When you hear that one of President Abraham Lincoln’s sons bought the property where the Wilburton Inn now sits, you begin to understand what makes this historic southern Vermont mansion so special.
Robert Todd Lincoln and his fellow railroad industrialist friend Albert Gilbert bought farmland in the Battenkill Valley above Manchester, Vermont, at the turn of the 20th Century, to build two grand estates. The time period of the construction of the 25-room English Tudor mansion explains the elaborate grandeur of the Wilburton (named after the banker who bought the estate from the original owners), which was originally planned as an exclusive resort for “sporting gentlemen.“ The inn’s decor is lush and rich, with antiques and paintings and silk draperies and Tiffany-style lamps and fireplaces and china knickknacks everywhere. Only the bathrooms (thankfully) have been modernized; otherwise, the enormous guest rooms are as period-centric and lavish and grand as the public rooms downstairs.
Outside, the hilltop inn has been enlarged and expanded on its 35 acres to include seven private villas, a tennis court, swimming pool, and a magnificent outdoor sculpture garden. If you’re lucky – and most guests seem to be – you’ll enjoy a personal tour of the sculptures by the inn’s owner, Greek-born psychiatrist and art collector Dr. Albert Levis.
Dr. Levis runs workshops at the inn and at his Moral Science Project in nearby Manchester Village on conflict resolution within families, exploring psychology and morality for the scientific analysis of behavior. He has created an art-based booklet that a person can fill in at home and that works as a sort of self-therapy session without the therapist having to be around. His accomplished family has a hand in the inn’s regular numerous activities, including Murder Mystery Weekend in November, doggie slumber parties four times a year, enormous New Year’s Eve celebrations and many more. Partial to Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, the family allows any member of that breed to stay at the inn free anytime that its master is in attendance.
Dr. Levis’ son Oliver runs the nearby Earth.Sky.Time.Farm, which makes 250 tubs of hummus, 1500 veggie burgers and 2000 loaves of hearth-baked bread each week, with many loaves brought over fresh and warm for breakfasts at the inn. Creativity abounds in this family; until her death a few years ago, Dr. Levis’ wife Georgette Wasserstein Levis, sister of the Wall Street legend Bruce Wasserstein and Pulitzer-prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, served as chatelaine of the family inn and cheerleader to the interests and activities of their other children, Max, a Columbia University and Harvard Divinity School graduate, and Melissa, a New York singer/songwriter and children’s band leader.
If you want four-season activities while here, just drive down from the mansion into town where skiing, (at nearby Bromley, Stratton or Magic Mountains), hiking, antiquing, kayaking, fly-fishing (Manchester is home to the famous Orvis fly-fishing school) and more activities abound. If you want to reflect on life and pretend you live in Abe Lincoln’s time, stay atop the hillside, hang around this lovely mansion and soak up the ambience at your luxurious leisure.