- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

BARNARD, Vt. — They paid as much as $2,600 a night to stay at Twin Farms, and if the notes they left in the guest book are any indication, it was worth it.

“Just when I imagine it couldn’t be better, you amaze me again,” one guest wrote.

“How do you define ‘perfection’ — we define it as a stay at Twin Farms,” another wrote.

And finally: “Most wonderful place I have ever been.”

The resort that inspired these rapturous notices does not offer glitzy entertainment, gilded bathroom fixtures or gluttonous buffets. Instead, it is a place where a well-heeled clientele can enjoy ultrapersonalized attention in beautiful and private surroundings — with a fillip of literary history thrown into the mix.

Guests “feel like this is their home in Vermont,” says resident manager Michael Beardsley.

The guests come for three or four days to wander trails that meander through the resort’s 300 leafy acres; to enjoy fly-fishing in its private pond; to ski down its private runs; to get a pedicure at its spa or soak in 104-degree comfort in its deep Japanese furo baths; to eat gourmet meals, the ingredients drawn from Twin Farms’ gardens.

The 15 rooms and cottages house no more than 30 guests (no children allowed), and a staff of 50 is at their call from the instant they arrive at Twin Farms’ unobtrusive gate.

The place has a kind of timeless serenity. There is no indication that it is just 11 years old, the brainchild of Thurston Twigg-Smith, a Hawaiian tycoon with a taste for epicurism and a wallet to match.

The parcel Mr. Twigg-Smith bought had a rich history. A dozen miles north of the picturesque village of Woodstock, Twin Farms was a working farm that had been turned to pasture.

Then one day in 1928, a couple from New York stopped by, looking for a country house; they fell in love with Twin Farms, so named because there were two farmhouses, and they paid $10,000 for it on the spot.

The woman was Dorothy Thompson, who would become one of the best-known women in the world, a European political correspondent and columnist who was the model for Katharine Hepburn’s role in the movie “Woman of the Year.” The man was Sinclair Lewis, probably the most successful author of his time — “Main Street,” “Babbitt,” “Elmer Gantry” — and soon-to-be Nobel Prize laureate.

They moved into the larger house. At Mr. Lewis’ instigation, they connected the adjoining barn and made it into a big common room with large windows looking out at Mount Ascutney.

They were happy here for a time; Mr. Lewis revised “Dodsworth” and wrote portions of “Ann Vickers” at Twin Farms.

Theirs was a rocky relationship, however — Mr. Lewis, a difficult man when sober, was even more difficult on those numerous occasions when he was drunk — and they divorced in 1942 after a five-year separation.

Mr. Lewis died in 1951. Miss Thompson owned Twin Farms until her death 10 years later; she is buried in the Village Cemetery in Barnard.

There is not much left of their lives here. The Barn Room survives, as do Miss Thompson’s and Mr. Lewis’ rooms.

The latter is called “Red’s Room” — that was Mr. Lewis’ hair color and his nickname — but the name of the room is not explained to guests. Some years ago, the Lewis family objected to Twin Farms trading on the writer’s name, so the resort’s history is never mentioned.

The main house has four rooms, a nearby lodge has two, and nine cottages are scattered around the grounds. The second house from Mr. Lewis’ time burned down years ago.

Each has at least one wood-burning fireplace, and each is individually — and sometimes startlingly — furnished.

For example, the Meadow Cottage — on the outside, a Vermont clapboard house, on the inside a Moroccan palace with tented ceilings — offers all for $1,500 a night.

Then there’s the Chalet: more than 3,000 square feet, with two decks, two fireplaces, a screened porch with a granite hot tub, two bathrooms (one with a double soaking tub and the other with a circular shower) and a mixed-media work by artist Joan Snyder titled “Ode to a Pumpkin Field.”

The rent? $2,600 a night.

The Snyder piece is not unusual; Twin Farms is festooned with antiques and pieces from Mr. Twigg-Smith’s extensive art collection. They include works by Milton Avery, David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein; there is American folk art, such as the works that decorate George’s Room — a red, white, and blue tribute to George Washington ($1,100 a night).

Improvements have been made in the 11 years Twin Farms has been open. The resort closes for the month of April each year — mud time in Vermont — and last year, Mr. Beardsley added satellite television and T-1 computer connections for each room.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the chef. Neil Wigglesworth has been here since day one. His menus are improvised daily.

Before guests arrive, they receive a questionnaire that asks about food allergies, likes and dislikes. The results — coupled with Mr. Wigglesworth’s assessment of what is fresh that day, including vegetables and herbs from the Twin Farms gardens — dictate what will be served.

“He drives to work not knowing what the menu is,” Mr. Beardsley says.

Breakfast might be pancakes with homemade maple sausage; picnic lunches are always available.

Dinner (after nightly cocktails in the Barn Room) is a constant surprise. One menu included roasted Maine lobster over a succotash of summer vegetables, a pea-tendril salad, and summer pudding with creme fraiche — all accompanied by a Chalone Reserve pinot blanc drawn from Twin Farms’ wine collection of 26,000 bottles — and Kona coffee from Mr. Twigg-Smith’s plantation.

In the summer, guests often end the evening with Armagnac and s’mores around a campfire.

This is a four-seasons resort. Winter is a time for downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice-skating. Autumn is a time for … well, for autumn.

“Guests come here for Vermont in the fall, not for the hotel,” Mr. Beardsley says, although clearly they come for both foliage and luxury.

• • •

Barnard is a five-hour drive from New York City. The nearest airport, in Lebanon, N.H., is 40 minutes away. US Airways Express flies to and from New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

Rooms and cottages range from $950 to $2,600 nightly. The rates cover breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, all beverages (including wine and drinks from a well-stocked bar) and unlimited use of recreational facilities, including equipment ranging from mountain bikes to croquet sets to snowshoes.

For more information, visit www.twinfarms.com or call 800/894-6327.

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