Loch Lyme Lodge: Past, Present, FutureJun 20, 2023 12:09PM ● By Anne Richter Arnold Photography By Jen Cypress/Dwelling Photography
Loch Lyme Lodge was originally a 200-acre farm with a house built in 1784. In 1917, the farm was sold, and the house was converted into a bed and breakfast. In keeping with the vacation trends of the time, the owners built individual cabins between the 1930s and the 1970s. The Barker family bought the property in 1946 and ran Loch Lyme Lodge until 2006 when they sold it to the current owners, the Pinnacle Project.
“Our family involvement with Loch Lyme Lodge dates back to the early 1940s when my mother became dining room hostess for Alice Thayer,” Judy Fulton Barker recalls. “My parents owned Loch Lyme for three decades during the middle of the 1900s. My husband Paul and I enjoyed a similar length of time there. We could write a book detailing the reasons why Loch Lyme, for almost a century, has been a tremendous asset to the community. Its role in the Town of Lyme’s history cannot be denied. When it came time for us to sell the business, we looked into dividing the property into lots and selling it off piece by piece. We were saddened by the thought of how much would be lost if we chose this path. We felt extremely fortunate to be able to pass the property on to a group of people who had a vision that would keep the property intact and allow people for years to come to continue to enjoy this unique part of Lyme’s history.”
A New Vision
Liz Ryan Cole, one of the founding members of the Pinnacle Project, recalls “Loch Lyme Lodge came about as a group process. One evening we had a dinner party and the conversation turned to what we would do when we got older. The cohousing model that came from Denmark was something that we could all get behind. We started putting the money aside and looked for a place for the project. We found this property and thought it could work well for clustered housing with about 90 acres of open, shared land. The Barkers gave us a mortgage, which made it simpler. I remember thinking, ‘Wow we are really going to do this!’”
Since the Barkers had $140,000 in bookings already for the summer of 2006, the new owners decided to run the lodge for the summer and hired some local people to assist. The group eventually hired Jay and Amy Kelly, who have been the innkeepers since 2007.
Keeping the lodge running was something that the owners decided could work well in parallel with the cohousing project.
Member Rich Brown says, “The hospitality business brings a lot of life to the property, and we decided to continue it while the project got going and to keep it as a point of interest for new members.”
Generations of Special Memories
Now Loch Lyme Lodge is a 115-acre tranquil retreat on Post Pond with 20 rustic cabins and miles of hiking and biking trails. The Lodge serves guests from mid-May through the end of September. Guests can prepare their own meals in the cabins with kitchens or enjoy cuisine from the dining rooms in the old farmhouse-turned inn. The current owners continue to operate the Lodge in much the same manner as it has been over the last century, drawing back families year after year for a one-of-a-kind rustic experience. Rich says, “Loch Lyme Lodge is beloved by an untold number of families who have been coming back for years and years. Besides being a beautiful and tranquil place, we have the pond for swimming and boating, tennis, volleyball, hiking, or you can do absolutely nothing—which is allowed here.”
“It has been wonderful to share this special place with what we call the Loch Lyme Family—people who have been coming for generations,” says Liz. “They share their memories with us. A guest came and introduced us to his wife, whom he had met here years ago when they were only 12. There was a couple who spent the first night of their honeymoon at the lodge then came back on their 50th wedding anniversary to celebrate. We have families who have been coming for decades, now bringing the grandchildren or great grandchildren to experience a summer vacation here. Shirley Avakian, for example, now stays in the room in the Lakeside cabin where her grandfather used to stay when she would come with him as a girl. K. Karpen’s mom worked here as a cabin girl and he has spent at least one week at the lodge every year of his life (and I think he is probably in his 70s now). Many people are astonished to see that things have barely changed over the decades.”
Rich recalls speaking to a teenage boy one summer. “He said, ‘I love to come to the lodge because each year the same families are here. I get to hang out with the kids and it’s like they are my fake cousins.’ Another example is four families who came by happenstance for the same week. Their kids all hung out and the parents did too, after which they made a point of booking the same weeks for years.”
As a business, Loch Lyme Lodge is an integral part of the community. For generations, the lodge has been a source of summer jobs for local kids. They also bring in summer workers who are students from other countries. “They get to meet the local kids as well as get to take time off to schedule trips to other parts of the country,” says Liz. “We had one young Englishman recently who came because his mother had been a summer employee here and wanted him to have the same experience she had.”
For Liz and the other owners, Loch Lyme Lodge is a labor of love. “A summer-only model isn’t sustainable in the 21st century. To protect the Lodge, we must look for ways to make the business more profitable. We host several weddings here each year, but we could hold more events as well as offer retreat space by renovating the barn, which will have a large open space for dinners and dancing as well as breakout rooms.”
is made up of members who make a capital contribution to the
corporation. Membership is open, says Liz. “Basically, we are looking
for people who value community, have a vision to protect these 115
acres, and can laugh at themselves. We have annual meetings, elect
officers, and have a transparent decision-making process. We have
local members and members who live across the country. Members get to use the property, get discounts, and some will buy cabins, which range in price from $100,000 to $170,000. The Lodge manages the rentals and cabin owners get a small share of the profits.”
Liz continues, “The group still has plans for the cohousing project and envisions a cluster of energy-efficient units on eight acres while keeping about 90 acres of land undeveloped, building a mix of independent living and supported living with care on-site, just a mile from town. But first and foremost, we want to preserve this special place for future generations. Our hope is that people will sit by the water 100 years from now and appreciate everything we have done to preserve these fields and woods and provide vacation and permanent homes while protecting the property.”
Loch Lyme Lodge
70 Orford Road