New England's Best Historic Inns
In 1785, the country’s first commercial marble quarry opened in Dorset, source of its marble sidewalks, conferring on the village a touch of class that’s also evident in its handsome homes. The inn grew when Dorset became a summer destination, and summer and fall rates are still higher than at other times of the year. At holiday time, guests can find shopping bargains at the designer outlets in neighboring Manchester, or ski at nearby Stratton and Bromley.
We visited on a gloomy midweek day, grateful for the gas fire in our rear-wing suite; also for the tea, coffee, and cookies by the parlor hearth. Past guests will be pleased to know that the inn still serves its iconic turkey croquettes and that its beloved waitress of 25 years, Nuni, still presides in the Tavern. (Ask her about the ghost.)
THE INN AT WEATHERSFIELD
Built as a private house in the 1790s, The Inn at Weathersfield, in Perkinsville, Vermont, is a rambling, luxuriously relaxing place to stay and one of the best places to dine in the Green Mountain State.
Chef Jason Tostrup is recognized as one of Vermont’s foremost locally grounded chefs, no small feat in a state where the “locavore” esthetic enjoys near-religious status. He begins his workday by visiting farms, collecting eggs and produce. He enthuses about the quality of locally raised meat and waxes lyrical about the variety of farmstead cheeses available on his circuit–which guests are invited to tour themselves, using innkeepers Jane and David Sandelman’s map and guide to local farms.
Today the house is a far cry from the boarded-up property the Sandelmans bought from the bank a decade ago. From original rooms in the front of the house to suites squirreled away up multiple staircases and tucked under the eaves, the dozen guestrooms are furnished with comfortable antiques and fitted with every conceivable amenity, many with gas fireplaces and Jacuzzis.
The inn’s Restaurant Verterra is warmed by a blazing fire in a fieldstone hearth. Patrons may choose from several menus, but we went for Tostrup’s unwritten specials. We lost count of the number of small, artistically arranged plates we admired and consumed, savoring every crumb. Again, it was like unpacking a Christmas stocking. Who knew that crispy veal belly could taste so good?
THE HANCOCK INN
Hancock, New Hampshire
The Hancock Inn opened in 1789 at the heart of a classically New England village in New Hampshire’s Monadnock region. It’s the state’s oldest continuously operating inn and remains an authentically historic, friendly, and comfortable place to stay.
Innkeepers Jarvis and Marcia Coffin and Potter the golden retriever greet guests at the door. It’s easy to visualize past patrons gathering in the tavern around the big old bar and fireplace. The 1860s ledger here records hundreds of guests, including Franklin Pierce, recently retired from the U.S. presidency at the time. The inn is still known for good food, especially its signature Shaker cranberry pot roast.
The 14 guestrooms are all attractively furnished, and many have gas or electric hearths. One guestroom wall features a mural of trees and hills created in the 1820s by itinerant painter Rufus Porter. In another guestroom, stencils replicate patterns by famed 19th-century artist Moses Eaton, a Hancock resident. Eaton himself decorated several rooms, but the only sample of his original work that has survived here is in a closet.
When you venture outside the inn, the nearby Harris Center offers hiking and cross-country skiing; there’s also skating on Norway Pond, just a quick stroll away, and downhill skiing at Crotched Mountain in the neighboring town of Bennington.
THE INN AT LOWER FARM
“All the stones from the White Mountains were dropped right here in Stonington,” Mary Wilska says, pointing to small boulders piled into walls dividing the fields around her Inn at Lower Farm. She tells us that this coastal corner of Connecticut once marked the southern reach of New England’s glacier. Inside her 1740s post-and-beam farmhouse, a mammoth stone lintel above the kitchen hearth seems further proof.
Thanks to a massive central chimney, three guestrooms retain working Rumford fireplaces, also an uncluttered grace. All are bright and spacious, with white, stencil-trimmed walls, pleasingly painted 18th-century woodwork, comfortable seating, and good-size bathrooms.