Literary Luxury at Twin Farms in Barnard, Vermont


When novelist Sinclair Lewis arrived in Vermont, he was already a famous man. After the wildly successful Main Street and Babbit, he’d also become a millionaire. In 1928, he proposed to journalist Dorothy Thompson, who accepted on the condition he bought her a farm in Vermont with “delicious air.” The couple found it in Barnard and paid $10,000 for the 1793 farmhouse and 300 acres. When they divorced years later, each moved into different parts of property, thereby bequeathing the name Twin Farms. After Thompson died, the property was broken up and passed through several hands until eventually coming to the Twigg-Smith family, who reopened Twin Farms as a luxury bed and breakfast in 1993.

twinfarms2The luxury continues today and has expanded to 20 units, a spa, pub, gym, and Japanese furo. In fact, at around $2,000 per night, it stands at the top of the hotel food chain in Vermont, if not all New England. For such pedigree, Twin Farms remains relatively well-hidden. In fact, despite growing up in the state, I’d never heard of it. Hoping for a tour, I reached out to the resort and was astonished to receive an invitation for a night, which felt a little like finding the last golden ticket in the Wonka Bar.

I arrived in late October, turning off Route 12 at the general store and heading up the road along Silver Lake. The surrounding forest grows thicker, but eventually opens up again just before the gate to Twin Farms, which surprisingly does little to draw attention to itself. The reception area is just outside the original farmhouse at the end of the drive. There’s an office, but a pleasant smile was already waiting in the parking lot. “You must be Mike.” she said as I stepped out.

A short tour of the main building, dining areas, and common areas began the evening. With a roaring log fire, antique furnishings, and wood plank floors, Lewis’ farmhouse portrays a near flawless version of New England idyll not far removed from the colonial portraiture on the walls. Twin Farms’ art collection as a whole is quite impressive, with works by masters like Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, and Milton Avery hung throughout the property.

Twinfarms3Hillside Suite, where I stayed, is  half of a two-unit lodge next to the main building at the base of one of the resort’s six private a ski slopes. Inside, the room goes two directions: left to the bathroom and right to the bedroom. Here, the luxury of Twin Farms becomes fully apparent. I’d venture to call it the nicest bathroom ever–double sinks; plush bathrobes; steam shower; bidet, a rack of shampoos, oils, and creams; and underneath the windows, a gorgeous black granite Jacuzzi tub.

In the bedroom area, a stone hearth fireplace sat primed for ignition, with wood, kindling, and newspapers awaiting a single match a match.  From there, the heat flows out into the 650-square foot powder-blue room, taken up largely by a king-sized feather bed covered in Anichini linens. Above the headboard, artist renderings of birds look out of the frames, across the bed, to the picture windows and out over the rolling hills extending to the horizon.

Cocktail hour arrives at 7pm, so I returned to the main building, where guests began to congregate in the largest common area outside the dining hall. With lips loosened by flutes of Moët & Chandon and cucumber martinis, a few introduced themselves, seemingly intrigued by the inclusion of someone clearly not in their percentile. After a few polite words, dinner was served.

Twin Farms3As with most other New England inns and resorts these days, Twin Farms serves a nouveau American menu based on seasonal, local sources. Chef Nathan Rich’s version comes in five courses and runs from grilled shrimp on coconut milk caviar and poached Atlantic cod to juniper berry rubbed duck breast and lamb loin. Considering the 20,000 bottles of wine in the cellar, Wine Manager David Morris may have the best job, pairing each course with an ideal complement. However, it’s easy to fall behind as courses come faster than you can drink.  All of it was as delicious as it sounds.

Eventually hearing the call of the Jacuzzi, I asked about bringing a glass of champagne back to the room to accompany the planned candles, bath oils, fireplace, and game 5 of the World Series.  By the time I returned to the room, an entire bucket of champagne was waiting as well as a side of orange juice should any survive to the morning.  And there, in the tub, with a roaring fire, cold champagne, perfumed water, and a winning Red Sox team, I submerged into the best moment of the experience.

With checkout at 12 and a breakfast to boot, I made sure to get up early and enjoy the following morning, regardless of headaches. Relighting the fire and staring at the distant hillsides, I sipped a glorious cup of jasmine tea. Together with the  eggs Benedict at breakfast, I could have died happy. However, one more luxury awaited me.

twinfarms4Out of the Woods Spa sits at the end of long, covered footbridge above a small pond. With eight signature treatments, and products by Vermont-based Tata Harper and Lunaroma, the spa seems to have the remedy for every pain. The 120-minute Ultimate Body Treatment promises “the ultimate pampering experience,” and it’s impossible to disagree. It begins with a lymphatic dry brushing that opens up the skin, prepping it for the full body exfoliation using essential oils that follows. Next comes the hydrotherapy tub, a form-fitting Jacuzzi with dozens of jets aimed at key points of the body. Lastly, the entire body is encased in a lavender moor mud masque. Unable to move anything but the head and feet,  claustrophobia becomes a slight worry, but it melts quickly away once the accompanying head and foot massages commence. The treatment finished, I made it a three-hot tub day with a dip in the resort’s Japanese furo, a deep, 104-degree soaking pool with windows that slide open to the woods.

There was a deep breath before turning the key to the car. Still dizzy from the experience, Twin Farms was clearly too much to take in a single day. It’s just enough time to meet it, but not to get to know it. However, becoming friends requires a financial status that very few have. Is Twin Farms worth the cost? I give a qualified yes. I wouldn’t spend your last dollar on it, but if you can swing the bill without significant pain, by all means. It is indeed a special experience, but not for physicality, service, or attitude,  but rather the ability to create a heavenly world and transport the guests there. It the return to reality that’s hard.    

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All photos by Mike Dunphy

Mike Dunphy stayed as a guest of Twin Farms

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