History of the Lilac Inn
In 1907, Albert Farr and Alice Parkhurst commissioned George Perkins, a renowned Chicago Architect, to design and build a 11,000 square foot Georgian Revival inspired summer home in the town of Mr. Farr’s birth, Brandon, Vermont. Sparing no expense and using the latest in technological innovations, the home was completed in 1909. The uniquely shaped house, three wings built around a specimen Elm tree, was completed for an original cost of $75,000.00.
Upon completion, Brandon’s finest citizens were brought to the “Arches” for a grand party. Over 700 citizens were escorted throughout the house, dining on soup and sandwiches in the dining room, followed by ice cream to the music of a full orchestra in the courtyard.
Mr. Albert Farr’s vast fortune was self-made by creating the Harris Banking Trust in Chicago with his partner, Albert Harris. Mrs. Alice Parkhurst Farr and Mr. Farr both had documented lineage to Massachusetts Bay; hence, Mrs. Farr’s active participation in the Daughter’s of the Revolutionary War (DAR). As the only daughter to the Farr fortune, Miss Shirley Farr inherited the home six years after completion.
Miss Farr was noted for her philanthropy, donating to the town a library and sewage treatment facility. Branbury State Beach at Lake Dunmore was donated to the state and is now Branbury State Park. Miss Farr was an active State Legislator, involved in the rehabilitation of war victims and a concerned partner in town politics and activities.
In 1950, Mrs. Farr’s cousins inherited the home: Margaret, Dorothy, Katharin and Alberta. Margaret, “Marnie” Flowers, was a famed opera singer who decorated her suite in shades of purple. Dorothy and Catharine, “Dor” and “Cam,” graduated from Mount Holyoke and made their fortune as owners of McClellan’s bookstore in Ohio. Forever inseparable, they spent one year working and then traveled to over 200 countries throughout their lives.
During the early 70’s, great cousins inherited the building. Deciding that the home was a “great white elephant,” they sold the belongings and personal effects at a giant tag sale with the sale of the house to Mr. and Mrs. Tracy.
In 1978, the home was converted into a board and care retirement home. In 1985, it was renovated into the Arches Country Inn. The Shanes, Michael, a general contractor, and Melanie, a trained architect and interior designer, purchased the home in 1991, named it The Lilac Inn and spent the next year and a half renovating to capture the feeling of it’s original grandeur. In the Spring of 2001, the current innkeepers, Shelly and Doug Sawyer purchased the inn after searching for two years for an inn to purchase. They had lived in the charming village of Pangbourne on the Thames in Berkshire, England which is when Shelly dreamed of having a Bed & Breakfast Inn someday.
Vermont, with over 600 bed and breakfasts and country inns, is known worldwide for its hospitality and is often called “bed and breakfast central”. However, most of these properties started life as taverns, stagecoach stops or farm houses and have been adapted for guests. What the Sawyers loved about The Lilac Inn was its unique history as a grand house designed for entertaining. From its inception, the home was built with large guest rooms with ensuite bathrooms, generous public spaces, a commercial kitchen and public bathrooms. Except for the front desk the layout of the inn is the same as it was when it was a private residence over a hundred years past.
In the tradition of a stately home custom built for grand entertainment, The Sawyer’s have updated the “Arches” and its gardens to make the The Lilac Inn a leading destination for romantic Vermont getaways and destination weddings. The original horseshoe shape of the building with a tree at its heart now features a cobblestone courtyard perfect for outdoor weddings of up to 250 guests. The spacious air conditioned ballroom is a popular year round Vermont wedding destination for weddings of up to 130 guests. The Lilac Inn has been selected as one of the leading 100 best U.S. wedding destinations by Kathryn Gabriel Loving.