Harwood Hill - Where Arts Meet Hospitality in Bennington, Vermont

I've wandered up to the wonderful town of Bennington, Vermont several times over the years but had never stayed for an extended amount of time until a recent trip with my friend Paula, one of my distracted sidekicks who likes to travel almost as much as I do. Even though there were a couple chain motels in town, we wanted to try to find a local 'mom and pop' sort of operation as it not only helps support the local folks but generally also gives one a place to stay outside of the cookie cutter mold of major lodging chains. To that end I began a web search for a decent place in Bennington where we could hang our hats for a couple nights that would be clean, comfortable and wasn't going to break the bank in the process.

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.

The motel portion of Harwood Hill offers a combination of deluxe year-round rooms that are available with either one king, one queen, or two queen beds with full baths, or economy rooms with a queen bed or two twins and only a shower but that have really great views from their door. All rooms at The Harwood Hill feature free WiFi, a Keurig® coffee maker for in-room fresh brewed coffee, cable TV, refrigerators, microwaves and complimentary bottled water. If you need a roll-away bed, they're provided at no extra charge and if you need a bottle opener because you don't have one but could really use one for that hard cider you bought that doesn't have a twist top, just ask!

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.

As it's Vermont and dog-friendly to the max, your four-footed family members are welcome for an extra $10 a day and they even offer dog walking services for an additional fee. Room rates of course vary upon the season and type of room; reservations can conveniently be made online or you can give them a call anytime between 8 am and 10 pm, 7 days a week at 802-442-6278 and speak to a friendly staff member.. For more detailed inquiries, email them at information@theharwoodhill.com.

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.


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