PUTNEY -- The first sign that something big was happening at the Putney Inn occurred when the 12 Norwegian spruce trees on the property were cut down.
Former Putney resident Gov. George Aiken donated the trees in 1931 to The Society of Saint Edmunds, a Catholic missionary order that owned the property at the time.
The towering trees were an iconic symbol of the Putney Inn, but there are soon to be new owners of the inn and restaurant and they have plans.
"It was painful for me and a lot of people noticed it," owner Randi Ziter said. "They were in the way of their garden plans and there are going to be changes."
Ziter, whose family has owned The Putney Inn for 37 years, is close to finalizing a deal to sell the 14-acre property to Clearview Investment Management, a real estate investment firm from Connecticut.
The group is going to close the inn and restaurant for the winter and renovate all of the buildings, with plans to add an indoor swimming pool and spa.
The new Putney Inn will open in the spring, with Ziter managing the business.
This Friday night Butterfly Swing Band will play from 7 to 10 p.m. for one final night before the work starts.
The music is free.
"Butterfly Swing Band has been playing every fourth Friday so it seemed like a fitting way to go out," Ziter said. "We wanted to give everyone one more chance to stop by and say ‘hi.'"
Ziter grew up in Brattleboro and her family owned and ran Ziter's Market on Western Avenue.
She grew up in that store working beside her grandfather and when the family purchased the Putney Inn in 1975 she went to work there, eventually taking over the business by herself in 1978.
There were plenty of good years, she recalled, but changes in the ski and hospitality industry have made it harder to keep her books in the black.
Families used to stay at The Putney Inn during ski vacations but with expansions at every ski resort winter sports enthusiasts now drive to the mountain and never leave until it is time to go home.
The Putney Inn also used to be one of the few places to stay before international hotel chains opened up and down Putney Road.
For a family booking a room from Boston or Connecticut it is much more likely they find a major chain hotel in Brattleboro on the Internet before happening upon The Putney Inn.
"We were at the point where we needed to do something dramatic," Ziter said. "But this is an incredible opportunity. There is now incredible potential for continued stages of growth."
Ziter says the business has been on the market for a few years now but she was waiting for the right opportunity to come along.
She believes Clearview Investment Management is the right group to carry the historic property into the 21st century.
The past few weeks have been bittersweet, Ziter said, as former employees and customers stopped by as word spread about the new ownership.
The plans right now are for the group to upgrade all 25 rooms at The Putney Inn and completely renovate the dinning room and function rooms.
Westminster garden designer Gordon Hayward is drawing up plans for the grounds and those 12 historic Norwegian spruce trees are on their way to the mill, where they will be made into floor boards and lumber for the renovation.
All of the work is taking place as The Putney Inn gets ready to celebrate 50 years as a hospitality property.
"It's hard not to be sentimental but I think a lot of positive is going to come from this," she said. "I have been wanting to do this work for a long time but I never had the cash flow. This whole place is going to be transformed. We'll be back in the spring."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.