Join us on a trip back to 1769
It was at the Marsh Tavern that the local Council of Safety held its first meetings and that Ethan Allen’s younger brother, Ira Allen, proposed confiscating the property of Tories to raise money to equip a regiment of the “Green Mountain Boys” during the American Revolution.
Ironically, the first property to be expropriated was the Marsh Tavern itself… shortly after its owner, William Marsh, decided the British would win the war and gave his allegiance to the British. When his property was expropriated, Marsh himself fled to Canada.
In 1780 Thaddeus Munson purchased the Marsh Tavern and operated it until he built a new inn next door. Munson’s Inn changed ownership three times, with Martin Vanderlip adding the fluted columns to the front of the inn in 1839, which were to become a trademark of the Hotel. The columns still stand …. 285 feet across.
The Equinox House is established
The 200-room Equinox House was established in 1853. The north wing was the original Orvis homestead. Its Homestead fireplace, inscribed “L.C. Orvis 1832”, still provides guests with a cozy fire on a cold winter’s night.
The north wing is now the “working” part of the Hotel. It encompasses several guest rooms, as well as the Colonnade, lobby areas, Front Desk, gift shop, administrative offices, and the present Marsh Tavern, Chop House and Falcon Bar.
In the early 1900s the symbol of the Hotel was an Indian with Equinox written below its picture. However, there never were any actual Equinox Indians.
Inspiring guests and landscape alike
Mount Equinox stands directly behind the Hotel. The name Equinox comes from the fact that the Vermont Surveyor General, Colonel Partridge, reached the summit of the mountain on the autumnal equinox in 1823. Rising over 3,800 feet above the village of Manchester, it is the tallest peak in the Taconic Mountain range. A tourist attraction of its own, the mountain is one of the most beautiful in the state during the fall foliage season. The scenic drive to the top of the mountain allows nature lovers a vast panorama of southern Vermont.
President Abraham Lincoln’s wife visited the Equinox with her two sons during the summer of 1864. She enjoyed her summer so much that she made reservations to visit again the following year with the President. A special suite was constructed in anticipation of the President’s visit, but he was assassinated April 14, 1865. The son of Abraham and Mary, Robert Todd Lincoln, loved the area so much he built his summer estate, Hildene, just down the road.
During its long history, the Equinox hosted an array of illustrious guests. The resort was visited by four U.S. presidents and one vice president: Presidents William Howard Taft, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt (who gave a campaign speech on the front lawn), Benjamin Harrison, and Vice President James S. Sherman.
The wonders of Manchester Village
The Hotel faces the Village Green of Manchester. The statue in the Village Green is not of Ethan Allen, but instead represents an unnamed colonial soldier. It was erected in 1891. Also clustered around the Village Green are the 200-year old Congregational Church, the Bennington County Court House, another vintage structure with white columns (a small reflection of the grand old Hotel), and an old Music Hall.
The Hotel also offered many attractions, which were not part of its physical structure. One of those was its supply of pure spring water from Mount Equinox, advertised in the 1880’s as “the best and purest water … a great luxury to the guests.” Shortly after that, The Equinox Springs Company began bottling and selling the water and a variety of products including ginger champagne and ginger ale. The company remained in business until 1920.
Marble was the principal 19th-century industry in Manchester, and the streets were literally paved with it. There are over four miles of marble sidewalks. The first of these sidewalks was constructed in front of the hotel in 1832. Because they are extremely slippery when wet, the marble in front of the hotel has since been replaced with textured pavers but the original marble still serves as a border.
The Equinox Revival
Shuttered and falling apart since 1972, the Equinox reopened in July 1985 as a resort hotel and conference center, reviving the rich tradition it provided to southern Vermont for most of its 239-year history.
The actual restoration of The Equinox came after years of study, controversy, and debate about how to revive the structure without losing the unique qualities, which made it a landmark and designated it a National Historic Place
In many ways, the restoration was much like an archaeological dig, and many of the Hotel’s secrets were uncovered in the effort. Workers found a secret passageway in the attic between two rooms in different wings of the Hotel. The old Hotel scale, which stood in the lobby for guests to weigh themselves, was found to be still in working order. (It was originally used after a vacation stay at the Hotel by guests seeking proof that they had GAINED weight during their stay!) It was completely restored in 2004 and now resides in the Spa.
Bigger and better than ever
In 1991-92 a major reconstruction and restoration of the hotel and golf course was completed. The 18-hole original Walter Travis designed course was updated under the direction of Rees Jones with improvements in the appearance and playability of the hazards and greens. On June 5, 1992, the Equinox reopened its doors, after three months of renovations. In July 1995, the resort reopened the village home of Charles Orvis with suite accommodations for business and leisure travelers and in 2007 the historic 1811 House was added further increasing the number of guest rooms at the Resort.
Today, guests may also experience the thrill and exhilaration of mastering 4×4 driving techniques at the Land Rover Experience Driving School.
So, now that our little trip back in time is over, immerse yourself in the quiet, relaxing ambiance of the Equinox. Enjoy a sip of wine, “a wee dram of scotch,” or a hot toddy in front of a roaring fire, and let your imagination do the rest!