The Village Hotel & Fairbanks Block
Did you know that the Eagle Hotel, on the site of the Woodstock Inn, was not the only major hotel in Woodstock in the 19th century? In fact, a wood-framed hotel dominated the corner of Central and Elm Streets. Elisha Taylor built this hotel in 1796. Taylor named it the Village Hotel. “When the house was ready to be opened, he announced the fact in the following manner:--
The subscriber hereby informs his friends and the public that he has erected a large and convenient House on the east end of Woodstock Green, in the County of Windsor, for the purpose of keeping a
HOUSE OF ENTERTAINMENT,
by the name of VILLAGE HOTEL, at the Sign of the EAGLE, which will be open for the reception of Gentlemen and Ladies of all denominations, on Monday, the 19th day of December instant: Where on account of the largeness of his House, and the strictness of attention that will be paid to all denominations of people (especially travelers) [he] flatters himself that he shall give general satisfaction--- for which Gentlemen and Ladies please to call and see for yourselves. E. TAYLOR.
Woodstock, December 14, 1796”
The History of Woodstock, Henry Swan Dana
Interestingly, the large eagle carved by Moody Taylor associated with Richardson’s Tavern (which became the Eagle Hotel, site of the now Woodstock Inn) was not placed on top of that building until 1830. Therefore, we can assume that the origins of the use of the eagle as a sign for our local lodging establishments started with the Village Hotel.
Taylor also erected a brick block next to his hotel (current TD Bank branch located on Elm Street) in 1807 for selling merchandise. The building was constructed with brick ends, having a storeroom and small office on the lower floor, and in the second story a single apartment fitted for a Masonic Hall. This hall was occupied by Governor Smith and the Council during the session of the Legislature for 1807.
Eliakim Spooner took over management of the Village Hotel in August 1815 until his death in 1820. Spooner supposedly created a water system that served the hotel, which possibly originated from the aqueduct on the Marsh property (now Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park). “Mr. Spooner was among the first inhabitants in Vermont, having settled within the limits of the State prior to the organization of a State government. He was of a very social and companionable disposition, yet withal a man of stern, republican integrity, qualities that furnished him a passport to many of the responsible offices within the gift of the State. He was possessed of an original turn of mind, and it is understood that the aqueduct so much in use sixty years ago along this neighborhood and elsewhere, composed of logs perforated with an auger, was an invention of his. He died in this town, January 3, 1820, in the eightieth year of his age.”
The History of Woodstock, Henry Swan Dana
Spooner sold the Village Hotel in 1819 to Robert Barker. Robert Barker (b. Feb. 1, 1790-d. Jan. 25, 1870) originally came from Bedford, Massachusetts, and moved to Vermont when he was sixteen years old. He came to live with the family of Dudley Chase in Randolph. He found work in 1806 driving the stagecoach which ran from Randolph to Windsor. According to Dana's History of Woodstock, he rose at three in the morning to waken his passengers. While they were readying themselves for the journey, he would harness and hitch up the horses for the trip to Woodstock. Barker stopped at the Village Hotel so that passengers could have breakfast and he could change horses. From there, he drove to Windsor where he met the stages from Boston and New York. He would make his way back to Randolph that night, an eighty-mile roundtrip journey. He supposedly followed this routine twice a week in the summer and winter for more than four years. By 1810, the United States Postal Service awarded the government contract to Barker to carry the mail on the coach.
Barker married Eliakim Spooner's granddaughter, Francis Julia Spooner, in March, 1819. It is more than likely that they met at the Village Hotel, and he courted her there as he was traveling through Woodstock. They eventually had four children together: Frances, Olivia, Julia and George.
Barker, who owned and operated the hotel from 1819-1835, made the most changes to the building by adding a second story to the wing on Elm Street, a third story dancing hall (about 1830) to the main building, and double decker porches facing both Elm and Central.
“Everybody knew Barker and everybody drank at his bar, where Rat Spooner shoved the decanter.” The Vermont Standard
Robert Barker became well known in his capacity as landlord of the hotel. His motto was: “Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest.” The hotel must have been quite a hub of activity with Barker’s connections to the stage and local community. Even local doctors could let out a room at the hotel providing “constant and unremitting attention” to their patrons.