The Four Chimneys – A Romantic History
By: Nicole Gonclaves at the New England Weekender.com
By only the reflection of a full moon we trace footprints in the freshly fallen snow – dotting and weaving between the memorials – some of which tower over us, their grandeur intimidating in the darkness of the night.
When the tracks end, we find ourselves standing at the foot of Robert Frost’s final resting place, an unassuming grave marker, flush in the ground. Someone brushed a hand over it, revealing the name Frost & part of Elinor, his beloved wife. With the steeple of the Old First Church to our backs and the foggy glow of Bennington at the bottom of the hill, these moments seem like a vignette from one of Frost’s poems, such as “Acquainted with the Night” – as there’s no other souls to be heard or seen.
The historic district at night has a subtle way of exuding romance – with white colonial clap board homes and perfect picket fences – electric candles adorn every window and smoke escapes from every chimney.
Perhaps this romance is exactly what Lynn & Peter Green found during their search to purchase a quintessential New England Inn. For the Green’s owning an inn was always a dream and soon after the couple met, they set off on an adventure to find the perfect B&B to call their own.
While searching for wedding venues the Green’s discovered The Four Chimneys, which ironically was also for sale. It seemed as though it was meant to be, and shortly after their wedding on the property had the option to purchase the iconic B&B.
After 20 years in the corporate world, Lynn left her position as VP of Marketing for a global publishing company and Pete left his position as an engineering program manager for a Boston high-tech firm. “We love working together every day and thoroughly enjoy getting to chat with each of our guests. Each one comes with a unique story — and that’s what keeps it fun.”
The historic property, now known as The Four Chimneys Inn is located at 21 West Road, Bennington VT. Through out the years has undergone many transformations, and told many stories, of which our favorite is the story of Lynn & Peter Green’s.
Built in 1910 by prominent business man Phillip B. Jennings, the property dates as far back as 1783. In the late 1700’s Reverend David Avery, the 2nd pastor of the Old First Church, called 21 West Road home until he became unable to upkeep the property. Avery then sold to Nathanial Brush, a notable participant in the Battle of Bennington, who later became a politician. Not long after the purchase, Brush ran out of money and turned the mansion into a boarding house and later a general store.
In 1870, Tom Saxton, a Troy NY merchant, purchased the estate and refurbished it to its original grandeur. Shortly lived, a fire in 1910 destroyed the home entirely, leaving only its foundation. Jennings, who rebuilt the mansion to be his family home resided their until his death in 1949.
A unique newspaper clipping from the early 1900’s makes mention of the homes impressive size, boasting a whopping 5800 sf floor plan, with two open verandas, each 24ft wide! In the rear of the property, a carriage house and ice house, which still remain as guest rooms today. The architects were Lewis Colt Albro & Harry T. Lindeberg of Albro & Lindeberg, New York. The architectural firm flourished during the residential building boom from 1906-1915. The company who constructed the mansion was Bigelow Joslin Co, of Boston MA.
In the mid 1950’s, the property was sold again to James Rollin’s, who then transformed it into a booming fine dining restaurant called Four Chimneys, an homage to the mansions four brick chimneys visible from West Road. Celebrity guests such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton & Walt Disney dined here and it’s even said that Norman Rockwell painted a scene in the main dining area.
In the early 1970’s after Rollin’s passing, new owners turned the restaurant in a B&B. Through many trials and tribulations the home has been functioning as an Inn ever since. In 2005, Lynn & Peter took over and worked tirelessly to reinvent the space to bring guests modern day amenities while maintaining the inn’s history, elegance and old world charm.
One of the most notable features of the property is the design for the lawn and gardens by landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman. Through out the course of her career, she designed more than 650 gardens for prominent homes across the country. In her plan for the property at 21 West Road, she showcases her commonly used axial layout and visual connectivity between house and garden. The Gardens of Ellen Biddle Shipman, written by Judith Tankard, is a wonderful read for anyone who enjoys New England history and gardening.
We arrive well after dark and are shown to room #1. It’s a traditional room, decorated in soothing shades of greens and blues. It features timeless pieces of antique and modern furniture to create a coherent, and current design. Anchored in the center of the room is a king four post bed. At the foot, a full sized sofa. A fresh bouquet of tulips alongside a card and chocolates await us on the side table
9 guest suites in the main building and two located just to the rear of the building (the ice house and the carriage house) make up the 11 room inn. Breakfast is served daily in the dining room and coffee & tea is available 24 hours in the main lobby. A bar in the sitting room is open until 9PM and serves a fabulous blend of wine and spirits, some of which are local to the region, such as Caledonia Spirits Barr Hill Gin.
The Inn is situated about 1.5 miles from downtown Bennington, 3.5 hours from New York City and 3 hours from Boston, making it a great place to getaway for a relaxing weekend!
Writing & Photography: Nicole Goncalves
This Post was Sponsored for the New England Weekender