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Kin to the Inn
Safra Lodge To Open Soon

By Rich McManus

Photos by Bill Branson

On the Front Page...

Unlike its cousin buildings that are at or nearing the end of construction on campus, the Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge — scheduled to open in the coming weeks — has hewn to a far different aesthetic than laboratory, parking garage or hospital. Built in the style of an English country manor, the 34-room house is more like the Children's Inn at NIH or Stone House (a mansion once owned by George Freeland Peter) because it is a place where people actually live rather than work.


Thus there are no interstitial floors, or biosafety features or lab gases to talk about; the Safra Lodge trades the utilitarian for the cosmopolitan, and the comfortable. You won't find hand-laid herringbone wood floors in any other building on campus, but such a floor graces the Fellowship Hall (living room) of the new lodge. As its executive director Jan Weymouth says, "This lodge sends a message about how much NIH and the Clinical Center care about the people who participate with us in our clinical research. We want to be the best we can be for them."

Decorative exterior of new Safra Lodge

Everything about the lodge, from its oblique (rather than road-facing) siting on the lawn outside the Mary Woodard Lasker Center (the Cloisters) near the new Clinical Research Center, to its large windows, to its highly decorated public spaces (the ceiling of the reception foyer features hand-painted stenciling) reflects the soothing vision of a design team including Amy Weinstein, design architect, interior decorator Inez Austin and Weymouth, among others.

"Amy's vision was for the lodge to be modeled after an early 1900's English Arts and Crafts-style house," said Weymouth. "In its patterns and details, it has been done in the style of William Morris (an interior designer and craftsman whose work was popular in England in the period 1850-1910). It's an interpretation of his design, not an exact replica. We wanted a warm, inviting space — really just a big, comfortable house," she added.

Observed CC director Dr. John Gallin, "We understand how important it is to keep families together. The lodge will allow that to happen. Having the lodge available will help relieve the stress that often accompanies illness and separation. Our patients deserve this kind of support."

When the house opens, it will have a staff of five (see sidebar), plus housekeepers and some contract desk clerks. What they will find every day when they come to work is a first floor with high ceilings, wainscoting on the walls and a massive mantel and fireplace in the Fellowship Hall, which will also feature a baby grand player piano. There is also a business center for lodge tenants that provides computers for telecommuting, a library stocked with books and periodicals in both English and Spanish and a 2-story stair hall. The hall features a portrait of Edmond J. Safra, the philanthropist whose wife Lily made the multi-million dollar gift that launched the project. In addition to staff areas, the lodge also features an airy dining room (Fellowship Lounge), an exercise room and a fully equipped kitchen (guests are expected to do most of their own cooking), with an adjacent breakfast room. Two guest rooms on the first floor are set aside for those who need the assistance of animals such as seeing-eye dogs.

Artist Charma Le Edmonds, whose company Shelter Studios is doing the foyer ceiling stencil work, spent many hours on the project; the stencil has 10 layers.

The Fellowship Hall invites guests to gather around the fireplace as the late afternoon sun streams in. "We'd like for the living room to be so welcoming that it will draw people to the heart of the house," Weymouth said. "There are lots of gathering spaces built into the lodge for just this reason."

Upstairs in the three-story lodge are two floors that are virtually identical; each has 16 well-appointed guest rooms — as one would find in any hotel — and includes two fully accessible guest rooms. The in-room television features the Lodge Channel, which will broadcast information and an orientation with a virtual tour of the lodge and Clinical Center information and events. The upper floors are also equipped with laundry rooms.

"Guest comfort is paramount," explains Weymouth. The lodge is primarily for the families and caretakers of adult patients, with acuity (how ill the patient is) being the main criterion for admission.

Carpenter Frank Petajnik shows the hand-made newel that he crafted for the main staircase.

The exterior of the lodge and its surrounding grounds will also be eye-catching. The facade of the lodge appears to be stone laid upon stone, but is really a composition of "cultured" or man-made rock that is set into a supporting wall with special glue. Some of the entryways to the lodge are overhung with wooden pergolas, a decorative touch. Easily the most impressive outdoor feature is the planned garden surrounding the lodge, to be planted in the spring. The "healing garden" is by special request of Mrs. Safra, who has endowed it in memory of her child and grandchild. There will also be an orchard connecting the CRC and the lodge, and a walking path with gazebos and a water feature. The Foundation for the NIH will manage the garden contract, to which Mrs. Safra contributed $1 million; her total gift to the lodge project amounts to some $5 million.

Detail of ornate window at the Safra Lodge

The entire construction cost was about $7.5 million, Weymouth said of the public-private partnership that built the lodge (also known as Bldg. 65). "The FNIH committed to raising the funds to build the lodge, which included generous donations from the Safra Philanthropic Foundation, Merck Co. Foundation, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and many more corporations, foundations and individuals," she said. NIH provided utilities and land and the CC will provide staffing.

Interior decorator Inez Austin

The lodge staff recently moved into their offices. The project, from conception to completion, has taken more than 6 years. "Those involved with the development of the lodge have become very committed to seeing this happen and have never lost sight of the people for whom it was built," Weymouth said. "It's a work of love. We hope that this will do for adults and their families what the Children's Inn has done for our pediatric population."

Where They Stayed Before There Was a Lodge

Long before there was even the idea of a Safra Lodge, or of a Children's Inn at NIH, Clinical Center authorities faced the challenge of finding temporary lodging for those who came here for treatment. A patchwork of housing options has been employed in the past 52 years, with various institutes and centers paying the cost of providing temporary shelter for their patients.

The idea of an inn for adults came from the CC nurses under the leadership of Kathy Montgomery, former nursing director, recalls Jan Weymouth, executive director of the new Safra Lodge. "In the mid-1990s, with Dr. Gallin's strong support, an experiment was done in old Apartment Bldg. 20 to see if a Family Lodge was needed. The experiment was an instant success. When Bldg. 20 was razed in 1997 to make way for construction of the new Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center, NIH rented some apartments in buildings along Battery Lane, just south of campus, for patient use."

Massive fireplace graces Fellowship Hall

About 3 years ago — when it became clear that the project once known as the NIH Guest House was going to become a reality — NIH gave up the Battery Lane rentals and leased six rooms at the Sheraton Four Points hotel at the corner of Rockville Pike and Battery Lane, plus two more at the Park Inn, across the Pike from White Flint Mall. These latter two were equipped with kitchenettes, and were reserved for long-term users. The eight NIH leases are set to expire when the Safra Lodge opens, Weymouth said. She credits the Sheraton with being particularly accommodating to NIH patients: "They offered our patients free dinner once a month, plus some discounts, and allowed access to their pool. They provided microwave ovens and refrigerators. They have been extremely accommodating. They have embraced us."

Despite the opening of the lodge, NIH will still need options for occasions when the lodge is at capacity, Weymouth noted. "The Clinical Center will continue its relationships with local hotels."

Who's Who at the Lodge

Jan Weymouth
Jan Weymouth, long-time space management officer and manager for the patient guest house program at the Clinical Center, has overseen the construction of the Safra Lodge since the groundbreaking in October 2002 and will be its executive director. Reporting to her will be a staff of four veteran NIH employees, including: Ellen Williams, former head of the CC Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, will be manager of guest relations. Margo Bradford, for many years an administrator at the Children's Inn at NIH, will be operations manager. Dilcia Stephens-Medley, former administrative employee at the CC, will be a program support specialist, and Stephanie Turner will be the lodge's administrative officer.

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