von Trapp

The History of the von Trapp Family

The Story Behind the Story

In the early 1940s, the von Trapp family toured the United States as the Trapp Family Singers before eventually settling in Stowe, Vermont on an enchanted farm with sweeping mountain vistas reminiscent of their beloved Austria. In the summer of 1950, they began welcoming guests to a rustic, 27-room family home/lodge. After a devastating fire in 1980, the original structure was replaced by the new Trapp Family Lodge, a striking, 96-room alpine lodge situated on 2,500 acres offering magnificent indoor and outdoor resort amenities. The entire property is owned and operated by the von Trapp family. You can learn all about the von Trapp family history by reading below or taking a tour while staying at our resort.

Maria Von Trapp The Real Maria

Born on a train en route to Vienna on January 26, 1905, Maria Augusta Kutschera’s anxious entrance into the world set in motion a life full of remarkable and challenging events that would be immortalized on stage and screen. Maria’s mother died when she was only 2 years old and her father left her with an elderly cousin, where she experienced a lonely and strict upbringing.

Surprisingly, Maria grew up as a socialist and atheist who was cynical of all religions, until a chance meeting with a Jesuit priest at her college changed her beliefs and the course of her life. Maria dedicated her life to the convent, but was taken away from the outdoor activities she loved so much. As a result of her lack of fresh air and exercise, her doctor became concerned for her health and the decision was made to send her to the home of retired naval captain, George von Trapp. Her position was not governess to all the children, as the movie portrayed, but specifically to the captain's daughter who was bedridden with rheumatic fever.

The rest is truly history. Maria never returned to the convent and married the Captain on November 26, 1927. This is the story that has been made immortalized by The Sound of Music. Maria von Trapp passed away on March 28, 1987 and is interred in the family cemetery at the Trapp Family Lodge.

Captain Von Trapp Memories of Our Father

The South Seas – I remember Father's dream of taking the entire family to the Marquesas Islands, in the South Seas, where he had visited as a young Naval Cadet. That dream never materialized. Instead we went to America.

The Whistle – As a U-boat commander, he needed a Bosun's Whistle to give commands, especially in the howling winds and roaring sea where a voice could be drowned out. In Salzburg, we had a large house and large gardens, so he used that whistle to call us instead of his voice, which we might not have heard. Each one of us had a special call, and one call for when he wanted all of us. When we heard this, we stormed to him, but we never had to march or stand at attention.

A Few of Our Favorite Things – In our garden, Father built a big, open hut with three walls and a roof. It was large enough to hang hammocks inside and we each got our own. Then he demonstrated how to sleep in them without falling out. He also bought folding, rubber canoes with canvas sails and showed us how to use them. On our little outings, Father taught us how to make fires without matches and how to roast potatoes and apples in the hot cinders. When we lost our money, because the bank failed during the Depression, he started a chicken farm. We learned how to take care of the chicks and how to sift out the ones that did not lay eggs. Agathe's book, Memories Before and After The Sound of Music, contains other wonderful stories about Father.

Werner Von Trapp A Humble Musician

Werner von Trapp was born in Zell am See, Austria in 1915, the fourth child and second son of Captain Georg von Trapp and his first wife, Agathe Whitehead. He studied cello at Salzburg’s Mozarteum in the 1930s, and became proficient on several other instruments, as well as in the art of composing and arranging. He sang tenor with his family’s choir, The Trapp Family Singers, who won great acclaim throughout Europe after their debut in 1935.

The von Trapp family escaped from Nazi occupied Austria when Werner was 23 in 1938. They arrived as refugees in New York where they quickly became popular with concert audiences, performing in the U.S. and 30 other countries until 1956. Werner joined the U.S. Army in 1943 and served in Europe with the ski troops as part of the 10th Mountain Division. After the war, he returned home to the family farm in Stowe, Vermont and resumed touring with the family choir. He married Erika Klambauer in 1948 and the two has six children.

After the Trapp Family Singers retired from the stage, Werner helped found a music school in Reading, Pennsylvania called the Community School of Music. Years later, he and his family settled on a dairy farm in Waitsfield, where he worked until retired in 1979. He spent many years enjoying his family, traveling, and lifelong hobbies before passing away at the age of 91 on October 11, 2007.

Agathe Von Trapp The Eldest Daughter of the von Trapps

Agathe von Trapp, known as Leisl in the movie The Sound of Music, was born in Pola in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Her mother died of Scarlet Fever when Agathe was only 10 years old.

Agathe’s siblings describe her as shy and private. She was a good painter and singer, who toured with the Trapp Family Singers until she was 43. She then moved to Baltimore and lived a quiet life as a kindergarten teacher's helper at a private Catholic school affiliated with the Sacred Heart Parish for many years. Agathe was married to Alan Yuspeh.

At the age of 91, Agathe published her memoirs, Agathe von Trapp: Memories Before and After The Sound of Music, which detailed her family’s history and genealogy as well as how she really felt about the film and Broadway play that portrayed them. The Sound of Music portrayed her father as cold, unfeeling, and distant, but Agathe insists that the Captain was kind, loving, and helped her and her siblings learn to sing. She also states that the family did not cross the Alps to escape Austria after the Captain was asked to serve in the Nazi army. She says they simply crossed the street, boarded a train, and requested asylum in the U.S.

Before The Sound of Music, the von Trapp story was told by the Germans in two films, Die Trapp Familie (The Trapp Family) in 1956 and Die Trapp Familie in Amerika in 1958, both of which were written by Herbert Reinecker and directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner. In 1959, the play, The Sound of Music, opened on Broadway and because of its popularity, Hollywood made it into a film in 1965. The film starred Julie Andrews as Maria and Christopher Plummer as Baron von Trapp. It received an Academy Award for “Best Picture of the Year.” The film is a worldwide favorite, and the family even received medals of honor from the Salzburg government in 1998 because of the increase in tourism caused by the movie.

Even though it is loved by many, the von Trapps insist that the film is not a documentary of their life. Rodgers and Hammerstein were inspired to write it after reading their mother's book, The Story of The Trapp Family. However, because the family sold the rights to their story to the German film company, they had no control over the content of The Sound of Music. As a result, there are some differences, especially in the way their father was represented and the way they escaped Austria.

Date Description
1880 Birth of Georg von Trapp 1905 A native of Zillertal, Tirol, Austria, Maria Augusta Kutschera born in Vienna on January 26th.
1924 Maria becomes a candidate for the novitiate at Nonnberg Benedictine Convent
1926 Maria was chosen by the Mother Abbess to help the Baron Georg von Trapp with his seven children and tutor young Maria who had contracted scarlet fever.
1927 Georg and Maria wed on November 26th; Maria becomes step-mother of Rupert, Werner, Johanna, Agathe, Maria, Martina and Hedwig
1929 Rosmarie von Trapp, Maria and the Baron's first child, is born
1931 Daughter Eleonore born.
1936 Maria and Monsignor Franz Wasner begin the Trapp Family Singers ( originally The Trapp Family Chorus)   
1938 Family flees Nazi-occupied Austria; concert tours throughout Europe followed by a three month tour in America
1939 Family emigrates to U.S. and settles in Merion, PA; Maria's only son, Johannes von Trapp, is born
1942 The Trapp Family purchases part of the old Gale Farm, Stowe, VT, and name it Cor Unum (One Heart), later to become the Trapp Family Lodge
1945 Trapp Music Camp opens
1947 Baron Georg von Trapp dies
1948 First addition made to the lodge to accommodate guests; Pope Pius XII honors Maria with Bene Merenti Medal for Trapp Family Austrian Relief, Inc. which aided thousands of Austrians during World War II
1950 Maria wins St. Francis de Sales Golden Book Award from the Catholic Writers Guild for best book of non fiction, The Trapp Family Singers; award winning Broadway hit and Oscar-winning film, The Sound of Music, based on this book.
1950 Stone chapel built in honor of WWII soldiers
1956 Final Trapp Family Singers concert in the United States
1959 Rodgers & Hammerstein's Sound of Music opens on Broadway; Mary Martin plays Maria
The von Trapp family concentrates on lodge business
1965 The Sound of Music movie premiers, starring Julie Andrews
1967 Maria awarded the Honorary Cross First Class for Science and Art by the Austrian Government for cultural endeavors
1968 Johannes von Trapp oversees the opening of the Cross Country Ski Center, the First of its kind in the U.S. and considered the foremost cross country ski touring center in America today
1980 Old Lodge burns to the ground in tragic fire on December 20th. Cause of the fire remains unknown.
1981 Construction of chalet guest houses and new lodge begins
1983 In December, first guest registers at the new Trapp Family Lodge
1983 Concert in the Meadow series begins
1984 Maria dedicates new lodge; Fitness Center opens
1987 Maria dies after a short illness
1993 Year of Celebrations! 10th Anniversary of new Trapp Family Lodge and 25th Anniversary of the Cross Country Ski Center
1996 Snow Country Magazine names Trapp Family Lodge "Finest Cross-Country Ski Resort in the United States
1997 Austrian Military Academy visits Trapp Family Lodge in honor of Captain Georg von Trapp on the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Full ceremony at the gravesite with von Trapp family in attendance.
2000

The Sound of Music re-opens on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre. Von Trapp family members attend the gala opening.

Family Fun magazine highlights TFL's "Family Package" as the "Family Traveler's Great Deal.

Lodge earns environmental designation as a "Green Hotel in the Green Mountain State."

Gourmet Magazine's Reader's Poll names TFL among the top 5 hotels in America as "Tops for Pursuits and Pleasures" in the Skiing/Winter Sports category.

Trapp Family Lodge adds 24,000 square foot meeting space and accommodations. Three meeting rooms and twenty-three guest rooms and suites.

2004 The first four Villas at Trapp Family Lodge are completed and sold. The project to be spread out over a five year period with a total of forty units built.
2007

Sam von Trapp, son of Johannes becomes Vice President of the Lodge.

Werner dies October 11, 2007.

Trapp Family Lodge starts developing mountain bike trails on the 2500 acre property.

Sam von Trapp implements snowmaking for the cross-country ski center.

2008

The Lodge celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Cross-country ski center.

Johannes & Sam von Trapp were highlighted in the New York Times Christmas Day.

Trapp Family Lodge was featured and ABC National World News along with airing their first commercial during the "The Sound of Music"

2009 The Austrian Tea Room is converted to the Delibakery
2010

Trapp Lager is introduced in April.

Agathe dies  December 28, 2010.

  • My Favorite Songs by Maria von Trapp
  • Maria - My Own Story by Maria Kutschera von Trapp 
  • The Story of The Trapp Family Singers by Maria Kutschera von Trapp - This Book Was the Inspiration for The Sound of Music 
  • Memories Before and After The Sound of Music by Agathe von Trapp 
  • The World of The Trapp Family by William Anderson 
  • The Trapp Family Book by Hans Wilhelm 
  • To The Last Salute - A Memoir Written by Georg von Trapp and Originally Published in Salzburg in 1935

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