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At Home With Norman Rockwell:
Arlington, Vermont’s Inn on Covered Bridge Green


By Ann H. Waigand

"Our living room/dining room was where Norman Rockwell painted," says Julia Dickens. "The kitchen was his workshop where he mixed paint. The downstairs bedroom was his darkroom, and the upstairs bedroom was his storage room."

It wasn’t until last year that she could make such a claim. In the summer of 1999, Julia and her husband, Clint, moved east from Napa, California to purchase The Inn on Covered Bridge Green, an Arlington, Vermont country inn that was the home of painter Norman Rockwell from 1943 to 1954.

Rockwell arrived in Arlington, Vermont in 1938, escaping from city life with his first wife and three sons in tow, and originally lived up the road from the inn, which was then a tourist home called the Blue Shutter Inn (or so rumor has it).

When his studio burned, taking with it a number of valuable props including Revolutionary era clothing, Rockwell and family moved down the picturesque River Road, crossing a red-barn-like covered bridge to the 1792 house that had once been a tavern and tourist home.

The studio the painter built has a 360-degree view of the Green Mountains, now as much favored by guests who choose this accommodation as it must have been by Rockwell when he selected the site.

Guests still cross the covered bridge to reach The Inn on Covered Bridge Green’s accommodations that include five rooms, plus Norman Rockwell’s Artist Studio (with two bedrooms, two baths, and a full kitchen) and a honeymoon cottage (a converted 18th-century barn). All accommodations have private bath, gas fireplace and air conditioning, and include a full gourmet breakfast by candlelight.

The Covered Bridge Green features the Arlington Grange building, where Sunday church services, benefit dinners and dances are held, and a lovely picnic area on the shores of the Orvis-famed Battenkill River. Next door are two farms–one with organic produce–and River Road itself offers over 10 miles of shaded dirt road excellent for walking and biking. Other local activities range from biking and horseback riding to canoeing and skiing, and there are numerous hiking trails in the vicinity, including the Long Trail, the Appalachian Trail and the Green Mountain National Forest.

Rockwell’s years in the old house and studio were a prolific time, during which he produced a number of his famous Saturday Evening Post magazine covers (reproductions of many of these hang on the Inn’s walls) and such works as "Homecoming GI," " Curiosity Shop," "Saying Grace" and "The Girl in the Mirror."

"It was here in Arlington that he stopped using professional models," claim Clint and Julia, "and began picking out neighbors for his paintings." In fact, many are still living in the area and give talks at Arlington’s Norman Rockwell Gallery.

"Most Rockwell fans just feel privileged to be in his former home, staying in his bedroom (the Spooners Room) or his studio " says Julia. Several months ago, famed artist, Ken Davies, booked a stay in the Rockwell Studio.

As Julia relates, "Ken has been a fan of Rockwell’s since the 1950s, and was truly in awe the entire time he stayed here, leaving a note on departure that read, ‘Thank you for one of the most memorable days of my life!’ Clint and I were in awe of him and yet a man of his fame felt so humbled to be in the presence of Norman’s essence in the studio!"


 

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