Rick and Cindy Kral, owners of Greenwich Water Club on River Road, purchased the Cos Cob Inn in the 1990s from the Stuttigs who had also operated the Harbor House Inn on Shore Road in Old Greenwich.
After renovating and decorating it, they operated the inn with 14 guest rooms for many years. In fact, the inn was operating until just a few weeks ago.
Today, with Town approved plans to restore the building and add squash courts, the Krals are excited about the extension of their Greenwich Water Club facilities.
The inn, which was originally a seaside summer estate for wealthy New Yorkers, has had multiple incarnations.
Built in the 1880s, the mansion was converted into a rooming house most likely during the Great Depression.
“There were a lot of little rooms and one bathroom that everyone shared,” Mr. Kral said.
Then, according to local lore, the mansion operated for a time as a brothel in the 1960s.
“Legend has it that when it was open for business, the light in the widow’s walk was white. When it was closed the light was red,” Kral said. “Truckers on I-95 could see the light from the highway.”
“I’m excited to finally get going on the project,” Kral continued on Wednesday as preparations were coming together for the weekend estate sale of the inn’s contents. “There was a lot of planning involved and a lot of emotions.”
Kral said the process was long, and at times he and his wife had second thoughts.
But they worried that if they sold the inn, another owner might tear it down. So they persevered.
In the end they worked successfully with both the Historic District Commission and the Planning & Zoning Commission on a plan to restore the inn and add squash courts to the deep back lot.
“The Historic District Commission was constructive and professional. They were great to work with. Stephen Bishop, the chair, was very passionate and educated on the history of the area,” Kral said. “Once they understood what we were trying to do they were very helpful. They are very excited to see the building preserved and see the streetscape stay in tact.”
Kral said that the squash facility, which will include one double and three single courts, will compliment the rowing activities at the Greenwich Water Club across the street.
“They are both life sports,” he said.
This weekend the estate sale at the historic inn will be massive and items are priced to sell.
All of the contents – beds, TVs, chandeliers, bedding, window treatments, mini fridges, tables, chairs, artwork from local artists, and more (*see full list below) – are for sale on 9/21 and 9/22 from, 8:00am-5:00pm. There will be workers to direct people to parking.
The goal is to empty out the contents of the historic seaside destination in anticipation of the massive restoration and building project.
The inn, which was constructed as a summer estate, will be restored to its original condition.
The squash courts will be added at the back of the property, which, according to the assessor’s office is .612 acres.
According to Kral, the main house will remain the center of focus and will be restored in its same federal tradition.
For example, part of the front porch, which was enclosed years ago to create a sitting room, will again be opened to restore the original broad rocking chair porch.
Also, Kral said some of the newer replacement windows will be removed and fitted with ones that match the original windows.
“The whole core of the original building will be restored,” Kral said, adding that he hopes to preserve the compass rose inlay in the wood floor in the foyer entrance, though it is not original to the house.
“We had ripped up a lot of carpeting and discovered the wood floors underneath. We added the compass rose,” he said.
“We will continue the same club environment,” Kral said of the squash facility housed in the historic estate. As far as local squash options, he said, “It will be a little more family oriented and relaxed, and not as commercial as Chelsea Piers.”
Once completed, squash players will enter the existing front doors and either head straight to the squash courts, or go upstairs to the men’s and women’s locker rooms.
The addition will feature an elevator in addition to the squash courts.
A small addition at the back of the estate will be removed.
There are also plans for a greenhouse on the roof.
“We’ll produce vegetables and flowers to support the restaurant at the club house across the street,” Kral said.
According to Kral, the upcoming restoration and squash court expansion is more than a compromise, but rather a win-win for all involved.
“Operating a small inn as a business has gone by the wayside,” he said citing the advent of AirBnB and similar alternatives. “And there’s no economy of scale with an inn this small. You can’t generate enough income for taxes, payroll and maintaining the older building.”
But, he said the plans for the Cos Cob Inn include restoring the original estate and preserving the streetscape. “It’s a good plan,” he said.
Below are photos of the items at the former inn that will be for sale this weekend. Click here for a link to more information.