Inn Decadence – The Reluctant Panther

by Marti Mayne / Oct 15, 2008 / 2 comments

Not your typical inn in name or in stature, the Reluctant Panther is one of Manchester, Vermont’s finest gems and the perfect “from tragedy to success” story. As Jerry LaValley watched flames burn the historic inn to the ground just 30 days after he purchased it, he couldn’t imagine how joy could ever breed from such heartbreak.  Yet, tenacity and vision prevailed and two years later, the newly re-built and totally remodeled Reluctant Panther is upscale from roof to basement.  From the moment guests enter the lobby, hand painted with subtle murals of Manchester Center, Vermont, there is a sense of eminence befitting of its sophistication and prime location in the heart of Manchester. Located at the base of Mount Equinox, the inn is a collection of 20 suites situated between three buildings, forming a compound overlooking Manchester Center. A dining room, pub-like tavern, patio and extensive landscaped gardens and grounds offer an impressive oasis for everything romantic trysts from weddings and celebrations, getaways and more.


Reluctant Panther Inn & Restaurant




The name begs explanation.  The Reluctant Panther is rooted in Vermont history.  According to Vermont lore, the panther stands for independence and ferocity in the defense of the home territory.  When former owners Joan and Woody Cornell were converting the 100+ year old home to an inn in the early 1960s, they happened into a discussion on why the panthers still found in the mountains that surround Manchester were rarely seen.  “They’re reluctant to come down with all the people around,” Woody concluded.  “Hummm, reluctant panthers,” replied Joan.  And thus the name for one of New England’s premier inns was born.


While much of the inn re-opened in November, 2006 after extensive rebuilding after the fire, when I stayed six months later the last of the new suites were being debuted for the first time. Each guest suite is a unique masterpiece of stunning décor.  Throughout the inn care has been taken to feature local artisans’, designers’ and crafters’ works.  Furniture from locally owned Orvis, artwork curated by Southern Vermont Arts Center and Crabtree and Evelyn soaps purchased in Manchester are among a long list of locally acquired products. Simon Pearce lamps adorn the Fallen Spruce Room, decorated with lively and colorful fabrics from local designer Susan Sargent.


Care has been taken in guest suites to include all the amenities anyone might need, including I-Pod docking stations, double Jacuzzi tubs with fireplaces, and not one but two flat screen TVs and DVDs in most rooms.  The guest rooms are exceedingly spacious; many are two-room suites with sitting rooms, oversized bathrooms with double whirlpools and large King-bedded guest rooms.  While each room and suite is a work of art, my favorite is the room in which I stayed, the Pond View Suite.  Overlooking the beautiful man-made pond with a fountain and offering a private entrance and deck, the yellow and blue tones along with the sound of the birds at night and morning were exceedingly relaxing.  The room came equipped with two flat screen TVs, two fireplaces, two phones, a glass shower and double Jacuzzi, living room area, and a fabulously comfortable king bed.  Hummm…Inn decadence, I thought. 


I was fortunate to dine in the Reluctant Panther’s dining room, offering an elegant setting with a touch of subtle Vermont chic.  Twin fireplaces burned in two corners of the room, music from the baby grand and candlelight on each table covered with the inn’s signature deep purple and white linens and fresh orchids added a refinement that begged sophistication.  Service was attentive from the delivery of an extensive wine and dinner menu right through dessert. The inn’s signature Lobster and Crabcakes appetizer melted in my mouth, accompanied by a spicy remoulade made from jalapenos and olives.  The Mustard and Herb Crusted Rack of Australian Lamb were basted with a blackberry demi-glace just tart enough to accentuate the flavor of the lamb.  We ended the meal with refreshing strawberry shortcake with lemongrass, a seasonal specialty offering the perfect combination of pungent and sweet tang.


Each morning, the Dining Room is converted to a sunny breakfast restaurant.  Guests are offered a choice of six entrees, ranging from omelets, Croissant French Toast and Pancakes with Vermont syrup to Yogurt Parfaits and home made granola.  A range of juices, coffee and tea accompany the hearty breakfast included in the price of the room.


From the signature purple color branded throughout the inn to baskets of umbrellas at each door and themed Christmas trees in each guest room during the holidays, no details have been overlooked to meet guest needs and exceed their expectations.    While fire tragically gutted the 100+ year old inn in 2005, it delivered an opportunity to create from scratch a treasure of Vermont hospitality. 


Reluctant Panther B&B



To Plan Your Trip

2008 Rates: $219-479 (midweek, off-season, non-holiday November-August) to $299-579 (September-October, holidays)

Address: 17-39 West Road, Manchester Village, VT  05254-0678

Phone: 802-362-2568 or 800-822-2331 for reservations



Photos courtesy and copyright of PJ Walter.



Marti Mayne is the B&B Editor for Wandering Educators.


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