Welcome to the Wilburton Inn
Location, Location, Location
The Wilburton Inn has location covered in spades. Less than one mile from historic Hildene, and two miles from Manchester’s famous Northshire Bookstore, but still a world away. Off River Road in Manchester Village, it’s winding drive skirts along breathtaking views, through art-filled grounds, to a majestic hilltop, and country estate, with sweeping views in every direction.
For almost 30 years, The inn has been owned and operated by the utterly charming Levis Family. We relished our opportunity to visit last week with Melissa Levis, second-generation family innkeeper and Jetson, her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Spoiled with a slice of chocolate cake, a tall iced tea, and laughter, it was hard to imagine a more delightful way to spend an afternoon in Manchester.
A Summer Place
“What’s great about the Wilburton is that it has such a wonderful, rich history. Albert Gilbert, who built the inn was a railroad tycoon in Chicago where he was friends with Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln. They built neighboring hilltop mansions in Manchester. James Wilbur, the second owner of the Wilburton, owned the Royal Trust Bank in Chicago and paid for the first paved road in the state of Vermont! The Wilburton was a 500-acre gentleman’s farm and part of this glamorous turn of the century Manchester community.”
Archives at the Manchester Historical Society record the arrivals of famous visitors to a budding resort town. “They came to Manchester from New York and Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Chicago, and established a summer colony whose social life included local residents and guests at the hotels. They entertained each other, attended events at the Music Hall, went to dinner and dances at the Equinox, went for drives, played croquet, lawn tennis, and golf.” (from Mary Hard Bort’s “Manchester: Memories of a Mountain Valley“)
Happy Birthday, Dad
“The Wilburton became an inn in the 1950s. My family completely changed its culture when they purchased it in 1987. My father bought the Wilburton on the spur of the moment. He and Mom came for dinner to celebrate his 50th birthday. When Dad told the maître d he thought it was spectacular, the maître d’ responded that it was for sale. Dad said, ‘I’ll buy it! And mom fell into the soup.” Melissa laughed. A European psychiatrist, author, and art collector, “Dad” is Dr. Albert Levis; innkeeper, father of four, and husband to the late Georgette Wasserstein.
“Our family made the Wilburton a creative place, a joyful place, a place for family, and celebrations. As I sing in our Wilburton Inn theme song, “We didn’t buy it to run it like a Hyatt.”
Melissa’s roots are in a big, loving family. “My mom valued creativity, kindness, and family above all. When she passed away in 2014, all four siblings came home to Vermont to run the inn beside our father. The inn has truly brought us together.” Georgette’s personality and spirit remain an everyday part of the Wilburton experience. Guests remember her vivacity, intelligence, and her joie de vivre. “My parents were very comfortable with who they were. They weren’t cookie cutter people. As my aunt, playwright Wendy Wasserstein captured in her writing, my grandmother Lola Wasserstein was very iconoclastic and unique and so my mother always appreciated people with extraordinary character. I think people who like character love the Wilburton Inn.” A mother’s daughter sighs, and smiles. We just want to hug her!
“When our father bought the inn he felt it would be a canvas where we would create; a place where everybody has room, and everyone is welcome. What’s incredible is that it is our canvas and there’s room for each of us to make our contribution. Our brother Oliver and his wife Bonnie created Earth Sky Time Farm in our childhood home in Manchester. They make the incredible hearth baked bread for breakfast each morning and cater farm nights for 100 guests every Wednesday night in summer. I contribute the theatrical theme parties, singalongs, goddess getaways, and pet-friendly events. Our brother Max just got his PdD and brings the academic retreats to the inn. Our sister Tajlei is writing the Broadway-bound musical of Green Acres and writes the murder mysteries for our November weekends. Our father gets the pleasure of having a family that’s cohesive and our guests get to experience an inn that is full of life!”
Room at the Inn
As we’ve gathered, Wilburton guests are a diverse and loyal bunch. Many guests are regulars and come to stay for ski vacations, summer getaways, and family reunions. They come with dogs, and kids, and grandkids. Everyone feels welcome.
“Our guests love the inn because it’s such a unique and authentic place.”
“When we’re in peak season, it’s wonderful to see how many happy events are happening simultaneously.” She tours us around the top campus. “In our Strawberry Hill Villa, we had a corporate retreat. In the Reunion House, a gathering of family and friends. We had a group of Harley Davidson bikers in another building, and then our Bed & Breakfast guests filling up the inn.”
The entire campus covers 30-acres, with the six free-standing vacation homes surrounding the historic mansion. “So while the Harley Davidson group is rockin’ out on their terrace, there’s plenty of space for the romantic couple to stroll and the kids to frolic in the pool.”
“People love to gather as families, to cook together, to relax together, to have really wonderful family-style vacations. Dad spotted this trend a decade ago, before Airbnb really took off, and installed kitchens and living rooms in all of the Wilburton vacation villas.”
Now, you can even rent the 11 bedroom mansion for your private vacation! “Over Presidents Day Weekend, a group of investment bankers took over the entire house. They played charades. They brought instruments & jammed on the grand piano. They hosted formal dinner parties in the Billiard Room catered by our chef.” So cool.
Inspiration and Extras
In addition to bed & breakfast lodging, the Wilburton homes sleep from 6 to 34 guests under one roof. Why not plan a trip and have Thanksgiving in Vermont? Or, pack the tree and the gifts and come for Christmas! You can fly into Boston, Albany, or Hartford, rent a van and bring everybody up. The Wilburton’s culinary team can cater family-style meals or formal events or you can go it on your own in one of the gorgeous new kitchens.
If you’re local, come for Wednesday Farm Nights – with Earth Sky Time’s innovative vegetarian food fresh from the fields, beautiful views, live bluegrass music and dancing to boot. “I get everyone to sing the Wilburton theme song with me! Farm Night always sells out, so be sure to make reservations,” she winks. “People come as groups and host their own dinner parties, or they come and meet friends, and make new friends.”
New exhibit at the Museum of the Creative Process on the grounds of the estate; Howl’oween Canine Costume Ball (lodging is sold out but party guests welcome!); Another Murder Mystery Weekend, November 4-6; and a very Doggie Christmas Dec 8-10!
The Wilburton Inn is a magical place that’s good for the psyche and good for the soul. Bring along your special ones, and experience it – and our favorite part of Vermont — for yourself!
Discover Your Next Getaway
A grand historic inn, vacation villas, restaurant, farm, and museum, crowning a 30-acre hilltop estate in Manchester Village, Vermont. Click through for social media links, booking info, and a map so you can plan your trip!Wilburton Inn
Next door to the Orvis flagship store, the most prestigious collection of fly fishing ephemera in the world! And, incredible stories.
From an artsy museum cafe to a BYOB sushi hideaway, these restaurants are the key to adventurous eats when visiting Manchester, VT