On Point In Onset

Cape Cod Home  /  Spring 2021 / ,

Writer: Elizabeth Shaw

The Glen Cove Hotel building in Onset has been providing quality service and entertainment since the Victorian Era. And it shows no signs of slowing down.

When one thinks of Victorian Era architecture and style, the Cape certainly isn’t one of the first places to come to mind. But just over the bridge in Onset sits a historic Victorian community on the waterfront. What started as a self-sufficient resort town has maintained its charm by preserving and restoring its storied buildings while updating businesses to meet modern needs. One of the most iconic and eye-catching buildings to inhabit Onset is the Glen Cove Hotel & Restaurant

Built in 1883, this five-story, yellow landmark has gone through a handful of owners in its long lifetime, as well as a number of different functions. Originally built as a private summer getaway, the building was turned into a hotel in the late 1880s, and has seen many names and owners since. An expansion in the 1920s added the dining and bar room. In 2012, the Salerno family rescued the building after it sat in foreclosure for two years and opened the Glen Cove Hotel & Restaurant.

For guests looking for a Massachusetts “stay-cation,” the Glen Cove offers the perfect getaway. With 14 rooms, some featuring private balconies overlooking the water, two restaurants and easy access to Onset Beach, any length stay will leave you feeling relaxed and at peace. In non-pandemic times, the Glen Cove is the place to be in Onset. The 1883 Lounge will transport any visitor back in time, thanks to the restored original granite and brick foundation on display. With a satisfying drink menu and sophisticated, yet approachable dinner menu, the 1883 Lounge is perfect for any guest. Or enjoy the waterfront views that have kept visitors returning since the 1800s in the Bay Room. With expansive windows offering year-round waterfront dining, the Bay Room has become a favorite for special events, like birthdays or weddings, while also being the perfect spot for a weekend brunch by the water. 

The Salerno brothers are no strangers to the hospitality industry, with years of experience running family businesses, with a pizzeria and much more. Owner John Salerno explains, “My brother Mark and I are the co-owners of Marc Anthony’s Pizzeria in Onset. We’ve been there for about 42 years, we opened in 1978 down the street from the hotel. We love Onset, always have, so over the years we’ve built up a few businesses here, starting with Marc Anthony’s, we then bought a building next to the pizzeria and remodeled it and created a beautiful function hall on the second floor called Salerno’s, there’s also an ice cream and candy shop, Nana’s. It’s become a one-stop-shop here in Onset.” While not Wareham or Cape born, John and his brothers, Holbrook natives, were introduced to the area by their father, who drove through Onset for work and fell in love with the town. It was their father who purchased the building that would become Marc Anthony’s, but it was the brothers who would make sure the Salerno family made their mark on Onset.

With a family history in the restaurant business, the jump to hotel ownership seemed to be a perfect next step for the Salernos. “It felt like a pretty natural progression, and especially now with a great team behind me. We were familiar with the restaurant part, and the hotel/hospitality end was new. But the restaurant business is a service business, you have customers and you need to provide for them. So it was a natural fit,” says Salerno. What started as a simple update turned into a seven-year renovation. Salerno explains, “We bought the building in 2012. We took a couple years to really figure out what we wanted to do with it and draw up plans and remodeled it in 2015. Being a five-story building, including the basement, it has beautiful views, but the stairs weren’t 21st century friendly, so we put in an elevator in the front of the building and made it look like an original part of the building. That gave us full access to all five levels, and everything was brought up to code, so it was quite a bit of renovation.” 

“We opened on January 17, 2019, so this will be our third summer. COVID definitely threw us a curveball, but we adapted,” Salerno says of the difficulty of 2020. “It was tricky at first and we stopped business to assess the situation. But just like everyone else, we couldn’t do anything. Once the restrictions started to lift and we had a plan in place, we opened back up, adhering to the restrictions. We didn’t open the rooms up right away, it wasn’t allowed, but we’ve really bounced back, even with lowered capacity limits. We were able to stay up and running and do really well.”

Looking to the future, Salerno hopes to carry on the building’s legacy. “We want to keep that history alive, of bringing people together and creating a nice space for people. We’re hosting weddings, and we’ve purchased the building next to us, which will give us more space for such events. We’d love to become a wedding destination.” With properties around Onset, all within walking distance of the Glen Cove, Salerno’s hopes are in reach, once gatherings can be at full capacity, of course. With the restaurants in the hotel, as well as the Salerno Seaside Function Hall and Onset Beach nearby, the Glen Cove Hotel and its team will create the perfect day for any couple.

Like most people, Salerno and his team can’t wait for a return to normal, if only for one perk: music. “We had gotten very involved in live music, specifically the blues. In 2019 and into 2020, we had live blues bands playing every Friday and Saturday night. It brought in the traveling/tourist crowd as well as locals. People really seemed to love it, they were dancing and having a great time, and we’ve had some great performers. Obviously COVID put a stop to that but we hope to bring it back,” says Salerno about the pre-coronavirus days at the Glen Cove. “It’s a fun hotel, and it’s a great community to walk around and explore. Onset itself used to be a city, we hosted the big bands back in the day, in the 20s and 30s, before the bridges opened.” For Salerno, seeing his guests have a great time, whether during a live show, at dinner, or just seeing big smiles at check out, is what it is really about. He says, “Unlike a chain hotel, it has a feeling of home. It has that inn feeling while being a hotel. I love meeting the people, our guests and making sure they have a great experience.”

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a beautiful Victorian Era hotel in possession of stunning views and wonderful restaurants must be want of guests. While Salerno and the Glen Cove Hotel adapted and even thrived in the midst of a pandemic, the beautiful yellow building, with its storied history and hallowed halls are patiently waiting for a return to normal, and a return to fun. 

For more information or to book your stay, visit glencoveonsetbeach.com, call (774)-678-4233 or stop by in person at 167 Onset Ave, Onset MA. 

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth Shaw is a former assistant editor, photographer & videographer for Cape Cod Life Publications. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Elizabeth spent many summers on the Cape, before she and her family moved down full time in 2016. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island as a double major in Writing & Rhetoric and Film Media, and started at Cape Cod Life the following fall. In her free time, she takes as many pictures of her dog, Watson, as possible, in between beach trips.