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Renovations Transform The Spencer Hotel & Spa Into a Literary Haven

The Spencer Hotel & Spa, right in the heart of the Chautauqua Institution, embodies both tradition and sophistication. With roots dating back to 1887, Helen Edgington has been curating this historic gem since 1997. Now through this transformational renovation, the hotel is poised to redefine luxury for literary enthusiasts and discerning travelers alike.
Renovations Transform The Spencer Hotel & Spa Into a Literary Haven

Embracing its rich heritage and the vibrant cultural tapestry of Chautauqua, The Spencer Hotel is set to unveil a series of enhancements that will redefine the guest experience. At the heart of this transformation lies a deep appreciation for literature and the written word, inspired by the legacy of the Chautauqua Scientific Literary Circle (CSLC), the oldest continuously operating book club in the United States. Founded in 1887 with the noble aim of spreading knowledge and enlightenment, the CSLC serves as a testament to the enduring power of literature to educate and inspire.

Drawing inspiration from the CSLC’s illustrious history, The hotel has embraced its role as a literary sanctuary, becoming the most exotic literary-themed hotel in the United States. Each guest room has been meticulously curated to pay homage to iconic authors, with local artists adorning the walls with hand-painted murals that capture the essence of their literary legacies. From the whimsical charm of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Bertie Wooster to the poignant wit of Dorothy Parker, every corner of the hotel resonates with the spirit of literary genius.

Helen Edgington, the driving force behind The hotel’s renaissance, shares her journey with infectious enthusiasm. “I first arrived at Chautauqua in 1964,” she reminisces. “In its earlier days, The Spencer Hotel bore the marks of age and neglect, yet it boasted exceptional speakers, offering a collegiate learning experience devoid of the pressures of exams. While the accommodations fell short of luxury, guests were unperturbed by the modest conditions.” Helen set out on a mission to transform The Spencer Hotel into a haven for bibliophiles and travelers seeking respite from the mundane, fueled by her deep love of literature and a keen eye for design.

Helen’s journey to rejuvenate the hotel showcases her resilience and entrepreneurial flair. At 62, with only a dream and unwavering belief, she courageously invested $2.2 million in the hotel for this ambitious renovation. Despite facing skepticism and obstacles, Helen persisted with unwavering determination. Now 91 years old, she ushers in a new era, having led extensive renovations, revitalizing the hotel, and securing its enduring legacy.

The renovations encompass a wide array of upgrades aimed at enhancing the guest experience. From building-wide updates such as new wiring, plumbing, heating, and air conditioning to the addition of an elevator for accessibility, no detail has been overlooked in the hotel’s quest for perfection. Each room has been thoughtfully outfitted with custom-made furnishings and amenities that reflect the unique personality of its namesake author, ensuring a stay that is both luxurious and immersive.

Although the renovations were extensive, the work is never done for a team that demands excellence. Its latest renovations took place in February 2023, intensive updates were completed leaving the hotel in better than brand new condition.

“My goal is to create an environment where guests can be transported into their favorite stories, where they can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse themselves in the world of literature,” says Helen. “With literary-themed rooms and dedicated library collections, we hope to inspire a deep appreciation for the written word and ignite the imagination of our guests.”

Beyond its literary allure, The Spencer Hotel continues to uphold its status as a historic landmark, recognized for its timeless charm and architectural significance. The hotel’s inclusion in the Select Registry, a prestigious collection of high-end bed and breakfasts, highlights its commitment to hospitality excellence.

Alongside this prestigious accolation is the Chautauqua institution's declaration as a historic resort in 1974, marking a new era for the area. The Spencer Hotel was the only establishment within Chautauqua to be approved to join this prestigious group. Through all of the efforts, a plaque was received, each and every guest that enters through the front door of The Spencer Hotel will be greeted by this significant distinction, showcasing Helen’s hard work and determination.

As guests prepare to embark on their literary journey at The Spencer Hotel, they can look forward to an unforgettable experience that seamlessly blends old-world elegance with modern comfort. Whether indulging in a leisurely stroll along the shores of Chautauqua Lake or savoring a quiet moment of reflection in one of the hotel’s cozy nooks, every moment spent promises to be a celebration of literature, culture, and the timeless allure of Chautauqua.

An avid reader herself, Helen’s passion for books is evident in every detail of the hotel’s transformation. From curating the extensive library collections to overseeing the creation of intricate murals that adorn the walls, Helen’s vision for The Spencer Hotel is rooted in a deep appreciation for the written word.

LeAnn Jackson

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