New England's Best Historic Inns
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.
A decade ago this was known as “Falling-Down Farm,” and it lacked electricity, but Mary and Jon Wilska bought it the day they saw it. Their restoration included adding five baths and reverently restoring paneling, wide-planked flooring, and variously shaped posts and beams. To the three original guestrooms, they added a fourth (with jetted tub) and also created private quarters for themselves. For guests, they reserved the comfortable front parlor with its working hearth, now fitted with wing chairs and a wall of books. Guests awaken to a candlelight breakfast served in the keeping room.
Though there’s the lure of nearby casinos or Mystic Seaport, many guests stray only as far as the neighboring conservation land. “What they want is to get away from busyness,” Mary says. “They like the quietness here.”
THE CANDLEBERRY INN ON CAPE COD
Step into the dining room at The Candleberry Inn in Brewster, Massachusetts, and you’re in a 1790s two-story “sea farm” with wide-board pine floors and “bubble and wave” glass windows. Early in the 19th century, front rooms and a “square-rigger” facade were added.
B&B host Charlotte Fyfe is a fifth-generation Cape Codder and a locally acclaimed baker, whose skills are displayed in the shortbreads and scones set out for afternoon tea. A quarterboard from her great-great-grandfather’s schooner, the Jessie Matheson, hangs in the living room above the glowing woodstove; the captain’s sextant is here, too, along with photos of his Provincetown-based fleet.
Charlotte’s husband, Stuart Fyfe, a retired high-school teacher and coach, is an avid carpenter with a lot of respect for the original woodwork throughout the house. Five of the inn’s eight inviting guestrooms are open in winter, four with fireplaces. Like most old Brewster homes, it’s had its share of paying guests. Author Horatio Alger came in 1864 and stayed for two years. A centerpiece of the village, the Candleberry is a favorite stop for visitors during Brewster’s holiday celebration (December 2-4 this year; brewsterfortheholidays.org). For many guests, the off-season appeal here is walking the vast sand flats that appear with every low tide.
THE INN AT VALLEY FARMS
Walpole, New Hampshire
Little is known about the early history of The Inn at Valley Farms in Walpole, New Hampshire. What counts is the way this 1774 dual-chimney Colonial looks, inside and out. Jacqueline Caserta grew up down the road and bought the 105-acre property when it was threatened by development. She’s furnished its handsome formal parlor, library, and dining rooms with appropriate antiques and created three comfortable upstairs guestrooms, including a two-bedroom suite. Families may also choose between two neighboring cottages, each with three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room.