel & Resort Management is a full-service, independent hotel management company with a track record of success in operating in seasonal resort markets and turning around underperforming properties.  Offering a full range of management services for hotels and resorts located in the Eastern United States and Caribbean, Scout provides expertise in the acquisition, finance, development, construction, operation, marketing, and sales. Its growing portfolio includes Harbor View Hotel and Kelley House Hotel on Martha’s Vineyard, Harborview Nantucket on Nantucket, and Chatham Tides on Cape Cod.  Scout Hotel & Resort Management is the expert management division of Scout Real Estate Capital, LLC, and its corporate office is located at 217 Clinton Avenue, Falmouth, MA 02540.

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