Updated: Feb 21
STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY ROWELL’S INN
Rowell’s Inn offers cozy accommodations, delicious cuisine, and scrumptious, homemade baked goods in a historic setting.
Driving past Rowell’s Inn in Andover on Route 11, one is immediately struck by the majestic, three-level porch that stands at the front of the building. Its tiered balconies serve as an apt metaphor for the multi-layered legacy of the structure, which has taken on numerous roles throughout the course of its colorful and rich history. Although the iconic front façade, locally-made brick walls, and late-Victorian-era double doors possess an air of timeless romance, the true beauty of Rowell’s Inn lies beyond its entrance. It is manifested in the tastefully-decorated common areas and guestrooms within, and also in the heartwarming story of the hard-working Vermont family behind it. Through a combination of faith, persistence, and conscientious stewardship, they brought new life and beauty to the cherished, historic inn.
As the grateful new owners of Rowell’s Inn, Jared and Christina Smith spent countless hours updating and renovating its exteriors and interior spaces. They put their soul, sweat and tears into the project, and their four children, Dakota, Landon, Montana, and Dominic, also played a pivotal role in refurbishing the inn. As a result of their unyielding efforts, the Smiths have managed to artfully preserve the inn’s past, and they have also created a warm and welcoming oasis that delights both visiting tourists and local community members. Whether you’re stopping by for a delicious meal at the on-site bar and grill, checking in for an unforgettable Vermont getaway, or sampling some of Christina Smith’s fabulous desserts and baked goods, you’re sure to make some new friends and memories while enjoying a taste of authentic Vermont hospitality.
A Historic Crossroads
Originally constructed in 1826 by Major Edward L. Simons, Rowell’s Inn stands at the intersection of Route 11 and Middletown Road. The Inn was originally founded as the Simons Inn, and its surrounding area was known as Simonsville. The Simons Inn stood at a strategic crossroads in the heart of Southern Vermont. It was conveniently located on a well-traveled stretch of Route 11, which is relatively equidistant from the towns of Springfield and Manchester. This confluence of factors set the stage for an influx of travelers, whose continued patronage allowed the Inn to blossom into a booming stagecoach destination. As tourism patterns evolved over the next several decades, the Inn welcomed scores of additional visitors. It served as a community meeting space and a post office, and its main floor also hosted a general store. The Inn’s third floor housed a spacious ballroom, where travelers and local residents would congregate to enjoy music and joyous festivity.
In 1910, the Inn was purchased by Frederick Rowell, the source of its enduring namesake. It switched hands several times over the following century, and notable additions were added to the original Federalist-style brick structure. A barn on nearby Marsh Hill Road was brought down by crane in the latter half of the 20th Century. It was attached to the back of the main brick building, and it now currently houses the on-site bar and grill. Directly adjacent to the barn addition, an additional dining space that is now referred to by the Smith family as the “Sunroom” was constructed in the 1970s. After the Inn shut its doors in 2012, it fell into a state of relative disrepair. When it seemed like the proverbial storybook of the Rowell’s Inn had reached its final chapter, the Smith family purchased the property in 2018—and they wrote their own story on a promising new page.
Love at First Sight
Before Jared and Christina Smith acquired Rowell’s Inn and began their renovation, they built a happy and productive life with their four children in Vermont. Born
and raised in the nearby town of Londonderry, Jared found success as a skilled and industrious logger. Christina worked as the Client Services Manager for a local accounting firm in Chester. She also founded a popular baking business, 4 Kids and A Baker, which is now run out of the kitchen at Rowell’s Inn. Although she was not born in Vermont, Christina nevertheless has deep family ties to the Green Mountain State. She remembers enjoying several years of her early childhood here, and she spent numerous summers and winters in Vermont with her father.
In the years leading up to the acquisition of the property, Jared and Christina spent a considerable amount of time looking at prospective spaces that could accommodate the growth of Christina’s baking business. “My husband and I have always dabbled in renovations,” says Christina. “We love old buildings, antiques, and history.” When Christina’s father mentioned that Rowell’s Inn was going to be auctioned, Jared went to see the property. He was incredibly impressed, and he immediately told Christina that she was going to fall in love with it. Soon after, they both became increasingly enamored with its charming architecture and inviting atmosphere. Christina recalls: “We looked at the bones, the structure, and the ceilings, and we absolutely loved it. After we bought it, we realized that it was a lot to take on. We started with the basics, and the vision formed itself as we went along.”
Reimagining the Past, Embracing the Future
Although the renovation was taxing and extensive, a series of symbolic coincidences helped the Smith family maintain an attitude of positivity. “When we started renovating, we found every single date that meant something to us as a family on different artifacts throughout the building. The woodstove in the back has my birthdate on it, and we found an old sign in the bar area that had my husband’s birthday on it, as well. My kids found coins with their birth years on them, and those things gave us all a true sense of connection to the Inn. After we found those little signs, we really decided to let go, commit ourselves fully to the project, and embrace everything that came with it. We knew that this was meant to be.”
The renovation began in September 2018. It commenced with an overhaul of the front porch and its gabled roof, which had started to sag and detach from the building due to the weight of the snow in the wintertime. “We consulted with a structural engineer to make sure that the work was done correctly, but the lion’s share of the work that went into renovating the porch was done by my father, my brother, and my uncles. It took a long time to jack up the porch and rebuild it correctly. The main challenges were redoing the structure of the porches, retaining the essence of what they once looked like, and building them up to code.”
In addition to reconstructing the porch, the Smiths also touched up the slate roof, broke open the back kitchen area, outfitted the kitchen with new appliances, and redid the plumbing and electrical work throughout the building. “There was no working electricity when we first came here,” notes Christina. “When we finally got the heat working in one of the rooms, the kids would stay in the warmest room while we were there working.” The older Smith children, Dakota and Landon,
provided crucial assistance by intermittently lending a hand with the construction efforts. The younger siblings, Montana and Dominic, offered inspirational support for their parents at critical stages in the renovation process, such as when they encountered considerable issues with the plumbing. “When we started working on the plumbing, my husband turned the water on. It wasn’t long before water started streaming out of the ceiling! We thought that we were going to have to tear the ceiling down, but we worked with a crafty plumber who figured out an effective solution. We hit some hard times throughout the renovation process, but we worked hard and we never gave up. We want to instill values of hard work and persistence in our children, and we’re proud that we saw this through together and that they got to play a part in it. They gave me some much-needed encouragement in some of the toughest spots, which meant the world to me.”
Tasteful Rooms and Tasty Food
After the major renovations were complete, Christina began the process of furnishing the inn and beautifying its rooms. The Inn opened its doors to the public in March 2020, and although the COVID-19 pandemic heavily impacted the initial momentum of the business, it also gave Christina a chance to experiment with the inn’s decorative layout. On the first floor, the reception desk sits in a room located to the left of the front entrance hall. A glass-encased chest holds historic artifacts from every stage of the inn’s past. It is complemented by a scenic painting of the inn by local artist, Nancy Adams, and the inn’s original post office box.
Across from the front reception room, the parlor is outfitted with built-in shelves that create an intimate ambience, which is reminiscent of an old country library or study. A floral-patterned couch sourced from a private seller in Fair Haven stands next to an antique radio, which has been repurposed as a decorative fixture. “I worked with private sellers all across the state to source furnishings for the inn,” says Christina. “I also found some amazing pieces at the antique shops in Chester.” In the reception area for the dining room behind the parlor, stained glass windows and a coffee station stand underneath a tin roof with decorative molding. An old registry book with the names of past guests is displayed prominently, paying homage to the inn’s storied past.
Upstairs from the front entrance, a short hallway leads to the second story of the three-level porch. The second floor is also home to the Rowell’s Inn’s four inviting and unique guestrooms: The “Miss Caitlin” room, the “Master William” room, the “Miss Ashley” room, and the “Master Joshua” room. The Miss Caitlin room features a gorgeous, wooden, four-poster bed and a private ensuite bath. Patterned wallpaper, antique furnishings, and a vestigial decorative sink create an atmosphere of restful, countrified tranquility. “There are decorative sinks in several of the rooms,” says Christina. “None of them are functional, but we left them in, because they look nice and serve as a reminder of the building’s history.” In the Master William room, visiting guests will discover a queen-sized bed, an antique vanity and mirror. A shell back chair by the window is perfectly-suited for reading, relaxing, and restful reflection.
Down the hall, the Miss Ashley room boasts a queen bed with a distinctive headboard, which is made out of a repurposed glass door from a lower floor. “We upcycled as many things as we could from the Inn’s past,” says Christina. “We used some of the old boards and nails that we found throughout the Inn in the rooms and the common areas, and we also kept several of the antique barstools in the bar.” Additional highlights of the Miss Ashley room include an antique clawfoot tub, a small, stately chandelier, and a writing desk that is situated next to the window. Visitors who wish to enjoy an intimate sojourn with a view of a babbling brook will certainly savor a stay in the Master Joshua room. The cozy, well-appointed guestroom overlooks the nearby Lyman Brook and also houses a colorful, scenic painting and two antique, wooden chairs. In all four guestrooms, the coziness factor is further amplified by one-of-a-kind hand-knit blankets, which were knit by Christina’s grandmother. “Her name is Jackie Griswold, but we call her ‘Grandma Grizz.’ She helped tremendously by cleaning and washing windows during the whole process, and she used to visit me three or four times a day when we were renovating.”
Guests who come to dine at the on-site bar and grill at Rowell’s Inn will find a welcoming tavern with a wooden bar and antique barstools. Diners can enjoy their meals at tables in the tavern and the connected sunroom. The culinary program at the restaurant is diverse and appetizing. Notable highlights include hearty entrees such as “The Chester,” a fried chicken cutlet sandwich with buffalo sauce, and three-cheese Mac ‘n Cheese with mozzarella, cheddar, and fontina cheese.
“The menu came about naturally,” says Christina. “We talked about our favorite dishes as a family and put them on the menu. It’s an eclectic mix of everything that we like to eat.” Jared and Christina’s son, Landon, loves fried food—and he also loves working the fryer in the kitchen. Their son, Dominic, likes to help out in the kitchen in any way that he can. “He’ll do anything except chop mushrooms,” says Christina. All of the food at Rowell’s Inn—including the house-made pastries and the breakfast meals for overnight guests - is cooked by Christina, Jared, and whatever family members are available to help. “It gets hectic,” she adds, “but it’s also a lot of fun.”
Although Christina enjoys many aspects of working in the kitchen at Rowell’s Inn, she is especially fond of their delectable baked goods. “I love making scones, muffins, cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, donuts and everything else! I make many of my baked goods with Cabot butter and King Arthur Flour, and we try to source as many of our food products from Vermont as we can. The cinnamon sugar popovers are also a recurrent guest favorite here. We serve them with Vermont maple syrup, and they’re a wonderful, sweet treat that’s good with any meal.” Christina also makes custom cakes and platters of baked goods for her clients, and she finds immense fulfillment in creating phenomenal pastries and providing personalized, genuine service for her guests. “I apply the same approach that I take with my baking towards everything that we do here at Rowell’s Inn: I always bake from the heart, because finding something you love and giving your all to it is what makes life worth living.”
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