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Wilburton Inn and Lincoln Family House (Hildene) in Manchester VT
About Wilburton Inn
“From the moment you turn off route 7A on to River Road, you return to an era of genuine elegance and romance. The road winds past stone walls and beautiful homes and finally you arrive at the tree lined driveway of Manchester Vermont’s Wilburton Inn, one of Vermont’s Historic Inns. To the right the Battenkill valley stretches below and to the left the Wilburton Inn rises on the crest of the cliff. The twenty acre estate includes the mansion and five villas, tennis courts, a swimming pool, sculpture gardens and vibrant flower beds. Excellent golfing and skiing are available minutes from the estate. Manchester’s famous shopping area is five minutes away. Just below our driveway is a wonderful country road for biking, jogging or just leisure strolling.
For every season there are activities and pleasures to be enjoyed at the Wilburton Inn, a Vermont Historic Inn.
Like all truly romantic Vermont inns, the history of the Wilburton Inn is a combination of fact and fantasy. The Wilburton Inn’s romantic history begins with a Vermont farmer who won a parcel of land named Strawberry Hill in a poker game and traded it for nearby farmland. Albert Gilbert, a wealthy Chicago businessman, and his friend Robert Todd Lincoln, President Lincoln’s son, created two neighboring Vermont country estates. Gilbert situated his mansion on the crest of the hill overlooking the Battenkill River. His architect blended a European Tudor style with the new Modernism promoted by Frank Lloyd Wright. When Gilbert died in 1906, his banker James Wilbur purchased the estate and named it Wilburton Hall. James Wilbur was a self-made millionaire from Cleveland. He had been the cashier of the New Haven Railroad and the president of a powerful Chicago band. He had a profound love of Vermont. His generous donation to the University of Vermont included the elegant Ira Allen Chapel and a scholarship fund today worth more than $6,000,000. Wilbur’s many interests included philanthropy, history, engineering and farming. He came to Vermont every summer and motored through Europe in the fall. He died in 1928 and the family’s fortune declined. In 1933 an advertisement for the sale of the Wilburton Hall and its 400 acres appeared in Country Life magazine. The entire property, except for the hill and the mansion, was sold. During World War II, the Wilbur family leased the mansion to the Windsor Mountain School, a school for the children of Berlin’s artists and high society who had fled from the Nazis. Wilburton Hall became Wilburton Inn in 1945 under Jack Ortlieb’s management. The clientele were sporting gentlemen who skied, golfed and wagered. The tone was clubby and formal with tuxedos and fur wraps at dinner. Guests were by invitation only. In the 1970’s, General Tire/ R.K.O. sold the Equinox Hotel and bought the Wilburton Inn. The conglomerate was controlled by the O’Neils, a Kennedy styled family. The Inn was used as an executive retreat and a seasonal resort. In 1987, Dr. Albert Levis, a Greek psychiatrist and his family visited the Inn for his birthday;three months later they purchased it. The sculptures and paintings displayed at the Inn express Dr. Levis’ commitment to the arts. He always enjoys discussing with guests conflict resolution and the true meaning of creativity. Georgette Levis, the innkeeper, is the sister of the late banker Bruce Wasserstein, C.E.O. of Lazard Frères, as well as business executive Sandra Meyer and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Wendy Watersides, author of The Heidi Chronicles and The Sisters Rosensweig. Georgette and her sisters are featured in the best-seller book Sisters. Georgette’s father always called her Gorgeous.
–Georgette Wasserstein Levis, Innkeeper
The Lincoln Family Home
His father was born in a log cabin and called from the humblest rank in life to preside over our nation during the most momentous period of its history. One generation later, Robert Todd Lincoln, the only child of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln to survive to adulthood, became Chairman of the Pullman Company, the largest manufacturing corporation at the turn of the 20th century. He built his Georgian Revival mansion in 1905 in the scenic village of Manchester. It became home to only Lincoln descendants until 1975, longer than any other Lincoln residence. It is the Great American Story.