In the heart of Hamilton, the Colgate Inn sits as a visible and veritable emblem of the town, the school and the local community. It stands to reason that the initial student reaction when it closed its doors last year was somewhere between polite curiosity and panic. But many returning students are now reassured as they returned to Hamilton this fall and passed a striking new terrace awning that demonstrates the return of our very own, now fully refurbished and fully functional, Colgate Inn.
According to General Manager Ben Eberhardt, a renovated and refurbished Inn was always in his line of vision.
“I took over the Inn about eight years ago…Part of the plan, when we were approached by Rebecca Chopp’s administration, was to kind of revitalize the Inn, and if we could do that operationally, they would put capital investment into the property,” Eberhardt said.
Eberhardt is conscious of the important history of the Inn, and its strong tradition even played into the current design.
“We’ve actually brought the Inn back to its original configuration,” Eberhardt explained. “Back in the 70s, the Inn tore out the bar and moved it down to what was then the tap room, but we have now brought it back to where it used to be.”
The project has been a long and costly one, requiring multiple years and a large Colgate investment.
“Colgate recognizes the village as a tremendous asset and they want to help invest in it… and they saw this as the critical piece of that equation,” Eberhardt said. “The entire scheme of the new arrangement was to engage the intersection and the street; we wanted to get the vitality back along the street, versus the bar in the back of the building, and that kind of thing.”
The general contractor for the project was Syracuse’s Hayner Hoyt, who Eberhardt thought was fantastic. There was also a myriad of sub-contractors.
The noteworthy interior decorator was Thom Filicia, known for his roles on TV shows such as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a longtime acquaintance of Eberhardts’s.
“Classic, fresh and smart were the three words we used to capture what Thom thought we wanted to accomplish, and I completely agreed,” Eberhardt said.
According to Eberhardt, the design was a success. Students seem to agree.
“The renovation at the Inn has added an entirely new feel to the restaurant. Whether you’re having a drink in the tavern or having cookie pie downstairs, you are in a warm environment with each room having its own character. I absolutely love it and think it’s come together beautifully,” Colgate senior Samantha Myers said.
“The downstairs wine bar is really cool. They also just did a really nice job overall – it looks swanky,” junior Evan Hammond added. “It’s also great that there is outdoor dining now.”
According to Eberhardt, goals of the renovations included modernizing the space and solving minor problems that had been present previously. Dining capacity was increased, as was the number of service staff, but due to improved kitchen technology, the kitchen staff was able to be reduced by one. The rooms upstairs were modernized and many were expanded. These seemingly small changes are anticipated to have a large positive impact on the Inn. Some have been noticeable to recent guests. As junior Emily Blease commented, “The renovations have really opened up the dining space in the Inn nicely. It seems like there is a better flow between rooms.”
The management of the Inn and its investors have yet to see the concrete return on their renovation investment. But if the positive reactions to the project thus far are any indicator, the future of the Inn is looking up.