Last year, Dr. Tony Donn, 89, received an unusual group of guests at his 35-room Colonial Revival mansion set high on a hill in East Burke, overlooking the Kingdom Trails. The editors of Bike Magazine moved in while they compiled an issue, rode the 100 miles of trails that run from Burklyn’s back door and explored Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.
Though he wasn’t a mountain biker himself, the wealthy New York eye surgeon was following in the footsteps of Burklyn’s original owner and builder, Elmer Darling, in hoping to promote the area as a recreation destination, this time promoting mountain biking as well as skiing. As Donn told Bike, “Recreation is this town’s greatest hope.”
This past spring, around the same time that Burke Mountain Resort handed over to a court-appointed receiver (the SEC accused previous owner Ariel Quiros of fraudulent use of EB-5 fund), Dr. Donn passed away at age 90. The mansion which sits high on Darling Hill, surrounded by 86 acres of fields, forests and trails was put up for sale for $4,500,000. And, it’s currently listed on AirBnb for $1500 a night (three night minimum).
“It’s the type of place that needs a loving owner,” says realtor Kurt Zschau of the local Sotheby’s/Four Seasons office. Ideally, an owner who follows in the civic-minded mold of Donn and Burklyn’s original builder, Elmer Darling.
A New York hotelier, Darling bought Burke Mountain in 1904 and began amassing land around it until he became the owner of the largest farm in Vermont. The former co-owner of New York’s Fifth Avenue Hotel, he fell in love with the area and in 1905 began building Burklyn Hall, so named because the Burke and Lyndonville town line runs through the private dining room.
Darling studied architecture at MIT and played a hand in designing and building his dream home. By one estimate, 300,000 feet of lumber were used to build the home – much of it cut on Darling’s surrounding 12 square miles of land. Marble from Italy, Africa and elsewhere was used in the mantel facings. Detailed work typical of the Georgian period is everywhere, from the intricate crown moldings and wainscoting to the Darling coat of arms which sits above the foyer fireplace. It’s just one of ten fireplaces in the home, each with its own style of mantle and marble facing. Ten bathrooms are scattered throughout the house, which also features a butler’s pantry, a wine cellar, billiards room and formal dining room.
Twelve bedrooms, each originally named for a view (such as Willoughby) look out on the meadows and outbuildings as well as Burke Mountain. Darling raised Morgan horses and his horse stable, indoor riding arena and show barn still sit on the property. He also worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps to cut many of the trails that are now part of Burke Mountains’ network of ski trails.
With the growing popularity of the Kingdom Trails, a new hotel on Burke Mountain and both that resort and Burklyn up for sale, there’s a chance this corner of the Northeast Kingdom is ready to relive its glory days… …if only another Elmer Darling or Tony Dunn can step forward.
All photos and video by Jim Mauchly of Mountain Graphics. For more information, contact Kurt Zschau