Two centuries later, The Equinox Resort is still welcoming visitors.BY WAYNE MILLS
New England is dotted with historical landmarks that commemorate the events before, during and after the Revolutionary War. While most of these landmarks are statues or museums, The Equinox Resort in Manchester, Vermont, is still hosting guests, just as it has since 1769 when it was known as the Marsh Tavern.
The Equinox has been serving the Republic since before there was a Republic.
The Marsh Tavern played a role in fomenting the opposition to British rule. It was there that the local Council of Safety held its first meetings and where Ethan Allen’s younger brother, Ira, 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 taken over was the Marsh Tavern. It happened shortly after the tavern’s owner, William Marsh, decided to side with the British. With that, Marsh fled to Canada.
Golf came to The Equinox in 1927 during the game’s Golden Age of Architecture when Walter Travis laid out the original 18-hole course. Travis was one of golf’s true Renaissance men. He immigrated to the United States from Australia late in the 19th century and didn’t take up golf until he was in his 30s. Once he did, he quickly became a great player.
Travis went on to win three United States Amateurs and become the first player from the U.S. to win the British Amateur. He also became an authority on the game as an editor at American Golfer and designed such great golf courses as nearby Ekwanok, Garden City in New Jersey and Westchester Country Club in New York.
The game has changed dramatically since golf was played with hickory-shafted clubs. The introduction of modern graphite, titanium and steel clubs has made many of the old courses obsolete. To avoid that pitfall, Equinox brought in noted architect Rees Jones to upgrade Travis’ design in 1992. Jones maintained the look and intention of the original layout while lengthening the course, bringing the bunkering back into play and improving drainage. The result is a bucolic stroll through the Vermont valley.
The 200-room Equinox House was established in 1853. The North Wing was the original Orvis homestead. The fireplace, with the inscription “L.C. Orvis 1832,” still provides guests with a cozy fire on a cold winter’s night. The North Wing now encompasses several guest rooms, as well as the Colonnade, lobby, gift shop, administrative offices and the present Marsh Tavern, Chop House and Falcon Bar.
Regardless of the history of the iconic 195-room resort, standing still in the hospitality business is not an option if you want to lure today’s sophisticated traveler. Equinox underwent a $20 million restoration in 2008 that included new luxury amenities, accommodations, dining options and lounges. The transformation is a blend of New England charm and contemporary luxury that upholds the resort’s reputation as an American classic.
The Spa at The Equinox was added at the same time. It offers a variety of treatments that utilize products indigenous to the surrounding region, including maple sugar, wildflowers and mineral clay. The state-of-the-art fitness center, with an Olympic-sized indoor pool and a Movement Studio that hosts yoga and Pilates classes, enables guests to maintain their fitness regimen while on the road.
Mount Equinox serves as the backdrop to the hotel. Rising more than 3,800 feet above the village of Manchester, it is the tallest peak in the Taconic Mountain range. A tourist attraction on its own, the mountain is one of the most beautiful in the state during fall foliage season. The scenic drive to the top provides a vast panorama of southern Vermont.
During its long history, The Equinox has hosted an array of illustrious guests, including Presidents William Howard Taft, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt (who gave a campaign speech on the front lawn) and Benjamin Harrison.
Abraham Lincoln’s wife visited with her two sons during the summer of 1864. She enjoyed her time so much that she made reservations to return the following year with the President. A special suite was constructed in anticipation of his visit. But he was assassinated before he could make it to Vermont. His son, Robert Todd Lincoln, built his summer estate here, called Hildene. It is open to the public.
The Equinox Resort is a unique blend of history, understated elegance and modern amenities set in a quintessential Vermont village. Throw in a delightful resort golf course and there is no reason not to visit.