History of the Belfry Inn & Bistro
We're an Inn Built from the Ages
Owner & Innkeeper
In 1992, when Christopher Wilson, former financial planner/trust banker and innkeeper wannabe, first spotted the ramshackle, tumbledown 1872 rectory on Jarves Street; the project in his mind was complete. Since opening the original location at 8 Jarves St with his two young sons, Christopher 11 and Alexander 5 at the time, the Belfry has grown to the three buildings.
In 2003, he added a fourth building, the former Methodist church and Doll museum to the portfolio but since has sold that as a private residence.
As we approach our 20th anniversary we continue to offer hospitality year round. Chris still makes breakfast daily, while maintaining the property as well as acts as general manager of the operation. We have grown to a staff of three to now seasonally over twenty five.
The Belfry Inn in the Press
The management and staff of the Belfry Inn & Bistro are proud to be members of many local and national business and guest associations. We have provided a brief list of the current associations we support below, in the hope that you too will support our local small business. We are once again extremely proud of our connections and the service we provide to our guests. Please refer to these associations and support their local membership in the Cape Cod & Islands area.
For over thirty years, The Painted Lady (a term used for ornate Victorian era homes painted in 5 – 7 colors) languished along tree-shaded Jarves St., nestled in Sandwich Village. The forlorn, ramshackle relic was a faded beauty. Many believed she was past her prime. “Awfully sad”, villagers and visitors mumbled, shaking their heads, as they ambled by. Wilson’s foresight, architectural vision, and sensitivity to the town’s historical past revitalized what might, by now, have been a mere memory. The eyesore of an old rectory evolved into the first of three buildings compromising The Belfry Inn and Bistro, a landmark hostelry and dining establishment.
Purchased from the Arch Diocese of Fall River in 1993, The Belfry Inn & Bistro opened for its first guests on December 5, 1995. The Bistro was located on the first floor of what is now The Painted Lady, with its small bar and three intimate dining rooms it featured a pre-fixe dinner menu. Tented weddings were held in the rear garden area. Nine guest lodging suites were created upstairs, in addition to the owner’s quarters consisting of three rooms for Wilson and his two sons, Christopher and Alexander.
In 1998, Wilson completed the purchase of the former church, Corpus Christi. During 1999 the Bistro was moved from its original location to the Abbey. In order to distinguish the two buildings for its lodging guests, the rectory became known as the Drew House. During the next several years the former dining rooms at the Drew House went through a transformation, first being utilized as common areas, then as two additional guest suites.
Then, in 2005, with the creation of the Painted Lady Café, the interior was completely remodeled to reflect the whimsical and eclectic dining menu. During 2006 all the guestrooms were transformed from the Laura Ashley floral style to the more colorful “summery” crisp palettes of the Painted Lady Café below.
In 2011, the Painted Lady was again transformed with the two first floor dining rooms being made into two new guest rooms to accommodate tourist demand. The Café merged with the Bistro located at the Abbey to offer lunch and a lighter fare menu. In April of 2013, the bar in the Painted Lady reopened under the name CW’s Cocktail and Wine Bar in honor and memory of innkeeper’s Christopher Wilson’s father, Dr. Clifford Wilson. CW’s fresh, contemporary décor offers a cozy interlude serving wine flights, cocktails and a tapas menu. Front porch seating is also available.
The Abbey was built in 1901 and is the third Catholic Church in Sandwich. The first was located a block down on Jarves Street, now MacDonald’s Gift Emporium. The second was located on Church Street near the glass factory. In the late 1800’s, the Abbey was badly damaged in a storm and the property location on Jarves Street was purchased. On July 5, 1901 the new Corpus Christi church was consecrated.
The interior of the Abbey was transformed from an open space with an aisle leading to an altar, with sixteen sets of pews on each side, to an intimate dining space. A second floor was added providing space for four guestrooms and additions on the two rear roofs provided two additional rooms. The Abbey is an architectural and aesthetic tour de force. This grand space has been segregated ingeniously and imaginatively into dining and lodging spaces. Guests and dining patrons enter into a soaring space, warmly lit with retrofitted ecclesiastical lighting, handsomely accented by ground level amber stained glass windows. The grand fireplace, lit on cooler evenings, is the focal point of the main dining room.
The Abbey guestrooms feature king beds with spa tubs, and fireplaces. The Wednesday room, in particular, features a rainfall shower with enclosed spa therapy unit called “The Verdana” that creates a space of relaxation and respite. All rooms have decks that were cut into the existing roof to create privacy. The color palettes of each room reflect the biblical story of creation and are named for the six days of the week: Monday through Saturday. The Sunday door leads to the rear parking lot as biblical lore indicates God “rested” on that day.
Below, Bistro tables are set with crisp white linen and the seating is of black leather and large upholstered chairs. Wilson salvaged nearly every piece of architectural remnants and put them to their highest and best uses. The Bistro bar’s wine ‘cellar’ is the one-time confessional. Former pews have many new functions; some became part of the bar construction, others became wall paneling, while the others are headboards for the guest beds.
The oak paneling was saved and repositioned. For instance, the choir loft railing was moved to the walkway leading from the front to the rear of the building. The original organ was donated to the Episcopal Church in New Londonderry, New Hampshire. The stain glass window depicting Jesus, located above the sanctuary was gifted to the Corpus Christi church in East Sandwich. The remaining stained glass windows are in their original placement with the exception of Michael the Archangel, now in the Saturday room, and Gabriel, now in the Friday room.
Our third property was purchased in the summer of 2003. Built in 1827, this federal style home was the original residence of Naaman Dillingham , a descendant of Thornton Burgess. Through the years the home was a boarding house as well as offices for the company that constructed the Cape Cod Canal. The former private residence was renovated in 1985 to a bed and breakfast, and is now part of the Belfry Inn. It has seven guest rooms that are decorated in a floral theme with crisp white linens and “Cape Cod Cottage” style beds and furniture. The rooms set a simpler tone than the other rooms at the Belfry. Guests enjoy sitting under the veranda and quiet garden areas.