ITV Fest: The Independent Television Festival

Looking for something new to watch? Then maybe it’s time to see what the dedicated and passionate independent creators of serialized audio-visual story telling are working on now. When creators want their work to be seen by executives, agents and producers it can be limiting to be at a convention in a big city, or one of the crowd submitting work for consideration to their desks. But in Manchester, the small town Vermont atmosphere brings creators and executives closer together.

ITVFest (the Independent Television Festival) is a worldwide community of television creators, executives, agents and fans responsible for discovering the best new television programs created on independent (aka, non-network) budgets. Throughout the year from New York to Los Angeles and places in between, our global network of creatives, executives and fans gather for seminars, screenings and retreats. It all culminates at the week-long festival in Manchester in October.

The festival is October 11-15th. It is the culmination of other events across the nation, in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, Providence, New York, and Boston. During the long weekend there will be showings of dozens of creative works, socializing events, and free concerts presented on the Town Green. Audience members can buy tickets for the whole event, or pick a day to explore what is on offer. And everyone is welcome.

Several trailers can be viewed online at

“Early Vermont” Gallery Opens at Bennington Museum

A new perminant permanent installation with rotating textiles, a gallery representing life in Vermont from the time when the earliest European settlers arrived in 1761 with only the bare necessities to the early 1800s when Vermont craftsmen achieved a level of sophistication rivaling Boston and New York (1760s to early-1800s). Explored through stories and vignettes, this gallery showcases over 85 major pieces and smaller items from the Museum’s extensive historical collection of over 30,000 objects. “We hope that these objects will serve two distinct purposes. First, to share with the public the deep, rich collection we maintain here at the Museum; Second, to tell fascinating stories of the early life in Vermont.” states Robert Wolterstorff, Executive Director of the Bennington Museum. Housed in the former Decorative Arts Gallery, this 866 square foot space includes beautiful pieces representing the sophistication achieved not long after Vermont was first settled.

Vermont was one of the last areas of New England to be inhabited by Europeans. This land was claimed by both the colonies of New York and New Hampshire, but New Hampshire’s royal governor, Benning Wentworth, began issuing grants for towns in 1749, hoping to realize large profits on the sale of the “New Hampshire Grants.” The established New England colonies were running out of cheap, available land, and the New Hampshire Grants were quickly bought up. New York reasserted its claim of ownership in 1763, with the support King George III, and in 1777, leaders in the New Hampshire Grants, including brothers Ethan and Ira Allen, declared the region an independent republic. They called it Vermont, taken from the French words for “Green Mountains.” In 1791 Vermont joined the Union as the fourteenth state.

By 1810, Vermont was one of the fastest growing states in New England. No longer an isolated frontier, Vermont artisans achieved a level of sophistication that rivaled urban centers of Boston and New York. In Rutland, Nichols Goddard created musical clocks that were masterpieces. The musical tall clock on view represents the height of sophistication available in the United States in the early 1800s. “Very few Americans owned clocks of any sort at this time,” states Raspuzzi, “and musical clocks were certainly a sign of a refined home. None were more mechanically complex, or beautiful than this one.” A set of ten bells and hammers play seven tunes which are listed around the dial of the face. The movement, featuring a day of the month wheel and moon dial with a depiction of a burning ship, was complex and would be the high point of a clockmaker’s career, achieved by only a small fraction of artisans. With its careful sequence of matched mahogany veneers and inlays, the case is a masterpiece in itself derived from high style New York City and New Jersey examples.

Another object in the gallery that represents the early accomplishments of Vermonters is one of the first globes ever made in the United States manufactured by James Wilson of Bradford. A farmer with no formal education, Wilson purchased a set of Encyclopedia Britannica and proceeded to teach himself geography, astronomy, mathematics, and cartography in order to achieve his goal. Beautiful furniture was created by George Stedman of Windsor who crafted complicated “bombe” front chests. This particular chest was a difficult form to make, since each drawer had to be bent and shaped to match the curved front of the chest. The form originated in France, and was popular in the Boston area in the late 1700s. This chest is one of only six known Vermont-made examples that exist in public collections. Both of these examples points to the determination and creativity of early Vermonters.

The portrait of Julius Norton with a flute and piano might raise questions about music and its place in the home. An accomplished musician, Norton played the flute, violin, and piano. His valuable piano reflected the family’s wealth earned from their successful pottery business. The Norton family’s neighbor Hiram Harwood was also a musician and noted entertainments in his diary (in the Museum’s collection) from formal dances held in a local ballroom to small groups of friends dancing in the kitchen. Along with dancing, alcohol flowed freely. On view in the Early Vermont Gallery is Orsamus Merrill’s flute and wine chest which would have been used together.

In many cases through creativity and innovation came prosperity and growth to many upon who settled in Vermont. But this growth would come to a grinding halt in 1825 with the completion of the Erie Canal, which opened up the West with its flat, easily tillable farmland. Thus began a gradual depopulation of Vermont that has continued into the 21st century. Today’s quaint villages and forested hills give little evidence of the early “boom” years. By the twentieth century, Vermont had developed an appeal to tourists as a place that time forgot. The Museum’s “Early Vermont” gallery reminds us of the bold and innovative Vermonters who prospered during the state’s formative years.

Bennington Museum at

Robert Frost Stone House Museum Gifted to Bennington College

For the past 15 years the Shaftsbury home of American poet Robert Frost has been an open museum to his life and work, thanks to donations from Peter J. Stanlis, a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, and support from many others. The Friends of Robert Frost have been keeping the property since then, welcoming visitors, scholars, and poets from all over the world. The Friends of Robert Frost will continue operating the museum through its 2017 season, ending November 1. However, beginning the 2018 season, the operations of the Stone House Museum will be taken up by the Bennington College.

This change has been a long time coming. Although the official succession announcement only came out in September 2017, the Bennington College and Friends of Robert Frost have been excitedly working towards this goal since May 2017, and the Friends have been considering the future of the Museum long before that. Bennington College President Mariko Silver referred to “the College’s storied literary history and our commitment to inquiry-based education” as one of the reasons they were looking forward to the transition. The intention is for the House to become not only a public museum but an education building as well. The College foresees the building becoming an event location for the Literary Department, and a classroom.

Bennington Quiltfest Showcases Cozy Creations

Hosta, by Gail Anderson – 3rd place People’s Choice winner 2016

As fall begins and the weather begins to cool it feels great to pull out a cozy blanket. And when September comes to Bennington the quilts are put on display, creative works from dozens of artisans from far and wide. Each year the Quiet Valley quilters move into the Mount Anthony Middle School and set up a weekend long exhibit that features works from quilt artists and booth displays with sewing machines, fabric, and quilting curiosities. Every inch of available wall space hangs a quilt; from the hallways, to the cafeteria, and even additional walls brought into the auditorium. All the quilts on display are there to showcase the skills of the artist who created them, and as a hopeful for one of the many prizes. Anyone attending the festival can vote for the People’s Choice quilt, in both a full size category and a small quilts category. And judges will be walking the halls searching for the best quilt in the show.

The members of the Quite Valley Quilters will also be offering a display of their Challenge Quilts. The Challenge presented in 2016 instructed them to created quilts based on the board game ‘Clue’, creating an array of colorful wall hangings that showed Ms. Scarletr in the Lounge, Mrs. Peacock in the Conservatory, and Mr. Green Outside the Conservatory to name a few. This years’ Challenge Quilts will also be based on a famous board game, this time drawing inspiration from ‘Monopoly’.

As well as the extensive display there are two lectures presented by the Featured Quilter, a new teacher invited each year to give demonstrations and tips to aspiring quilters. The 2017 Featured Quilter will be Michelle Renee Hiatt, known for her own line of patterns, Sew On the Go, and for Modern 180, a modern pattern division of Deb Tucker’s Studio 180 Design. Additionally, Michelle Renee is a certified Studio 180 Design Instructor. The cafeteria will also be providing a cafe style lunch, and there will be a raffle drawing for ‘Autumn Splendor’ by Nancy Schoerke.

For more information go to:

Autumn Splendor, by Nancy Schoerke – 2017 raffle quilt

The Shires of Vermont: A hotbed of art vibrancy.

For 2014, the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at SMU ranked Bennington County, Vermont as the 15th most vibrant arts community in the US for areas under 1 million people. Although Bennington County, the Shires of Vermont, has less than 50,000 people, when driving the Shires Byway (route 7A) from Bennington to Manchester it becomes clear why it is number 15 in the US.

Starting at the North Bennington train station area (route 67) there are sculptures everywhere thanks to the North Bennington Outdoor Sculpture Show. It’s free; simply drive around and enjoy horses, people and other diverse & creative objects. See the art and activities posted at the Vermont Arts Exchange (802-442-5549) located near the train station on Route 67.

A short drive to the Bennington Museum on Route 9 (75 Main Street; 802-447-157) will open another cornucopia of art both inside and outside. The museum has historic art of old Bennington(Vermont’s first town) including an amazing 1930s 12 x 6 foot color mural of Old Bennington showing the soldiers and prisoners from the Battle of Bennington. You will be able to walk into the same actual school house once used by Grandma Moses, the artist who started painting late in life. There is a large collection of original Grandma Moses paintings. The old cemetery next to Bennington Museum has many examples of old-fashioned gravestone art. The Bennington Center for the Arts (44 Gypsy Lane; 802-442-7158) about 1 mile west on route 9 from the Bennington Museum has various art exhibits including wildlife, Native American, and more. They also have a free audio tour.

As you drive around Bennington, you will see painted moose and catamounts. A fund raising event for charity, moose and catamounts (a species in the panther/lynx family) were painted by various artists. Funds from the sales went to non-profits.

Further up route 7A (the Shires Byway) in Arlington you can take route 313 west for about 4 miles and see the home and studio of Norman Rockwell, the famous illustrator who lived in Arlington from 1939 until 1952. His home and studio are now part of the Inn at the Covered Bridge Green. Be sure to stop at the Sugar Shack (802-375-6747) in Arlington on 7A; they have a complete collection of the Rockwell prints, a history of his paintings and a wonderful film about Rockwell’s life.

Moving on to Manchester, be sure to visit the Southern Vermont Arts Center (802-362-1405) on West Road. The road to the complex of galleries at SVAC has many unique sculptures. The Art Center’s Arkell Pavilion is the site of many performing arts events. There are also many spots in Manchester with visual arts including the Reader’s Park next to the Northshire Bookstore.

To determine times and current exhibits, either call each venue or call the Bennington Chamber of Commerce ( 802-447-3311) or the Manchester Chamber of Commerce (802-362-2100).

Dick Smith is best-selling author on Vermont history and lives in Manchester with his wife, Sharon.

Second Hand & Vintage In The Shires

To quote Henry David Thoreau, “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” Although, it is not the enterprise we must refrain from, but the urgency of purchasing new clothing. This is easily accomplished with the number and quality of secondhand stores in Bennington. From vintage treasures, to wardrobe necessities, even the most finicky buyer is sure to leave town with a grin and still-full pockets.

We’ve all been there, a distant relative gifts us an undesirable item of clothing. Feeling guilty, we throw the item in a bag of unwanted clothes destined for a local consignment store. While secondhand stores and the clothing within them are quite stigmatized, quality items do appear on the racks for a variety of reasons. In like manner of the scenario above, a person is a fashion plate who only wears an item twice before giving it away; a person purchases an item and does not like the way it looks on him or her; a person gains or loses weight; etc. Each of these instances results in some nice clothing entering the secondhand shop.

Unquestionably, we could go to a store like Ralph Lauren, find a high quality article of clothing, and wear it, say, thirty times over the course of several years. That article of clothing might cost us $60, so the cost would be $2 per use. Contrastingly, we might find an appealing item at a local secondhand shop. Sure, it could have been worn a few times already, so we may only get fifteen wears out of it instead of the thirty we might get from the new item. However, that secondhand item only cost us $3. That’s $0.20 per use. In truth, once they meet a minimum standard of quality, clothing really is cost per use.

Downtown Lost and Found
Owner: Lindsay Strattman
Human beings are busy creatures and if we can find a good reason to avoid doing something, we’ll use it. In terms of thrifting/estate sale shopping, time cost is often that reason. At Downtown Lost and Found, you can find the best of both worlds: the convenience of accessible quality goods and unique, one-of-a-kind items sought out at secondhand stores.

Owner Lindsay Strattman began collecting novel, vintage items as a hobby, and later opened Downtown Lost and Found when both her accumulation and love of thrifting grew too extensive not to share. Stocked with articles from estate sales in MA, NH, NJ and NYC, you can browse the shelves of vendors states over, all from good ol’ Bennington.

If you are interested in purchasing antique, vintage or modern furniture, glassware and home goods, but don’t have the time to scour secondhand sales, stop by 435 Main Street in Bennington, or call (802) 442-8884.

Here We Grow
Owner: Jaime Lane
These days it seems that children are growing faster, and arguably more expensive to raise, than ever. I know that for many families, older siblings and relatives give hand-me-downs to their younger wardrobe successors. I also know that for many children, the concept of hand-me-downs is practical yet undesirable. Inexpensive children’s clothing is highly appealing to the caregiver, but kids feel the inherent need to mature with an individual style apart from their siblings.

Owner Jaime Lane recognized the growing demand of an affordable children’s store in Bennington, and, a mother of two children herself, understood its necessity. Here We Grow is stocked through consignment – parents and guardians can purchase clothing for a newborn (at only a couple dollars per item), use the clothing until the child grows out of it, donate it and receive a percentage of the profit in the form of either cash or store credit, which can be used to buy clothing for the child’s next stage of life. The process is both convenient and cost-efficient, as Here We Grow carries clothing for newborns up to a size 12.

The store itself has a clean, family-friendly aura, and even hosts a children’s play area and a large, cushioned chair for nursing. In addition to gently used clothing, Here We Grow offers a variety of shoes, toys, furniture and equipment; check out 473 Main Street, Bennington for inexpensive, quality family items, visit their website, or call (802)-753-7375.

Full Circle Mercantile
Owner: Alisa Young
Upon entering Full Circle, your charming first impression is of thoughtful clutter. Brightly colored vintage parasols adorn the ceiling, shoes march across shelves, and scarves drape across practically everything. Each thing has its place, and most certainly each place has its thing! The racks are ample with clothing of every style and era of imaginable. From everyday essentials, to irresistible curiosities, there seems to be no end to what you can find.

Full Circle offers a delightful mix of old and new items, united by quality and a certain flare for the unusual. With a robust men’s section, extensive children’s area, and ever-changing selection of locally made crafts, Full Circle has something for every wardrobe. In the words of Full Circle’s devoted owner, “We offer an eclectic blend of vintage and modern goods to enchant the most discriminating shopper.” And enchant it does! With an antique mirrored dresser displaying gorgeous handmade jewelry, and a chicken-adorned blackboard sign just feet away, Full Circle feels like a lady’s boudoir with a homey Vermont twist.

If you are interested in exploring this eclectic shop, or consigning some of your own well-loved pieces, drop by 244 North St. For more information, check out Full Circle’s facebook page at, or call (802)-365-1665.

Second Hand Rose
Owner: Cindy Bastarache
As of 2015, Second Hand Rose celebrated its silver anniversary – 25 years of helping locals and tourists alike revamp their wardrobes with high-quality secondhand clothing, and beautiful locally made handicrafts. Although the store may date back to the 90s, the clothing it offers is far from out-dated. Second Hand Rose offers a wide selection of chic contemporary clothing from a variety of prestigious brands.

You should leave your inhibitions about buying used clothing at the door of this expansive store, because Second Hand Rose is not a refuge of the frumpy or tattered that many assume thrift stores to be. In fact, the store’s consigned stock is chosen with great discernment in regard to it’s quality. The store offers clothing for people of every age, gender, size, and clothing preference, as well as select home goods and accessories. In the owner, Cindy Bastarache words, “There’s something for everyone.”

In addition to providing good clothing at reasonable prices, Second Hand Rose is run with a determination to address the incredible wastefulness of the clothing industry today. The owner’s vision for the store revolves around the idea of “being green” – recycling gently-used clothing so as to maximize the resources that go into making it. And, lucky for the customer, bargain rates come as a natural result of that business model because clothing prices no longer have to include a premium to cover the cost of manufacturing or shipping. If you would like to check out Second Hand Rose’s extensive stock, or are looking to donate some of your own things, stop in at 303 Depot St. And make sure to check out their website, or call (802)-447-1563 for more information.

There is something inherently gratifying about purchasing something that once meant something to someone else, and giving it new significance.
Because of this, second hand clothing has character that new clothing altogether lacks. Seeing each purchase as a way to preserve a small piece of history turns the otherwise-mundane task of shopping into an adventure. Here in Bennington we are incredibly lucky to have several high quality secondhand businesses, each occupying a different shopping niche. Whether you are a visitor to the area, or a seasoned local, we highly encourage that you stop by a few of these wonderful shops and see what gem might be waiting there for you.

Story by Emma Ganger-Spivak and Bernie Devito.

Hildene for Harvest and Holidays

Hildene’s abundant gardens may be settling into their winter sleep in late September, but the pace of activity across the 412 acre estate, between then and the first day of winter, December 21, is anything but sleepy.

Dene Farm, the lower portion of the property, has been returned to agriculture, as it was used during the Lincoln years. After more than 3 decades, this year the Lincoln family’s farmland will once again be harvested and grazed. In addition, a bin system for large scale composting and a 160’ by 30’ year round teaching greenhouse are under construction and slated for completion before year’s end, testimony to Hildene’s 21st century commitment to agricultural and ecological sustainability and education.

Through mid-October, guests can access Dene Farm on foot, by tram departing from the Welcome Center on the hour or for an additional fee of $10 take a guided tour by wagon ride at 2:00 daily. When the snow flies boots, snowshoes or x-country skis are the recommended modes of transportation. Autumn is a time of unparalleled beauty in the surrounding Green and Taconic Mountains and as the holiday season approaches, the harvest décor fades like the leaves of autumn and the Christmas trimmings begin to appear.

From December 4 through January 4 it looks to guests as it would have as Robert and Mary prepared for Christmas Eve 1912 more than 100 years ago. The mansion’s windows are candlelit and there’s a fresh scent of balsam amidst floral flourishes and satin ribbon. A selection of holiday tunes from Robert’s collection of Aeolian pipe organ music fills the house daily and on weekends local musicians bring the organ or Mary Harlan Lincoln’s Steinway to life. The tree has been cut and brought in from the woods and its graceful boughs hung with lovely period appropriate ornaments and candles. Saturday, December 5 and Sunday, December 6, dressed in all its finery, and complete with food tastings, The Museum Store at Hildene welcomes neighbors and new friends alike to its annual “Home for the Holidays” open house in the Welcome Center.

No Hildene experience is complete without a visit to the Pullman car, Sunbeam and exhibit, Many Voices, a site on Vermont’s African American Heritage Trail and the Hildene goat dairy and cheese-making facility. Solar powered, it is a model for small scale sustainable farming practices.

Open daily 9:30 to 4:30, docents and staff are available at each site to answer questions about the venue and Hildene’s mission: Values into Action. Admission is $18.00 for adults, $5 for children 6 to 14. Members, volunteers and children under 6 are free. Self-guided are tours included in general admission. Reservations required for guided tours of the home.

Go to for general or tour information. Call 802.362.1788 or email

One World Conservation Center Connecting The Community To Our World

The One World Conservation Center (OWCC) is a nature center in Bennington, Vermont, and works to connect the community and visitors to our natural world. Its Norman and Selma Greenberg Conservation Reserve, located across the street from the Education Center, provides 96 acres of meadow, wetland, and wooded hillside. Trails are open to the public.

The One World Conservation Center aims to connect our community to the local ecosystem by offering a variety of quality educational programs to schools, community groups, and adults.

One World Conservation Center education programs serve adults, families, children, and students of all ages. From natural history lectures held at our Education Center to hands-on science lessons in local classrooms to summer programs, we offer a variety of engaging experiences.

For More Information
Contact; 802-447-7419 or

Located At 413 US Route 7S • Bennington, VT

Relive America’s First Victory On The Shires of Vermont Byway

On May 10, 1775, less than 3 weeks after Lexington and Concord and 240 years ago, Ethan Allen marched north 80 miles from Bennington and in a brazen attack captured massive Fort Ticonderoga for America’s First Victory. Fort Ticonderoga had over 100 canon and 40 foot walls.

Starting in Bennington with only a handful of the legendary Green Mountain Boys at the Catamount Tavern (a statue on Monument Avenue marks the spot of the tavern), Allen went north on Monument Avenue (the original route 7A) through where the Bennington Battle Monument is today. He then went up 7A which is now the Shires Byway through Shaftsbury, Arlington, Sunderland and Manchester recruiting Green Mountain Boys as he went. Green Mountain Boys were sent to guard the roads so the British would not discover this expedition. So hastily was this group formed, one person who was unarmed actually “borrowed” a gun in Arlington. In Manchester, Allen recruited John Roberts and his 5 sons which was the largest immediate family with Allen at Ticonderoga. John Roberts’ grave is in Dellwood cemetery.

Allen left Manchester via Manchester West Road and took what is now route 30 and continued on to Hands Cove which is opposite Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Chamlain. Although Allen had recruited a total of about 250 men, mostly Green Mountain Boys, he only had enough boats to get 83 men across Lake Champlain. A teenager, Nathan Beaman, guided Allen into Fort Ticonderoga. Nathan Beaman’s name is on the War Memorial in Manchester as is John Roberts.

As you drive or bike north on the Shires Byway(route 7A) from Bennington to Manchester, remember you are retracing part of the route Ethan Allen took to capture Fort Ticonderoga for America’s First Victory.

Richard (Dick) Smith is a bestselling author on Vermont history and gives tours for Backroad Discovery Tours.

Explore Scenery and History Along The Shires of Vermont Byway

Bordered by two undulating mountain ranges, the Route 7A Shires of Vermont Byway between Pownal and Manchester beckons the visitor to enjoy scenery, hospitality, recreation, and cultural heritage.

Mohawks and Iroquois traced this path as long ago as 5,000 BC, as evidenced by projectile points, but Vermont was not settled by those of European origin until the 1760s. This Byway, then a crude path marked by occasional slashes on trees, became a principal route of migrating pioneers and their cattle trudging northward from Litchfield and Berkshire counties seeking life in wilderness newly opened to settlement.

Bennington County is known as the Valley of Vermont, framed by the two unspoiled mountain ranges, Greens on the east and Taconics on the west. These mountains provide ever-changing vistas – white with snow in winter, briefly chartreuse in early spring, forest green all summer and spectacularly colorful for a few weeks each autumn. They appeal to the hidden Thoreau in each of us to get out there and explore.

The Shires Byway designation honors the fact that Bennington is Vermont’s only county with two “shire” towns, Bennington and Manchester, each with its own county courthouse. Thus the name links the North Shire and South Shire, terms in common usage today.

Paralleling the Byway are the tracks of the Rutland Railroad, a once-vital transportation line first built in the 1850s. Another parallel route is the Long Trail, a hiker’s “footpath in the wilderness” that follows the mountainous length of Vermont from Massachusetts to Canada. The section from the Massachusetts line to Killington is also part of the Appalachian Trail that meanders from Georgia to Maine.

Each town along the Byway has special character. Pownal, population 3,500, is a scenic town of back roads, bicycle trails, and organic farms against a backdrop of dramatic mountains. Settled early by Dutch families who found fertile soils along the Hoosic River, Pownal settlers used the river to power cotton and woolen mills. Host for a few years in the 1960s to Vermont’s only horse-racing track, Pownal now supports a large solar-power facility in its place.

Bennington, the first town chartered (in 1749) by Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire – who named it for himself – is saturated in history. Its population of 16,000 is about half that of Bennington County. Settled by Congregational Separatists in 1761, Bennington quickly attracted newcomers from southern New England who learned that land they had purchased and cleared in good faith was challenged by New Yorkers. New York may have had the better legal claim but Governor Wentworth was quicker to act. Wentworth chartered about 130 towns in today’s Vermont and gave them names that are mostly still used today.

Upstart Ethan Allen organized militia units, which became known as the Green Mountain Boys, to secure rights to their farms. They succeeded, but the effort took nearly thirty years until Vermont statehood in 1791.

A larger challenge was posed in the summer of 1777 when British troops under General Johnny Burgoyne sought to capture food and horses stored at Bennington. The resulting Battle of Bennington proved to be a major victory for the cause of American independence. As the most important event in the town’s history, the battle has been memorialized by a 306-foot obelisk, visible for miles. It is now Vermont’s most visited State Historic Site.

Bennington is also known for its pottery, its nineteenth-century knitting mills, a diversified economy based on manufacturing, friendly retailing and tourism, a modern regional hospital, and five colleges.

Two villages within the town have developed special character. North Bennington boasts the historic Park-McCullough house museum and is generally enlivened by the innovative Bennington College. Old Bennington, dominated by the battle monument, presents a more quintessential picture of a New England settlement of traditional homes.

Shaftsbury, population 3,600, was an early Baptist town. Today residents are found in rural-agricultural homes along about 85 miles of scenic gravel roads. Robert Frost lived here from 1920 to 1938 and his Stone House is now a museum. Starting in the 1820s the Eagle Square Company developed the steel carpenter’s square into a major industry, now phased out. Today’s major employer specializes in pre-cast concrete products.

Arlington finds its 2,400 residents clustered in three villages. A road called Tory Lane recalls the town’s reputation as a place of divided loyalties during the Revolution. Vermont’s first governor, Thomas Chittenden, lived here long enough to justify the claim as Vermont’s first capital. In a legendary episode, Green Mountain Boy Remember Baker was captured as a “rioter” by marauding Yorkers in 1772 but was rescued by his comrades. Prominent twentieth-century residents included writer-educator Dorothy Canfield Fisher and artist-composer Carl Ruggles. Saturday Evening Post illustrator Norman Rockwell lived next to the scenic West Arlington covered bridge over the Battenkill, famed for its trout. Today Mack Molding, an injection molding facility, provides employment.

Sunderland, population 850, lacks a central village but offers history as home of Ethan and Ira Allen and others active in the early dispute with New York over land rights. About 85 percent of Sunderland is in the Green Mountain National Forest. For explorers, an access point is the picturesque Kelly Stand Road, which climbs in elevation and crosses the Green Mountains on its way toward Stratton. A more dramatic access to mountain scenery is the 5.2-mile Mt. Equinox Skyline Drive, longest private paved toll road in the country. After driving 3,200 vertical feet to the highest point in the Taconic range, one finds panoramic vistas and a visitor center operated by the Carthusian Foundation.

Manchester, a four-season destination, nestled between impressive mountain ranges, is known today for golf, fishing, skiing, the arts, and retailing. Its population of 4,100 includes second-home residents attracted either by nearby ski slopes or retirement living.

Manchester’s thriving tourism industry began before the Civil War when railroads arrived and Franklin Orvis formed his Equinox House. Mary Todd Lincoln and her sons Tad and Robert stayed there in 1863 and 1864 and hoped to return with President Lincoln the next year. In1904 Robert did return to build his ancestral Hildene, now a major cultural attraction. After the Civil War, “summer” became a verb for an elite crowd.

Manchester’s vigorous retailing climate is anchored by the Orvis Company, founded by Charles F. Orvis in 1856. Related is the American Fly Fishing Museum, an outgrowth of the Orvis fly rods. One early twentieth-century industry finished and polished huge chunks of marble that were drawn out of Dorset’s quarries by short-line railroad. Another was the Rich Lumber Company, which hauled logs from the eastern mountainside by another temporary rail line. Hidden away there is the beautiful Lye Brook waterfall, a worthy destination for hikers.

For all these towns, the Green Mountain National Forest to the east is a source of aesthetic inspiration, fresh water supply, timber, wildlife habitat, hunting, fishing, hiking, and exploration.

Glass is HOT In Manchester!

Fun may not be a word you equate with glass, but at Manchester Hot Glass Art Studio & Gallery, fun should be somewhere in their name. From the brightly colored building and yarn bombed tree in the front yard, to the brilliant colored handblown glass and giant graffiti mural in the glassblowing studio, your eyes won’t know where to start!

When you visit, you know instantly this place is all about experiencing fine art and craft in a safe, fun, hands-on way. You can take one of three types of classes in glassblowing; paperweight making, blowing a glass object, and the popular Glassblowing 101. They have also expanded their class offerings into other fine crafts like jewelry, tie-dye and silk dyeing.

Book ahead, they can get busy! Owners Andrew & Trish Weill are both experienced fine artists and teachers in their respective fields, and offer additional services like custom orders, repairs, bridal registries, group classes and more. Everything in the studio is made on premises, or handmade by a friend of the Weill’s. Manchester Hot Glass is located on 79 Elm Street in Manchester Center, Vermont, and is open year-round. Call for reservations, 802-362-2227.

All Around The Shires

Having grown up in The Shires, I’ve come to appreciate just how much our region has to offer. It was not always so. Like many kids growing up, I could not wait to move away from my home town and explore the world. So I traveled around the country and around the world, and in so doing made a surprising discovery… that the place I most loved was right back where I had started. Many agree and our region has long been a destination for travelers to Vermont. Famous for it’s foliage, but not just that, I hope these suggestions will give you some ideas on how you can create your own memories of a lifetime in The Shires.

Each of these suggestions represent a full day of activity. For a more relaxed pace, split over two days and include a night’s stay at a local motel or bed and breakfast. To include a show, do a half tour and then an early dinner to leave time to see a play at Oldcastle Theater or the Dorset Theater.

Arts & Culture Tour #1
• Visit Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home in Manchester
• Drive Historic 7A to Bennington
• Lunch on Main Street and walk the downtown.
• Visit the Bennington Center for the arts
• See a play at Oldcastle Theater
• Dinner at Pangaea in North Bennington

Arts & Culture Tour #2
• Breakfast at the Rooster Cafe in Manchester
• Visit the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester
• Lunch on Main Street in Manchester and walk the downtown
• Drive Historic Route 7A to Bennington
• Visit the Bennington Museum
• Dinner at the Bennington Station Restaurant

Historic Figures: Lincoln, Rockwell, Frost
• Breakfast in Manchester at Up for Breakfast on Main Street
• Visit Hildene – the Lincoln Family Home
• Drive Historic Route 7A
• Stop at the Battenkill Gallery in Arlington to see the Norman Rockwell Exhibit
• Stop at Robert Frost Stone House Museum in Shaftsbury
• Visit the Old First Church just down from the monument to visit Robert Frost’s grave.
• Dinner in Bennington at Lil’ Britain (authentic British Fish & Chips at it’s best!)

History Tour
• Breakfast at the famous Blue Benn Diner in Bennington located on North Street (route 7)
• Visit the Bennington Museum – Military Gallery and Regional History
• Visit the Bennington Battle Monument
• Take a walking tour of Downtown Bennington (available at Downtown Welcome center)
• Lunch in Bennington at the Madison Brew Pub on Main Street
• Drive Route 7A to Manchester
• Visit Museum of American Fly Fishing
• Shop historic Main Street in Manchester
• Dinner in Manchester at Ye Olde Tavern on the northern end of Main Street

Nature Enthusiast (mellow)
• For the Northshire: Fill a lunch basket at Al Ducci’s in Manchester and walk the trails at the Equinox Preserve and eat lunch at Equinox Pond.
• For the Southshire: fill a lunch basket at Powers Market in North Bennington and walk the trails in the Mile-Around Woods by the Historic Park McCullough Mansion in North Bennington, or at Woodford State Park, on Route 9 east of Bennington.

The Shires of Vermont

The Shires Byway – A Treat for Families!

by Dick Smith

Families with kids will have lots of fun on the Shires Byway. The Byway starts in Pownal, VT and passes through the towns of Bennington, Shaftsbury, Arlington, Sunderland and Manchester. Where to find specific information is indicated at the end of this article.

Driving north from the Massachusetts border, notice the 15-acre solar power installation which can be viewed from the road. Continuing north on the Byway, The Apple Barn is an attraction which offers “pick-your-own” berries, apple tastings, hay rides, cider doughnuts, and souvenirs.

In Bennington, there is an elevator ride up to the top of the tallest man-made structure in Vermont, the Bennington Battle Monument, with spectacular 360-degree views of the area. The Covered Bridge Museum and the Bennington Museum are worthwhile stops which offer VT artifacts, art works and cultural displays. You can also drive through 3 real covered bridges in Bennington. Lake Paran has swimming, fishing and boating access. Special events in Bennington include: the Hometown Fun and Fireworks (July 4), the Pro-AM Bike Race (July 5 & 6), Midnight Madness (July 17), A Midsummer Night Prowl (July 19), Battle Day Festivities and Parade (August 15 & 17), and the Garlic and Herb Festival (August 30 & 31).

The next town on the Shires Byway is Shaftsbury where you can take a trail ride at Kimberly Stables and then stop Lake Shaftsbury State park. The park offers canoe/kayak rentals and swimming and is a great spot for a family picnic.

The town of Arlington has a recreation park open to the public and has a kid-friendly par 3 informal golf course. You may wish to take route 313 west for about 4 miles and swim under a covered bridge in the local swimming hole. Another big past-time in the area is renting a large inner tube and tubing down our river, the Battenkill. The Village Peddler in East Arlington offers chocolate treats and other local Vermont items. The Sugar Shack is located a couple of miles north of the center of Arlington on the Byway. It offers a display and film about the famous artist, Norman Rockwell who lived in Arlington. There is a state-of-the-art maple syrup operation on premises. Samples of Vermont cheeses, jams, crackers & cider donuts are offered while you are browsing. Just a short distance to the north is the iconic round Cheese House where you will find loads of Vermont souvenirs, products, and of course a wide variety of cheese!

Further north on the Byway in Sunderland is the entrance to the Equinox Skyline Drive. At the end of the 5 mile drive to the top of Mount Equinox (highest mountain in the Taconic Range) is a new welcome building offering spectacular views.

Next stop is Manchester with its variety of attractions for kids. Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, is a magnificent 412-acre estate with an operating agricultural center. The center includes a goat-cheese making operation and of course goats. Hildene also has a fully preserved Pullman sleeper car, a mansion with Lincoln family memorabilia, stunning gardens and gorgeous views. Robert Todd Lincoln, the builder of the estate, was Abraham Lincoln’s only son that lived to maturity.

In Manchester Village there are several hiking trails at the Equinox Preserveration Trust with all levels of difficulty and length. The fun and bustling Northshire Bookstore is located in the center of town. Manchester Hot Glass has glass blowing demonstrations and offers an opportunity to make your own creations. The Dana Thompson Memorial Park has a first-rate skateboard park, playground, a swimming pool, leash free dog park etc. The Orvis flagship store has an indoor trout pond. As the Town of Manchester image of the juggler shows, there are Streets Festivals usually in July and August. Try the fun and casual Tuesday night concerts on the Town Green.

Throughout the entire length of the Shires Byway, you can rent a bike and enjoy the many biking routes. There is fishing, tubing, and kayaking on the beautiful Batten Kill river which runs through Manchester, Sunderland and Arlington. Of course there is Vermont ice cream, scenic views and some unusual animal watching everywhere.

Does something strike your fancy? You can obtain maps, directions, rental information, etc., about the above activities at several locations along the Shires Byway. (The Bennington State Welcome Center at the intersection of the Shires Byway and route 279; the Bennington Chamber of Commerce on route 7, 802-447-2456 or The Manchester Chamber of Commerce at 39 Bonnet St. 802-362-6313. The various chambers can also let you know about many other events.

Richard (Dick) Smith is a bestselling author on Vermont history and gives tours for Backroad Discovery Tours.

Covered Bridge Facts & Guide

Covered Bridge in Southern Vermont

You may pass through all five Bennington County covered bridges in a standard size automobile – one lane only. Bridges were covered to keep the wood dry and thereby avoid rot. This became the trend in 1805 when a bridge designed by Timothy Palmer, an architect, proved most durable.

Most covered bridges are painted red because iron ochre was an inexpensive pigment. Here is an early recipe for bridge paint: 2 qts skim milk, buttermilk or whey; 8 oz newly slaked lime, 6oz oil from ground flaxseed, 2oz turpentine; 1.5lbs pulverized ochre.

The most common type of covered bridge is the “Town Lattice” style of construction. All Bennington County Bridges are of this type.

There is a parking area and picnic tables located at the Henry Bridge, spanning the Walloomsac River.

Paper Mill Village Bridge
Route 67A .5 mile west of the Silk Road Bridge (watch for sign). Dimensions: 125.5 feet long. 14.25 feet wide. 8.67 feet high at truss. 11.17 feet high at center.

Silk Road Bridge
Located just across from the entrance to Bennington College on Route 67A. Dimensions: 88 feet long, 14.25 feet wide, 10 feet high at truss, 11.9 feet high at center.

Henry Bridge
Located just off Route 67A- turn left on Murphy Road (watch for signs). Dimensions: 117 feet long, 11.8 feet wide, 8.7 feet high at center.

Chiselville Bridge
Just off Route 7A in Arlington. Turn right onto East Arlington Road 1.9 miles to bridge. Dimensions 117 feet long, 11.8 feet wide, 8.7 feet high at truss, 10.9 feet high at center.

West Arlington Bridge
Take a left off Route 7A in Arlington onto Route 313 west 4.4 miles on left side.

Hike or Snowshoe at the Equinox Preservation Trust

The Equinox Preserve covers 914 acres of forest lands on the eastern slopes of Mount Equinox in Manchester, Vermont. It is open to the public for year-round, non-motorized recreation. Over 11 miles of marked and maintained trails provide access to these unique mountainous woodlands.

The land’s owner, the Equinox Resort & Spa,first donated conservation easements on 850 acres to the Vermont Land Trust & The Nature Conservancy of Vermont in 1996. An additional 64 acres of conserved lands were placed under the protection of the Vermont Land Trust in September 2006. The Equinox Preservation Trust was formed in 1996 to oversee the management of these protected lands. Land and trail maintenance and educational programs in the Preserve are managed by the Equinox Preservation Trust Forest and Trails Steward.

First, Only, Oldest, and Tallest on The Shires of Vermont Byway

by Richard Smith

The only county in Vermont that has two “shire” or court towns is Bennington County hence the byway that runs through it on routes 7 and 7A is called The Shires of Vermont Byway. The first town from Massachusetts is Pownal, which was the first town in Vermont named after a Massachusetts governor. Pownal contains what may be the oldest house continuously occupied house in Vermont, the Mooar / Wright / DeVoet house.

Going north, the first town after Pownal is the shire town of Bennington which was the first town chartered in Vermont by Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire. The first resistance by the Green Mountain Boys to New York claims was in Bennington, which also has the tallest man made structure in Vermont – the Bennington Battle Monument. The ratification of the US constitution making Vermont the 14th state, the first after the original 13, took place in the first meetinghouse in Vermont in Old Bennington. Ethan Allen departed from the Catamount Tavern in Old Bennington and marched north with Green Mountain Boys to capture Fort Ticonderoga for America’s First Victory. Not so pleasant but the first person hung in Vermont, David Redding, was hung in Bennington.

The next town north of Bennington is Shaftsbury, which was the birthplace of Jacob Merrit Howard who was the sole author of the 13th amendment to the US Constitution, which was the first and only amendment passed during the civil war and it banned slavery.

After Shaftsbury is Arlington, which was home to Norman Rockwell from 1939-1952. The first of the
famous Four Freedoms, which were painted in Arlington, was Freedom of Speech. The descendents of the person who the painting was based on, James Edgerton, are also from Arlington. Rockwell’s first studio burned down but his second is still in existence in West Arlington. The first governor of Vermont, Thomas Chittenden, also lived in Arlington. Just north of Arlington is Sunderland with its Ira Allen Inn. It is said that Ethan Allen gave the first copy of his book “Reason: the Only Oracle of Man” to his wife while he lived in the Ira Allen Inn.

The last town on the Shires Byway is the shire town of Manchester where the oldest mail order retailer in the US, Orvis, was founded. The first son of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, Robert Todd Lincoln, built his magnificent family home in Manchester, which has 412 acres of spectacular scenery and history. Manchester also was the setting for first wrongful death murder conviction in the US as well as the place the first government, the Council of Safety, of the Republic of Vermont, met. The oldest long-distance hiking trail in the U.S., the Long Trail, goes through Manchester.

Manchester is the last town on the Shires Byway going north. But then again if you are going south on the Shires Byway it is the first.

Richard (Dick) Smith is a best selling author on Vermont history and gives tours for Backroad Discovery Tours

State Parks in The Shires

Fishing at Woodford State Park. Photo credit: Jared Clark, Vermont State Parks

Vermont State Parks offer a place to camp, play, relax, and explore! There are 52 state parks across the state, three of which are in The Shires, all offering a range of unique opportunities, such as great hiking, swimming, boat rentals, concession, vistas, wildlife viewing, and prime camp sites. Vermont State Parks’ website lists each park and the activities and amenities they offer as well as information on reservations, and lots photos of the parks and the people who enjoy them each year.

Woodford State Park (in Woodford, VT) is the highest elevation campground in the state at 2400’ above sea level. With easy trails, an open lake, and a bog to explore, it’s great for all ages. Woodford has boat rentals (canoe, kayak, and rowboats) 103 campsites, and is also a popular fishing location. If you stay overnight, be prepared to be awakened by an outstanding chorus of birds which serenade visitors, especially in the spring.

Lake Shaftsbury State Park (in Shaftsbury, VT) offers visitors a great beach and picnic areas, easy hikes around the lake, and a rental cottage. Row boats, pedal boats, kayaks, and canoes are all available for rent as well as a picnic shelter for large group gatherings. For those that need to refuel, a concession stand located in the park offers yummy snacks at reasonable prices.

Emerald Lake State Park (in East Dorset, VT) includes a small clear, clean, and cold lake where visitors can rent a kayak, canoe, pedal boat or rowboat. A concession stand, lakeside picnic tables, and a picnic pavilion for large groups are also available. 104 campsites are scattered on the heavily wooded ridge above the lake.

Day entry into the parks is $3/per person if you’re 14 or older, $2 for kids under 3-14 yrs. old and free for kids 3 yrs. old and younger. When you pay for entry into one park, you can get into all other for free that same day, so you can visit multiple parks if you’d like.

For more information or to make a reservation call our reservation center, 888-409-7579, Monday – Friday 9am – 4pm, visit, or send an email to

Skyline Drive – A View to Remember

There’s no better way to enjoy the splendor of the Green Mountain State and the surrounding areas of New England than from the privately owned summit of Mount Equinox and the Skyline Drive!

At 3,848 feet above sea level, the summit offers breathtaking sunsets and panoramic views of the Green, White, Adirondack, Berkshire and Taconic mountain ranges. Several paved parking areas provide spectacular views, but most outstanding is the Skyline Drive itself as you drive along the crest of the mountain on your way to the summit. The Green Mountains, The Valley of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire may be seen to the east. The Adirondack Mountains of New York provide the backdrop to the west, and the Taconic and Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts to the south. Guard rails have been installed almost the entire length of the drive making it one of the safest, best engineered, well constructed toll roads in the country. Construction of Skyline drive began in 1941, but was suspended because of the war until 1947, when it was completed. Today it remains as the longest, privately owned, paved toll road in the United States.

Begin your adventure at the Toll House on Historic Route 7A in Sunderland at an elevation of 800 feet. As Skyline Drive winds and twist its way up the mountain, it provides panoramic views of lakes, rivers and valley communities below. There are many vistas and areas for picnics along the 5.2 mile drive, which has a vertical gain of 3,248 feet to the summit. The serenity and beauty of the world famous Battenkill River may be seen meandering thru town, farm and woodland below. There is so much natural beauty that the drive to the summit is half the experience. However, the view from the summit is truly breathtaking and an experience you’ll not soon forget.

Mount Snow and the West River Valley

By our backroads expert, Sharon O’Connor of Backroad Discovery Tours

Newfane Country Store

Newfane Country Store

Savor your morning at Mount Snow Resort (Rte.100, West Dover, VT). The mountain rises to 3,556 ft. In 1954, Walt Schoenknecht, borrowed $20 to use as a down-payment; hence, the former Reuben Snows Farm was transformed into a ski slope. It has since evolved into a year round sports mecca & haven for special fun events. The resort offers scenic chair lift rides, Mt. Bike schools & trails, a climbing wall, BMX & skate park, & 40 mi. of hiking trails. The Grand Summit Hotel, on premises, has a year-round outdoor pool, gourmet restaurant & 400 beautifully appointed rooms. Mt. Snow airport provides private tours & Mt. Snow Country Club is a beautiful public golf course.

Bear in Chair at Mary Meyer

Bear in Chair at Mary Meyer

From the entrance to Mt. Snow, take rte. 100N (9.3mi) to N. Wardsboro. After a general store on the left & Post Office on the right, Rte. 100 will make a sharp left turn, however, go straight across the bridge & turn right. Travel 2.7mi. & turn left onto Newfane Rd. Almost immediately to the right, look for a home with a variety of unusual lawn decor & a giant croquet set-up. On this bucolic dirt road, people will wave as you pass & you will enjoy Vt. at its best (8.1mi).

Enter Newfane, county seat or “shire” town. Explore the town Green & surrounds. The Village Market offers walking maps. Established in 1774, the village was called “Fane” & was moved from the hills to the flats in 1825, using ox-drawn sleighs. The entire village is on the National Register of Historic Places. Notice the Chittenden Bank. In 1884, bricks were hauled in by ox cart; the front bricks were 5 cents, the sides were 3 cents & the back were 2 cents (totaling $6,650). Since the town jail once adjoined a hotel, inmates got the same excellent food as the hotel guests! When visiting, Teddy Roosevelt remarked, “Some day when I’ve got a lot of reading to do & need a rest, I’m coming up here to commit some mild crime!” The Historical Society displays the famous people who were “bred & fed” here (Wed-Sun 12-5). Newfane Country Store has everything from penny candy to hundreds of handmade quilts & serves as the town’s original post office.

The Newfane Flea Market, 1 mi. north on Rte. 30, is the largest in NE & was started in the 1960s when the 5-acre parcel was offered as payment for a $500 grocery bill! (Open Sundays).

Travel north through Harmonyville & Townshend. The latter was twice devastated by fire; therefore many of the buildings are relatively new; a 2-acre village Green is the “happening” place. Grace Cottage Hospital (Vermont’s smallest) is located here. Mary Meyers Toy Factory/Showroom, 1 mile north, is VT’s largest stuffed toy maker & began as a family business over 60 yrs. ago.

Townshend Lake State Park

Townshend Lake State Park

Beyond Mary Meyer, you will see the Scott Covered Bridge (VT’s longest single span bridge). Soon after the bridge, turn left & cross into Townshend Lake State Park, a 41-acre, recreation area with swimming, boating, sailboarding, & hiking. There is a 2.7 mi. steep trail leading to Bald Mt., which meanders past waterfalls, chutes & pools. Upon leaving the park notice the 1700ft. wedge-shaped dam built in 1961 by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Continuing north, you will enter the burg of West Townshend, ancestral home of William Howard Taft. There is a photogenic church just past the 3 corners. The Windham Hill Inn, located in one of Vermont’s prettiest settings, is 1 mile up Windham Hill Rd.

North of town (1.2mi), turn left onto Rte.100S, looping back to Mt. Snow. The road passes through mountain wilderness & by boulder-strewn streams, known for their brook trout. Robert Frost stated that residents of this area are “bilingual;” they speak Yankee & American. Evening meal is still supper & noon meal is dinner. Children can be seen playing dice or hopscotch, fisherman are out catching their evening meal & many residents are enjoying life, watching the world pass by, from their front porches. This is truly… unspoiled Vermont!