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Checking In

An old house near Old Yale but with new charms

Email|Print| Text size + By Patricia Harris and David Lyon
Globe Correspondents / February 12, 2006

NEW HAVEN -- The sky was pouring a slurpy mix of snow and rain when we pulled into the parking lot at Three Chimneys, grabbed our bags, and skirted puddles on the way to the back door. Sammy Manoharon hurried us inside and led the way to the reception desk.

''This is an old house," proprietor Jane Peterson sighed as we admired the high ceilings and elaborate carved woodwork of the 1870s Victorian home.

''The roof is leaking," she said. ''We don't want you to have to dodge buckets on the third floor, so we've put you at the front of the house on the second floor."

Before Manoharon took our bags and led us up the twisting staircase, Peterson determined what time we would like breakfast and that we had no food allergies.

The centerpiece of our room, No. 24, is the angular red brick chimney running up one wall. It's fitted with an electric stove that creates a cozy flame and a surprising amount of heat. A desk and leather-upholstered armchair sit on one side of the fireplace. On the other side, a deep, padded chair and ottoman invite you to stretch out with a book. Blue floral fabric coordinates with the rug and the blue and white quilt on the unusually high queen-size four-poster bed. A tall neoclassical armoire, positioned between two windows, hides the TV and VCR (tapes available at the desk). The large room also has a walk-in closet and bath with pedestal sink and combination tub-shower.

While we settled in, Manoharon delivered a welcome basket consisting of a thermal carafe of boiling hot water, two mugs, and packets of tea, coffee bags, hot chocolate, and powdered hot cider mix. Oh, yes, and two big chocolate chip cookies.

While the inn does not serve dinner, it doesn't let its guests starve, either. In the double parlor on the first floor, a table was set with a pod-style espresso maker and pots of hot water for other beverages. A glass jar full of cookies sat next to a plate of chocolates. There's even a small pantry and refrigerator on the third floor stocked with beverages and snacks for purchase on the honor system.

''We'll be putting out the wine and cheese around 4:30," Peterson told us as we set out to explore the neighborhood. The inn is just over three blocks from Yale's Old Campus, but we lingered along Chapel Street to check out the boutiques and study the menus of the ethnic eateries.

We perused the Yale Center for British Art (1080 Chapel St., free), completed in 1977, three years after architect Louis Kahn's death, and a building as much an attraction as the paintings and sculptures inside it. Kahn's deft use of smooth concrete and pale woods created a sequence of galleries where formal 17th-century portraits, George Stubbs's 18th-century animal paintings, and small bronze castings by Henry Moore are equally at home.

Back at the inn, we helped ourselves to wine and cheese and staked out seats in front of one of the two parlor fireplaces. Amid the comfy couches, oriental carpets, and trophy heads over the mantels, a banner proclaimed ''For God, For Country and For Yale."

Peterson suggested Thai Taste for dinner. A short stroll away at 1151 Chapel St., ''it used to be a German restaurant and it still looks German," she said. ''But it has the best Thai food in the Northeast."

Richly embroidered Thai fabrics softened the beer hall feel of the dark wood-paneled subterranean room. As we dined on house specialties of chicken or pork in spicy sauces with vegetables and herbs, we eavesdropped on an animated conversation about graduate schools. The well-made food and friendly service hit the spot on a cold night, without setting any benchmarks. Thai Taste (203-776-9802) is open daily for lunch and dinner. Entrees run from $7.95 to $15.50.

The next morning, Peterson was waiting for us in the big dining room that mirrors the parlor on the other side of the hall. The only other guest had already left for a job interview at the university, so we had the room to ourselves for a hearty breakfast of French toast, Canadian bacon, and cinnamon-laced baked apples.

Peterson took calls from tradesmen (a roofer, a carpenter) as we ate and then we said our goodbyes, having enjoyed all the charms -- and endured none of the hassles -- of this old house.

Contact Patricia Harris and David Lyon, freelance writers in Cambridge, at harris.lyon@verizon.net.

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