From left: Innkeeper and Chef Patty Roche, Co-owner Patty Cooke, Assistant Manager Madison Dullea and Co-owner Peter Cooke. Photo by Matthew J. Mowry.
Amid a flurry of construction in April, the owners the Pickering House Inn took a break to discuss how they found themselves in the hospitality business.
Their original goal was to save an historic home of Daniel Pickering, a fixture of Wolfeboro’s Main Street since 1813. It had been sitting derelict after a foreclosure and was in danger of being torn down.
“Pickering House was on the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance’s list of seven important historical properties to save in 2015. We knew the property was about to be purchased as the site for generic commercial development, and we couldn’t just stand by and watch it—and the character of the downtown—be destroyed,” says Peter Cooke.
So Cooke and his wife, Patty, purchased the property for $237,000 and began exploring what they could do with it. Given that the population of Wolfeboro swells from 8,000 to 35,000 in the summer, it made sense to transform the building into a luxury inn, says Patty, who owns her own interior design firm. She adds they saw year-round opportunity, as parents of students at nearby Brewster Academy would be a match for a high-end experience when they visit.
The couple took a crash course in innkeeping and began investing in renovations, beginning with stripping the structure down to its frame. Construction, which started in 2017, was done in a way to reuse and reclaim original materials, like the ornate woodwork, whenever possible. The inn has 10 guest rooms, two living rooms with original fireplaces, a private dining room/meeting space that can fit a dozen people, porches, a private garden for guests, and an attached barn that has been reimagined to accommodate up to 150 people for weddings, retreats or other events.
From the start, the couple wanted the heart of the inn to be the kitchen, offering unique food experiences. In addition to a full commercial kitchen to serve both the inn and the event center, Pickering House Inn has a gathering kitchen open only to guests of the inn.
The gathering kitchen at Pickering House.
“I want people to be able to hang out in the kitchen,” Patty Cooke says, so she designed it with bench seating and small tables as well as an 18-foot bar with stools.
That allows Chef and Innkeeper Patty Roche to cook and interact with guests at the same time, as well as organize special cooking classes. It is very much in Roche’s wheelhouse after a 15-year career at Stonewall Kitchen in Maine, where she founded the company’s well-known cooking school and taught more than 1,500 cooking classes.
Roche prepares breakfast for guests as well as light bites for the evening. She will also host special Innkeeper Suppers for guests, and Roche and invited guest chefs will offer pop-up dining experiences, cooking classes and other food-related special events that will also be open to the public. The menu will reflect what is in season to provide guests with a farm-to-table experience, she says. “We want the place to smell phenomenal,” she says of the aromas that will waft from the kitchen.
The Inn and event center opened in July but the Cookes are already planning their next phase. The couple also bought the building next door and are toying with placing a restaurant or spa there. For more information, visit pickeringhousewolfeboro.com.