Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick of Stockbridge are Rural Royalty
They are the real lions of Stockbridge who now purr more than roar. Still, Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick (left) remain the undsiputed king and queen of the Berkshires, and Saturday, August 7, has been declared Fitzpatrick Day by the Selectemen of Stockbridge: The town will dedicate the green space in front of the Cat and Dog Fountain at Routes 7 and 102 as the Jane P. and John H. Fitzpatrick Village Green. When the Vermont-bred couple bought the dormant Red Lion Inn 41 years ago, they were primarily looking for a space to open a retail shop for Country Curtains, which they started as a mail-order company in 1956. “The inn was cheap,” says Jack. “We paid $125,000 for this whole thing,” he says, waving his hand around the front porch where he was holding court the other day. “The first thing we did was put in an elevator and that cost us $250,000. That almost did us in.”
The Berkshires, the Red Lion and the Fitzpatricks have matured and become more wordly together. The Fitzpatricks have sat on so many boards, chaired so many committees, and donated to so many capital campaigns that you are likely to see a plaque with the Fitzpatrick name almost anywhere you go in the Berkshires from MASS MoCA and Hancock Shaker Village to the Berkhire Theatre Festival (where Jane was chairman of the board for 23 years) to the Norman Rockwell Museum (which Jane founded with Lila Berle and Norma Ogden the same year they bought the inn.) “Norman was very generous to us,” recalls Jane. “He offered to help us in any way. He always came to our parties, and we always had a couple of his pictures hanging in the inn. I have a very wonderful portrait by Norman Rockwell in my home.”
Sitting on the front porch of the hotel (which is now owned and operated by their daughter Nancy), the Fitzpatricks seem to enjoy watching the parade of passersby as much as the tourists do. “I used to count the cars that went by but I don’t do that anymore,” Jane says with a twinkle in her eye that makes you think of England’s late Queen Mother. Jack, who everyone addresses as “Senator” because he served in the Massachusetts Senate from 1973 - 1980, smiles easily like a man who has always found success by being a maverick. “When I was first elected, I was one of only five Republicans in the State House. Imagine that.”
Although they have a house with beautiful gardens up the hill from the inn, they spend a lot of time at the Red Lion when they are in Stockbridge. (They spend winters at the Breakers in Palm Beach.) “We eat breakfast here every day,” says Jane. “We have lunch here most of the time. And we eat dinner here quite often,” she says with a delighted laugh. Adds the Senator: “And we pay for every meal, too. No free rides!” Sometimes, they dine at Blantyre, the luxurious Lenox hotel that is run by their other daughter Ann Fitzpatrick Brown. “We only go when she invites us because it’s very expensive,” says the Senator with a chuckle.
While they let their daughters run their hotels as they see fit, they still keep their hands involved with Country Curtains which now has 25 stores in addition to its color catalog. “Tonight we’re going to Tanglewood for the Country Curtains Christmas party,” says Jane, which makes you wonder if the Chardonnay she’s been sipping has made her lightheaded, but she quickly explains that Country Curtains has been having its Christmas party in the summer at Tanglewood for 40 years. “It was Jack’s idea,” she says affectionately. “Most of the good ideas are his.”
Certainly, saving the Red Lion Inn and transforming it into the emblematic heart and soul of the Berkshires was one of their very best ideas. “You could sit on this porch all day long and never be bored,” says Jane. What is her favorite season in the Berkshires? “Summer,” she says definitively. “That’s when all the people come and help us pay the bills!”
Fitzpatrick Day in Stockbridge
Saturday, August 7
1:30 p.m. dedication on the Town Green followed by a reception on the Red Lion side piazza.