Thursday, May 31, 2012

Two Days for the History Books

Vermont State Capitol - Montpelier, VT
May 29, 2012

Tuesday was the day we had chosen to visit our sixth state capital of the trip.  Montpelier, Vermont's state capital city, is the smallest of all the US capital cities with a population of just over 8,000.  It is about 65 miles from Woodstock via I-89 which, of course, we did not take!!  Our planned route took us up Vermont State Highway 12 with a return route via Vermont State Highway 14.  Unfortunately, much of Tuesday looked like this.................

Rainy scene on Vermont Highway 12 just north of Woodstock
May 29, 2012

................and we were quite surprised upon returning home much later that day, to find that we had managed to miss extremely SEVERE weather happening all around us and were currently under a tornado WARNING (something pretty much unheard of in Vermont)!   For us, it had just rained most of the time we were traveling, but fortunately, stopped the entire time we were in Montpelier allowing us to walk everywhere we had wanted to go! 

Our first planned stop at the Porter Music Box Museum in Randolph turned into a disapointment as we learned that despite every printed piece of material we found that said otherwise, the museum was not opening until June 1.  So we quickly moved on arriving in Montpelier just as the rain stopped.

A very helpful lady at the Visitor Center pointed us in the right direction for all the things we wanted to see and added a few suggestions of her own.  The capitol plaza and downtown are so compact that we were able to leave our car in one place for the entire day. 

Vermont's State House, just like all the others, is beautiful and unique in its own right.  Although the current State House is the third to be built, we learned that the House and Senate Chambers are the oldest legislative chambers in their original condition anywhere in the country.  The Senate Chamber still retains its original furnishings.

What stuck us IMMEDIATELY, was the complete absence of any security precautions whatsoever.  That was a first!  Security has been much tighter in some places than others and often those you might expect to be more rigid in their security efforts, are the most laid-back.   But nowhere, until now, has it been totally non-existent.  We entered through a side door as directed and proceeded to wander through the entire building hardly even seeing another soul.  In fact, the emptiness and silence were almost eerie!  But it is a beautiful building.  We particularly enjoyed the Vermont Marble checkerboard flooring in the lobby and the twin marble stairwells leading up to the second floor. 

 Checkerboard Flooring in lobby of state house and one of the twin staircases

 This was the Governor's Office - didn't appear as if it had been occupied in quite some time.
Written material indicated it is used when legislature is in session and for "ceremonial" events.
Not sure where he governs from the rest of the time!!!

Senate Chambers containing all the original furnishings!  

We entered, meandered around freely and exited the building without ever being spoken to by another individual!  Another very interesting experience.

We took a stroll through Faulkner Park, a large city park with many miles of hiking trails and an observation tower located at its highest point.  I couldn't find much history on the park or the tower, but it is obviously a well-used space and we did enjoy climbing the 64-steps into the tower.  On a clearer day, the views in all directions would've been amazing, but even with the overcast skies that day, the landscape was still beautiful.   The tower is not accessible by car and we enjoyed that hour or so of brisk walking.  

 One would have thought they were miles in the backcountry, not directly behind the State Capitol!

 One more picture of a Jack-In-The-Pulpit on steroids!  This thing was three feet tall!  
I had no idea they could grow that large.   

 Observation Tower in Faulkner Park

There were unobstructed long-range views in all four directions - just not on this day!

Following a walk through the downtown area and a delightful lunch at The Skinny Pancake, we headed back towards our home in Woodstock.   After arriving and hearing that we were under a tornado warning, we settled in for what became quite a rocky evening with one severe thunderstorm after another rolling through.  Thankfully it began to settle down by bedtime and we got a good night's rest after a long day.

Somehow, the fact that we would be spending all this time within 15 miles of the Calvin Coolidge birthplace and Presidential Museum had escaped me.  Another of our goals is to visit each of Presidential Museums.  Now I can hear many of you laughing at yet ANOTHER travel goal.  Technically, this one we refer to as one of the looser goals as it's not likely we'll ever meet it, but all of our goals help give us ideas and direction for planning.  

This museum, as it turns out, is one neither of us would have wanted to miss.   It was an excellent use of our time and in the most beautiful setting of Plymouth Notch, Vermont.  Bill's dad and his identical twin, were named after President's Coolidge and Wilson, so that made seeing this even more fun.  

Driving to Plymouth Notch took us along more areas totally washed away by Hurricane Irene.   Twice we crossed temporary roadways where the original road had been completely washed away.

And then we passed this former inn that was unfortunately, missing most of its foundation.  So sad!

At the Calvin Coolidge National Historic Site, which we visited on Wednesday, one is greeted by an awesome Visitor Center housing the Presidential Museum, gift shop and theatre area where an excellent introductory film is shown.  There are guided tours every half hour, but we learned that the tour only stops at two of the sixteen historic sites and then you are free to wander for as long as you like.  We enjoyed the introductory part of the guided tour and did learn some things that were not in the printed material.  The area is so compact and still functions as a tiny village and the lady who conducted our tour had actually been friends with some of the Coolidge's, so she was a wealth of facts and stories.  

Calvin Coolidge was our 30th president and the only president to date who was born on July 4th!  He was actually vacationing in Plymouth Notch when word was received that President Warren Harding had died unexpectedly.  So one is able to visit his birthplace, his homeplace and the place where he was sworn in as the President of the United States.  The room where the swearing in took place (administered by Coolidge's father) remains exactly as it was on that day.  

 Visitor Center at the Calvin Coolidge National Historic Site. 

 Birthplace of Calvin Coolidge.  The cabin is attached to the Plymouth Notch General Store where Coolidge's father was the general manager and eventual owner.

 The Coolidge Homestead.  Calvin and his wife, Grace, returned here often and it was here that he was sworn in as President of the United States following the unexpected death of Warren Harding.

Calvin Coolidge is buried in Plymouth Notch cemetery just across the road from the other buildings.  He died suddenly in 1933 after having suffered a heart attack at the age of 55.  His wife, Grace, who died in 1957, is buried beside him.  It is one of the most non-descript burial sites in a cemetery full of ornate markers.

These were two wonderful days full of seeing and learning new things. 

Thanks for reading!


  1. What a neat couple of days, Sharon. You all really do enjoy that history-stuff.

    I love traveling with my hubby since he knows so much about so many things (and remembers it)... SO--when we travel, I have a built-in tour guide.... Tis wonderful!!!!

    Glad you had such a good time. We've got rain (maybe severe) coming our way tonight/tomorrow. We need rain --but don't want anything severe.

    Glad your trip is going so well.

  2. Other than the storms, it looks like a lovely couple of days! As you know, I get the grumpies when it rains on my vacation time. I don't like feeling soggy all day. :)

  3. Hi!
    I was just scrolling through all your pics on this post and the last post, and was so happy to see pics of Claremont! I was born and raised there and lived there until I got married and moved south about twenty years ago. My father worked in the machine shops that were located just past the mills that you saw.

    Thanks so much for the memory jog. Hope you enjoy the rest of your trip.