Bennington Pottery, Equinox Historic Inn, Equinox Hotel, Equinox Resort Manchester VT, Fort William Henry, Go Into the Light Blog at Wordpress, Historic Inns of New England, History Vacations, Lake George NY, Manchester Vermont, New England Historic Inns, Orvis Family, Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge MA, Stockbridge Massachusetts, Tanglewood
Come along for the ride and bring your Senses of Adventure and Humor!
The View of Mount Equinox from our Balcony at the Resort
We are very fortunate to have family who really understand what we like to do in our ‘spare time’. This ‘for instance’ involves the gift, the last 2 Christmases, of an overnight at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge Massachusetts. Pat’s sisters Katie and Mary Ellen and his nephew Liam generously gave us gift certificates, totaling two nights and we are finally able to use them! This inspired a bit of a historical inn tour for us this past week. Pat found a couple of good deals on-line and we strung them together with the gift certificates for an interesting summer vacation week.
As you may remember if you’ve read my Historic Hotels of New England posts, I love to explore and research old resort hotels. We left home Sunday morning after extensive garden watering the day before. Our first destination was Manchester Vermont where we had reservations at the historic Equinox Resort. The hotel stretches along one long side of the Manchester village green on over 2,000 acres. It faces equally old and historic buildings across the road; a courthouse, a church and a music hall currently in the process of getting another life. Vintage homes surround the inn and the overall setting is quite idyllic, including the 1811 House, a former home of President Lincoln’s granddaughter, also an inn property.
First Impressions of the Equinox Resort Hotel, Columns !
This stately old hotel has been in business since the 1700s when it had a different name and face. It has been through a lot of owners and changes since but I think it’s safe to assume it’s continued to improve with age. It has been host to dignitaries untold, including many presidents and celebrities. For all its pedigree though, it remains very comfortable and welcoming. We entered between the enormous and somewhat imposing columns and front doors into an inviting lobby. We could see straight through the next couple of comfortable looking rooms, to Mount Equinox rising beyond. Very impressive.
The 1811 Inn, Across from the Resort
We were offered the option, for no extra money, to have our room upgraded to a condo with a full kitchen, fireplace and balcony overlooking that majestic peak. Tough choice but we said ‘yes’. We delivered our own bags to our rooms and parked our car, (we’re not really into the whole valet thing) and as it was a beautiful summer day and we’d been in a car for 3 hours more or less, we wanted to get out and see the town. We took a quick tour of our 2-day home and headed out on foot toward the downtown area of Manchester Vermont. The day was warm and there was a hint of a storm in the distance.
The Equinox Hotel is comprised of the main building, which is actually a compilation of two old inns, long since joined at the hip, and an assortment of other Colonial era homes and taverns in the surrounding area that have retained their original character but now fall under the hotel’s management. As we walked, we noticed the prevalence of marble everywhere. This area’s economy was once heavily based on marble quarrying and even the sidewalks are slabs of marble! This is still also rural Vermont as we were constantly reminded by the intermittent green fields stretching toward the purple mountains on the horizon, with large hay rolls waiting for storage. We passed these vistas tucked between houses and other businesses in town as we sojourned. Manchester is an oasis like valley tucked into the verdant Vermont Hills. Agricultural heritage is still alive and well in Vermont, thankfully.
Our Walk Down Main Street in Manchester Vermont
Walking down the main road running through town, we were greeted by no less than six Orvis establishments. The first was a conference center housed in an interesting country house, next to and now part of the Equinox Hotel; the Charles Orvis Inn. Then there was the Orvis Museum, the Orvis Fly Fishing School, the Orvis Main Store, the Orvis Outlet Store and the Orvis Rod Building Factory. Manchester Vermont is (obviously) the place where it all started for the Orvis family and their successful line of fly fishing and related outdoor sports equipment and gear. It seems to be a mutually agreeable relationship with the village of Manchester. The Orvis family even owned the inn for many years in the 1800s and early 1900s.
Of course we had to investigate the Orvis shops and I couldn’t justify entering such an establishment without picking up a few Hornberg and Grey Ghost flies for my brother Jon Tobey, an adamant fly fisherman as demonstrated by his blog ‘ Go Into the Light’.
I was interested and pleased to note that most eating establishments in the area featured locally grown and sourced foods such as; meats, vegetables, chocolate, maple products, wines, micro-brewed beers, cheeses and other dairy products. Farm stands, farmer’s markets and small local food industries seemed to be thriving all over Vermont. The resort was no exception and it focused on seasonal outdoor activities as well such as; golf, fly fishing (surprise), skiing, snow shoeing, swimming, hiking, archery etc. They even offer some more unique outdoor activities like off-road 4X4 driving and falconry. Pat took advantage of the spa services and was very pleased with the accommodations.
The Orvis Fly Fishing Museum
We wandered out to the trout pond next to the main Orvis store where there were some seriously scary huge rainbow trout swimming! Those rainbow trout were also amazingly beautiful. It makes the allure of fishing a bit easier to understand… We were careful leaning on the railing lest we fell in; if the voracious behavior of those fish jumping out of the water for fish pellets was any indication! Feeding the fish did provide a long stretch of entertainment for us and other shoppers as well. And according to the Orvis employee in charge of the fish, the trout pond attracts quite a bit of attention from local wildlife too, critters such as; moose, bear, deer, osprey, foxes etc. Not your typical local in-town interest magnet!
Pretty Fish. Pretty Big Fish
Eventually, we proceeded to the downtown area while rain clouds shouldered aggressively into the sky above us, obscuring Mount Equinox and the blue skies we’d left under. The air became heavy and expectant. The wind, just a mild summer breeze previously, started to become insistent. We decided to proceed to downtown directly before we had a change in weather. Once there, we visited the Northshire Bookstore which was pronounced by Yankee Magazine as being the best bookstore in New England with an entire floor devoted to children’s books. The downtown area of Manchester Vermont is an interesting mix of outlet stores, art galleries, antique shops, dining options and assorted quaint shops. It’s fun and it’s walkable.
Eventually, the impending weather and our hunger drove us to seek food and shelter which we did at Mulligan’s Pub and Restaurant where we overheard the end of the Germany/Argentina world cup soccer match while rain lashed at the windows. (Germany won) When we were sated and the rain let up, we retraced our steps toward the inn, relishing the old homes and lush gardens along the way. Birds sang loud and clear about surviving the storm and we listened sympathetically, if a bit soggily.
Upon return and already damp anyway, we walked down to the golf course, watched the light fade on the horizon and read all the historic plaques in the center of the village before it became too dark to see. A picnic supper in our living room, with the fireplace drying out damp shoes, watching the veil fall over Mount Equinox was a nice ending to a wonderful day.
Monday morning, we just had to go back and see if those trout were as big as we remembered. Yup, scary big! We passed a bit more time, watching fascinated as the huge fish swam beneath the bridge, waiting for food. They had a disconcerting way of lifting out of the water and looking at us expectantly with open mouths …
There were a lot of interesting sounding country stores, abandoned quarries and other places of curiosity in nearby communities that we decided to pursue over the course of the day. One of our destinations was a favorite stop when we are anywhere near it: The Vermont Country Store in Weston. We picked up a few items there, sampled some new cheese and preserve varieties, had a nice picnic on the common in the gazebo and topped it all off with ice cream before leaving town. It was the kind of perfect summer vacation day I would dream of when working away so often in the past, inside.
Upon our return to the Equinox, we strolled the grounds and explored the on-site spa and all the inside public areas of the inn. The walls are covered with enlarged sepia-toned images of past US presidents in vintage touring cars in front of the inn. Eventually we took our books and adjourned to rocking chairs on the front porch. When the daylight began to fade, we drove to Garlic Jack’s on the other side of town and had a marvelous Italian meal. Another nice day fully enjoyed.
Tuesday saw us off early and on the road south. Our destination was Massachusetts but we planned a meandering route to pass through Bennington Vermont so that I could visit Bennington Pottery on the way. As luck would have it, the two pieces I currently coveted were not only in stock but were on sale! Yay! I always enjoy stopping at Bennington Pottery as they are always adding interesting new pieces to the line but keep a thread of their traditional wares as well.
Arriving late morning at our destination-du-jour; Stockbridge Massachusetts, we found our room ready and waiting at the Red Lion Inn. We were chauffeured up to the 4th floor in an original 1897 birdcage elevator. What a trip! The attendant confided later that in his many years at the inn, he has never known of the elevator being serviced. Did we need to know that ?
The original Red Lion Inn, where we were staying, burned to the ground in 1896. It was rebuilt the following year and still stands today. It is very much in its original 19th century clothing. It was actually something like stepping back in time when we entered the lobby off the generous front porch.
All the furnishings are old and polished. Large multi-paned windows let in a glowing light. Fireplaces and Norman Rockwell prints grace the walls. Actually, the famous Thanksgiving Scene by Rockwell was painted here in the Inn’s dining room. That dining room just beyond is gracious and inviting. Ever see the movie; Somewhere in Time?
Some of the Public Areas of the Red Lion Inn
As we walked along the corridor upstairs, I could not help but notice all the paintings and old prints, antique furniture and original woodwork. Everything was clean and bright, with high ceilings and tilting windows above doorways. Our bedroom suite was an unexpected surprise. I guess I anticipated it would be modern and boring, standard 21st century hotel décor, even though the rest of the inn was obviously neither. Instead, it had three large windows in the bedroom/sitting room area and antique furnishings well over one hundred years old. Apparently, successions of owners were antique collectors, including those that ran the inn before it burned in 1896. The night of the fire, local townspeople ran to the inn to help rescue the, even then, renowned antiques. This explains why so many of the furnishings and accessories here are original and very old.
Our Gracious Old Bedroom Furniture, Complete with Antique Handmade Quilt
Our Luxurious Bathroom
And this is kind of funny/weird but I thought it was really interesting in a historically architecturally sleuthing sort of way… The downstairs ladies public bathroom, located off of one of the front parlors, (bathroom was maybe a back parlor originally) is enormous with a long round outer wall with lots of small paned windows and still has a fireplace in one of the stalls ! Alright, I told you it was weird…
Speaking of bathrooms, the one in our room was large with a huge window and a claw foot tub. Yes!
We finally tore ourselves away and headed downstairs to check out the rest of the inn, the enormous porch full of plush cushioned wicker chairs and the extensive maze of grounds. The inn is comprised of several buildings around a courtyard and takes up most of this village block. There is the large, original inn and wings behind, as well as nine old homes and cottages in the neighborhood that have become inn property over the years. A sparkling pool and hot tub sit behind the inn in the midst of a garden full of perennials, herbs and even vegetables! Nicely done!
Downtown Stockbridge Next to the Inn
Adjacent to the inn, is another village block housing several interesting shops, including the infamous Alice’s Restaurant, now actually called Theresa’s Stockbridge Cafe. I’m sure Arlo Guthrie could work with that! Incidentally, The Guthrie Center is nearby and is a thriving community focal point in its own right. And Stockbridge was a fertile ground for American painter Norman Rockwell who painted the down town area and many of Stockbridge’s residents in his day. Of course the inn was a popular subject being located in the pivotal center of this humming universe… The Berkshires are stunning and Stockbridge is no exception.
This is the Place!
We explored in both directions on foot, finally settling into a small café in a quaint alleyway/courtyard (mews) near the hotel. We had a nice lunch followed by ice cream at a neighborhood soda fountain. Does it get better than this?
The remainder of the afternoon was perfect for porch sitting, people watching and reading. Then a bit of swimming in the pool and soaking in the hot tub time was enjoyed in the garden. As darkness fell, a rather wild storm blew up with thunder, rain and lightning. Live music was featured in the Lion’s Den pub, located in the basement of the inn. We had a light supper there and enjoyed the ambiance in this interesting space where James Taylor once played.
Considering the storm, it seemed safer to avoid the elevator and take the stairs, all 4 sets of them up from the basement! The rain pounded those big old windows all night long. I fell asleep knowing the gardens at home were being well watered.
Then, in the wee hours, just as suddenly, it all blew away. Morning dawned, fresh and clear. We had breakfast in the elegant dining room then hit the road for some exploring of nearby communities. We stopped at the Shaker Village in Hancock then wandered the grounds of Tanglewood while the Boston Symphony practiced in a nearby performance space. What an amazing place Tanglewood is! I never realized the entire space was named for the main house on the estate that donated the property to the Boston Symphony Orchestra for their summer home. Interesting. It seems safe to say the Berkshires are loaded with cultural and creative places.
Tanglewood, The House
We returned to Stockbridge ready to relax. I picked up a loaf of fragrant and flavorful Anadama bread at the small bakery across from the inn and checked out some monuments in the area.
Monuments in Walking Distance of the Red Lion Inn
We spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool and hot tub. Then, as darkness began to fall, we meandered over to the outdoor dining area behind the inn and had a light supper. MMMmmm…, what a lazy luxurious day. This must be vacation! Another evening of live music in the Lion’s Den.
We hit the road Wednesday morning, after a second nice breakfast in the inn’s dining room, well-rested, culturally inspired and historically educated.
Our last stop, this vacation week, was Lake George NY. We chose a site next to Fort William Henry, now a museum, of ‘Last of the Mohicans’ fame. (And yes I realize New York is not part of New England, but it is a neighbor and that is my rationale for including it here.) This area was considered the far Western Frontier when the fort was built. There was nothing historically significant about the hotel we stayed at, except that the ground it sits on was originally associated with the bloody battle at the fort over 200 years ago which the book and movie (Mohicans) document, during the French and Indian War(s).
After checking in, we drove up the coast of the lake and did a bit of exploring, stopping for a picnic along the way. Pat is always checking out golf courses ‘in the area’ and potential future vacation destinations.
We opted to take the ghost walk through the fort at night to really get the flavor of things. Didn’t witness a lot of unexplained activity except by other tourists but did have a better understanding, coming away, of that awful massacre so many years ago.
Almost Sunset Over Lake George
After our late night tour of Fort William Henry, we watched an energizing fireworks display over scenic Lake George, which by the way, claims not one or two, but three large steam boat style ferries in the bay.
Evening Sky and Water at Lake George
We didn’t have the best night’s sleep there. Probably weren’t the ghosts though; perhaps it was the fireworks, or the late night ice cream, or the intoxicated members of the wedding party in the room across the hall…or…
Oh well, morning came and promised us a good day to travel home. We got an early start and were home by afternoon. Always nice to travel and always great to come home again! The gardens managed just fine in our absence!
Home Sweet Home Garden