ARLINGTON, Vt. — If you’re going to name a room after someone famous, say, Booker T. Washington or Norman Rockwell, the place had better be pretty special.
At the West Mountain Inn in Arlington, Vt., they understand that very well. Built on a ridge overlooking the Battenkill River in 1849, the structure has undergone two major renovations that have transformed it from a small and humble farmhouse into a spacious and extravagant country retreat.
There are now three separate buildings on the grounds offering lodging to visitors, but it is the 14 guest rooms in the main structure that make the place unique. Among the people who have stayed in those rooms are Robert Redford, Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox, to name a few. Fox, in fact, got married at the West Mountain Inn.
“Our biggest goal is to help people relax, and then when they do leave us, they feel refreshed,” said Amie Carlson, whose family turned the place into an inn when they bought the property in 1978. “It’s a quiet place, there isn’t a lot of traffic and we’re very proud of our rooms. A lot of people just enjoy hanging out and reading in their room. They really feel at home here.”
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Guests aren’t crammed into tiny quarters at the West Mountain Inn. The rooms all have their own bathrooms, and most include a fireplace. The Daniel Webster Suite, in fact, equipped with a four-poster canopy bed and a gas fireplace, even has its own separate reading room with a fabulous view of the Green Mountains.
Equally lavish is the Rockwell Kent Suite, where a king-sized canopy bed under a wood-panelled cathedral ceiling opens up into a large living room with a wood-burning fireplace. That’s where most of the honeymooning couples stay, according to Carlson, while the Norman Rockwell Room on the third floor offers the best view of the Battenkill Valley and is a family favorite, in large part because of the three twin-sized sleeping nooks cleverly set into the east wall.
“The Rockwell Room is where all the kids want to stay,” said Carlson. “They love the little nooks, and even some of the adults sleep in there even though there’s a king-sized bed in the room. People love piling into one of the nooks with a good book.”
Inside and out
Along with the spacious rooms, the West Mountain Inn has a dining room that seats 60 and offers meals made from locally grown organic produce, free-range meats and poultry, local cheese and dairy products, fresh fish and home-baked pastries. There is also a small tavern on the ground floor along with a spacious living room, a side porch, a kids’ room and a game room.
Once outside, the inn offers lovely flower gardens, stone walls and 150 acres of woodland trails. The Battenkill is also just a stone’s throw away from the front door for those looking to fish, canoe or kayak, and for the serious hiker, the Green Mountain National Forest is just a few miles to the east.
“Arlington is a wonderful place to visit, and there are a lot of outdoor activities you can enjoy,” said Carlson, who also takes care of four alpacas in a small barn on the property. “But as beautiful as Vermont is, some people never leave the inn.”
Carlson immediately fell in love with the place when she moved here as a young child with her family from Hastings-on-the-Hudson in 1978. Her parents, Wes and Mary Ann Carlson, ran the place after converting it into an inn, and while his wife served as a state legislator in Vermont for six years, it was often Wes, who died in 2000, whose personal touch gave the place its unique personality.
“We did a lot of traveling to estate sales and auctions just looking for things we liked,” said Carlson, who still gets a lot of help running the place from her mother, her husband, Keith Emmons, and their 3-year-old son Owen. “My parents did a great job of running this place, and while we continue to change the rooms around every now and then, I don’t consider myself a great interior decorator. But if I see something I like, I’ll buy it and find a place for it.”
The longest tenants in the house were probably Ned Rochester and his wife, Gwendolyn, who purchased the farm in 1924, made the two major additions and may have hosted some of the people the rooms are named for, including prominent figures like artists Rockwell and Kent, education reformer and social activist Dorothy Canfield Fisher and poet Robert Frost.
“The Rochesters were very important members of the community who lived here into the 1950s, and then the family sold the place,” said Carlson. “But Rockwell lived right down the road and may have been a guest, and Kent did a few of his paintings in the Arlington area. All of the rooms are named after people that have some connection to Arlington.”
Other rooms are named after Robert Todd Lincoln, Grandma Moses, Ethan and Ira Allen and former Gov. Thomas Chittenden.
The place’s link to Booker T. Washington may not be a direct one, but it is poignant. A few years before he died, Washington stopped in Arlington and visited the birthplace of Viola Knapp Ruffner, the woman who was a huge influence on his young life and a friend for life. Washington, who worked as the Ruffners’ houseboy while growing up in West Virginia, was on a speaking tour through the Northeast and requested to be taken to Viola’s birthplace. It was reported that when he stopped in front of the little house in Arlington, Washington took off his hat, bowed his head and said, “For me, it is a shrine.”
Visitors feel nearly as sentimental about Carlson’s place.
“I know there are a lot of beautiful inns out there, but I don’t think people feel as comfortable in them as they do here,” said Carlson. “We have guests who come here all the time because it’s a very welcoming place. It’s a great old-style country house, and they feel like it’s their country house.”