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The Old Stagecoach Inn: Waterbury’s Victorian Jewel Box

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Exterior view of the Stagecoach Inn. Photo by Don Hirsch.

“If this house doesn’t have a ghost, it should have,” remarks a guest at the Old Stagecoach Inn on Main Street in Waterbury. On the National Registry of Historic Places, the 1826 Federalist-style tavern and residence has been transformed into a gracious Queen Anne mansion with a colorful history, including stories of strange goings-on in certain rooms, reported by guests and housekeepers through the years.

Innkeeper John Barwick is skeptical of the paranormal presence. “The previous owner made a big deal of hauntings, which we tried to ignore when we bought the inn in 1993, but inexplicable things continued to happen.” 

Housekeepers reported bed linens stripped and neatly folded, furniture moved, sounds of footsteps, and the rustling of papers — nothing sinister, but accounts captured in the inn’s scrapbook still send shivers down the spines of visitors. 

A bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey served with after-dinner coffee disappears, then appears in its accustomed spot in the morning. One guest from 2002 wrote that “the atmosphere in Room 2 seemed thick and oppressive, despite its gorgeous décor.” 

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Housekeeper Genevieve Waters recorded a series of events in a room she was cleaning: an alarm clock kept moving from where she had dusted, ending up in the middle of the bed. In 2001, a guest in Room 8 observed a rocking chair rock “in an agitated fashion” and then stop. 

Some staff refused to clean upstairs rooms without a companion. All these reports, as well as observations from paranormal publications, are collected in the scrapbook to entertain the guests. 

Nothing of the spooky greets the visitor to the Old Stagecoach Inn today, except perhaps the garrulous African gray parrot Sophie, who emits the sounds of trucks backing up and cell phones. The parlor is filled with antiques gathered from all over the world: sepia family portraits and scenes of old Vermont farms. Barwick’s grandparents had been missionaries, and so a brass Bedouin brazier perches next to the wing chair, along with furnishings shipped from London, acquired when the Blitz in World War II destroyed many fine homes. 

Jack Berwick Sr., with his son, the current innkeeper, helped buy the inn after looking all over New England, determined to escape the corporate rat race in Connecticut. 

“My dad came here at the age of 69 and loved being an innkeeper — he would perch on this chair and tell tall tales from his eventful life to the guests. His hobby was cooking, and he was always available at the front desk, even as he got older.” Barwick Sr. died at the age of 92, at the inn.

John Barwick, innkeeper. Photo by John Lazenby.

“I’m honored to be a steward of this old clanking structure,” Barwick Jr. muses. “All the things I love are here in Vermont.” An avid skier, he’s noticed that outdoor activities flourished during the pandemic. Visitors booked the inn after coming off the Long Trail to enjoy the enormous breakfast, comfortable beds, and hot showers. 

“They have discovered the swimming holes and even jump off the suspension bridge over the Winooski.” The inn does well from May through summer and foliage season, then at Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, with four ski areas close by.

After the previous owners had gone out of business and the bank took possession, the Barwicks bought the property for $69,000, knowing it needed work. Once derelict after years of being empty, the building is now painted in traditional Victorian colors — mauve, lavender, and burgundy — with a giant carved eagle serving as sentinel to the entrance.

Visitors initially travelled by train to Waterbury, then travelled on by horse-drawn carriage to the inn. By 1898, an electric trolley provided transportation, and now automobiles in the adjoining parking lot attest to visitors from many states this fall weekend.

Today, two resident dachshunds, Rudi and Bennie, cheerfully investigate each corner of the sitting room, but do not seem aware of any paranormal energies. Perhaps the parrot, Sophie, could be trained to emit ghostly noises, squawking “Nevermore” in the middle of the night.