The Notch House
STORY BY Allison Pohle photography by Jesse Lenz
At the close of the last ice age in what is now northeast Vermont, the earth began to crack and thaw and breathe. Water flowed in between two tall, strong mountains called Pisgah and Hor, where it would collect into a thin pool. The finger-like, glacial body would come to be known as Willoughby Lake. It remained an oft-unseen treasure buried by mountains and 7,000 acres of forest until 1860, when a ship captain named Robert van Arsdale built the area’s first vacation house on a hilly perch framed by the mountains.
The house passed hands over the years, but in 2010, Polly and Jamie Yerkes won it in an auction from the state. They spent a year and a half redecorating the house, during which Polly scouted out the perfect furnishings at salvage yards. “It has a funky feel to it but that old-world quality, too,” Polly says. “We want our guests to feel like it’s their own when they step into it.” Since the renovation, guests ranging from wedding parties to puzzle-building groups have stayed in the eight-bedroom estate. Here’s a quick guide to making the most of your stay in this majestic house.
During a weeklong visit, it’s easy to forget a world exists outside of the Notch House, especially because the area receives limited cell and Wi-Fi service—if any at all. But with more than 20 miles of scenic recreational hiking trails overlooking the water, winding bike routes, and crystal-clear waters for swimming and scuba diving in the summer, as well as pathways for cross-country skiing in the winter, there’s never a shortage of activities.
That is, if you can bring yourself to leave. Every morning, guests can build fires, cozy up in a Victorian chair with a cup of coffee and read a book before joining their friends on the lawn with Bloody Marys for a game of croquet. At night, Notch House dwellers can gather outside for a bonfire under the stars.
Crafty cuisinières will be at home in the house’s large, fully stocked kitchen, where guests can cook meals to feed the 16 to 20 people who can fit comfortably in the dining room. The house also has a bar with a wraparound copper top and antique lighting.
If you want to venture out beyond the dining room, and farther, beyond the grilling patio, there are many restaurants within driving distance. One local favorite is The Parker Pie Co., home to specialty pizzas and live music, as well as Mike’s Tiki Bar, an outdoor hut with a dance floor and food-truck grub.
The eight main house bedrooms, with colorful names including Peacock and Aubergine, sleep 18 to 22. The property also has a one-bedroom cabin that was once an old carriage house, which is now perfect for newlyweds visiting during wedding season. The antique bedrooms are the ideal place to wind down after a day spent in Vermont’s shrouded lake kingdom.