PITTSFIELD – Eric Taylor started working for his father in the construction industry at the age of 15, but building new structures or restoring old ones isn’t all he does. Taylor also owns properties.
Taylor, the owner of Restorations Inc., a general contractor company in Hinsdale, also owns two popular commercial properties, The Lake House Guest Cottages of the Berkshires in Lanesborough and The Proprietor’s Lodge in Pittsfield, which are located on opposite sides of the lake Pontoosuc. . Taylor refurbished both properties after purchasing them, and he hopes to eventually connect them by boat.
We recently spoke to Taylor about restoring old buildings versus building new ones, his two properties on Pontoosuc Lake, and how his company is dealing with the supply chain disruptions that have affected the economy.
Question: You are listed as a general contractor, but I know your business has restored historic properties. Do you see yourself more as a restaurateur or an entrepreneur?
A: We are more of an entrepreneur.
[Restorations] was created in 1970 by my father [George Taylor] and a few partners to do historic preservation work, and there just aren’t enough of them. We have spent many years at Lenox working on the [historic] cabins and stuff like that, but in the ’80s and’ 90s I got into restorations and we got into more general commercial work and new construction. [Taylor became the head of the firm in 2002].
Question: What well-known buildings was your company working on when your father was in charge?
A: There were quite a few. … The Brookhurst Estate [in Lenox], we remodeled in the 1980s. We worked in Tanglewood. There is a camp on Yokun Avenue [in Lenox], Belvoir Terrace, where we worked a lot. For a while we looked at the historic preservation of church steeples. … We did Lee’s, at the church on the hill [in Lenox], and Becket Congregational, when there was demand and availability for it.
Question: How do you approach a project like this?
A: We are usually brought in by the owner or an architect. It’s a collaboration on how we all approach it, financially, physically and in detail. The Mass Historical Society and [similar entities] have higher and more stringent guidelines.
In the 80s and 90s we did a lot of work at Arrowhead [“Moby-Dick” author Herman Melville’s home in Pittsfield]. That sort of thing required more museum-quality work.
Question: What do you mean?
A: Just match things up [restoring a piece on a building] one for one. It was what it was. He had to get back to what he was. There was no deviation from that. … It’s fun and interesting, and it can take a long time.
Question: What materials do you refer to when considering restoring a historic property?
A: Old photos, old plans.
Question: Are they difficult to follow?
A: Yes. Sometimes they are not well documented and you have to trace them. … I will do it in collaboration with the architect and the owner.
Question: How do you choose the modern materials that you use so that the restored parts of a building blend into the original work?
A: The materials are chosen for their maneuverability and longevity. … I hate to say it, but [we use] PVC and plastic. … We see a lot of this.
Question: What’s the most interesting restoration project you’ve worked on?
A: The Lee Bell Tower was truly unique. We did a bunch of structural reinforcements. It was like building a boat out of a bottle.
Question: So, did you build a model before you went up there?
Question: How was your arrival at the steeple?
A: Lots of cobwebs.
Question: What attracted you to this profession?
A: I’m not exactly sure. I went to business school in metal fabrication. At that time my dad had Southern Berkshire Welding. … Then, I changed jobs and I became the estimator of Peter Francese and Sons and Restorations Inc. I was more in the modernity of things. We also did a lot of new construction.
Question: [In 2012, Restorations built MountainOne’s Financial Center in the William Stanley Business Park, a structure that was built under green building conditions and is 40 percent glass]. How do you approach a new project compared to a restoration?
A: Most of our novelties are plans and specifications. … In new constructions, you have your marching orders integrated. It is generally fast.
Question: When you bought The Lake House property in Lanesborough, what did you originally imagine it would become?
A: I bought it at a time when the economy was not at its best, so I didn’t have a straightforward plan. I just knew the property was valuable. … The real estate agent kept calling me. … I think I have been to the property two or three different times with him [before Taylor bought it]. It was finally the view to the east [across the lake] who sold me there.
Question: When you bought the old ITAM Lodge and turned it into The Proprietor’s Lodge, you said you wanted to connect it to The Lake House. Is that still the plan?
A: Well, we are trying. The platform [a 12-slip marina that Taylor wants to build] is currently on appeal with the Ministry of Environmental Protection [in August, a neighbors’ group appealed the DEP’s decision to grant a provisional license for the dock in July]. … We hope to see approval early next year, which would allow us to pull the trigger to purchase the dock and install it when time permits.
Question: The group of neighbors initially raised concerns about noise, parking and traffic at the Proprietor’s Lodge when you first opened. Are there still oppositions to your projects?
A: When we started our project there, there were about 40 or 50 people who were after us, and it’s kind of going down. There is always a group of citizens. … [But], we have conquered some neighbors.
A few people in this neighborhood are employed by us. And we know how to behave now. We are not new. We [originally] encountered problems with [capacity] in the parking lot. When we were brand new there was so much demand. Now we know how to rule it.
Question: If the wharf enters, what will be the strategy?
A: Sometimes we get cross events where [guests] will stay at The Lake House but I want to go to the owner [to eat]. They all have this kind of fantasy of being overwhelmed by a boat, and we haven’t been able to achieve that.
Question: The Lake House has become a popular location for wedding parties. The COVID-19 pandemic has really eaten away at the wedding industry in the Berkshires. How did it affect you?
A: We had a really tough 2020 [of the coronavirus pandemic], everyone wanted refunds. We were able to postpone a lot of weddings to the following year, in 2021. The second impact [of the pandemic] was more difficult, because 2022 was already a pretty solid year, and now you’re trying to move 2020 and 2021 to it.
We couldn’t give customers the weekends they wanted, so we had to think outside the box. … We had weddings mid-week. Some people just agreed with us on a refund and we let them go.
We’re full in 2022, we’re halfway through 2023, and we even have a few bookings for 2024.
Question: As a contractor, how have supply chain issues affected your ability to obtain materials?
A: We had some trouble getting things. It is more recent. Six or eight months ago we could get it, but you paid a premium for it. Now that companies like Marvin and Anderson and garage door companies are restarting, they are understaffed.
Windows we would typically get in six weeks, now it’s 16 weeks. The garage doors came out 18 weeks. … Our restaurateurs-distributors find it difficult to stock up on glass for bottles.
Question: Has it ever been this bad?
A: No, this is not the case.