Vermont Inns With A Storied Past | My Family Travels

What do Norman Rockwell, Ethan Allen, Bob Newhart, and Maria von Trapp have in common? They are all somehow associated with inns in Vermont.

After spending a day skiing Vermont’s hills, how about spending a night in Norman Rockwell’s bedroom or reading a good book in Ethan Allen’s hideaway? Consider catching some Z’s where presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson rested their weary bones, or just savor the scenery that reminded Maria von Trapp of her Austria home.

Vermont has many inns with a past — country inns that date back a century or two or have ties to legends or famous people. Several offer packages and other lures to both Alpine and cross-country skiers (package and contact details for each inn described appear at the end of this article).

Green Mountain Boys & Rockwell’s Legacy

Stay at the cozy Ira Allen House in Sunderland to help yourself to a hearty dose of Green Mountain heritage. This former home of brothers Ethan and Ira Allen dates from 1779, and it was in the present lounge where Ethan, the most famous Green Mountain Boy, wrote his venerated “Oracles of Reason.” Today you can play Scrabble or curl up with a book in the homey room where Allen composed that treatise.

New owners of the five-suite inn, Maria and Ed Jones, have spent their last few summers restoring a nearby historic home with dreams of someday making it into a place like the Ira Allen House. When they saw the Ira Allen House was for sale, they seized the opportunity and bought it. “Now we are living our dream a little sooner than we expected,” smiles Ed.

Close by, in a landscape that could stimulate the creative juices of any artist is The Inn on Covered Bridge Green in West Arlington. This white farmhouse facing the red covered bridge over the Battenkill River is the former home of Norman Rockwell, today operated by Napa Valley, California transplants Clint and Julia Dickens, who purchased the inn from long-time owners Anne and Ron Weber several years ago. The nine guest rooms are named for Rockwell prints hanging in each. “The Spooners,” for example, was the artist’s master bedroom, decorated with a print of young lovers admiring the sunset. Also on the grounds are a honeymoon cottage and Rockwell’s former studio, which can be rented by two parties or by one family.

Alpine skiers staying at either inn head to Bromley (nine lifts, 44 trails and a vertical drop of 1,334 feet) a half-hour away, and Stratton Mountain, 40 minutes away, with 16 lifts (including four high-speed six-passenger lifts), 90 trails and a 2,003-foot drop. Cross-country skiers are usually found testing trails at Hildene (Robert Todd Lincoln’s estate in Manchester, with 14 kilometers groomed), Wild Wings (28 kilometers groomed) in Peru or Viking Nordic Center in Londonderry (35 kilometers groomed). Those looking to tackle Robert Frost’s “road not taken” make tracks to mountainous Merck Forest in Rupert, with 32 miles of ungroomed trails.

Trade History & Bob Newhart

In the village of Lower Waterford in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom is the Rabbit Hill Inn, where romance and winter recreation meet as skiing guests dine prix fixe to candlelight and harp accompaniment. “The vitality of an inn for us is what goes on in the evening,” says co-innkeeper Leslie Mulcahy.

Rabbit Hill was built in 1795 as Sam Hodby’s Tavern, and except for a few periods, it has hosted overnight guests ever since. In the 19th century, this rambling, white structure sheltered peddlers shuttling textiles, maple syrup and produce along the busy trade route between Montreal and Portland, Maine. Today, whirlpool baths, canopy beds and fireplaces fill most of the inn’s 19 rooms and one of the more romantic guestrooms is said to be haunted, so you never know who might be watching you. (Of course, for some couples that adds to the thrill). Only children 14 and older may stay and there are only two rooms that sleep three people.

When not at the inn, guests are often skiing in at nearby Burke Mountain or in New Hampshire’s White Mountains at areas such as Cannon Mountain and Bretton Woods. The inn maintains 6.5 kilometers of rough-groomed cross-country trails through the woods which continue along the Connecticut River. Snowshoeing and sledding are additional inn perks.

Around the time the Rabbit Hill Inn was first hosting guests, the Waybury Inn also had the welcome mat out. If that name isn’t familiar, then consider the Stratford Inn. The Waybury was Bob Newhart’s home on the classic `80s television show, Newhart. Its 20th century fame belies the fact that board and lodging have been served here since 1810.

Thanks to the magic of reruns, a new generation has become familiar with this 15-room clapboard beauty, and inn staffer Tracy Getty says that about one in five guests still mention the show’s cast of crazies such as Larry, Darryl and Darryl, although most erroneously recall the three inept handymen as Larry, Larry and Larry or Darryl, Darryl and Darryl. Those familiar with the sitcom may do a double take when first spotting the Waybury since the white exterior was painted light green long after it was videotaped as the home of Newhart’s innkeeper character Dick Loudon. Wooden signs bearing the names of the Stratford Inn and the series’ fictional Minuteman Café decorate the premises.

Nearby are the Middlebury College Snow Bowl, a family-oriented area with 17 trails, three lifts and a 1,050-foot drop, the Rikert Ski Touring Center at the college’s Bread Loaf campus (42 kilometers groomed trails). Bigger areas such as Killington and Sugarbush are about an hour away.

Von Trapps & American Icons

Unlike the fictitious Dick Loudon, the very real Maria von Trapp was innkeeper of the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. Von Trapp, matriarch of the family immortalized in The Sound of Music, came here in 1940, two years after escaping Hitler’s Austria. Set your eyes on the surrounding mountains and you will see why Maria chose this part of Vermont as her new home. Until her death in 1987, Maria was often seen greeting guests and signing her autobiography. Son Johannes has taken over as company president.

Reminders of Maria abound. A videotape documentary chronicling her last visit to Salzburg is shown daily. The walls of the third floor living room are covered with family photos including an autographed picture of Mary Martin, who played Maria on Broadway. It reads, “Darling Maria, the greatest joy in my life was knowing you, playing you and Loving (sic) you. “Always, `your Maria,’ Mary Martin.”

The Trapp Family Lodge maintains 55 kilometers of groomed and 45 additional ungroomed cross country trails. The nearest Alpine area is famed Stowe Mountain Resort, consisting of Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak (12 lifts, 48 trails). You will find Nordic skiing at Edson Hill (25 kilometers groomed trails), Mount Mansfield (35 groomed kilometers) and Topnotch (25 groomed kilometers).

There is a presidential heritage at The Old Tavern at Grafton in southeastern Vermont. Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Ulysses S. Grant slept here, as did authors Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rudyard Kipling and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Today’s Old Tavern complex consists of the main building, dating from 1801, four restored houses and a two-room private executive suite. Winter guests stretch their legs at the Grafton Ponds Cross Country Ski Center with 30 kilometers of groomed trails, taking novices past Big Windham and Little Windham ponds and experts over Bear Mountain Ridge. The closest downhill areas are Bromley (20 miles away) and Okemo (22 miles away).

You will see skiers and other vacationers on the streets of Grafton but there are some things you won’t see. Telephone wires have been buried. The uncluttered view of handsome clapboard homes alongside the tavern has made Grafton one of Vermont’s most-photographed villages.

Yet residents of Woodstock may protest that. Ever since Captain Israel Richardson afforded “bait and board” here in 1793, an inn of some sort has fronted the south side of Woodstock’s village green. The current Woodstock Inn and Resort dates from 1969, but its stately white facade fits like a custom-made tuxedo in this town of 19th-century homes.

The nation’s first rope tow was engineered in 1934 at the inn’s downhill ski area, Suicide Six, an event regarded by social historians as the birthplace of the American ski industry. The place has grown; today there are three lifts and 23 trails, while the inn’s ski touring center grooms 60 kilometers of trails.

Details, Details

If you go, please bear in mind that special packages at nearly all inns are not available during holiday weeks in December and February, or on most weekends. For the 2006/2007 season, skiers and riders can take advantage of Ski Vermont‘s sampler “3/5 Pass,” which costs $125 for three tickets or $200 for five tickets and is valid for any mountain resort in the state. For more information, call 802/223-2439 or email passes@skivermont.com

Ira Allen House 877/362-2284, 802/362-2284
Sunderland, VT (Mailing address: P.O. Box 251, Manchester, VT 05224)
Packages include third night half price with two nights lodging and fifth night free with four nights lodging, weekends included. All rooms include breakfast. Regular rates: $125-$275 per room.

Inn on Covered Bridge Green 800/726-9480, 802/375-9489
3587 River Road, Arlington, VT 05250
Winter rates based on two persons: $150-$225 per room including breakfast. Activities including skiing, ice skating, sleigh rides, spa visits, massages, museum admissions and snowshoeing can be arranged through the innkeepers.

Rabbit Hill Inn 800/76-BUNNY (762-8669), 802/748-5168
Lower Waterford, VT 05848.
Regular room rates, double occupancy: $195-$355 including afternoon tea and pastries, breakfast and service charge, with prix fixe dinners also available by reservation; check website for midweek special offerings.

Waybury Inn 800/348-1810, 802/388-4015
Route 125, East Middlebury, VT 05740.
Rooms $100-$250, full breakfast included.

Trapp Family Lodge 800/826-7000, 802/253-8511
P.O. Box 1428, Stowe, VT 05672
Two-night Trapp Family Christmas Tree Package, in effect November 28-December 22, includes lodging in a deluxe room, breakfast, trail fees, freshly cut Christmas tree or wreath, Christmas gift (likely to be the Trapp family compact disc, “Everywhere Christmas“), $252.50 per person for two nights, double occupancy. The three-night Tyrolean Package, available throughout the winter, includes breakfast, trail fees, private cross-country lesson, ski rentals; rates for this package have not been established at press time. Non-package daily winter room rates: $285-$520 for up to two persons, double occupancy.

The Old Tavern at Grafton 800/843-1801, 802/843-2231
P. O. Box 9, Grafton, Vermont 05146
Sunday-Thursday night room rates are from $125 per room, double occupancy. Weekend room rates from $150; guest houses from $600-$950, trail fees at Grafton Ponds, full country breakfast, afternoon tea included. Cross-country skis, skates, snow tubes and snowshoes can be rented at Grafton Ponds Nordic Ski and Mountain Bike Center.

Woodstock Inn and Resort 800/448-7900, 802/457-1100
14 The Green, Woodstock, VT 05091
Ski Vermont Free, a mid-week package, (Sunday through Thursday), includes lift tickets for Suicide Six and trail fees for inn’s ski touring center, equipment rentals and for those staying three nights, a free group lesson ($215-$384 per room, single or double occupancy; optional MAP (breakfast and dinner daily) available at extra $69 adults per day, $31 ages 14 and under per day. The Woodstock Ski Weekend includes two nights lodging, two days skiing, and two breakfasts per person, from $323 per person, double occupancy; children under 14 staying in room with parents are $40 per night. Three night Family Ski packages in January and February offer special activities for children, including a horse-drawn sleigh ride and group lessons, and start at $454 per night.


This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.