ROCKPORT — The Seaward Inn bed and breakfast complex will shut its doors Sunday, with plans to convert into a residence.
The Seaward Inn has been family owned since 1945, when it started off as a cottage. As years passed, it then grew into a sprawling inn across Marmion Way, enlarging to 36 units.
Current owner and Innkeeper Nancy Cameron-Gilsey, now 61, said that after her parents died in 2003, she bought the property and its then-23 units from her sisters.
“It grew to across Marmion Way, but it has been shrinking ever since,” she said.
In 2007, four of the 23 units were sold and turned into condominiums. Cameron-Gilsey said that was a necessity — she could not afford to buy the entire lot.
The Seaward Inn is coming full circle. Another family has agreed to buy the property, the deal is expected to be finalized in November and the doors are closing Sunday, she said.
As part of the process, there will be a yard sale in the dining room from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday.
The decision to sell was not an easy one; Cameron-Gilsey said it was a combination of rising maintenance costs and wanting to try something new.
The process has been bittersweet, she said she’s sad to leave but happy the process is moving along. One portion of the property may be maintained and rented out, motel style.
The family aspect of the Seaward Inn was not limited to the Cameron-Gilsey line.
“It’s amazing to me how much people have cared about the inn and loved it,” she said. “People feel like it’s family.”
She said she was blown away by the quantity of responses she has gotten to the inn’s news; many have written in with favorite memories.
The family that has agreed to buy the property can only move in if the Board of Appeals signs off on a zoning change, allowing the main building to be used as a private home rather than an inn or restaurant.
The Board of Appeals will take up the zoning change on Oct. 29.
“People call as if it’s their home, old family they lost touch with,” she said.
Cameron-Gilsey said the inn was in its heyday when her parents owned it. They won multiple awards and guests came back year after year.
“It was probably the most renowned inn on Cape Ann when my parents had it,” she said.
The Seaward Inn was also home to many Hollywood icons; George Clooney and other cast members of “The Perfect Storm” stayed at the Seaward Inn when they made the movie in neighboring Gloucester.
She recalled that Clooney and other cast members played basketball after filming.
“That was a really exciting time,” she said.
Actors such as Barbra Striesand and Whoopi Goldberg also have called the Seaward Inn home.
Jobs and ownership of the inn have been passed down from generation to generation, too.
Cameron-Gilsey had her first job washing dishes at the Seaward Inn; her son worked his first as an omelet chef and her daughter worked hers at the front desk and as a dishwasher.
She grew up on the Seaward Inn property, and Cameron-Gilsey raised her children in her grandmother’s house next door.
“It’s been wonderful, it’s in my blood,” Cameron-Gilsey said of her time as innkeeper.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.