Harwood Hill - Where Arts Meet Hospitality in Bennington, Vermont
After raising my eyebrows at several other possibilities that were reasonably priced but had mixed reviews on TripAdvisor, I came across the website for The Harwood Hill which boasted a "million dollar view" just a bit north of downtown Bennington on Historic Route 7A. It wasn't so much the view that caught my interest - though a nice view is always a good thing - but the fact that Harwood Hill offered "a unique arts experience that reflects Vermont’s magical blend of progress and tradition." As Paula is an art teacher, I thought this might be something that would appeal to her so I sent her over to the website to check it out before we decided to check in.
Built in 1937 to serve the first wave of American vacationers traveling into the countryside by automobile, in 2014 the motel became the property of a foursome of lifelong friends: Pamela, a writer & filmmaker; Janet, a visual artist; Alex, a jack-of-all-trades; and Martha, a technical writer & editor. The four friends shared not just a common love of the arts but a dream of creating a special place filled with both natural and crafted beauty and as Bennington has a vibrant arts community and there is a darned impressive view of Mount Anthony from the side lawn, the property offered the foursome the chance to realize their vision to "preserve the tradition of providing respite for travelers while showcasing the works of local artisans and artists alongside our own collection and the work of our artist-in-residence."
Yep, you read that right, Harwood Hill has an artist-in-residence which is something quite unique that you'll never find at the local Best Western or Hampton Inn. The program provides housing and/or work space in exchange for the artist's creativity and talent, some of which is displayed around the grounds along with pieces by other local artists including giant purple asparagus by Kristen Blaker and a kinetic water sculpture by Joe Chirchirillo on the front lawn.
Set on a hillside with four acres of unique grounds that provide guests with a terrific view over Bennington with its iconic Battle Monument and surrounding mountains, the Harwood Hill Motel & Cottages is only about a ten-minute drive to downtown Bennington in one direction and North Bennington in the other. Accommodations include several fair-season cottages with personal patios, all with queen beds and one that offers an additional twin-sized bed, and a Farm House Suite featuring two bedrooms, a full bathroom, kitchen, and living room which is available for single night or long-term rentals.
Set back from the road, there is no traffic noise and the rooms are spacious, clean and very comfortable. If you find yourself getting attached to the art that adorns your room's walls, you really can take it home with you as it's for sale! There is also a selection of local art for sale in the office.
I have to give two very enthusiastic thumbs up for the bathroom in our room (Number 8) which not only was plenty roomy enough but had a great basin, terrific shower, and not just a window that opened but a vent fan. I will never understand why hotel/motel bathrooms very rarely have fans in their bathrooms which go a great deal towards cutting down the amount of moisture in the room, especially bathrooms that don't have a window that can open. Another thumbs up for the towels which were fluffy, absorbent and plentiful!
Just outside of our room there was a nice gazebo which made a great place to sit and enjoy that bottle of cider we were finally able to get open while there was another great seating area to the other side of the building where one could grill up a hot dog or burger while enjoying that million-dollar view or maybe just sit on the swing and relax for a bit.
Another awesome thing about Harwood Hill - aside from the view and the comfort of the rooms - is that they offer an Arts Package which we booked and is a really great deal. It includes two nights lodging in one of their deluxe rooms, admission for two to both the Bennington Museum and the Bennington Center for Arts & Covered Bridge Museum, a pair of mugs (your choice!) at Bennington Potters, a certificate for $40 towards your meal plus two free desserts at The Publyk House which you can easily walk to across the lawn from the motel, and more.
Definitely not a dank and tired old motel that's seen better days with lumpy mattresses and scratchy bed linens, The Harwood Hill is a great up-to-date option with plenty of modern amenities that's a great choice for any trip to Bennington whether you're going for leaf-peeping, a little history, chasing down the area's five covered bridges or visiting someone at Bennington's many colleges.