Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Weekend in Vermont: August 27-28, 2016--Woodstock and Scenic Byways

Having driven into Vermont via the Lake Champlain Byway on Route 7, we were set for more fine driving on this sunny day.  Leaving Killington, we followed Route 4, the Crossroad of Vermont Byway, going south then east, for about half an hour and found ourselves in beautiful Woodstock, Vermont (not the rock concert place in New York).  Woodstock (population 3.048) has been described as the "quintessential New England town" and voted "the prettiest town in America" by the Ladies' Home Journal.

First settled in 1768, it was incorporated as a town in 1837 and is the county seat for the area.  Although the town prospered through industry for many years, including the lumber trade, it derives most of its income from tourism today.  The Rockefellers have been instrumental in maintaining the appearance of the town and own the very fancy Woodstock Inn, where a nice room for the night in summertime will cost you US$450 and up up up.

The town's central square is called, unsurprisingly, the Green, and real estate around it is apparently the most expensive in the state.  Woodstock has a high number of properties owned by non-residents, reflecting its attractiveness to the wealthy.

Like any good New England place, there is a covered bridge.  The Middle Bridge, a 150 foot span crossing the Otauquechee River, was a replacement for an iron structure that was condemned in 1966.  After debating the cost, it was discovered that an excellent wooden bridge could be constructed for $65,000, or $10,000 cheaper than an iron bridge.  The Middle Bridge was built with no structural metal and opened in 1969.

Unfortunately, in 1974 some town "youths" set it on fire and caused considerable damage.  It was rebuilt--at a cost of $87,000 due to the intricate nature of the woodwork.  Those responsible for the damage had wages garnished to pay for it, and are probably still paying it off today.

The town boasts many attractive buildings.  Here is a selection from just walking around:

The Woodstock History Center occupies the 1807 Dana House

The Woodstock Inn, constructed in 1969 on the grounds of a previous Woodstock Inn built in 1892.
The Norman Williams Public Library, built in 1883
The impressive Romanesque-style library has an interesting history as it was privately established by Mr. Williams' son Edward and the "public" in its name is to indicate it is open to all, free of charge.  It only receives about 40% of its funding from public sources and must raise the remainder privately.  It was constructed from Vermont marble, with Carolina pine interior woodwork.  If offers Internet access in addition to the usual library services.  Woodstock's citizen have free access to the Internet (although they pay for it through their taxes, of course).

Marlyse and Ian at the library

the Fitch House, built in 1827
The First Congregational Church, started in 1807 and added to and modified over the years, with restoration in the 1990s.  It boasts a bell from the Paul Revere Works and Tiffany stained glass windows

The commercial area of Woodstock

F.H. Gillingham & Sons is a Woodstock institution.  This general store has been in operation since 1886 and remains in its original location, although clearly expanded over the years.  It boasts an Otis freight elevator that is one of the oldest in the nation and a startling variety of products, from rubber boots and fishing tackle to gourmet foods and wine.  Vermont products are well-represented, whether cheese, maple syrup, honey, cider or craft beer.  Although the store has an online catalog, it certainly is more fun to wander around the place and enjoy all that there is to see.

The antique Otis elevator

Lots of fine Vermont cheese
Taking our leave of Woodstock, our travels now took us up the Scenic Route 100 Byway, followed by its extension called the Mad River Scenic Byway, and then from Waterbury we followed the 11 mile long Green Mountain Byway to reach Stowe, another noted ski resort area.

In Stowe we took a break for a late lunch at the Idletyme Brewing Company, with not only offered flights of interesting beer but also an imaginative and tasty menu.  We enjoyed sitting on the outdoor patio and enjoying the fine summer air.  Very highly recommended.

The patio at Idletyme Brewing Company
We departed Stowe and headed up the road to Smugglers Notch, a very steep pass in the Green Mountains that derived its name from the illegal trade between Vermont residents and Montreal during the Napoleonic Wars and due to the Embargo Act of 1807.  The road was paved for automobile traffic in 1922, just in time to allow illegal shipments of liquor from Canada to get into the United States.  The road pitches up pretty quickly and some steep curves so there was some quick getting into first gear for me.  

After crossing the Notch, our road went on towards St. Albans and the Interstate.  Soon we were back at Rouses Point and crossing into Canada again.  It had been a terrific weekend with great weather, superb scenery for the driving on the aptly-named Scenic Byways and good company.

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