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The Norwich Inn - Accommodating Vermont Travelers with Fine Food and Lodging Since 1797

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugOn the western side of the Connecticut River opposite the town of Hanover, New Hampshire - home of the Ivy League's Dartmouth College and quite quaint in its own rights - you'll find the equally quaint small town of Norwich, Vermont which was settled by land grantees from Norwich, Connecticut in 1761. In the bucolic little town with a population of less than 4,000 sits the lovely Victorian-style Norwich Inn that is more than worth wandering up to Vermont to spend some time at even if it's just to catch a bite to eat or sample some of the fine ale made at the on-site microbrewery.

The history of the inn began some 36 years after the town was formed when Colonel Jasper Murdock, a graduate of Dartmouth College, built his home at what is now the corner of Main Street and Beaver Meadow Road.  Described as an elegant private residence that was one of the finest in the state with its large and attractive grounds, it was there that Colonel Murdock began operating the Norwich Inn serving travelers on the coach road heading north from Boston to the White Mountains.  Colonel Murdock successfully ran his establishment for several years until early 1801 when he decided to emigrate to the Connecticut lands of northeastern Ohio with his third wife Martha and father-in-law, the Reverend Lyman Potter who had served as the first minister of the Congregational Church in Norwich from 1775 to 1801.  Unfortunately for Colonel Murdock he may have been better off staying in Vermont and running his inn as his adventure to the Western Reserve was cut short in early 1803 when he died at the rather young age of 43 from malarial fever in Steubenville, Ohio.

Back in Vermont, Colonel Murdock's inn changed owners several times and held an assortment of names including that of the Curtis Hotel (named in honor of its then-owner Eleazer Curtis) which was the name that the inn bore when it was visited on July 22, 1817 by President James Monroe who stopped there during his summer trip through New England. Over the course of the President's two-hour visit, he "partook of a dinner, prepared by Eleazer Curtis in handsome style" and then spent some time meeting a few of the citizens of the town before he bid them an "affectionate farewell" and continued on his journey to the town of Windsor.  Though it was short, Monroe's visit gave the hotel the bragging rights of being the first lodging establishment in Vermont to have hosted a United States President.

Ownership of the inn and the name changed again when General Lewis S. Partridge renamed it the Union House; following the General's death in 1885, Dr. W.S. Bowles became the next owner of the property which he rather surprisingly did not rename!  Tragedy struck though when in December 1889, the original Norwich Inn that Colonel Murdock built was lost to time forever when a fire that began in Edward W. Olds Store destroyed the hotel, the town post office, and several of the neighboring structures.
Photo credit: A History of Norwich, Vermont

Rising from the ashes on its original foundation, in 1890 Dr. Bowles rebuilt a new hotel using a Victorian design and named it the Newton Inn. Dr. Bowles continued to run the Newton Inn until 1920 when it changed owners once again and was bought by Charles and Mary Walker who promptly renamed it the Norwich Inn and proceeded to run a lively tavern despite the fact that Prohibition had just started in the country. "Ma Walker", as she was affectionately called, quietly served bootleg libations from the cellar of the inn which was quite popular with students from Dartmouth College including Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka "Dr. Seuss") who was a 1925 graduate of the college and regular patron. Visitors to the Norwich Inn today can see several cartoons and drawings of Dartmouth students holding their frothy mugs high in the air in a salute to Ma Walker in the hotel's guest registry - a testament to the popularity of both the inn and it's owner!


Mary Walker continued to run the inn, even after husband Charles' death, until the mid-1930s when her own health concerns forced her to sell and retire from her life as innkeeper.  Following that the inn underwent numerous changes over the years as it allowed for modern updates and tried to keep up with the changing styles of the day - porches were enclosed, towers were removed, architectural details were "modernized" and additions were built. In 1991 all of that changed when the Norwich Inn was bought by Tim and Sally Wilson who began to painstakingly restore the building to its earlier splendor as a Victorian landmark in the center of its lovely Vermont village. Renovations included the reappearance of the central cupola, reconstruction of the front porch, and installing an outside water fountain as well as making many interior improvements which provided the inn with elegantly refurbished guestrooms and dining areas.

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As part of their changes and renovations, the Wilsons decided to also resurrect the brewing traditions that had long been held at the inn and opened a microbrewery in a former livery building on the property which was picked up, rotated 90 degrees, and set on a new foundation with a basement. In 1993, Jasper Murdock's Alehouse began producing English-style ale in five-gallon glass jugs and guests and visitors to the inn began enjoying its flagship ale - Whistling Pig Red Ale - along with other ales that were crafted from fine English malts and hops grown right on the property in the garden outside of the microbrewery.


In 2006 the Norwich Inn once again changed owners - but not names! - when it was bought by Joe and Jill Lavin from Potomac, Washington DC who would stay at the inn while visiting their son Tyler who attended nearby Dartmouth College. During one such visit, Jill casually suggested that they buy the property even though it wasn't formally for sale by the Wilsons. Joe, a former Marriott, Westin and Choice hotel executive, had always wanted to own his own hotel or country inn and the Norwich Inn seemed to be the ideal choice to fulfill his dream. Negotiations began and before they knew it, the Norwich Inn was theirs!

Along with the inn came the pub, the restaurant, the microbrewery, and the opportunity to add their own renovations and updates. Since taking over the property, the Lavins have added an impressive wine cellar and brewer's room, renovated the Terrace dining rooms, updated the restaurant menus, and added 23 new guest rooms in the Ivy Lodge and Walker House located on the property behind the original inn - all of which has gone "green" in keeping up with today's desire for less of an impact on the environment while also saving energy.


On a visit this past fall to Norwich, Vermont from my home in Norwich, Connecticut for the purpose of researching the area and getting some photographs for a travel article for the January 2014 issue of Norwich Magazine, my cousin and I stopped in at the Norwich Inn to take a look around the property before exploring more of the picturesque town. Entering through the side door, we were greeted by this fella with the large antlers who apparently met his demise on September 14, 1924 at the hands of W.R. Manny of the Laurentian Club - or at least so reads the small plaque - and seemed none too happy about it!

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Though we didn't have the opportunity to stay overnight (regretfully!), when we arrived we were greeted warmly by the staff at the front desk and enjoyed a delicious lunch in Jasper Murdock's Alehouse before receiving a lovely tour of the property by owner/innkeeper Jill Lavin. Folks who dine at the Norwich Inn have the choice of dining either in the Pub Room which is a casual setting that seats guests on a "first come, first served basis" and also offers seasonal outdoor seating on the Patio or in the slightly more formal Dining Room which is a quieter area that offers reservations should you wish to make them.


Cousin Amy and I chose to eat in the Pub and even though it was a bit past lunch time, there were a good number of folks enjoying the sunshine streaming through the windows along with a bite to eat and perhaps a mug of one of Jasper Murdock's very popular ales. As neither one us had eaten since quite some time before we started out on our three-hour journey to Vermont, it was going to be hard to narrow down our choices from all of the great-sounding dishes on the lunch menu which featured a good number of items that were made using one of their locally crafted ales.  Everything really sounded good!

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What wasn't so hard to narrow down was my choice of beverage from those offered as even though I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to ales nor much of a drinker of spirits when you get right down to it, I am a bit of a Civil War buff and had heard of "Oh Be Joyful" - not just from my reading but from a song in the 1999 Broadway Musical "The Civil War".  As I ordered a sampler mug I couldn't help but sing some of the lyrics in my head:
"Oh be joyful, makes my troubles disappear
A cup of oh be joyful makes me joyful I am here
Oh be joyful, only you can set me free
If you're good enough for U.S. Grant
You're good enough for me!"
After just one sip I must say, if the soldiers in the Civil War had been given a mug (even a small 3.5 ounce mug like mine) of Jasper Murdock's "Oh Be Joyful" I don't think there would have been any cause for grumbling at all as it was quite tasty stuff! A classic English light ale it was very refreshing and not in the least bitter; I daresay U.S. Grant would have given it two hearty thumbs up and maybe even Bobby Lee would too!

As for those lunch choices ... we finally decided on a variety of items not only because we were really, really hungry but because it was darned hard to choose!   We settled on a Jasper Murdock's Burger: PT Farms (Haverhill, NH) Beef, Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion & Cabot Farm Sharp Cheddar served on a toasted Potato Roll with French Fries for $13; an Oatmeal Stout Encrusted Cod Sandwich with Kettle Fries for $12; and the Whistling Pig Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese with Greens for $11.  We halved everything so that we could each get a taste and then dug in with gusto!

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First off, I have to say that the pickles that accompanied the sandwich were absolutely fantastic but it certainly didn't stop there!  The homemade ketchup was excellent, the burger cooked perfectly and not overpowered by its accompanying condiments, and even though the fries were good, the house-made kettle chips were better.  Those chips were soooooo good that I wished they bagged and sold them so that we could take some home with us!  I honestly don't think I've had a better kettle chip ever and trust me, I've had quite a few!  The fish sandwich was moist and very flavorful and the Whistling Pig Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese simply didn't stand a chance once we tasted it and found out how good it was!  The cheese, a version of Alehouse Cheddar, is exclusive to the Norwich Inn and made at the Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company using Jasper Murdock's signature Whistling Pig Ale.  Heck, I think we even scarfed down all of the greens that accompanied the Mac & Cheese!  By the time we were through there simply wasn't enough room in either of our stomachs to even entertain the thought of dessert but I bet that whatever they had, it was delicious!

Following our very filling and tasty lunch, it was time to walk some of it off by taking a tour of the property!  Even though we started out with the new buildings behind the property with Jill, I figure that for the purpose of this writing being that we're in the Main Inn already, I'll start out there with your virtual tour! For that portion of the tour, Amy and I were given a handful of keys to some of the rooms so that we could poke our heads in and take a look around and get some photos.

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This photo is a view of the main lobby area with the Dining Room beyond and the Guest Registry Desk behind (which you can't see because I forgot to take a photo of it!) Not only is the desk where you register upon arrival but where you can also buy a bottle of ale to take home with you or perhaps another souvenir of your visit to the inn.  It's where you're also find a very friendly staff member to help you out in any way they can as they've got the art of hospitality down to a science at the Norwich Inn!


Even from this angle, Mr. Moose doesn't look any too happy to be hanging around on the wall as he keeps a somewhat watchful eye over the well-stocked coffee bar located next to the Guest Registry Desk!


The Dining Room and Terrace dining area were quite large and looked like they could easily accommodate a pretty good number of diners or guests invited to the inn for a special occasion. The inn offers a variety of rooms that are available for meetings and banquets from small groups to larger and they have some very nice packages available on their website should you be looking for someplace special to host an event.  Just off of the dining areas is a cozy looking Victorian-style living room complete with overhead chandeliers and a lovely fireplace. The room had lots of comfortable seats where guests could sit and enjoy a good book or chat over a cup of tea or coffee or even play a board game if they were of a mind.


Across from the sitting rooms is the Hodgdon Library - named after Charlie Hodgdon who was one of the inn's loyal employees from 1983 to 2009 - which can accommodate up to 18 people for a meeting or private dining.


Before we continue up the stairs and onward, something to remember for when you decide to stay at the Norwich Inn is that should you choose a room in the historic Main Inn itself, it is not handicap-accessible as there is no elevator.  This means that if you have a room on the third floor, you'll be getting some exercise using the two sets of stairs but as they are softly carpeted and quite beautiful to look at it, you might not even notice that you just burned off a few calories getting to your room!


Using an honest-to-goodness real hotel room key and not an electronic key-card, the first room that Amy and I poked our heads into was located on the third floor of the inn with a lovely view overlooking the front yard and Main Street.  Room 32 is a One-Bedroom Suite featuring a connected living room area that has a double-sized sleeper sofa, desk and flat-screen TV. In the bedroom is a four poster queen-size bed with another desk and flat-screen TV.  The suite has a nice size bathroom that is located between the living room and bedroom and like all of the rooms at the Norwich Inn, the room also features an iron and ironing board, hairdryer, and complimentary wireless high-speed internet access.

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Our next stop was Room 20 which is reported to still be the favorite room of "Ma Walker" who, according to some, has stayed on at the inn as its resident ghost and who occasionally is seen wafting through the Dining Room wearing a black dress or appearing as an apparition in her favorite guest room.  We were told by Jill that anytime something goes wrong or slightly askew at the inn that Ma is blamed for it and there are some guests who swear up and down that she visited their rooms in the dead of night - I'm sure she was probably just being a good innkeeper and making sure that her guests had everything they needed!

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When we entered the room we found no apparitions floating about or anything out of place in the bright and sunny room that features a queen-size four poster bed and a view towards the back of the inn.  As you'll find in most historic hotels, the bathroom is a bit smaller than those usually found in a more modern building but it was still plenty big enough to serve its purpose and there were no ghosts hiding behind the shower curtain either - at least not while we were there!


The above photos are just a bit out of order but I wanted to show you what the hallways of the inn look like - just a bit narrow in keeping with the age of the building but nicely carpeted with walls adorned with artwork and lights that are "on demand" so that they don't stay on and use energy when it's not necessary.  As for the photo shot looking down the stairs from the third floor to the second where there's a bit of a squiggly light up in the upper left corner I simply wanted to mention that though that could be reflection from one of the frames on the wall, I didn't use flash when shooting it so for all we know that could be the ghost of "Ma Walker" following Amy and I around as we inspected her inn.  I doubt it as it's most likely a reflection but if we're going to be telling ghost stories, why not mention the one anomaly in all of the 200+ photos I took?

Moving on - our next stop was Room 30 which also features a four-poster bed and the standard amenities of all the rooms at the Norwich Inn. In the bathroom, which again is of a historic size, you'll find bright yellow tiles and a pedestal sink.


Room 30 and Room 29 are connecting rooms so would be perfect for families that are traveling together that need more than one room. In Room 29 you'll find two double beds and probably the smallest sink that you've seen in a long time! Personally I thought that it was a very creative use of small space and who needs a huge sink in the bathroom anyway?

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I should probably mention that before we started back downstairs we had a small incident where the keys of all the rooms that we had been given somehow got jumbled together and for awhile there we thought that we had somehow lost one of them but as it turned out, it had somehow slipped itself onto another of the rings.  When I mentioned this to the gal working the front desk she laughed and said, "Yep, that's Ma Walker at work!"  Personally I think that if you're going to have a ghost, one with a sense of humor would be the type to have!


Anyway continuing on your tour of the historic Main Inn, go down the main staircase, past the inn's front door which leads out to its lovely front porch and comfortable rocking chairs, go back through the lobby past Jasper Murdock's Alehouse, and down the other set of stairs under the watchful eyes of Mr. Moose and you'll find one of Joe Lavin's favorite places - the Wine Cellar.  This beautiful room (which is not so beautiful in the photo and for that I apologize) features over 2,000 bottles of wine with vintages from the world over which were chosen by Mr. Levin who has a passion for wine along with one for country inns!

With one of the largest collections of wine in the state of Vermont, the Norwich Inn will periodically host Wine Dinners featuring a country, region or theme. The Wine Room can accommodate private dining for up to 12 people while The Cellar itself can seat up to 50 people for a banquet or 70 for a reception in a room that is reminiscent of a Speakeasy during the times of Prohibition with its fireplace and glimpse of the inn's original foundation behind the room's private bar.
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Heading outside and behind the historic Main Inn you'll find plenty of guest parking as well as the two new buildings that the Levins added to the property in March of 2010 in place of the former Carriage House and Vestry.

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The Walker House - named after "Ma Walker" herself - has 18 eclectic guest rooms that are each uniquely decorated and offer a more sophisticated urban d├ęcor than the rooms of the historic Main Inn. Some rooms feature a slightly more feminine design while others will exude a more masculine air and while some have hardwood floors and others have carpet, all of the rooms in the Walker House have in-room gas fireplaces, beautifully comfortable furnishings, and large bathrooms featuring marble sinks, glass showers and - get this! - heated towel racks.

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Across the parking lot from the Walker House in the spot where the old Vestry stood is the Ivy Lodge which features four guest rooms with king-size beds, gas fireplaces, and small refrigerators.  Two of the rooms in this building are "pet friendly" and have been decorated with a canine theme as well as providing amenities specifically for you four-footed family member.  Guests staying in the Ivy Lodge have the ease of curbside parking as well as their own front porch complete with some of those comfortable rocking chairs that you'll find on the front porch of the Main Inn.


Just like the rooms in the historic Main Inn, accommodations in both the Walker House and Ivy Lodge feature flat-screen televisions, free wireless internet access, and the other amenities that guests look for when making a choice of where to stay.  All guests of the Norwich Inn have use of the inn's fitness room and the common areas in the Main Inn regardless of which building your room is located in so it's easy to combine a modern room with a historic feel should you wish to have a room with a larger bathroom or need a room that is handicap-accessible but still want to enjoy the historic beauty of the Main Inn.

The Norwich Inn offers a number of events including Brewer’s Weekends (tastings of their microbrewery’s hand-crafted English ales paired with gourmet meals), Bread and Brew Weekends (paired with King Arthur Flour), Wine Tasting Weekends, and Brew and Cheese Tastings to name a few. They also offer a number of packages such as their Ales at the Inn, Romance, and Dartmouth sports packages. For more information on their upcoming special events and available packages, be sure to check out their website where you'll find a detailed listing of all their upcoming Specials and Packages as well as a chance to sign up to have their special offers sent directly to your email so you won't miss a thing!

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Easily accessed off of Interstate 91, the Norwich Inn is ideally located for spending a weekend in Vermont either taking a class at the nearby King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center, visiting Dartmouth College just a mile away across the Connecticut River, or exploring the beauty of Vermont's Connecticut River Valley. Innkeepers and owners Joe and Jill Lavin along with their staff will welcome you warmly to their historically beautiful and comfortable lodgings and ensure that you'll have everything you need for a truly memorable and fantastic stay.  Why I'd even be willing to bet that "Ma Walker" will also welcome you toher inn - you just might not know it at the time!

For reservations at the Norwich Inn you can either phone them directly at 802-649-1143, shoot them an email at innkeeper@norwichinn.com, or book directly on-line on their website.  Oh, and whatever you do, don't confuse Norwich, Vermont's wonderful Norwich Inn with Norwich, Connecticut's Norwich Inn and Spa like some have done - the two are worlds apart in more than just mileage and you really don't want to end up in the wrong place! 



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