The Hancock Inn
New Owners Make Changes While Embracing Tradition
Nestled in the heart of New Hampshire’s Monadnock Region is the town of Hancock. Founded in 1779 it was named for John Hancock who, only three years earlier had served as President of the Continental Congress and was the first Signer of the Declaration of Independence. By 1789 the town began to grow slowly and, that same year, Noah Wheeler opened the doors of his inn to guests who were “seeking bed and board.” Nearly two and a quarter centuries later, Mr. Wheeler’s Hancock Inn is the state’s oldest and sits at the heart of a sleepy town that has changed little since. In fact, every building on Main Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The inn’s newest owners, Jarvis and Marcia Coffin, were living in Sudbury, Massachusetts, Jarvis operating a successful internet advertising and sales business, when they learned that the inn was for sale. “We had privately been discussing what we would do after my current business had run its course,” says Jarvis, a former Old Greenwich resident. “Then the inn came onto our radar screen and we said, “why not?”
With family ties to the Hancock area, the Coffins acquired the 13-bedroom inn in August of 2011 with no hospitality experience to speak of. “We got up to speed very quickly,” said Marcia. “We even visited other area inns to get a feel of how they operated.” Within a year, the Coffins’ hard work has paid off. The reception room, once set for additional dining, has been returned to traditional use; comfortable and period furniture allows guests to relax or to be welcomed by front desk clerk, Leslie Hartwell. A back room, once used as an office and gift shop, has been transformed into the Tavern which seats 25 for cozy dining and, at one end there is a stunning new bar. The adjacent outdoor patio serves a dozen guests for meals on clear summer nights. The formal dining room and the more private Webster Room remain as they were: traditional dining amongst colonial furnishings, period decorations and oil paintings.
“We are committed to top-of-the-line cooking and comfort food,” said Marcia, “as such we needed to upgrade the kitchen to reflect this.” Out went old equipment replaced by new. Chef Robert Grant, who served in the same capacity under the former owners, now cranks out more sumptuous fare including local cheeses and crab cakes to start to entrees like Brown Sugar Duck Breast, Shaker Cranberry Pot Roast or a traditional New England Clam Bake. Decadent desserts include a Flourless Chocolate Torte and Crème Brulee Trio. Andrea Molnar, Head of House, manages an attentive wait staff.
Residing at the rear of the inn, the Coffins, who refer to themselves as “resident innkeepers” have made this a family affair. Son Nathan, a Bucknell freshman, helps out on breaks from college and niece Eliza serves as an assistant summer hostess. Word of mouth and selective marketing have resulted in steady business. “The object of the game is to delight our guests,” said Jarvis. “They always seem to leave with a smile. I guess it’s working.”
Hancock Inn, 33 Main Street, Hancock, N.H.; 603-525-3318; www.hancockinn.com
Autumn Activities near Hancock, New Hampshire
- Climb: Mt. Monadnock; most climbed mountain in North America (Jaffrey and Dublin).
- Visit: The boyhood home of Samuel Wilson known as “Uncle Sam.” (Mason).
- Shop: At the Peterborough Basket Company famous for its Nantucket baskets. (Peterborough).
- Experience: An auction at Cobb’s Antique Auction House. (Peterborough).
- Tour: The Shaker Village. (Canterbury).
- Reflect: At Willa Cather’s gravesite. (Jaffrey).
- Watch: Jonathan Gibson produce world-class pewter at Gibson Pewter. (Hillsborough).