A plumber is sprawled on the floor of an upstairs hallway bathroom, dealing with sink fixtures, and someone somewhere is hammering incessantly, both workers putting final touches on the old inn’s upgrade.
Edson Hill, one of Vermont’s venerable luxury resorts, opens this month under new ownership — with refurbished rooms, an emphasis again on fine dining, and plans for winter activities from cross-country skiing to snowman-making for kids.
The resort, built in 1941, overlooking meadows and a pond and offering views of the Worcester Range, was purchased in July for $1.8 million by three Boston-area families.
Other improvements so far: a sprinkler system overhaul for safety’s sake, a pruning of deciduous trees to widen the panorama, and interior redesigning throughout. This redesign includes work in the main house, formally called the manor house, with its nine bedrooms; and in the four hillside guest houses, each with its own batch of suites.
“Our goal was to give this place a fresh feeling, to make it a place for families and friends to hang out” while keeping with Vermont traditions, says Susan Stacy of Gauthier Stacy, the Boston interior-design firm that worked on the project. Stacy is an owner of Edson Hill, along with relatives, all with children of various ages, all of whom Stacy says are excited about the new endeavor. Tobogganing anyone?
Stacy, during her undergraduate days of studying fine arts at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, skied in Stowe and developed a fondness for the area. In her professional life, she developed a similar affinity for buying properties and “falling madly in love with them and trying to make them better.”
After she noticed the Edson Hill listing, she said, “I could not put it out of my head,” and “viewed it as a fun project for our families.”
The deal was sealed. Then it was out with some old and in with some new. An estate sale was held to recycle wing chairs, settees, a few lace-canopied beds and other furniture that “were starting to look very worn,” says Stacy.
The original interior of Edson Hill, she says, had “lots of deep, dark colors, offering a very traditional New England look, but a look we wanted to get away from (somewhat) by lightening things up, making things fresher.” Contemporary furniture now shares space with antiques. Rooms are bright in shades of white, as though reflecting the snowy outside.
As in the past, some walls are pine paneled, and the inn will have 17 working fireplaces, retaining a measure of old-style, country-inn ambience. Seven cords of wood have been stacked for Edson Hill’s soft opening on Dec. 19, (room rates, including breakfast, $250 to $350) and for the official opening in the second week of January (rates $300 to $450).
For safety reasons, and to assure the dampers are open, staff will be available to set and ignite each fire, says Carl Christian, operating partner, who has years of experience in the food, beverage, and hospitality business in the United Kingdom, San Francisco, New York, and Boston.
Edson Hill was built in 1941 as a residence by Verner Reed, a wealthy Newport, R.I., man, who the new owners say came from a family with a fortune made in late-19th-century Colorado gold mining.
The place first became an inn in 1953 and changed hands several times. Originally on 400 acres, it had barns and horse paddocks and was graced with winding ski and hiking trails. But over the years it was trimmed to some 38 acres, a good piece of the original acreage sold off for residential development.
For years Edson Hill was among Stowe’s elite destinations for dining, but that, too, was scaled back. Instead, the resort became a go-to spot for elegant weddings.
Christian says the 40-seat dining room will reopen with an emphasis on locally sourced classic New England fare and offer a broad wine list.
The bar downstairs, called The Tavern, connects to an expansive brick patio and will offer artisanal brews and classic cocktails, he says.
The resort’s chef, Chad Hanley, originally from Jeffersonville, Vt., promises a hearty winter menu with an emphasis on comfort food — pot pies, stews, venison, and braised pork, for example. Entrees are to range from $20 to $35, appetizers $8 to $17, and pub fare $10 to $18.
Hanley mentions three desserts: a seasonal galette, a white-chocolate bread pudding with cranberry compote, and an apple cheddar spice cake with a scoop of rosemary-olive oil ice cream (Hanley’s recipe), made specially for the resort by Stowe Ice Cream.
“We want the dining to be elegant, but we also want people to feel comfortable enough to come down for dinner in jeans or slippers,” says Stacy.
In winter months, guests can burn off the spice cake by cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on Edson Hill’s trails, which have the advantage of being part of the meandering Catamount Trail network, running the length of the state from Massachusetts to Quebec.
The inn is considering someday offering a shuttle service to nearby Mount Mansfield for downhill skiing, creating an ice-skating rink, and arranging horse-drawn sleigh rides.
Dirk Van Susteren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.