A Visit to Wilmington

If you’re a preservationist in Vermont, you know Wilmington for the 2012 Historic Preservation and Downtown conference and the 2011 flooding of Tropical Storm Irene, among other reasons. If you’re an out-of-stater, you probably know Wilmington as a ski town; Mount Snow is just up the road. And maybe you’ve all heard about Dot’s Restaurant (The NY Times reported on its reopening last December). Wilmington is a beautiful small town in southern Vermont with a good stock of architecture, amenities for visitors and pleasant streets. Take a look (side note: click on the photographs to enlarge, and see them with better clarity). 

Wilmington is currently filled with giant chairs.

Wilmington is currently filled with giant chairs.

Ascending front gables on South Main Street.

Ascending front gables on South Main Street.

The 1898 Crafts Inn.

The 1898 Crafts Inn.

Route 9 & Route 100. Check out those brackets!

Route 9 & Route 100. Check out those brackets!

This building is undergoing renovations (still, post flood). It is the 1930 Parmalee & Howe Drugstore.

This building is undergoing renovations (still, post flood). It is the 1930 Parmalee & Howe Drugstore.

The intersection of Route 9 and Route 100 features a beautiful pocket park.

The intersection of Route 9 and Route 100 features a beautiful pocket park.

Looking for more history? Read the entire National Register nomination here. It’s now available online thanks to the massive digitization effort by Vermont Division for Historic Preservation (our SHPO office). And it’s almost leaf peeping season, followed by ski season. Enjoy Vermont if you’re coming for a visit!

Abandoned Vermont: Reading House

Over the years, I’ve driven past this house many times getting that “abandoned” vibe from it, then noticing broken windows, overgrown brush, yet a mowed lawn. Maybe it wasn’t entirely abandoned, but certainly no one lived in this house. Finally I stopped to take some photographs. Considering how long it’s been neglected and vacant, it is in good condition. Who needs a house in Reading, Vermont? Advice for when you cannot information about a property (e.g. if it’s for sale): call the town offices.

Surrounded by trees.

Surrounded by trees.

The side of the house.

The side of the house.

The rear of the house is a bit more worn. But the slate roof is gorgeous.

The rear of the house is a bit more worn. But the slate roof is gorgeous.

The porch has seen better days, and this rear ell.

The porch has seen better days, and this rear ell.

Beautiful back porch (you probably remember this photo from an Instagram post).

Beautiful back porch (you probably remember this photo from an Instagram post).

The interior is not too far gone.

The interior is not too far gone.

Seen through the back door, not in such great shape.

Seen through the back door, not in such great shape.

But it might need some plaster. This Rutland Patching Plaster is from nearby Rutland, VT!

But it might need some plaster. This Rutland Patching Plaster is from nearby Rutland, VT!

Beautiful doorknobs!

Beautiful doorknobs!

Barn view from the porch.

Barn view from the porch.

Front of the barn.

Front of the barn.

The front of the house is hard to see from the road, as the road sits further behind this photographer.

The front of the house is hard to see from the road, as the road sits further behind this photographer.

What a beautiful property, isn’t it? It hasn’t been surveyed (that I can find), and is not listed in the State or National Register. However, I’m sure you could make a strong case for eligibility in Reading, VT. What do you love most: original windows, hardwood, wood details, doorknobs, slate roof?

Vermont: A Green State or Just Green Mountains?

Vermont is known by its nickname, The Green Mountain State. (Really, it’s on our license plates.) And we are a green state. We Vermonters recycle just about everything. People are active and love the outdoors, have urban chickens or large rural, gardens. Reusable plastic bags are commonplace. People live off-grid and have solar powered houses. Living machines clean water at the rest area on I-89 in Sharon. There is a huge focus on local food and local businesses.  It’s an entirely different culture than I’ve lived in before. Sometimes the organic, granola, hippie image fits.

Yet, our towns and villages are spread far apart and many people live down winding roads, far from neighbors. Vermont is not immune to sprawl, poor development. Perhaps our population of just over 600,000 keeps it from being as noticeable as it is in other places. Vermont is not known for its public transit. Rural environments are beautiful, but it means that people often drive for every errand or outing. Small towns lack basic amenities because there is not enough population to support it. For all of the fuel-efficient cars out there, just as many or more drive larger, gas-guzzling vehicles. Vermonters drive a lot because they have to.

Overall, that doesn’t sound very green, does it? An interesting Environment 360 article from a few years back (2009) argues that New York City is the greenest place on earth, not Vermont, which is what most people think (read below).

…Vermont, in many important ways, sets a poor environmental example. Spreading people thinly across the countryside, Vermont-style, may make them look and feel green, but it actually increases the damage they do to the environment while also making that damage harder to see and to address. In the categories that matter the most, Vermont ranks low in comparison with many other American places. It has no truly significant public transit system (other than its school bus routes), and, because its population is so dispersed, it is one of the most heavily automobile-dependent states in the country. A typical Vermonter consumes 545 gallons of gasoline per year — almost a hundred gallons more than the national average.

Fast forward to 2014 (5 years after the above article), and Vermont does have public transit. It’s not significant, but it’s improving and is used by many commuters. For my own experiments, I’ve been attempting to take the bus to/from work (Burlington – Montpelier) because it actually is cheaper than driving, and it uses my time more efficiently. It’s easy enough to do a few per week, but could I get along without a car. It would be a lifestyle change. Living in Burlington or Montpelier is easier than other places if you’re trying to live car-free. Some crazy, intrepid folks bike to work year-round! And with the Burlington-based CarShareVT (similar to Zipcar), more and more people are learning to live car-free or one-car-per-household. Of course, some lifestyles do not allow this. Students are often able to do this, but those of us in the working and commuting world have a more difficult time.

Lately, I’m pondering how life would be without a car in Vermont. I like to think of it as going urban: living downtown, getting around on bike or bus, staying local, traveling by plane for greater distances. It’s not something I’m immediately ready or able to do, but it’s floating around in my head. Going urban in Vermont would be a challenge, though if you’re a core downtown area with everyday services, it’s not impossible. And it would come with great benefits, but challenges, too. Perhaps the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. In some places in Vermont, it would be impossible. The question that this brings to mind is: just how urban (read: environmentally friendly) can you go? Where do you live? Can you live car-free? Would you take that jump to do so? What do you think of Vermont? Green living? Green in color?

And, is living a sustainable lifestyle connected to preservation, for you? To me, it keeps the focus on the local environment and local economy, which is most definitely affiliated with historic preservation.

Preservation Photos #236

An 1848 Greek Revival style church in Weybridge, VT.

An 1848 Greek Revival style church in the Weybridge Hill Historic District. 

Vermont is filled with picture-perfect skies and beautiful historic buildings.

Being a Tourist by Trolley

The Burlington Traction Company trolley in Burlington, VT, 1906. Photo source: UVM Landscape Change program.

The Burlington Traction Company trolley in Burlington, VT, 1906. Photo source: UVM Landscape Change program.

Eighty-four years after burning a trolley in the street, to signify the end of the streetcar era, Burlington, VT once again has trolleys rolling about the city. Maybe these aren’t electric streetcars on steel rails, but they are historic and do take people around the city.

The Historic Trolley Tours of Burlington began in summer 2012, offering historical tours of the city as well as chartered trolleys for special events. Ride onboard one of trolleys and you’ll likely have the owner, Ric Crossman, as your tour guide. He gives the tours, instructs the drivers, and his wife does the research and script writing. The couple got the idea for Burlington trolley tours after visiting places like St. Augustine, FL and enjoying the trolley tours there.

In Burlington you choose between the north tour or the south tour. A few weeks ago, I hopped on the trolley for a north tour, hoping to learn more about the city. The 1.5 hour tour did just that, taking loops through the north side of Burlington in places that I don’t often get to explore. I appreciate a good tour. This one was accomplished by making figure 8s through some areas that way you were able to see both sides of the street and hear the history, without having to look in every direction at once. The tour is given by recording, but it is keyed to the GPS location of the bus, and our tour guide was able to pause the recording, add more information and comment.

On a sunny spring afternoon, it was fun to play tourist in my own city – see some photos below. Ric Crossman hopes to add tours, improve the tours and expand operations. He’s off to a good start.  Next time, I’ll take the south tour. Any trolley tours by you?

All aboard. When not in operation, the trolleys are parked near Perkins Pier in Burlington.

All aboard. When not in operation, the trolleys are parked near Perkins Pier in Burlington.

Otherwise you can catch a ride from the bottom of College Street, at the Visitor Info building at the RR tracks (near the Echo Center).

Otherwise you can catch a ride from the bottom of College Street, at the Visitor Info building at the RR tracks (near the Echo Center).

The owner found this trolley from a company in Quebec. Keeping it local (basically).

The owner found this trolley from a company in Quebec. Keeping it local (basically).

The immaculate interior of the trolley.

The immaculate interior of the trolley.

Trolley view of Church Street.

Trolley view of Church Street.

Funky new redevelopment in the Old North End.

Funky new redevelopment in the Old North End.

A historic firehouse.

The oldest firehouse in Burlington on Mansfield Avenue.

Crossing into Winooski, the Champlain Mill in the background.

Crossing into Winooski, the Champlain Mill in the background.

Over the Winooski River (Winooski is Burlington's neighbor). Don't look too closely at the railing.

Over the Winooski River (Winooski is Burlington’s neighbor). Don’t look too closely at the railing.

Owner, tour guide, Ric Crossman dressed to play the part.

Owner, tour guide, Ric Crossman dressed to play the part.

Preservation Photos #235

Many of Winooski's historic mill buildings have been rehabilitated to mixed-use spaces filled with lofts and commercial and retail space.

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Preservation & Wine

What could be better than a summer day of good company, beautiful scenery, local Vermont wine – all in the name of preservation!? Look no further than the Vermont Preservation & Wine tour on Friday June 27, 2014. Only 54 tickets are available, so buy them now! If you’re interested or have any questions, let me know.

Click for a larger version of the brochure.

Click for a larger version of the brochure.

Preservation Photos #233

Fair Haven, Vermont.

Fair Haven, Vermont.

The house of last week’s Preservation Photos #232. This 1867 house was built by the A.C. Hopson and is known as one of the earliest and most outstanding examples of French Second Empire style in Vermont. It was the home of Ira Allen, a prominent Fair Haven businessman. Today the house is the Marble Mansion Inn.

Changing my Transit Ways

Happy Spring, all. If Spring has arrived in Vermont, it must have found you by now. I hope! A quick question for your Monday morning: what is your preferred mode of travel in the good weather? I’ve been calling these days the happy weather in Vermont. It’s warm, beautiful, people are out and about, everyone’s mood has lifted.

And after a refreshing weekend of barely any need for a car, I’m attempting to scale down my daily vehicle use and rely on the bus, if possible for work, and my feet and bicycle for in town trips. It’s not entirely possible or easy, but perhaps a good (affordable, healthy) challenge for the next five or six months.

Have you altered your transit? How and for what reasons? Financial? Environmental? Efficiency?

Pink dogwoods for spring.

Pink dogwoods for spring.