In the lobby of the White Elephant Hotel on Nantucket, a commanding new mural of a lady in a boat presides, a nod to the tenacious woman who built this island institution, Elizabeth T. Ludwig.
Ludwig, a ballsy socialite, had the crazy idea that an island 30 miles from the Massachusetts mainland would someday be one of the country’s buzziest summer retreats. Liz’s high society friends teased her: “They said it was a white elephant of an idea,” Bettina Landt, the hotel’s general manager told Robb Report. “I like to think the painting is an homage to her. She looks so carefree and in command, sitting alone in the boat.”
Liz named her ridiculed project the White Elephant when it was opened as a series of seaside cottages 100 years ago this May.
The painting, by pop artist Orit Fuchs, is part of the resort’s new artist-in-residence program, overseen by New York–based art consultant Emily Santangelo, who installed artists at the hotel to capture impressions of Nantucket.
It’s just one new detail in a multimillion-dollar (the exact figure is under wraps) renovation, just completed before the hotel comes out of its regular winter slumber and reopens its restaurant, the Brant Point Grill, in time for Easter.
Guests won’t see much change to the indoor-outdoor restaurant overlooking a sweeping lawn and an expansive water view—if it were to change, locals might indeed riot. There are slight additions—such as a Beyond Burger augmenting the much-ordered animal variety. The craved-for lobster rolls, clam chowder (in New England, chowder is year-round order), and lobster Bloody Mary are not leaving the menu anytime ever, said Landt.
This summer, however, Boston steak and seafood stalwart Grill 23, part of Himmel Hospitality, takes over a ballroom through July, adding the island’s only steakhouse and, more importantly, bringing its two master sommeliers, Alex Powell and Brahm Callahan, along.
When the hotel fully reopens on May 4, the sleek seaside charm of the refresh may then be enjoyed overnight. The 54 rooms and suites, and the 11 cottages’ metaphorical “nip and tuck” and a big dollop of brightening serum, bringing them inline with the newer adjacent Inn and Residences, which had already augment the historic property.
Elkus Manfredi Architects, the same design firm that brought a derelict 100-year-old Palm Beach hotel up to date and into the White Elephant Resorts Collection as the White Elephant Palm Beach in 2020, helmed the facelift, drawing inspiration from Nantucket landscape colors and textures—grass cloth wall coverings evoke dune grasses and blue painted ceilings emulate the Nantucket summer sky, for example.
As much as the Nantucket original informed the Palm Beach property, the old gal borrowed from its southern counterpart, adding such adorable details as brass elephant door knockers on each guest room door. They look like they’ve always been there, alongside the longstanding cute elephant needlepoint cushions in guest rooms.
Besides White Elephant Nantucket and Palm Beach, White Elephant Resorts Collection includes Nantucket’s tranquil Relais & Châteaux member the Wauwinet; downtown’s Jared Coffin House, a historic home turned boutique hotel; the private waterfront Cottages at Nantucket Boat Basin; and the Nantucket Boat Basin’s 240-slip full-service marina—since ya gotta have somewhere to park the yacht.
Are other White Elephants in the works? According to a smiling but tight-lipped Landt: “It’s an evolving brand. Stay tuned.”