If you’re in the town of Bennington, and you don’t live or work there, then you’re probably heading for Old Bennington Cemetery behind the Old First Church to see Old Robert Frost’s grave.
The idyllic white church is located at 1 Monument Circle, but directly across the circle, a mere couple dozen or so steps away, is this massive, decay-gray building that was once the Walloomsac Inn. The edifice is three stories of cracked windows, crooked shutters, and rotting boards, making the close arrangement of the two buildings the architectural equivalent of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.
Such an obviously haunted and tragedy-filled house shouldn’t be set so prominently in the middle of the town’s top tourist spot like it is. It should be on the outskirts, down an overgrown road past a cemetery and a swamp. But there it stands, like somebody dragged the town skeleton out of its closet and found out it was made of two-by-fours.
The inn was built in 1771 by a Captain Elijah Dewey, who was the son of one of the ministers at the Old First Church. From there, it got passed through a few families where it was added onto and given its current name. The last owner was Walter Berry, who bought it in 1891. They say presidents have stayed at the inn, the ones most often cited being Rutherford B. Hayes and William Henry Harrison, as well as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who stayed there before they were presidents.
But stuff rots. And sometimes stuff rots in the middle of town. That’s not the astounding part. Nor is the fact that the Walloomsac Inn is still privately owned (although obviously not maintained), when you’d think that such an historic structure would be owned and maintained by the town. But here’s the kicker. People live there. Cannibals, I assume. Or at least the characters from that Home episode of The X-Files. Walking by, we saw a few fresh plants and a nice blue birdhouse adorning the porch. From what I’ve read online, the ones who still live there are the descendants of Walter Berry himself.
Unfortunately, “what I’ve read online” is oddly sparse. I figure that a structure as prominent, historic, and startling as the Walloomsac Inn would have multiple in-depth fan sites dedicated to it, and that the local paper would be running daily articles chronicling its deterioration.
That said, it’s an enigma I don’t really want solved. Because I like it as a spooky, mysterious pile of wood. I wish we would have documented it better on our own visit, but we were there for Frost’s bones and his neighbor here took us completely by surprise. I even forgot to get my picture taken with it. I've never done that before.