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Centuries of History and Modern Hospitality Meet at Stony Brook’s Three Village Inn

By: Eric Feil
03/24/2022
Lih3 Escapes Inn Exterior

Lessings

Waterside setting. World class cuisine. Walking distance to wonderful museums and historic sites. The must-have list for a getaway from the everyday is unique to each traveler, but a universal truth of any journey is the wonder of the unexpected. Particularly when that journey is so close to home.

Adjacent to boats bobbing in Stony Brook Harbor and sunset views that rival Key West, across from the charming hilltop Stony Brook Village Center and around the corner from the waterfront Harmony Vineyard, the Three Village Inn has the expect-the-unexpected thing at its very core. It always has.

“Three Village Inn offers so much history, overnight accommodations, four-star dining in Mirabelle Restaurant & Tavern,” says General Manager RaeMarie Renna. “Right across the street you have shopping, kayaking, paddle boarding, You can hike Avalon garden and nature preserve, or you can enjoy music at the Jazz Loft and Museum right next door.”

The list of attractions is vast, yet none of them were actually part of what drew the most important visitors in the Inn’s storied past.

When Brooklyn residents Frank and Jennie Melville and their son, Ward, started out on a summer retreat to Long Island just over a century ago, their intended destination was the Hamptons. After getting on the wrong train and winding up in Stony Brook, however, the family not only stayed for their vacation, they permanently immersed themselves in the community and eventually purchased what by then was known as the Old Hallock Homestead.

Building

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Built in 1751 by Richard Hallock, the property was home to the Hallock family through the Revolutionary War (when the famed Culper Spy Ring operated in the area, gathering intelligence for George Washington) and into the early 1800s, when it was bought by Jonas Smith in 1835, to serve as a summer retreat. Some historians believe the Inn may have been part of the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War.

Jennie Melville bought the property, then in a state of disrepair, in 1929 and evolved it into the Three Village Garden Club and the Exchange. There, the Stony Brook Village Center’s site proudly states, “homemade jams and jellies, quilts, aprons and the like were sold to visitors to help support local residents during the Depression. As more visitors came, tea and sandwiches were served and it became known as the Tea House.”

Ward inherited the property in 1939, renovated and renamed it the Three Village Inn. The visionary who created Stony Brook Village and donated the land for a small teachers college that would become Stony Brook University, even then, glimpsed a future in which history and top-shelf hospitality converged

Welcoming overnight visitors today with 21guest rooms and six cottages, built in 1907 and overlooking the harbor, the Three Village Inn mixes modern amenities amid touchstones of its past, such as the original pre-Revolutionary fireplace and other architectural touches. A display of Jennie Melville’s teapots and sugar bowls greets visitors in the lobby, adding to the step-back-in-time sensation.

Lih3 Escapes Chef Guy Reuge

Chef Guy Reuge.Lessings

Just steps away inside the old house, world-class cocktails and cuisine offer another transportive experience. Both Mirabelle and the Tavern have become two of Long Island’s most beloved dining destinations under the gastronomic guidance of Executive Chef Guy Reuge, who arrived in 2009, three years after Lessing’s Hospitality Group brought its own 125-year family history in food service to the Inn.

“The Three Village Inn has been a large part of the Stony Brook and Long Island communities for many years,” Renna notes. “As we look into the future, we are excited to offer dining options that continually feature local items on our menus.”

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As a leader in the farm-to-table movement that our island’s top chefs have taken to another level, Reuge remains dedicated to and inspired by local sourcing.“It has been my desire to find local ingredients that complement our surrounding area,” Reuge says. “My passion is to serve exceptional food to our community while taking advantage of our fertile Long Island farmland. Throughout the past 14 years with Lessing’s at the Three Village Inn, we have achieved so many awards that certify our dedication to sourcing local and providing remarkable hospitality.”

Farms and farm stands that tie the area to its agrarian roots are within easy reach of guests looking to do a little local exploring. As in real estate, the “location, location, location” looms large here. A short stroll leads one to the Jazz Loft or the Reboli Center for Art and History. Guests can walk around the corner to Sand Beach and gaze out at the historic Gamecock Cottage at Shipman’s Point, or go across the street to the Hercules Pavilion, home to the figurehead and anchor from the famed U.S.S. Ohio (the first ship launched from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in 1820,) and the Polaris whaleboat, considered the only artifact still in existence from the 1870 Charles Hall expedition to the Arctic.

Lih3 Escapes Tavern

The Tavern.Lessings

Exploration on foot or by bike just past the Stony Brook Village Center leads to the Stony Brook Grist Mill, listed on the National and New York State Register of Historic Places. Opposite, the Avalon Nature Preserve offers walking trails, varied terrains and multiple habitats to explore among its 216 acres. The Long Island Museum (cofounded by Ward Melville and his wife, Dorothy Bigelow Melville) is just down the road, housing artwork, the Carriage Museum and historic structures on-site. A short car ride takes you to West Meadow Beach, where there’s easy access to explore the 88-acre wetlands preserve that surrounds Stony Brook, or the Old Field Point Lighthouse.

All these roads and paths and such, of course, ultimately lead guests back to their home away from home.

“Staying at the Inn gives you that feeling of home with a vintage charm,” says Renna, pointing out some of the timeless aspects that remain. “The original beams with pegged mortise and tenon joints are still visible in the sitting room. Many guests love to check into the hotel and enjoy cocktails by the fireplace in the sitting room while they admire the history around them.”

Learn more about the Three Village Inn at lessings.com