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House For Sale: Sunderland, Vermont

“You have to love meeting people,” Maria noted. It was obvious that she fulfilled that requirement in spades. The current problem for her and Ed, she explained, was operating two homes — one as a business — and, at the same time, maintaining a family life for their three girls: “When we bought the Allen house three years ago, thinking it was a dream come true, we found we’d underestimated the difficulties in juggling those priorities.” Thus their decision to sell.

A tour of the upstairs was next. We found all five suites with their five bathrooms to be comfortable, sunny, and in good shape. Our favorite accommodation was the one Maria refers to as the “Skiers’ Suite” on the second floor. It has a large deck facing the forest in back. And the third-floor suite would be ideal for the owners’ living quarters — plenty of attractive space up there.

Finally it was time to walk across the road and a spacious lawn to the expansive shore frontage along the Batten Kill. On the way we marveled at the largest sycamore tree we’ve ever seen. It stands, reaching for the sky, just off the veranda, with its wicker furniture and, in one corner, a half-dozen fishing rods for guests. Now, to fly fishermen, as some of you may know, the Batten Kill is, as writer Geoffrey Norman once put it, “the river of their dreams and prayers.” In other words, it’s a fly fisherman’s holy grail, much written about over the years. It so happens, too, that Orvis, the famous fishing and hunting supplier, is headquartered just upriver from the Ira Allen House. During our visit to Orvis’s wonderful clothing and equipment store later that same day, we spotted an exquisite bamboo fly rod called “the Battenkill.”

Since we don’t have a Vermont fishing license, we didn’t fish the Batten Kill that day. Instead we simply sat on a bench next to a 12-foot-deep spring hole where, according to Maria, Ed has spotted some really large brown trout. We pictured the river flowing along from there, mile after mile, crossing the New York line to eventually empty into the Hudson a little way below Glens Falls. And we thought about Ethan Allen.

Why, we wondered, did he leave this beautiful property in 1787? We’re aware that he’d been severely criticized by local clergymen for his religious tract Reason: The Only Oracle of Man, written in this house. In it, he maintained a person’s destiny was up to him or her, not God. That was blasphemy in those days. So maybe he was plain sick of hearing the talk throughout the Sunderland area.

Ethan Allen eventually moved into a house on 1,400 acres along the Winooski (Onion) River in Burlington, where, in 1789, he died suddenly, remaining controversial and colorful to the very end. His last words? When a local minister whispered to him on his deathbed, “The angels are waiting for you, General Allen,” Ethan bellowed back, so loudly it made the minister jump: “Waiting for me, are they? Well, goddamn ’em, let ’em wait.”

Obviously, “the Voice of Vermont” was not always the voice everyone wanted to hear. But would Vermont be Vermont without Ethan Allen? Well, you know, probably not …

For details, contact Dale Elizabeth Merriman, Montage Properties LLC, New York, NY. 866-778-6836, 212-627-7614, 917-846-5889 (cell);

Updated Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

2 Responses to House For Sale: Sunderland, Vermont

  1. Jan Wheelock March 6, 2008 at 3:57 pm #

    Interesting info on the history of Vermont and the home.

  2. Dale Elizabeth Merriman December 24, 2008 at 1:37 pm #

    This amazingly beautiful property known as The Ira Allen House, a bed & breakfast close to the Battenkill River on 10+ acres, is now priced at $850,000 now and is very conducive to tax deductibel solar conversion. Contact Dale Elizabeth Merriman at Please see our website: for more photos!

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