Elevating eco-conscious tourism in Litchfield Hills

Rachel Roth

Kristen Jenson

Elevating eco-conscious tourism in Litchfield Hills

NORFOLK — Manor House Inn has been awarded a Connecticut Green Lodging Certification, and will re-open just in time for Earth Day.

When Rachel Roth and her husband bought the 125+ year-old inn in February 2022, the property was in need of considerable repairs They spent the first seven months balancing accommodating guests and updating the property. Roth’s son worked hard restoring much of the interior space, patching walls, painting, and serving as property manager.

Roth’s initial vision was to develop the property as a wedding venue, but resistance was met by neighbors who were concerned about how that business model would impact Norfolk’s quiet ambiance.

“We received candid feedback from neighbors who expressed concern about the level of activity and traffic. Although I believe we could have executed a venue well with minimal disruption to the neighborhood, I want to build a business that is welcomed by the community,” Roth said.

Other unforeseen events challenged her business. On Nov. 5, 2022, the biggest gas spill in Connecticut history happened right outside. A truck capsized on Route 44, spilling 8,200 gallons of gasoline into the earth and storm sewers, some of which converged on Roth’s property.

Guests were evacuated, power was turned off and no one could tell when it would be safe to reopen. They were forced to close indefinitely with heavy excavation and drilling expected for months.

“Since purchasing the property in Feb of 2022, we’ve been closed for more months than we’ve been open,” said Roth.

Manor House reopened primarily on weekends, ensuring guests were aware of the situation. Roth closed again this past winter to address fire code updates. With Maple Avenue torn up in front of their property for environmental remediation, it has been a challenging journey for Roth that has forced her to rethink her initial vision.

“We purchased the Manor House with the desire to restore it to a condition worthy of its history while building a business that contributes to the local economy and community life,” said Roth.

She explained that before buying the inn, her initial business plan was based on the goals outlined in Norfolk’s 2019 Plan for Conservation & Economic Development; specifically, to bring more young people into town by offering a wedding venue.

She aimed to support economic development (e.g. an upscale hospitality property brings guests who spend money in local shops and restaurants), and to maintain and enhance community assets (e.g. the Manor House is an architectural treasure; one that needs to be financially viable to be well-maintained).

“Ultimately, I believe that vibrant businesses increase property values, reduce the tax burden on property owners, draw young people and visitors into town, and improve the overall quality of communal life,” Roth said.

Now, Manor House has rebranded itself as an eco-friendly luxury boutique hotel with a commitment to sustainable hospitality practices. It has been awarded the Connecticut Green Lodging Certification by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP CT) and the Connecticut Office of Tourism, which offers a certification program for hotels called “Connecticut Green Lodging — Accommodating You and Our Environment.”

“Regarding the Green Lodging Certification, it is a self-certification program set up by DEEP CT and based on accumulating points associated with environmental practices. After researching all the eco-friendly updates we could consider, we made as many changes as possible and submitted our application for state review,” said Roth.

Her new management company, Ray Hospitality Inc., prioritizes environmental stewardship efforts with green initiatives including energy-efficient technologies, eco-friendly amenities, green cleaning products, water conservation measures, waste reduction programs, and locally sourced seasonal culinary offerings that appeal to eco-conscious travelers.

“As stewards of this historic property, we are driven to preserve its timeless charm while embracing sustainable practices that minimize our environmental impact,” she said.

Energy-efficient LED lighting, low-flow water fixtures, and optional linen/room refreshes allow visitors to indulge in premium amenities while conserving precious resources. The inn has also embraced a “reduce, reuse, recycle and upcycle” culture, minimizing single-use plastics and repurposing materials wherever possible.

Sustainably sourced foods complement the eco-friendly accommodations. Guest chefs and food educators are welcomed onsite to offer specialized cooking classes, including an upcoming class on May 11 with Terry Walters from Clean Food, whose focus is on crafting nourishing, seasonal, plant-centric recipes.

“Our development plans will encourage nature-immersive experiences in the Northwest Corner to support wellbeing. It’s truly an enchanting place that I’m passionate about sharing.

Manor House Inn plans to open April 18.

For more information, see the website: www.manorhouse-norfolk.com

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