MANCHESTER VILLAGE >> Following a "soft opening" Dec. 3, the newly constructed Taconic Hotel — the first new hotel built from scratch in quite awhile in Manchester — officially opened its doors Sunday.
The 58,000 square-foot, 87 room hotel, consisting of a horseshoe-shaped Main House and three separate cottages, occupies about 5 acres along Main Street, on a site that has been home to three previous inns dating back to 1909. The hotel straddles both the historical heritage of grand inns of Manchester with modern flourishes, said Clark French, a local resident and one of the investors and partners in the venture.
"We had a mandate from the village that we had to do late 19th-early 20th century architecture .... it really hearkens back to a bygone era," he said shortly before an opening reception began on Sunday afternoon. "We wanted it to be evocative of that. It has to be fresh and crisp and very up-to-date, but always honoring the history of the village, maintaining its streetscape and having it feel like it fits in."
The hotel aims to fill a market niche French said wasn't currently being served in town yet, one that was elevated but casual, and fancy without being fussy.
The new facility also features a restaurant and tavern, the "Copper Grouse," which the staff and ownership are visualizing as entering the dining options for locals as well as the hotel's guests, French said.
"We did that critically for locals," he said. "That was important to us. We figured about 25 percent of the restaurant customers would be hotel guests, but you need the local folks who feel this restaurant and bar is theirs."
The executive chef of The Copper Grouse, Adam Raftery, described the cuisine as that of an "upscale tavern," and one that uses a good deal of local food. The restaurant seats 110 people.
Raftery, who hails from the Burlington, Vt. area, said he used a lot of the techniques and passion his grandmother taught him about food.
"The food is very approachable," he said. "No one's going to look at the menu and wonder what things are."
Currently the restaurant will be serving breakfasts and dinners, with weekend brunches scheduled to be added in a couple of weeks. Later, next spring, they anticipate starting serving lunches as well, he said.
One of the special features of the Copper Grouse is a "chef's table," where parties of four to 10 patrons can sit in an area near to the kitchen and receive additional attention from Raftery and staff. From there, the diners will be able to observe the staff interact in one of the hotel's two kitchens as the meals are being prepared. A second kitchen is set up on a the hotel's ground floor to handle banquets. There about 15 cooks on the staff, he said.
Elsewhere throughout the hotel, there are additional flourishes and tie-ins to the local community, said Jami Poe, the hotel's director of sales and marketing. A library, stocked with books selected by the staff of the Northshire Bookstore, is one example of that; another are the walking sticks made by Manchester Woodcraft, in varying sizes, available to the guests to encourage them to get out and explore the town.
Adult coloring books — something of a new fad — will also be placed in the rooms, with images drawn from the art collection at the Southern Vermont Art Center to fill in. The idea would be to interest the guests in going up to the arts center to compare their drawings with the actual art on display there, she said.
The three cottages are another area where the hotel has sought to forge linkages with the town's past. There are three. One is named the Worthy (after one of the previous inns); another the Bennett (after the family that used to live on site where the current — and newly constructed — cottage sits and whose family once owned The Manchester Journal). The third is the Nicklewhite, named after Fred Nicklewhite, a popular and well-known tailor whose business once existed just south of the where the inn currently sits. The name was the overwhelming winner of a naming contest conducted by the hotel on social media.
The cottages contain multiple accommodations and are designed for large parties of friends and families who may be traveling together, Poe said.
The U-shaped configuration of the main hotel building is the original shape of the Worthy Inn, one of the hotels that formerly occupied the site, said Shawn Harrington of the Manchester historical Society, adding that a lot of local history was incorporated into the rooms.
The building that eventually became the Old Orchard Inn, the first inn on the site, was originally built in 1876 by Julius Kellogg of Bridgeport, Conn., Harrington wrote in a follow up e-mail to The Journal.
"After his death in 1890, his widow lived there until her death in 1907 when the house was purchased by Charles Willard who added to the structure and opened the Orchard Park Hotel. A large piazza and 'auto livery' was opened to cater to the growing driving public. In 1910 another floor was added and in 1919, James Brown, who owned the Hotel Worthy in Springfield, Mass., purchased the property, renamed it the Worthy Inn and over the next 20-plus years made additions and enlarged the building again. The Rath family, who ran Snow Valley, leased the Worthy Inn starting in 1945 and purchased it in 1948."
It was subsequently purchased in 1985 by the Degen's who renamed Village Country Inn and ran it until it closed in 2008, he added.
The hotel is owned by the Heaton Companies, based in Vero Beach, Fla., and will be managed by Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, which oversees 61 so-called "boutique" hotels in 31 U.S. cities. The Taconic is the first hotel they have taken on in Vermont.
Room rates start at $199, according to a recent article in the Boston Globe which featured the hotel.
Maintaining the historical linkages, while responding to the needs of the contemporary traveling public, will be a centerpiece of the hotel's efforts to establish itself as the newest entrant into the area's lodging industry, said Jami Poe, the sales and marketing director.
"Really, the footprint of the Taconic is not just the building; it's Manchester and our surrounding area," she said. "It's more about people taking it all in and not just being here."