Kevin O’Connor Photo
A portrait of Rudyard Kipling looks over visitors to his Vermont home, which hosted a rare public viewing Tuesday.
When a 26-year-old Rudyard Kipling sailed across the Atlantic in 1892 to settle in Vermont, he envisioned building a home similar in shape to the vessel transporting him.
“He imagined he would ride his ‘ship’ over the mountains,” says Kelly Carlin, one of its current caretakers.
And so Kipling and his new wife built Naulakha — the Hindi word means “great jewel” — on a Dummerston hillside overlooking Brattleboro and the Connecticut River.
Nearly a century and a quarter later, the house is owned by the Landmark Trust USA, which offered a rare public viewing Tuesday in honor of the London-based Kipling Society traveling to the state for its first meeting outside the United Kingdom.
“If Mr. Kipling was here today,” Carlin told visitors, “he would recognize the house.”
That’s because, after Kipling returned to England in 1896, the property stayed within the family, then sat unused for 50 years before the nonprofit trust purchased it in 1991. It is now offered for vacation rental.
First, however, its new owners needed to evict several interloping raccoons.
“But the pictures were still on the walls, the curtains were still in the windows, and the house was still fully furnished,” Carlin said.
Finding the original architectural plans, the trust has restored the house to look as it did when Kipling wrote “The Jungle Book” and “Captains Courageous” and conceived “Kim” and “Just So Stories” there.
(The latter came when, on the loggia, his children would ask him to repeat a favorite story “just so.”)
Visitors on Tuesday could touch Kipling’s original dining room table (although they were encouraged not to) and browse his study and its wall of classic books.
The house features large, light-filled windows because, upon its construction, the electrical wires that served Brattleboro had yet to make their way to the outskirts of neighboring Dummerston.
“Sort of like we still can’t get cable out here today,” Carlin said.
Upstairs, visitors could see not only the Nobel literature laureate’s bed but also his bathtub — which the current president of the Kipling Society, Lt. Col. Roger Ayers, confessed to trying out after sleeping over in a nearby guest room.
“I find it marvelous,” Ayers said of the house. “Very evocative.”
People who want to learn more for themselves can visit the Landmark Trust USA website at landmarktrustusa.org.
One note to potential visitors: Kipling’s library isn’t for lending.
“People sometimes snatch a book,” Carlin said. “They think we’re not going to notice.”
She confided a secret: Caretakers always do.
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