“I am in a place, which I never expected to be on this trip, mainly Wilmington Vermont. One day you hear from me in Pittsfield, the next in North Adams, and now from Vermont.”
After the unexpected finding of the cemetery that my Grandfather had written about in his letter, I got back into Sage and continued on our journey to Wilmington, Vermont. After Route 8 ended, I turned east onto Route 9, which was an incredibly beautiful ride. There were steep uphills and equally steep downhills, complete with several runaway truck ramps. Following alongside this road was a gorgeous river and several lakes. As I rounded a big bend in the road, I saw a beautiful bridge that spanned over the river that appeared to be for pedestrians. Suddenly, the traffic was stopped which provided me a moment to take Wilmington in. The streets were full of beautiful old colorful buildings and people walking on the narrow sidewalks. Excitedly, after a 47 minute, 24.7 mile ride, I pulled into the public parking lot and set out to find what was called the Childs Tavern, when my Grandfather stayed there, but what was now known as the Crafts Inn. I knew from my research that, first, the building was still standing, and second, it still functioned as a place where people could stay, which was the first hotel that I had seen in this journey that still served as a hotel. So, after the high of finding the cemetery, there was this high of actually stepping into a building where my Grandfather stayed, and where I could stay as well (at some other point).
Quickly, I walked up the street and there it was – the Craftsman style inn, with three floors, a sweeping front porch and beautiful flowers adorning the front of the building. To the right of the fire-engine red front door, was one placard that labeled the building a historical landmark, and underneath that was a bronze plaque saying it was on the National Register of Historic Places. From my research, I found out that Wilmington Vermont has the distinction of having two buildings designed by the famous architectural team of McKim, Mead and White, who also designed the Boston Public Library, Symphony Hall in Boston, Parts of Columbia University, and also did a redesign of the White House’s interior. These two buildings are what is now known as Craft’s Inn and Memorial Hall. Major F.W. Childs, a Civil War hero and Wilmington’s richest citizen decided that the town needed a place for tourists to stay and also needed a place for both tourists and town citizens to go for entertainment. Memorial Hall was opened in time for the holidays in December 1902, and Child’s Tavern was opened on February 10, 1903.
As described on the Inn’s website, “The hotel was built more as a resort for visitors who would be staying for an extended period, as opposed to other accommodations in the area, designed largely for travelers passing through. A lot of people would come up from the city. The men would send their families up for a long-term stay, maybe for a month during the summer. It was a very popular place back then.” This is interesting as my Grandfather was definitely only up there for a very short time, so that seems to go against the original intent of this Inn.
One of the founding families of Wilmington was the Craft family. They were the owners of the Vermont House, which was across the street from the Child’s Tavern. This area was becoming more popular with tourists and Major Childs and Floyd Crafts negotiated a deal where the Child’s Tavern was deeded over to the Craft family. The Craft family expanded it several times, including adding baths so that every two rooms would share one bathroom, complete with hot and cold running water. The lobby was also enlarged during these renovations.
In the 1950s, the Inn’s ownership changed several times and they decided to change the name from Child’s Tavern to Craft’s Tavern. It in now run as a time -share property, but it also looks like people who don’t own a share could also rent it out.
The covered front porch was spectacular – there were many wicker chairs, benches and a swing. An American and Vermont flag waved gently in the breeze. When looking at the building, the open porch was to the right of the front door and to the left was a room, that looked to be a game and reading room. After doing my filming, I entered through the front door to find a woman folding linens at the front desk. I told her what I was doing and she was excited to hear that the Crafts Inn was the only still functioning hotel that I had found in my 1929 journey. She told me to look around. I am not sure if this was just part of the original lobby as the room was not that big. There were several interesting displays in the lobby. The first was a several old postcards and a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Craft. The second one was a display of old plates, mugs, keys and other information to do with the Crafts Inn. After thanking the woman, I went back outside to explore. The huge porch wrapped around the other side for a little while and there was an open door, so I looked in to see what was there. There was wood wainscotting, leading upstairs. To the right of this side was Memorial Hall. It is a smaller sized building that is adorned by beautiful flowers and benches. There are still shows at this location. On the other side of the inn, was a large statue of Molly Stark, the wife of a Revolutionary War hero. This statue was surrounded by a small brick patio, more lovely gardens, and a gazebo that sits near the banks of the Deerfield River. It is a simply lovely location and I would love to come back and stay at this Inn sometime in the near future.
After a tasty Black Bean Burger and Ice Tea at the Village Roost, I did venture down to that beautiful footbridge. Gorgeous containers of flowers adorned the green railings. On the other side of the bridge, were more walking paths that paralleled the river. I walked back up past the Crafts Inn to find another beautiful adorned bridge. All of the buildings in this “downtown” area seemed to be older and were in great shape. There were many restaurants, shops as well as the town building, churches, and a library all within walking distance of the Inn.
I spent a little over an hour in this magical little town before heading back to Sage. I wondered how my Grandfather ended up here as it was clear from his letter that he thought he was originally going right from North Adams to Greenfield, but somehow ended up in Wilmington, at an inn, that supposedly didn’t cater to business travelers. I am sure that many of the buildings that I saw today were in fact there when he stayed there. From my research, I learned that this area was originally a big lumber area before transitioning to a more tourist area. I am wondering if that transition had started to occur when he was there. I look forward to coming back up here and stay in the same exact building that my Grandfather did sometime in the near future.
“Tomorrow I’ll write to you from Greenfield”. I wonder if he was sad to leave behind this exquisite Vermont town?