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Rabbit Hill Inn

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c. 1820, c. 1840. 48 Lower Waterford Rd., Lower Waterford

This inn illustrates the continuity of Connecticut River Valley architectural trends along the more sparsely populated upper reaches of the valley during the early nineteenth century. It has the two-and-a-half-story, five-bay, gable front found along both sides of the river, here including a monumental Doric portico with an arched, inset balcony porch also common in the valley. As with many other inns with a balcony porch, this one is the remodeling of an earlier structure that was itself in the mainstream of valley style, as evidenced by the fine Federal entrance frontispiece with delicate pilasters and sunburst patera in its frieze, most reminiscent of houses in Windsor. In nearly continuous use as an inn, the building also provides insight into changing trends in hospitality in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The Georgian-plan house with a side wing was constructed for wheelwright Jonathan Cummings. Local tradition dates the original dwelling to 1825. However, the sophisticated Federal frontispiece, the simple main stair way, and the exposed, boxed corner posts on the interior may indicate a somewhat earlier date. Cummings plied his trade in the commercial village of Lower Waterford, which was situated above a ferry crossing on the Connecticut and on a primary stagecoach route between Burlington and Portland, Maine, where some one hundred and fifty wagons passed daily. In 1834, Fred Cross and O. G. Hale purchased the property, along with the small house/tavern/store next door (built for Samuel Hodby in 1795), and began operating them as “Fred Cross's Churn,” a commercial travelers inn. They reoriented the roof in 1840 and added the portico and third-floor balcony. In 1855, O. D. Hurlburt acquired the inn, renamed it “Valley House,” and added a ballroom with a spring dance floor in the ell. The inn was purchased by H. A. Bowman in 1870 and passed to his son Edwin in 1873. Edwin painted the building in contrasting colors and ran it until his retirement in 1912.

The inn was sold to John W. Davies in 1919, who renamed it Rabbit Hill Inn. Davies owned creameries in Littleton and St. Johnsbury and distributed dairy homogenization equipment throughout the United States. Over the next two decades Davies acquired most of the buildings in and around Lower Waterford village. He had all of them painted white, added crisp green shutters, and named them “The White Village.” The buildings soon became a favorite of photographers propagating the Colonial Revival image so important for Vermont tourism and historic preservation during the twentieth century. In 1957 the Davies daughters sold the inn to St. Johnsbury House, which added a large red neon “MOTEL” sign to the roof, converted the ballroom to units, and operated it as the Rabbit Hill Motor Inn. The sign was removed after 1968 by one of the succeeding owners, who have maintained the character and details of the inn as remodeled by the Davies family.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson
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Citation

Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson, "Rabbit Hill Inn", [Waterford, Vermont], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/VT-01-CA24.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Vermont

Buildings of Vermont, Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 279-280.

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