North

History, luxury, and oh, that view

Are you looking to stay in a proper summer home reminiscent of the grand days of the 19th century? Look no further than the newly renovated Emerson Inn in Rockport, named after its most famous guest.

In the 1850s, the American author Ralph Waldo Emerson carted his family up to Cape Ann from their home in landlocked Concord for a restful and — for him — inspirational vacation along the rocky Atlantic coastline.

You might contemplate leaving the kids with Grandma, though they are welcomed.

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Touring the Emerson, it’s hard to pin down its main attraction: Is it the architectural detail of the 36-room inn, where the original section was built as a tavern in 1842? The casual but elegant decor? Or the art gallery on the lobby’s main floor that includes a bar?

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Also in the mix is chef Doug Papaw’s tempting new farm-to-table menu in the overhauled 60-seat restaurant, renamed Pigeon Cove Tavern and featuring a selective wine list, craft brews, and locally sourced breads, seafood, and farm-fresh produce.

Open to the public, the tavern defines dining al fresco — even if you’re indoors. The once heavily draped windows have been replaced with glass doors that open wide, letting in the ocean breeze. As far as the eyes can see, a stunning ocean view beckons. Eighteen bedrooms face the ocean, including Emerson’s old room: No. 36, in case you’d like to request it.

Light also pours through curtainless windows into gleaming, white-tiled bathrooms. It’s like bathing in a luxurious outdoor shower. Light gray-painted bedroom walls change tone with the sunlight. Each bedroom, beautifully restored to reflect the quality of yesteryear, comes complete with dark wood canopy beds, but include the amenities today’s travelers seek, including spa tubs, private enclosed balconies, and — if you’re not trying to get away from it all — flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi.

Staff members like Melissa Hobbs greet you with old-school hospitality, anticipating and accommodating your needs. A Gloucester resident, Hobbs first started working at the inn as a teen 39 years ago. A vault of information, she divulges a Hollywood fun fact: When “The Last Harbor,” a murder mystery, was filmed here eight years ago, the movie company didn’t like the dining room rug and replaced it with the current one.

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During the summer, rates can range from $200 to $450 per night for two, depending upon room size, and include a full American breakfast, said Krysten Reilly, the inn’s general manager.

Guests can go biking, boating, whale watching, browsing in the quaint shops at Bearskin Neck, or hiking along the coast on paths starting at the inn.

Or not. Stretching the length of the building, a favorite place is the porch. Dotted with 20 green-painted wicker rocking chairs and another 20 tables seating up to 80, it’s serviced by a wait staff.

Here, one can drink wine. Eat a plate of oysters. Watch the ocean. Read. Write. Rock.

Isn’t that how Emerson found his inspiration?

Kathy Shiels Tully can be reached at kathy@kathyshielstully.com.