Vermont Inns: Wilburton
the moment you turn off route 7A on to River Road, you return
to an era of genuine elegance and romance. The road winds past
stone walls and beautiful homes and finally you arrive at the
tree lined driveway of Manchester Vermont's Wilburton Inn, one
of Vermont's Historic Inns. To the right the Battenkill valley
stretches below and to the left the Wilburton Inn rises on the
crest of the cliff. The twenty acre estate includes the mansion
and five villas, tennis courts, a swimming pool, sculpture gardens
and vibrant flower beds. Excellent golfing and skiing are available
minutes from the estate. Manchester's famous shopping area is
five minutes away. Just below our driveway is a wonderful country
road for biking, jogging or just leisure strolling.
every season there are activities and pleasures to be enjoyed
at the Wilburton Inn, a Vermont Historic Inn.
Like all truly romantic Vermont inns, the
history of the Wilburton Inn is a combination of fact and fantasy. The Wilburton Inn’s romantic history begins with a Vermont farmer who won a parcel of land named Strawberry Hill in a poker game and traded it for nearby farmland. Albert Gilbert, a wealthy Chicago businessman, and his friend Robert Todd Lincoln, President Lincoln’s son, created two neighboring Vermont country estates. Gilbert situated his mansion on the crest of the hill overlooking the Battenkill River. His architect blended a European Tudor style with the new Modernism promoted by Frank Lloyd Wright. When Gilbert died in 1906, his banker James Wilbur purchased the estate and named it Wilburton Hall. James Wilbur was a self-made millionaire from Cleveland. He had been the cashier of the New Haven Railroad and the president of a powerful Chicago band. He had a profound love of Vermont. His generous donation to the University of Vermont included the elegant Ira Allen Chapel and a scholarship fund today worth more than $6,000,000. Wilbur’s many interests included philanthropy, history, engineering and farming. He came to Vermont every summer and motored through Europe in the fall. He died in 1928 and the family’s fortune declined. In 1933 an advertisement for the sale of the Wilburton Hall and its 400 acres appeared in Country Life magazine. The entire property, except for the hill and the mansion, was sold. During World War II, the Wilbur family leased the mansion to the Windsor Mountain School, a school for the children of Berlin’s artists and high society who had fled from the Nazis. Wilburton Hall became Wilburton Inn in 1945 under Jack Ortlieb’s management. The clientele were sporting gentlemen who skied, golfed and wagered. The tone was clubby and formal with tuxedos and fur wraps at dinner. Guests were by invitation only. In the 1970’s, General Tire/ R.K.O. sold the Equinox Hotel and bought the Wilburton Inn. The conglomerate was controlled by the O’Neils, a Kennedy styled family. The Inn was used as an executive retreat and a seasonal resort. In 1987, Dr. Albert Levis, a Greek psychiatrist and his family visited the Inn for his birthday;three months later they purchased it. The sculptures and paintings displayed at the Inn express Dr. Levis’ commitment to the arts. He always enjoys discussing with guests conflict resolution and the true meaning of creativity. Georgette Levis, the innkeeper, is the sister of the late banker Bruce Wasserstein, C.E.O. of Lazard Frères, as well as business executive Sandra Meyer and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein, author of The Heidi Chronicles and The Sisters Rosensweig. Georgette and her sisters are featured in the best-seller book Sisters. Georgette’s father always called her Gorgeous. The Levis family begins with Tajlei, a Wilburton Inn bride, lawyer and playwright, and her husband Jonathan Canter, who aside from being a great son-in-law, is a partner at Kramer Levin in New York City. Their sons Theo and Noam attend the Heschel School. Melissa is a singer songwriter and mommy. Her CD Moey’s Music Party is ripping up the charts and is a terrific gift for someone five and under. Conveniently, it is for sale at the Front Desk. Melissa’s wedding to Ben Singer was featured in the Vows column of The New York Times. Monty, their son is going into first grade at the Buckley School. Oliver is a Cornell Ag School graduate. With his wife Bonnie, they have three cutie children: Guv, Talula and Eden. Together they run Earth Sky Time, an organic community farm in Manchester. Max Levis graduated from Columbia College and is now a graduate student at Harvard. The Wilburton’s executive chef is Didier Cadauzumec, a native of Nice, France. Let us know if you would like to receive our monthly newsletter.
--Georgette Wasserstein Levis, Innkeeper
Wilburton Inn is one of the Historic Vermont Inns in Manchester