Our Favorite State Historic Sites!

June 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Historic sites

Calvin Coolidge House - picnic
Picnickers relaxing at President Coolidge house

Last week-end – June 14-15 – Vermont Days were our excuse to drive around. The weather was gorgeous as we drove through the beautiful hills and farm lands of central Vermont. Every road seemed more of a “scenic drive” than the previous one! Aren’t all roads in Vermont “scenic drives”? On Saturday our exploration took us from Sharon (exit 2 on I89) to Woodstock, the President Coolidge House, in Plymouth (with a quick stop for a famous Vermont maple cremee!), the Eureka School House and finally to Windsor and the Old Constitution House. On Sunday, we enjoyed a long visit of the Justin Morrill Homestead, in Strafford and finally a nice trip back on the very, very picturesque Route 100 all the way to Montpelier.
We’ll describe our visits in the next couple of postings, but for now here is our traveler’s tip of the week: our favorite sites were first the President Coolidge House and second the village of Strafford and the Justin Morrill Homestead. In both places, you should plan to have a good 3 hours if you want to fully enjoy the place without feeling rushed.
The President Coolidge House has lots to offer: the visit of the buildings relating the history of the site at the time of President Coolidge; the gorgeous surroundings where you can enjoy a nice walk or picnic; its restaurant in an old brick house and finally the cheese factory which is still operating (on week days) and which you can visit (and where you can buy the local Plymouth cheese.
The Village of Strafford is no doubt one of the most picturesque villages in Vermont (and the most photographed it seems!). With its white Town Hall standing high above its green common, it has been frozen in time since the 19th century… no sign of any restaurant or gas station here! In the village, still stand the house where Justin Morrill was born, the store where he worked and made his fortune, and the cemetery where he is buried… and of course the homestead he built before becoming Senator Justin Morrill. There we can appreciate both his love for horticulture and farming as you walk the grounds and his love for architecture during a delightful visit of his house…
So make sure to read our next postings for more details on these sites!

Vermont Scenic Drives: Route 17

Chimney Point historic siteRoute 17 is not frequently listed among “scenic drives” but it definitely has a stunning view from the top of the Green Mountains at the Appalachian Gap (great during the foliage season) and lots of sweeping views of the Lake Champlain Valley. It will be enjoyed by people who love far away views and the immensity of the valley (and may be less by people who love the cozy valleys with mountain backdrops, which you find in Central Vermont on the famous route 100).
Route 17 is also very interesting by the great diversity of its landscapes, from the end of Lake Champlain, to the valley, the hills and finally the top of the Green Mountains.
You start at the shore of Lake Champlain (literally!) at “Chimney Point” state historic site (a wonderful spot unto itself). The first half of the drive, about 45 minutes, has you cruising across fabulous farm country in the Champlain Valley with sweeping views to the north and to the south across the flat and rolling farmlands. You can see the Green Mountains in the distance getting closer. The local scenes of farms and landscape are really classic Vermont.
Then, you hit Bristol, and start the “transition” to the Green Mountains. Bristol, itself, is just a perfect example of a 4-block long “Main Street”. The town is very vibrant with stores and restaurants. When we took the drive, last week-end, we enjoyed dinner and a “cold frosty one” at the Bob Cat Brewery (we will be back!).
Within seconds of leaving the town’s main street area heading east, we were into the hills and soon the Green Mountains, rapidly gaining altitude and enjoying the scenery as we headed up the very windy turns (no views there though).
Within 20 minutes, you finally cross through Appalachian Gap which has a very nice panoramic view to the West (fabulous sunset view!).You pass over the Long Trail at over 2,300 feet and then quickly head down the other side. A couple of minutes later, you get a glance of a ski lift. You are at the top of Mad River Glenn Ski area (how many times have you actually driven by the TOP of a ski lift?!). A few more minutes and you pass the bottom of the ski slope and quickly follow the wonderful river shores down towards Vermont’s famous Route 100 and the end of your Route 17 journey…
Pick a great day this summer to do it. Start around 5, stop in Bristol for dinner, and you should be perfectly timed to see the sunset at 8pm from Appalachian Gap.

Post-scriptum: Later this summer, I have done this drive again, but from route 100 to the lake this time… I actually prefer it in this direction. For the first few miles, before you start the climb, the Green Mountains are unbelievably impressive, truly rising as a wall in front of you… Later, Bristol is again a surprise at the end of the descent… and arriving at the lake at Chimney Point is precious. Enjoy!

Related posts:
Sunset on Historic Chimney Point
Brewpubs of Vermont
Enjoy Vermont foliage… Differently