On Thursday morning, the Sherwood Inn was a flurry of activity. Saws whirred away on carpentry tables, a crane brought drywall up through a third-floor window and workers moved furniture all through the building — all to get what staff described as “the living room of Skaneateles” ready for Friday lunch after its first major renovation in years.
“We are literally working to the last minute,” restaurant manager Nancy Canny said.
Construction crews and Sherwood staff have been hard at work since late February — although planning began in August — to complete a renovation of the inn that's welcomed guests since 1807, including a redesign of the lobby and a complete rebuild of several guest rooms.
As proof of the inn's long history, Jason Armijo, part of the crew of longtime Sherwood contractor David Lee & Co., found a floorboard in the staircase signed by John Packwood, the property's owner from the end of the Civil War to 1874.
David Lee and his team have been working on the Sherwood since about 1983, he said, joking that at this point, he's renovated some of his own renovations.
"But it all has the same look and feel," Lee said.
Executive Administrator Nancy Ranieri said the consistency throughout numerous renovations — the last major one was approximately 10 years ago — is largely due to Lee's meticulous attention to detail.
"It's not right until he says it's right," she said.
The changes won't be drastic, Canny said, as the intention behind them was to maintain and even enhance the Federal architecture style of the inn and emphasize its history.
“The character of the inn very much remains the same,” Canny said. “If anything, I think it's improved.”
The dining room, for example, has had the staining of its wooden walls changed from a light pine-type color to something darker to make for a warmer dining experience, Ranieri said.
Some of the first changes visitors will see are in the lobby area, with perhaps the biggest being the conversion of a small gift shop into an all-wooden front desk and coat check area. The lobby area as a whole has been redesigned to provide a more open, comfortable space, Ranieri said.
The furniture, in keeping with the Federal theme, are actual antiques, but ones the inn has been careful to ensure are still comfortable, Ranieri said.
“We want things to look like they belong, like they've always been here,” she said.
In the waiting area, Canny said, guests could often be observed moving smaller pieces of furniture to gather more closely around the fireplace, or to find a place to rest their drinks. With those observations in mind, the renovation was meant to more naturally accommodate guests, and allow them to enjoy wine and small plates in the lobby, Ranieri said.
“You watch what your guests do and sort of shape it around that,” Canny said of Sherwood owner Bill Eberhardt's philosophy behind the renovations.
The changes couldn't be too drastic, Canny said. As the inn went through the renovations, the staff shared photos of the progress to Facebook, where many loyal guests would say how much they wanted their favorite aspects to remain.
The reopening menu will start with the usual spring entrees, but include some updates, like a scallop dish with lobster goat cheese risotto, Executive Chef Dan Hudson said.
With St. Patrick's Day right after the reopening, the weekend menu will feature a boiled dinner that includes classic corned beef.
Although workers were still racing about on Thursday morning, Canny said the project was right on schedule and ready to open on time.
"We're just really excited to get people back in here," she said. "It's so much more exciting and dynamic when guests are here."