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September 9, 2005

A special world at the Trapp Family Lodge

The Herald (VT)

There's a scene in Thorton Wilder's play "Our Town" in which a woman fantasizes about seeing Paris, then comments, "Only it seems to me that once in your life before you die you ought to see a country where they don't talk in English and don't even want to." Well, visiting the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe doesn't necessitate going overseas or learning a new language, but it does provide the distinctive experience that Julia Gibbs was longing for. That comes in large part from visiting a place where a strong sense of history and an abiding appreciation for the land, landscape and people combine with old-world European charm to provide an unforgettable experience.

What makes this resort extra special is its distinctive Austrian ambiance and keen sense of history, which is shared with visitors via photographs displayed throughout the lodge and the documentary "The Real Maria," which is shown daily. By experiencing the family's history in this intimate way, guests gain a greater sense of the people who began life over in a new land and greater appreciation for the enduring human spirit. As most people know from having seen Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music," the Austrian widower Capt. Georg von Trapp married Maria, one of his children's tutors. The family performed as a famed singing group, but faced with Nazi occupation of their beloved Austria, fled to America in 1938.

What is less well known today is that upon arrival in the United States, they toured as the Trapp Family Singers, traveling all over the country in a bus for four years. The family settled in a Stowe farmhouse in 1942, choosing the area for its topography and climate, which were reminiscent of their homeland. They started life over again, farming and offering the Trapp Family Music Camp as well as continuing to go on musical tours until 1956.

It was while they were touring that the farmhouse's rooms were first rented out to visitors. By 1948, Trapp's was so popular that an addition had to be put on, leading to what became the nationally renowned Trapp Family Lodge. Over time, the children grew up and went their individual ways, but some stayed to help (the late) Maria operate the guest business, expanding the original lodge and then replacing it after a fire destroyed it in 1980. The youngest son Johannes became the general manager and also developed the Trapp Family Cross-Country Ski Touring Center in 1968, the first commercial touring center in North America. Today, the resort includes a village of 100 guest houses developed as timeshares in the1980s and new luxury villas fractional ownership real estate and continues to be owned and operated by Johannes von Trapp. The land is still being farmed and much of the acreage is in conservation.

The Singers usually sang a cappella and there is a group of great grandchildren, The von Trapp Children, who continue their a cappella singing tradition.

Posted by acapnews at September 9, 2005 12:07 AM