The last of the great Victorian hotels in Oak Bluffs, the Wesley, reopened on Thursday, May 19 as Summercamp — the transformation from flowered bedspreads and antique furnishings to beachy blue toss pillows and modern decor complete.
Rob Blood, CEO and principal of Lark Hotels, purchased the Wesley last May from Peter Martel, co-owner of the Wesley with partners George Fisher and Richard Kelley, who had operated the 95-room hotel for the past 29 years.
Mr. Blood was in the hotel on opening day, taking the plastic off new mattresses. He took a break to greet the first guest, Ron Weeden, who traveled from Oregon to the Vineyard for a wedding.
“You’re the first one to try the keys and stay in a room, so if you have any problems, let us know,” Mr. Blood told Mr. Weeden while shaking his hand.
Visitors who remember the previous Wesley Hotel lobby will recognize the large stone fireplace, but not much else. Everything from top to bottom is brand-new. The smell of fresh paint lingers in the air.
There are intimate seating arrangements in every corner, and all the details have been attended to, from the color scheme to the board games to the Cracker Jacks in the new canteen. The interior is light, playful and welcoming, especially to families. Mr. Blood explained that the building next door to the main hotel, the Overlook, has 33 rooms and is more suitable for adults traveling without children. It was also completely renovated.
Summercamp has 95 rooms total, with five rooms that are wheelchair-accessible, and two rooms that are pet-friendly. All rooms have 43-inch LED smart TVs, Tivoli radios with Bluetooth, and glass and tile showers with dispensers filled with Lather brand soaps and shampoos. There are five hospitality stations throughout the hotel that feature filtered and sparkling water, with glass jugs for filling rather than plastic products, as well as coffee and tea.
The canteen has a separate seating area, with fresh fruit, snacks, ice cream, and even beach balls available to purchase. The recreation room off the lobby has AstroTurf for carpeting and is designed with kids in mind. It’s filled with large beanbag chairs, board games, a corner to watch television, and a Ping-Pong table in the middle of the room.
Mr. Blood and his wife, Leigh, she is 39 he is 41, got their start in the hospitality industry in 2003 on Nantucket, where they ran the Sherburne Inn for a year. They purchased their first property, a nine-room inn, in Kennebunkport, Maine, a year later.
“We were owners and innkeepers, cleaning toilets, making beds, cooking,” Mr. Blood remembered. “That’s the Captain Fairfield; we still have it, and we renovated it one room at a time. When we bought that place, we didn’t even have a bed — we slept on the floor. I thought we’d be in our nine-room inn forever, and raise our kids there.”
Mr. Blood founded Lark Hotels in 2012 with the idea of purchasing and repositioning inns and hotels into a more personalized boutique model.
Now, 12 years after that first inn was purchased, the couple live in Newburyport with their two young daughters, and are weeks away from opening a hotel on Plum Island, their 19th. Summercamp is No. 18, and the largest.
Summercamp falls under the umbrella of Lark Hotels, which are located in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, California, and Tennessee. “For Lark, the Vineyard is a perfect fit,” Mr. Blood said. “We focus on iconic locations — all places where people really want to be. The location guides us first.”
Rich Cooper, one of Mr. Blood’s two other partners, spent the better part of the fall and winter on the Island overseeing renovations.
The hotel was last refurbished in 1986. “In terms of systems and structure, the Wesley was in great shape,” Mr. Cooper said. “What we’ve done is a big cosmetic renovation. We took care to keep the historical feel of the place. All the woodwork is original. It’s still a late-1800s building.”
Asked about the cost of the renovations, Mr. Cooper said, “Millions. Many millions.”
Mr. Cooper said the company received state and federal tax credits for keeping the historical aspects intact. The lobby windows that face the harbor still have wavy glass in place. The new counter in the lobby is made from a Vineyard elm, and local tradesmen helped in the renovation.
“Northcott and Vought were our general contractors, Mueller Plumbing and Bob Mongillo worked on it,” Mr. Cooper said. “I fell in love with this place — even in February.”
Lark tapped Tania Periera to manage the hotel, and Amy Coffey is assistant manager; both have been on the Island for a decade, Mr. Blood said. Ms. Coffey, manager of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass & Bluefish Derby weigh station, has a keen sense of Island currents.
Lark also has a presence in Edgartown, where it will manage the Christopher and Sydney inns under a contract with Charles and Anne Hajjar, seasonal Oak Bluffs residents. The busy Mr. Hajjar is owner of the Post Office Square complex, now undergoing renovations.
“By virtue of location, the hotels have different clientele,” Mr. Blood explained. “We always try to look at the community and design the hotel with the current sense of place in mind.”
He said that Oak Bluffs has new restaurants opening, new energy, and is an “up and coming” place. “Edgartown seems a little like Nantucket to me,” Mr. Blood said.
“The Christopher is sort of St. Barth meets Martha’s Vineyard. It has an island vibe, sort of French West Indies, with lots of deep purples, reds, and blues, and the Sydney is above L’Etoile and is really a little gem. It’s more whimsical but cozy, playful but sophisticated.”
Mr. Blood said that he and his partners own about 60 percent of the Lark properties, and the other 40 percent are owned by other individuals but are managed and designed by Lark.
Summercamp’s room rates will vary throughout the summer season. This month, rates begin at $189 a night. In July, the premium Lark suite will go for $509 a night. The hotel’s website, summercamphotel.com, features grand-opening offers. The owners plan to keep Summercamp open May through October.