We stayed at the Huntington House Inn by chance. Forced by Hurricane Irene to seek emergency shelter, we decided that Rochester was as far as we could go before the storm worsened. This happened to be an extremely precise bit of chance, as the bridges north and south of town were washed out within an hour of our checking in.
We arrived two hours before typical check in time, and one of the owners met us and welcomed us into the Inn. We noticed immediately how nicely appointed the Inn was. There is a large dining room and a small tavern on the first floor with an excellent menu and a well stocked bar. The menu looked to be excellent and the rooms were large and clean. The mattress was more comfortable than my own. Wireless internet was provided free of charge.
Unfortunately, the town lost power, phones, and cell service only a few hours after we arrived, and as of this writing, 4 days later, these services are still down.
Many people will not be aware that this part of Vermont was hit incredibly hard by the storm. The worst flooding in 70 years destroyed many of the bridges and roads, cutting off this town in every direction for several days. And even after ground access was restored, it was over dirt logging roads high in the hills with only one travel lane in many places.
Immediately, Scott and Bobby, opened up their Inn to several other travelers, stuck as we were, and some of the hardest hit locals, many of whom lost their homes and possessions in the flooding.
Additionally, because of the power outage, the Inn prepared all of the food in their kitchen that would have spoiled, and offered it up to everyone in the town, free of charge. After their own supplies ran out, they continued to cook large pot luck diners, consisting of food brought in by locals and businesses who had lost refrigeration. Each of these meals were served to a few hundred people free of charge.
It seemed like the two never stopped working to help those in need and to make sure that the people in town had food and shelter when possible. It was one of the most generous acts of kindness and optimism I've ever seen.
For the most part, this was indicative of the town in general. Our group was stranded for three nights in Rochester, and we interacted with many of the locals. All of the business owners displayed the same friendly and welcoming demeanor as the Huntington's proprietors. Random people on the street knew that we were from out of town, and they would walk up to us, give us updates on the situation, and just have friendly conversation. The demeanor remained incredibly calm and civil in the face of uncertainty.
We hope to stay at here again when we travel through the area, hopefully during the upcoming ski season. The local authorities planned to have power and phones restored within another 3 to 5 days, and while rebuilding the roads and bridges will take much, much longer, the sense of community and concern for ones neighbors left no doubt that Rochester will be back on its feet in no time. Our many thanks go out to Scott and Bobby and the rest of Rochester.