INN Vermont: Edson Hill
Edson Hill offers a harmonious balance of rustic comfort, authentic service, and contemporary Vermont luxury
STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY EDSON HILL
Rolling hills. A picturesque pond. Gorgeous dining rooms. Well-appointed suites. Exquisite, panoramic vistas.
fur-lined flannel shirt. There are no heated swimming pools, spas, or white-glove banquets to be found at Edson Hill, but opulent extravagance has never been their aim. Instead, they offer authentic hospitality that perfectly balances tasteful luxury with bucolic serenity.
It’s been less than a decade since Edson Hill’s owners first opened their doors to the public, but they have already made a big splash. Hundreds of five-star reviews from delighted guests on travel websites such as TripAdvisor attest to their friendly staff, relaxing atmosphere, and world-class amenities – and Edson Hill’s loyal following of returning guests is steadily growing with every passing year. Whether you’re planning a fun family vacation, a romantic weekend, or a storybook Vermont wedding, Edson Hill offers a lodging experience every bit as refreshing as a spirited gust of cool, mountain wind.
Warm, Worldly, and Welcoming
From the moment that one steps through the doors of Edson Hill’s front reception hall at the Manor House, a feeling of ease and relaxation overwhelms the senses.
The wooden walls are adorned with muted-tone modern artworks, which are nicely contrasted by seasonally-varying decorative accents, such as miniature pine tree displays and decorative sculptures. A doorway leads from the reception hall into a stately and inviting living room, which is outfitted with plush couches and chairs, as well as stunning paintings on the walls by Sarah Hinckley and Adam Peck. It’s a place where guests can congregate to enjoy lively conversation, read a book, or recline and luxuriate in sublime comfort with a favorite beverage. The living room ceiling is supported by painted exposed beams, which were reclaimed from a barn owned by the legendary Vermont revolutionary, Ethan Allen. Outside the Manor House, the exterior walls also make inventive use of salvaged materials from another historic Vermont structure. The red bricks once held up the walls of Burlington’s famed Sherwood Hotel, which hosted numerous high-profile magnates during the heyday of Burlington’s industrial age at the turn of the 20th century.
According to Edson Hill’s General Manager, Erik Stacy, the land on which Edson Hill now stands has been inhabited by a number of different owners over the past century. Most notably, in the 1940s, the property was owned by a wealthy Rhode Islander by the name of Verner Reed, who was the heir to a sizable gold fortune. Stacy adds that the name, “Edson Hill,” was inspired by the first hotel that was constructed on the grounds in the 1950s, which was known as “Edson Hill Manor.” The property switched hands several times over the past several decades, until it was eventually acquired by the current owners in 2014. “I came on board in 2015 as General Manager,” says Stacy. After Stacy joined the team, all of the existing structures on the grounds were renovated. Almost every building was gutted and painted, and the bathrooms and common areas were completely redone. “We reconfigured everything, so that it flowed better,” adds Stacy. “We also made a nicer entrance so that people would have a great view when they came around the hill. When you drive up to Edson Hill, you can see the pond, the patio, the Manor House, and the guest houses from far away. It really gives you a feel for how wonderful the property is.”
Erik Stacy’s sister, Susan Stacy, is the principal designer who was in charge of decorating Edson Hill’s rooms, suites, common areas, and dining spaces. Susan is the co-owner and co-founder of the upscale Boston-based interior design firm, Gauthier-Stacy Inc., which she runs alongside her business partner, Jim Gauthier. “She did a wonderful job of highlighting Edson Hill’s best features in a way that matches our philosophy of unpretentious and genuine hospitality,” says Erik Stacy. “It preserved the classic charm of the original structure while blending in some modern decorative features, as well.”
Susan Stacy adds that her original aim when designing the common areas, rooms, and suites was to create spaces where guests would feel welcome. “We wanted it to have a very comfortable, residential feel – as if you’re inviting someone into your own home. Each room has its own character, and every suite is a unique space. Nothing feels commercial or mass-produced.”
To that end, each of Edson Hill’s 23 rooms and suites were given fun and quirky names, which are spelled out on the walls of the rooms in cursive text with metal wire. Eight of the rooms and suites are located in the Manor House, and the remaining fifteen are spread amongst the four handsome cottage outbuildings: Maple, Pine, Birch, and Hemlock. Noteworthy rooms from the Manor House include the “Stop. Listen.” room, the “Onward and Upward” room, and the “Laugh Uncontrollably” room. The “Stop. Listen.” room is furnished with a queen-sized bed, and features modish, black-and-white décor, custom wall coverings, fluffy pillows, and a window that provides a fantastic view of the pond, horse pastures, and faraway mountains. Decorative touches such as antique snowshoes and fabric-covered walls add to the sporty, nostalgic ambience of the “Onward and Upward” room, which houses a king bed and an additional day bed with a trundle. The largest room in the Manor House, “Laugh Uncontrollably,” sleeps five guests comfortably, with a king bed, twin bed, and day bed. Vintage Stowe posters drum up excitement for alpine escapades during the Winter and Holiday season, and the marble floors and double vanity in the bathroom enhance the room’s grand and ritzy character.
In the Maple Guest House, the “Show Love” room conjures memories of a classic Vermont ski lodge or private cabin. An antique sled hangs from its dark wooden walls near the king bed, and its large soaking tub is ideal for warming up after a long day on the slopes. The wood fireplace provides natural warmth for the body and soul, and the Edson Hill staff set up all of their wood fireplaces with wood, kindling, and newspaper before guests check in. In the Hemlock House, the roomy “So It Goes” room boasts a chaise longue, spindle king bed, and wood fireplace. The Birch House’s “Stay True” room has a lovely, white four-poster bed, and an additional daybed overlooks a nearby stream through the window. Cowbells and cowhide rugs pay tribute to Vermont’s agricultural past, which is also reflected in the phenomenal farm-to-table cuisine served at the on-site restaurant.
Vermont Casual Fine Dining
Though any night spent at Edson Hill provides a perfect opportunity to make lasting, happy memories, the overall experience is not truly complete without a visit to the Dining Room, which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 5PM–9PM. Their culinary program, overseen by Chef Jerome Picca, is rooted in a modern approach to classic New England fare. The Edson Hill staff describes its take on traditional American food as “Vermont Casual Fine Dining.” The menu is composed of dishes that incorporate local produce and food products from many Vermont-based farms and food makers, including Naked Acre Farms, Home Front Gardens, and Two Sons Bakery in Hyde Park; Funj Shroom Co. and Boissoneault Farm in St. Albans; Vermont Farmstead in Woodstock, Vermont Fresh Pasta in Proctorsville, Blue Ledge Farm in Middlebury, and Rowdy Cow Ranch in Craftsbury, among others.
Edson Hill’s Restaurant Manager, Peter Morris, is grateful to be part of a hospitality team that takes a great amount of pride in its work. “At the end of the day, we genuinely care about what we’re doing here,” says Morris. “I’ve worked in the service industry for thirty years. During that time, I’ve learned that there are two approaches that you can take: One is to look at service as a job where you’re only in it to make money. The other is to approach it with true passion for what you do. I try to instill that in our staff, because when customers interact with us, they can usually tell which of those two approaches we are taking. We want people to truly enjoy their time here. That only happens if we feel a deep sense of connection to our work.” Morris is also proud of the partnerships that he and the Edson Hill kitchen team have forged with local food producers. “We’ve been awarded a Gold Barn Award for several years in a row by the Vermont Food Network due to the percentage of local vendors that we use. It feels good to know that we’re being recognized for it.”
The interior dining room is romantic and fashionable, with dark wooden tables and a birch branch centerpiece with hanging glass candle holders. During the warmer months, guests can enjoy al fresco dining on their scenic outdoor patio, which directly overlooks the pond, horse pastures, and nearby mountains. Downstairs from the main dining room, an inviting tavern radiates feelings of intimate charm, combining modern Vermont farmhouse-chic sensibilities with prohibition-era speakeasy aesthetics. Leather furniture and exposed wood posts are complemented by scenic and pastoral artworks, which are hung on the wall directly opposite from the dark, wooden bar. Edson Hill’s skilled mixologists offer a curated selection of domestic and international wines, as well as Vermont craft beer and specialty cocktails. “Our head bartender, Charles Mehrtens, is the genius behind our cocktails,” notes Morris. “I’m the director of the wine program here, and I’ve worked hard to provide our guests with a selection of wines that is designed to broaden their knowledge of wine and expand their horizons.”
After spending a restful night at Edson Hill, make sure to stop in at the dining room for a delicious, complimentary breakfast. In addition to staples such as fried eggs and traditional French toast with Vermont maple syrup, Edson Hill offers several flavorful and adventurous options, such as fruit-laden Maqui Bowls and poached “Shakshuka” eggs with spiced tomato sauce, fennel, and asparagus. Coffee, juice, and tea are offered at no extra charge, and nutritious fruit smoothies, Bloody Marys, mimosas, and espresso drinks are available for purchase, as well.
Weddings and Special Events
For star-crossed lovers who wish to tie the knot on a beautiful Vermont hillside, Edson Hill offers property buyout wedding packages, which allow newlyweds to take full advantage of the facilities during their nuptial ceremony and its accompanying festivities. Edson Hill provides its own event planning and management services, and they are happy to work with outside wedding planners to plan and accommodate rehearsal dinners, receptions, brunches, and after parties. Staff members can also coordinate enjoyable outdoor activities for guests who want to freely explore the grounds.
The hills and valleys surrounding Edson Hill provide a stunning backdrop for wedding photography sessions, as do the steps leading down from the outdoor patio. A fairytale-worthy natural arbor stands in the middle of the aptly-named Wedding Meadow next to the pond, and the surrounding fields provide ample space for seating and outdoor standing receptions, as well. Groups of up to 200 guests can be hosted in the Wedding Meadow. The lower part of the wedding meadow is a marvelous location for cocktail hours. Edson Hill’s dining room, tavern, and patio, can also be rented out for baby showers, corporate events, and all manner of small-to-large private parties.
The Great Outdoors
Edson Hill is a winter sport lovers’ paradise in every sense. The grounds are located a stones’ throw from Stowe Mountain Resort, and Smugglers’ Notch is close by, as well. Stowe is also home to many private and public Nordic ski trail systems. For those who wish to engage in some exuberant and invigorating winter recreation without leaving the Edson Hill grounds, the staff maintains a separate, private network of ski trails within the bounds of their 38-acre campus. Originally constructed by the Heath family in the 1950s, the Edson Hill trail network has since expanded to include 9 kilometers of ski trails and five kilometers of dedicated snowshoe trails. The trails snake through the campus during the colder months, carving a path that goes directly through the Wedding Meadow and around the pond. After continuing to follow the trail upwards from the pond loop, it branches out into the forests directly behind the guest houses. The trails are groomed and maintained with professional equipment, providing a high-quality Nordic experience for all who come to visit.
For guests who do not come equipped with their own winter sports gear, Rossignol skis, poles, and boots, MSR snowshoes, and fat bikes are available at Edson Hill’s Nordic Center for an additional fee, as well as limited ski tuning services. Jackets, gloves, hats, ski wax, and other accessories are also sold at the Nordic Center, and informational pamphlets and trail maps can be found at the counter. Private lessons and guided snowshoe tours can be booked through the Nordic center, and customized group and family tours and lessons are also available upon request. Guests interested in pursuing such options should contact the Edson Hill Nordic Program staff in the weeks leading up to their stay to arrange plans. For complete newcomers and beginners, Erik Stacy highly recommends sticking to the “teaching circle” to work on the fundamentals. He also recommends booking a lesson. “We also have some really nice, gentle slopes closer to the Nordic Center that are good for basic skills training. If you go up in the hills, the trails get steeper and much more difficult. You should definitely be comfortable with basic control and stopping maneuvers—such as the snowplow—before you head out on the tougher trails.”