Gilded Age glamour and modern boutique luxury at Spicer Mansion

Just a few minutes’ walk from Mystic, Connecticut’s buzzing downtown, just past that famous pizza parlor featured in the 1988 movie, “Mystic Pizza,” which launched Julia Roberts’s career, Spicer Mansion is a slice of Mystic history, reimagined for the present.

This commanding marigold yellow clapboard Victorian was built by Captain Elihu Spicer in 1853 as a gift for his wife, and as a summer home for the family to escape Brooklyn’s stifling summers. Spicer, a Connecticut native, rose from cabin boy to captain to shipping magnate and became one of the wealthiest men in America – he built the Gothic-styled library across the street for the town.

A meticulous three-year restoration took the house from badly neglected to utterly splendid when it opened in 2016. Fortunately, many of the original features were still intact, including the painted ceiling in what is now called Mrs. Spicer’s Salon. The metaphorical classic-styled painting of a woman and three birds amongst pillow-y clouds refers to Mrs. Spicer and the three Spicer children, who all died before Elihu. It’s a beautiful memorial and speaks to the romance of this lovely house – something that is still pervasive.


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From that beguiling ceiling hangs an original Tiffany glass lamp and, similar to the adjacent salons, beautifully crafted woodwork is immaculately restored, including elaborate parquet flooring. Each room has a splendid fireplace with gleaming original tile.

Another feature dating to Spicer’s time is the bright stained glass transom window above the front door depicting pineapples, a signature token of New England sea captain’s homes and a symbol of hospitality.

Finishings and period furnishings are impressive but designed for relaxation, so that guests will feel at home. In fact, many guests are Spicer Mansion club members.

The hotel’s intimacy is enhanced by the amount of guest rooms; there are only eight. Each is lightly decked out in reproduction furniture complementing the house’s age and style. Giant beds with wood headboards are fitted with Duxiana mattresses and brilliant white linens. Many rooms have balconies overlooking more than an acre of natural gardens framed by mature trees and filled with birdsong.

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Bathrooms are lined with subway tile and pale grey marble and are very spacious. Each is outfitted with delightfully lightly scented Public Goods toiletries, which pair excellent cosmetic results with a planet-friendly large refillable container made of sugarcane, cutting plastic pollution.

Upon arrival, guests are offered a glass of bubbly and given a tour. There’s plenty to explore, including the Belvedere, a cupola type room at the very top of the house, which boasts the highest viewing point in Mystic. This charming bolthole has comfortable seating and a telescope, so that guests can look out to Fisher Island on the New York side of Long Island Sound, or over downtown Mystic.

For a ground level look at the town, outside, under the portico, bicycles are available for guests to borrow.

In the very depths of the hotel is another surprise room: Room No. 9, a hidden speakeasy lounge in the windowless basement. True to secret Prohibition style, it is accessed via a door in the main hall, which is hidden behind a bookcase.

The brick and fieldstone foundation walls frame comfy seating areas. A handsome wood bar and dim lighting adds to the atmosphere of an illicit drinking den.

If there is one thing Spicer Mansion offers, it is privacy. Room No. 9 and the dining room are for hotel guest and member use only.

The small dining room overlooks a brick patio and the garden, where on warmer nights a fire pit is lit. Unlike the high-ceilinged grand salons, the dining room is cozier, and has a light, modern look of stone-toned canvas-upholstered seating framing white linen-covered tables.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch are served. There’s also an all-day menu, so guests may order food at any time, really. Breakfast delivers a luscious granola and fruit parfait topped with dripping honeycomb and creamy local yogurt.

For dinner, choose from the chef’s tasting menu or a la carte options such as pappardelle with shrimp, salmon and sweet roasted tomatoes in a cream sauce brightened by yuzu, and a wonderfully fresh salad of locally grown lettuces, watermelon radish, pickled cucumber and cherry tomatoes, lightly laced with a lemon vinaigrette.

Then, it’s time to relax in a salon with a glass of port, or whatever one fancies. Perhaps play baccarat or tackle one of the Stave puzzles in the White Salon. Or pluck one of the many vintage books from a shelf and settle down with a story. The rule here is: Make yourself at home.

10Best is a part of the USA TODAY Network, providing an authentically local point of view on destinations around the world, in addition to travel and lifestyle advice.

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