You can’t miss Land’s End Inn. Rising like a fanciful sandcastle atop Gull Hill in the town’s West End, the inn’s pagoda-like tiers are visible from the Boston ferry. On the road to the beach, its steps beckon, luring the curious up the terraced garden path first to a broad lawn and then a wide, covered porch, where guests and the occasional curious bystander enjoy a panoramic view of the lower Cape.
That’s exactly what Stan Sikorski, who owns the historic inn with his wife, Eva, wants to happen. “People walking down the street come up to see what’s here,” says Sikorski. “We’ll invite them to have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and they’ll love it.”
After all, the Sikorskis understand the appeal. Before they purchased the year-round inn in December 2012, “we’d walked by it a thousand times, at least,” he says. “I’d look up the hill occasionally and think, Wow.”
When the couple finally ascended the stairs, they shared an experience visitors have been enjoying for more than a hundred years. Situated on one of the highest points in town, Land’s End Inn is a local institution, as idiosyncratic as this artsy-funky former fishing village. But even before guests enter the curio-filled great room, with its Art Nouveau chandelier and grand fireplace, the enchantment begins with that view.
“I was in awe,” says Sikorski, describing his first time ascending the hill. He describes “a perspective that I never saw before: the tip of the Cape — Long Point with the lighthouse — seeing how it forms a snail,” with Truro and Wellfleet beyond.
“There’s no place like the Cape in the world,” says Sikorski. A native of Warsaw whose family emigrated when he was 10, he first came to Cape Cod on family camping vacations.
Although Sikorski’s previous career handling various technology and business development positions for GM, Verizon, and Nokia, moved him all over the world, he and Eva and their two daughters always returned. “Even when we were in Europe, we’d come to Cape Cod a couple of weeks for vacation,” he says. In particular, they were drawn to Provincetown, which he calls “very tolerant of new people and new ideas.”
“It feels very international,” adds Eva, who was born in Lodz, Poland. (The pair met in Princeton, N.J., in 1985.)
That global attitude is made manifest in the inn. Although Charles Lothrop Higgins, who first built on the site in 1904, was from an old Cape Cod family, his own travels had taken him around the world, and he decorated what was to be his summer bungalow with art from Morocco and the West Indies.
After Higgins’s death in 1926, the next owners began renting rooms — and adding to the collection. Subsequent owners, most notably David Schoolman, who had the inn from 1972 until his death in 1995, brought in even more art and antiques. He also created a roster of rooms individualized in decor and personality that persists to this day — from the quiet, garden-view Wisteria Room to the grand Bay Tower Room, with its nearly 360-degree views.
Schoolman “was eccentric; he was fun,” says Sikorski. “He was a great collector of art, and he brought it to the level it is at now.” He points out the intricately worked Syrian lamps that, along with the carved furniture and luxurious upholstery, give the Moroccan Room an exotic ambience.
But if Land’s End is known for luxury, it’s because of the inn’s last owner, Michael MacIntyre. MacIntyre, says Sikorski, “is really responsible for taking David Schoolman’s vision from eclectic but maybe not so high standards and really bringing in high standards.”
When MacIntyre bought the inn in 2002 it had been run by a trust for seven years. That kind of management, says MacIntyre on the phone from New York, may be well intentioned, but “it never works out.” At the time, he owned the Brass Key, another Provincetown guesthouse. “I knew David and had great respect for the inn’s previous history. I wanted to rescue it and restore it and maintain the ambience and the character it was so well known for.”
Although he was in the process of “simplifying” his life, says MacIntyre — which included selling a second inn, in Key West — he decided to take on Land’s End as a 10-year project, updating everything from the decrepit plumbing to the bedding. And then, of course, finding the right next owner.
MacIntyre had put the inn on the market and pulled it off once before by the time he met the Sikorskis.
“I explained to them, you will own this on paper but you really don’t own it at all,” he says. “You’re really just caretakers for the next people. They totally get that.”
“For the first six months, Michael came by almost every day,” says Sikorski. “He was like a proud parent who wanted to make sure we didn’t have a misstep.”
The Sikorskis are doing their part to preserve that legacy. Some of the work is mundane: connecting the inn to the town sewer. Some of it is hedging against time: the old, fancifully carved sign no longer hangs by the base of the stairs. Instead, restored, it is mounted by the entrance, where it’s protected from the elements.
Much of the best work is invisible. For example, in order to replace the sliding doors to three of the rooms, some of the surrounding cedar shingles had to be removed. But because new shingles would be white until they aged, the Sikorskis inquired about whether the old shingles, weathered to a soft silver gray, could be salvaged and re-used. They could, although the additional labor added hours to the project. “We labeled each one, numbered them so they could be replaced,” says Sikorski.
With a 110-year-old building, the upkeep is ongoing. “Every year we try to renovate something,” says Eva.
Even their new undertakings are designed to follow in the steps of previous innkeepers, incorporating Provincetown’s unique artsy character. During the slower cold-weather months, for example, they have initiated programs like a Cape Cod songwriters’ retreat and a women’s yoga weekend.
They have also begun bringing in local musicians, like jazz singer Chev Hardy and guitarist Frank Poranski, to entertain during the nightly wine and cheese reception. Always, the Sikorskis are around, chatting with guests and making introductions, aiming, as MacIntyre puts it, to “create an atmosphere where people will start talking to each other, share ideas.”
As winter lingers, that often means joining guests in the solarium, where multiple sets of binoculars help visitors spot migrating birds or the whales that sometimes come into Cape Cod Bay.
As spring warms up, more of the socializing will move outdoors, to that great porch or the grounds, where some of the 2,000 new bulbs will soon start sprouting tulips and crocuses.
Starting any new venture is hard. Taking over a legacy is even more challenging. But the Sikorskis’ first year was one of the inn’s busiest ever, and the pair sound quite content. Even when the family lived in Europe, says Stan, “we built our houses around entertaining. Now we feel like we are entertaining every day.”
Adds Eva, “It’s like having a large family!”Clea Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: Because of a reporting error, Eva Sikorski’s birthplace was misidentified in an earlier version of this article.