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Exploring the Past in Vermont

Archaeology and History Sites in Vermont

Bellows Falls Petroglyph Site

Located on the Vermont side of the Vilas Bridge over the Connecticut River are the Bellows Falls petroglyphs, rock carvings not quite like any others known in the U.S. Depicting a series of faces with little detail on them, there has been much debate as to their origin. One of the main hypotheses is that they were created by indigenous Abenaki populations prior to being discovered by European Americans in the 18th century.

Coolidge Homestead

The 30th President of the United States was Calvin Coolidge, who grew up in Vermont. Visitors to the town of Plymouth now have the opportunity to explore the house in which he was raised between 1876 and 1887. Coolidge later returned to the house to take his presidential oath of office in 1923. Today, the house is a visitor’s attraction with many original furnishings. Coolidge is buried at the nearby Plymouth Notch Cemetery.

Fort Dummer State Park

Just outside Brattleboro stands Fort Dummer State Park. It was here that the first European American settlement in the area was established, back in the first half of the 18th century. British troops built Fort Dummer here in 1724 to defend from attacks by hostile indigenous communities. In its early years it was guarded by both British and Mohawk soldiers and sustained attacks from the Abenaki. The park offers visitors attractive woodland walks.

Hildene

Hildene in Manchester Center is famous for its associations with the descendants of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s eldest son, Robert, had this mansion built at the turn of the 20th century, and it remained inhabited by the family until the 1970s, when it was bequeathed to the Church of Christ, Scientist. A non-profit organisation took over shortly after and restored the house to its former glory, allowing it to become a heritage attraction.

Hyde Log Cabin

The Hyde Log Cabin on the Grand Isle in Lake Champlain is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Vermont. The cabin was built by Jedediah Hyde, Jr in 1783. He raised ten children in this small, single-storey structure and it remained in the Hyde family for the next century and a half. In 1946 it was moved to its present location and since then has undergone restoration projects.

Mount Independence

Mount Independence in Orwell is an important site in the history of the American Revolutionary War. The fort was built between 1776 and 1777 to protect revolutionary forces from the British loyalist armies. In 1777, the revolutionary forces retreated and the British temporarily occupied the fort. Visitors can explore the six miles of trails traversing the original 18th century fortifications and examine artefacts recovered from the fort at the site museum.

Naulakha (Kipling House)

In the public imagination, the British writer Rudyard Kipling is rarely associated with the U.S. but he lived in Vermont for several years and where he wrote some of his best known work. He had this house, often known as Naulakha, built in Dummerston in 1893 and remained here till 1896. From 1942 it remained abandoned until the Landmark Trust purchased and removed it. The house is now used as a vacation rental.

Old First Congregational Church of Bennington

The Old First Congregational Church of Bennington was built in 1805 according to the designs of the architect Lavius Fillmore. The church itself had previously operated in a building at Old Bennington from 1762, making it the oldest Protestant church in the state. In 1935, the Vermont legislature designated the church as ‘Vermont’s Colonial Shrine’. It remains an active site of worship and is open to visitors on select days throughout the year.

Shelburne Farms

In 1886 the Shelburne Farms were established by William and Eliza Webb, who used their considerable wealth to create what they hoped to be a model farming environment. The landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted and architect Robert Henderson Robertson were brought in to oversee the design of both the grounds and buildings. Since the 1980s, a non-profit educational organization has run Shelburne, which remains an active farm as well as a visitor’s attraction.

Vermont State House

Vermont State House in Montpelier is the seat of the Vermont General Assembly. Built during the 1850s in the Greek Revival architectural style, the present building was designed by Thomas Silloway. This makes it the oldest surviving state capitol in the U.S. A wide range of artworks, including paintings and sculptures, are currently on display inside the State House. Although actively used in state politics, the building is open to visitors.

Museums in Vermont

American Precision Museum

The American Precision Museum in Windsor is devoted to the history of manufacturing in the United States. The museum occupies what was once the Robbins and Lawrence Armory, a gun factory built in 1846. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers have since declared the building an International Heritage Site and Collection for what they see as its global importance. The collection includes manufacturing equipment dating from the 19th century through to recent times.

Bennington Museum

At the Bennington Museum, visitors can learn more about the history of Vermont. The Bennington Historical Association first opened the museum in an old church in 1928 although it has expanded repeatedly since that time. The museum has a large collection of artworks by artists associated with the state, including Grandma Moses and Ralph Earl. Other collections comprise historical artefacts including the Bennington flag linked to the Battle of Bennington in 1777.

Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History

The Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History in Middlebury was founded by its namesake in 1882. An entrepreneur and businessman, Sheldon was a keen collector of historic artefacts and in his later years devoted his attentions to creating a museum. Most of its collections focus on the heritage of Vermont itself, and since Sheldon’s death in 1907 it has continued to obtain artefacts relevant to the communities living in the state.

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

Lake Champlain is probably best known internationally as the reputed home of a Nessie-like monster, but for locals has had greater importance as a source of subsistence and recreation. Spreading over four acres on the shore of the lake, this maritime museum opened in 1986 and since then has focused its attention on the heritage and ecology of the lake, overseeing archaeological investigation of the vessels that have sunk beneath it over the years.

Museum of Everyday Life

At this small, self-service museum in Glover, visitors are encouraged to immerse themselves in the world of the mundane, contemplating the everyday items we rarely give much thought to. Displays delve into such quotidian items as pencils, mirrors, toothbrushes, matches, scissors, and even dust. Affiliated with the museum is the Museum of Everyday Life Performance Company, which carries out puppet shows and other theatrical performances involving everyday objects.

Old Stone House Museum

Brownington’s Old Stone House Museum is one of several historically important structures recognised as being part of the Brownington Village Historic District. Alexander Twilight, the country’s first African-American college graduate, built the Old Stone House in 1836. It initially served as a school dormitory although by the end of the century was left vacant. The Orleans County Historical Society bought the building and later opened it as a museum in 1925.

Shelburne Museum

At the Shelburne Museum near Lake Champlain, visitors can immerse themselves in the world of Americana and the U.S. decorative arts. Electra Havemeyer Webb, a keen collector of American folk art, established the museum in 1947. The material she assembled still forms the main basis of the collection, which includes paintings, textiles, sculptures, and drawings. The museum grounds also host a range of historic buildings saved from various north-eastern states and preserved here.

Sullivan Museum and History Center

The Sullivan Museum and History Center in Northfield is the official museum of Norwich University, a private military college. Named for the U.S. Army General Gordon R. Sullivan, who earned his undergraduate degree at Norwich in 1959, the museum explores both the history of the university and of the U.S. military more broadly. The permanent collection, which includes weapons, uniforms, photographs, documents, and sculptures, is supplemented by a variety of temporary exhibits.

Vermont History Museum

Run by the Vermont Historical Society, the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier explores the heritage of this leafy north-eastern state. It occupies the historic Pavilion Building adjacent to the State House. The museum assembles together a substantial collection of objects through which it tells the story of human habitation in the state from prehistory through to recent times. The museum hosts various temporary exhibits alongside its permanent displays.

Vermont Granite Museum

Located in Barre, the Vermont Granite Museum explores the granite extraction industry and the role that it has played in the Vermont economy since the 19th century. The museum occupies a former Jones Brothers Granite Shed, built in 1895, and which was used for the processing of granite blocks until the Jonas Brothers company terminated its operations in the 1970s. Budding sculptors can also enrol in the museum’s Stone Arts School.

A stone circle in Vermont called Stonehenge, also the Burlington VT Earth Clock.
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