The International Writers Magazine: Where to Stay in the USA
Eric D. Lehman
girlfriend Amy and I spent a sunny March day sightseeing in northern
We had taken numerous
photographs of remarkable trees, such as the famous Pinchot sycamore,
and visited Enders Falls in the pine forests of the Tunxis hills.
Then, after a day of exploring, we were ready to relax. Amy had put
up all day with my stubborn refusal to mark our destination.
"Are you going to tell me where were going?"
She rattled through a list and hit the jackpot: an inn. Earlier, she
had guessed a bed and breakfast, which I denied. They are different
planets as far as Im concerned. A bed and breakfast is simply
someones open house, but an Inn is a lodging tradition, a living
museum, a gathering of people and their history.
This was Amys first inn. I had lodged at inns in Europe, but never
in America. They were rare here, like otters or elm trees. Even bed
and breakfasts were not common, and those that were scattered across
the expansive American landscape cost three times what they did in England,
a haven for only the nostalgic wealthy. The rest of us can always drive
farther now, staying to the superhighways and convenient hundred-room
hotels. And what really makes the inn different than a "hotel?"
If you have to ask, youve never been to an inn. You could adopt
an inn, staying on as a permanent resident, and it would feel like home.
"Inns are scarcely public places in the sense that railway stations,
Town halls, and museums are public places. They are semi-private. We
know that they are commercial undertakings; yet in a good inn we have,
and should have, the feeling of making one at the home of a family who
are keeping open house in the manner of the old squire on feast days,"
Thomas Burke tells us in The English Inn. No hotel can claim this distinction,
cramped by the same dependence on time that we ourselves feel.
At an old crossroads on the scenic Route 20, a bridge led to the front
door of the Old Riverton Inn, proclaimed by a sign secured to the roof
of the three-story building. In the times before automobiles, stage
drivers would stop at their favorite inns, bringing travelers and business.
There were several rival stage companies that operated between New Hartford
and Riverton in Connecticut, part of a larger network of the Hartford
to Albany post route. The gray-sided Riverton Inn, built in 1796, is
the only survivor of this lodging-path. A bay window in the tavern downstairs
occupiedthe place where a front door would have stood in former times.
Huge pines shaded the colonial inn and thickened up the river valleys
flanks. A friendly sign hung from a branch of one of these old trees
above the innyard carpark, telling us "Hospitality for the hungry,
thirsty, and sleepy."
Inside, the thick-beamed dining room spread out past the grandfather
clock foyer. The muraled Hobby Horse Bar, with floors of Vermont flagstone,
extended to the back of the inn. Saddles balanced on kegs, which remained
from an earlier age to serve as bar stools. To the north an enclosed
grindstone terrace appeared closed for the season. Each room brimmed
with antiques and tasteful novelties, which in another setting might
be considered tacky. As The English Inn tells us: "Old fireplaces,
beautiful windows, carven doorways, staircases, king-posts, moulded
ceilings indeed, all those interests that you can only otherwise
indulge at a museum can be indulged at the old inn. The stuff is there
Our room perched above the restaurant, directly above the table we would
dine at later. The liberal windows granted views of the west branch
of the Farmington River and the old Hitchcock chair factory. The centerpiece
was a generous king-sized Hitchcock bed with antique headboard. A long
green chaise lounge angled in the corner for daybed lollygagging. Floral
wallpaper, an antique spinning wheel turned into a planter, and an old
fireplace completed the nostalgic tableau. A step up into the bathroom
led to white towels on mahogany racks and the exposed pipes of an ancient
sink. And as a surprise I had prepared for Amy, on the chest of drawers
near the door a bottle of champagne rested on ice next to a wrapped
box of fine chocolates. The living, timeless romance of the inn leant
itself greatly to this more common form, solidifying and enhancing an
act that might in other places be considered trite and over-sentimental.
A candlelight dinner for two was also on my romantic menu that night.
At a corner table by the roaring fire, we sipped a fine cabernet. For
an appetizer we shared mushrooms with gorgonzola. For the main course,
Amy chose the porkloin and I had the duck. Desserts, wine, everything
was perfect and ordered, linking us to the long history of satisfied
patrons. Time drew out and lingered, burning as slowly as the great
fire that warmed the March rooms. We stumbled back upstairs to a full
nights rest, feeling the complete effects of hospitality.
A place outside of time, a gathering of people and history, stability
and permanence in our time-scattered lives
the inn was all this
and more. Restored by its love, Amy and I enjoyed a country breakfast
in the morning before heading off to hike the snowy Peoples State
Forest. As we left the innyard, another car pulled in, another story
ready to happen, leaving no break in the romance of continuity.
© Prof Eric D Lehman June 2005
Eric is an English professor at the University of Bridgeport
and has traveled extensively throughout the world. He has been
previously published by various web journals, such as August Cutter,
Niederngasse, Simply Haiku, and of course Hackwriters.
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