Rabbit Hill Inn

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The History of Rabbit Hill Inn

Here’s how it all began

Rabbit Hill Inn’s rich history is seeded in the fabric of ingenuity, opportunity and the pursuit of the classic American dream that had a significant impact on the landscape and development of Vermont. In the late1700’s Lower Waterford, Vermont was the main passage for our Montreal neighbors to the north, to journey to the bustling harbors of Portland, Maine and Boston Massachusetts. Travelers discovered Rabbit Hill Inn was a halfway point in their journey allowing for them to relax and reset in the Northeast corridor for their 18-day round-trip expeditions. In 1795 Samuel Hodby, the original land owner of what is now Rabbit Hill Inn, recognized the perfect opportunity to create a business providing lodging, food and provisions to the tradesmen and loggers working on the Connecticut River.  Our long tradition of hospitality started and was nurtured at the Samuel Hobbs Tavern, the building to the right of the main inn.

Johnathan Cummings recognized the opportunity taken by Hodby and the flourishing area and built his home and workshop directly next door which is now the main inn in 1825. The original structure consisted of two rooms per floor totaling 6 rooms and a workshop which is now the restaurant and foyer. His shop also served the local farmers, by building wagon wheels, sleigh parts and winnowing machines which separate grain.

In 1832 Nathan Bishop purchased the Cummings home for his private residence and two years later both buildings were purchased by Fred Cross and O.G. Hale, who returned it to its original concept and named it Fred Cross’s Churn a Traveler’s and Trader’s Inn. In 1840 they expanded the building adding the Federal parlor and sitting room still enjoyed at Rabbit Hill Inn today. The property, still flourishing, was renamed Valley House and a ballroom and carriage wing were added.

H.A. Bowman purchased the inn in 1870 welcoming guests to “Summer” at the ever-expanding property while ferries would shuttle the guests up and down the Connecticut River. Bowman eventually sold the property to his nephew and it became a private residence for a number of years.  The expanding railway industry built up in St. Johnsbury instead of Lower Waterford, changing travelers destinations.

John and Marion Davies purchased the village of Lower Waterford including the inn and Marion chose the name Rabbit Hill. After the purchase they painted all of the buildings in the town white with green shutters and it became known as the “White Village of Vermont” and is still one of the most photographed locations in the state. Operating the creamery in town, it is said John owned patents for ice cream making and the process of homogenizing milk from Europe. John passed in 1937 and Marion and their three children resided at Rabbit Hill as a residential property.

In 1957, with the changing times, the St. Johnsbury House Hotel acquired the property and it became the Rabbit Hill Motor Lodge offering a Summertime motel option. A neon sign lit the outside of the inn as well as a sign that read “Good Vermont Food.”  It operated for eleven years as a roadside motel.

Rabbit Hill Inn would see various new innkeepers from 1968 to 1980 when Eric and Beryl Charlton purchased it and began restorations, spending their time adding a new level of charm and hospitality back to the beloved landmark. In 1987 John and Maureen Magee purchased the inn and started structural renovations to restore it to its former glory and entice sophisticated travelers to experience Rabbit Hill and the beauty of the Green Mountains.

Brian and Leslie Mulcahy were originally guests who saw what others may not have.  They saw a property with unbelievable potential to create a truly unforgettable experience and invested in the hospitality and guest experience. In 1994 Brian and Leslie became assistant innkeepers helping the Magee’s manage the property for three years until purchasing it in 1997. Brian and Leslie have worked tirelessly, focusing on upgrades and enhancing the Rabbit Hill experience to one that is unmatched. Their dedication to upholding the historical integrity while creating a bespoke vacation experience has paved the way for the standards our guests have come to love and expect during their stay.

Rabbit Hill Inn was sold in 2023 to Barry Caplan and Benjamin Hur, who continue to value and treasure the long-standing tradition of excellence, superior hospitality and unparalleled experience the inn has become famous for.

Barry Caplan a Michigan State University graduate and owner and founder of Access Hotels and Resorts and Access Residential Management brings his vast knowledge of luxury properties.

Alongside Benjamin Hur, a Cornell graduate, combined, the two have 60 years of experience in the hospitality industry. They boldly accept the responsibility and exciting challenge of moving Rabbit Hill Inn into the future, while upholding its rich history and traditions.

Hodby Tavern & General Store is built.1825
Jonathan Cummings builds the Main House as his shop and home.1832
Nathan Bishop purchases the Cummings home as his private residence.1834
Fred Cross & O.G. Hale purchase the two houses and open Fred Cross’s Churn, a travelers’ and traders’ inn.1840
Cross and Hale enlarge the main portion of the house by adding the area that is currently the Federal Parlor and Sitting Room.1844-55
During this period, several innkeepers operate the property as Travellers’ Home.1855
O.D. Hurlburt bought the property and renamed it Valley House. It is believed the ballroom and carriage wing were added at this time.1870
H.A. Bowman purchased the inn. Guests would “summer” here while ferries shuttled guests up and down the Connecticut River.1873
Bowman sold the inn to his son (or nephew), Edwin, who ran the inn until 1912 before making it his private home. By this time, the railroad industry was growing and much of the commerce was moving towards St. Johnsbury because no rail lines came through Waterford.

The property is sold to Mr. & Mrs. J.W. Davies. Mrs. Davies names her home Rabbit Hill. Mr. Davies, a philanthropist businessman from St. Johnsbury, is thought to have brought the process of milk homogenization from Europe to the United States. He operated a creamery in St. Johnsbury. The Davies actually purchased the entire village of Lower Waterford and refurbished all the homes painting them white with green shutters. Hence, the “White Village of Vermont” becomes the town’s moniker.

St. Johnsbury House Hotel acquires the property for use as a summer hotel operating as Rabbit Hill Motor Inn. It was then that the ballroom and carriage house were converted to guestrooms. A neon “MOTEL” sign graced the roof and a sign by the parking lot read: “Good Vermont Food.”

John & Ruth Carroll purchase the inn and operate it until the late 1970′s. A series of innkeepers own the property for short periods of time.

Eric & Beryl Charlton acquire Rabbit Hill Inn and add a new level of charm and hospitality.

John & Maureen Magee purchase the inn. Major structural restorations and presentation upgrades are undertaken to bring the inn to another level of sophistication that inn travelers are seeking.

Brian & Leslie Mulcahy, former inn guests, join the Magees as Assistant Innkeepers to help manage the property.

Brian & Leslie Mulcahy become the owners of Rabbit Hill Inn and continue to undertake major renovations and systems upgrades.

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