SIA Vermont Tour: Part Two

A recap of the Saturday tour of the Society for Industrial Archaeology’s Vermont 2010 Fall Tour. Read Part One.

To recap, the day began bright and early (well, more like dreary and foggy, but the sun soon appeared) with visits to the Green Mountain Power Plant No. 19, Shelburne Museum, Shelburne Farms, and a jaunt over to Magic Hat Brewery. Those stops comprised the Burlington/Shelburne portion of our day, and then we were Montpelier bound once more.

On the return trip along I-89, we turned off at exit 11 towards Richmond to visit the East Monitor Barn, sister to the restored/reconstructed West Monitor Barn. Thanks to our wonderful tour organizer, Seth, we were able to stop for a while, walk in and around the barn to explore and gaze at the construction, take pictures, and enjoy the gorgeous Saturday afternoon. For me, it was the highlight of the trip. On how many tours do you get to just traipse [gently] through a historic barn? We had to bushwhack a bit to get to the rear of the barn, which made it all the more fun.


The East Monitor Barn in Richmond, VT.



The interior of the main floor of the East Monitor Barn.



The ground level of the barn, a former dairy stable.



The East Monitor Barn -- check out the ghost lines.



Looking up the monitor.


After we’d been entertained by our barn explorations, the bus headed back to Montpelier. Later that evening we all gathered at the Socialist Labor Party Hall in Barre, VT for a banquet and lecture. The hall is a National Historic Landmark, built by the Italian immigrants of Barre. The building is fascinating and undergoing restoration work (donations appreciated!). While the dinner was in the main hall, we had the opportunity to stroll through other spaces of the buildings on the first floor and in the basement.


Old Labor Hall in Barre, VT.



The Labor Hall in the evening.


{Sorry for the blurry Labor Hall photos!} The lecture was given by Ilaria Brancoli Busdraghi of Middlebury College. She gave a wonderful talk about the immigration of Italian granite workers to Barre.

Additionally, dinner was fabulous, catered by JDC’s Just Delicious Catering, which is a part of the Vermont Fresh Network. As an added bonus, the coffee served was my absolute favorite: Vermont Coffee Company, Dark Roast. And the company of fellow SIA members was terrific. Everyone is extremely welcoming, friendly, and knowledgeable. Seriously, these industrial archaeologists have an overwhelming amount of knowledge. There is always an interesting conversation, no matter which direction you turn.

Credit for this amazing day of tour is due to Seth DePasqual, the organizer of the event and fellow SIA member. He planned the tour from all the way from Michigan! Great job, Seth. I only wish I would have more time than just Saturday. Maybe next time.

Young professionals and students, you should really think about joining! The SIA rocks!

SIA Vermont Tour 2010: Part One

Each year the Society for Industrial Archaeology hosts a conference and a separate fall tour for its members. The fall tour is no papers and all fun (kind of like field trip days at school, but for a few days!) The Society traveled throughout Vermont during September 16-19, 2010. They were based in Montpelier, which allowed for easy access to the Barre Granite Quarries, the American Precision Museum, the Orange County Copper Mines, Burlington, walking tours of historic towns, and of course some covered bridges.

While in Colorado Springs in June 2010 for the SIA Conference (see previous posts: SIA 2010 Overview. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four), I had the pleasure of presenting a paper and meeting many members, some of whom were fall tour organizers. Well, they were psyched to meet someone in Vermont to help with aspects of the fall tour. Before I knew it, I volunteered to help with the Vermont tour! And I’m glad I did. While I did not have the opportunity to attend the entire tour, I joined in for the day on Saturday September 18. What fun we had! Without making this post too long, I’ll divide it into two parts. Read on for part one.

The bus departed from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier at a bright and early 7:30am (you can’t waste those touring days by sleeping in!) We headed north I-89 through the typical heavy morning fog, but by the time we arrived at the Green Mountain Power Plant No. 19 in Essex Junction, the shine was shining beautifully. Here we had a plant, which has been generating electricity at Hubbel Falls since 1917.  The 10,000 horsepower plant was at that time the largest in the state.  Today, Plant 19 provides power to 4,000 area homes, saving roughly 60,000 barrels of oil annually. {These facts are borrowed from the SIA Fall Tour brochure.}


Interior of the Green Mountain Power Plant



The power plant as seen along the river.


After the power plant, we headed to Shelburne Museum, where we visited the Ticonderoga, a restored 220 ft steamboat, which is a National Historic Landmark. This boat was in service on Lake Champlain from 1906-1955, when it was transported two miles overland, on a railroad specifically built for it. Today the steamboat is restored and visitors can walk inside. The guides were terrific, and one of them remembered traveling on the Ticonderoga as a young boy.


The Ticonderoga.



Just part of the machinery which attracts the SIA crowd.


From Shelburne Museum we traveled down the road to Shelburne Farms, where we saw perfect views of Lake Champlain, the impressive structure of the Breeding Barn, and partook in some cheese tasting! (It’s absolutely delicious.)


Overlooking Lake Champlain towards the Adirondack Mountains.



You can never have too many views of Lake Champlain.



Inside the breeding barn, which is currently undergoing restoration.



Inside the breeding barn, looking up at some of the metal ties.


Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms are absolutely beautiful and both warrant much longer visits if you have the time. However on limited time, you’d want to see both, which is cause for our busy day. After Shelburne Farms, we stopped at Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington. (Who doesn’t love the process of brewing and some free samples?)

Already it had been quite a busy day and we were only at about 4pm by the time we left Magic Hat. What’s next? A barn in Richmond, VT and a dinner and lecture in a NHL. Stay tuned for more SIA fun!

Read Part Two.

Death of a Barn

By Nicholas Bogosian (author of the series,  A Life in the Trades)

Tim owns an old barn near Fairpoint, Ohio. We tried reaching each other by phone for two weeks. I was needing some old rotten timbers for a wood conservation project in my advanced materials science class. Tim said he had some lying in a stack.

Dirt road after dirt road brought me closer. My cell phone rang. “Hey, this is Tim – wondering if we could plan a different time. I need to talk to some guy about my bulls. Have you already left?” I had. “Yeah – I’m almost there.” “Well, I can show you where the barn is real quick and come back.”

It’s amazing I found his house: “…a gray farmhouse on the left.” I swerved quick to the left when he waved to me from his silver SUV. Two dogs approached my car – a big yellow lab and a tiny black chihuahua with a pink cast for a leg. I quickly grabbed my gloves, my camera, my moisture meter, and my tape recorder. I got into his car. “The barn’s probably a hundred years old. I really wanted to preserve it.” “So what’s wrong with the timbers? Insects? Rot?” “I’m not sure. They’re laying in a stack. You can dig out what you need.”

We pulled up a steep hill. He paused and pointed off to the right to a wall of thick trees: “It’s right through there. I’ll be back in a half hour.” I got out of the car. I was expecting some expansive hill with an aged barn sitting neatly at its top. Nevertheless, I began walking through the high grass. Slowly, pieces of sun-damaged timbers started showing up, strewn on the ground around me. I finally got past the trees and saw the barn.

Photo by Nicholas Bogosian.

I was not expecting for the stack of timbers to be so large or for the barn to be non-existent. Initially, despite his helping me, I was a little aggravated that Tim hadn’t once mentioned that the barn had fallen down and that this was the “stack” that I was to find my experimental pieces. Green vining plants had overgrown the stack, trees were sprouting through summer beams, spiders had webbed homes in knee braces, hand-wrought nails were breaking off beams like chalk as I stepped over them.

Photo by Nicholas Bogosian.

I looked to my left and saw a tall wall of stacked limestone creating a shoring wall to a plateau of trees. A massive joist had fallen from its ledge within the wall. It was hard to make sense of anything. The debris was so confusing, I would never be able to salvage anything quickly. I continued walking across beams like a high-wire walker looking down to the crawl space beneath me. The slate roof had fallen. It had all fallen. The pieces were scattered like the bottom of a creek bed. They snapped beneath my careful steps.

Photo by Nicholas Bogosian.

I kept waiting for Tim’s arrival – suddenly appearing behind a camouflage of trees. Everything became still. It all felt very quiet except for the bird that occasionally greeted me with an enthusiastic, “Hey!”

I realized I had never seen anything like this before. I remembered Dave’s lectures in our Theory of Structures class and the simple truth that all acts of building are in opposition to nature. We store its members with potential energy when we hew down the logs, when we hoist the timbers, when we hammer the treenail into the joint. But nature works from day one to bring it down.

Photo by Nicholas Bogosian.

And so there I was in the middle of nowhere standing on top of the last remnants of what used to be something. Nature had not depleted the barn of its energy. It still held the memory of before. It was as if the whole thing would have picked itself back up again if it could. But that was not going to happen, and I was not particularly hopeful of it either. Despite the confusion of letting an old barn (more like 160-years-old) get to a state where it could topple over, I was happy that I got to witness its burying grounds, to stand on its beams and feel the rush of memory – that distant memory of peeking inside old abandoned homes as a kid, that respectful hush that falls over us, and the uneasiness of our intrusion.

Vermont in Pictures

As I’ve proclaimed, I love Vermont.  For Part 2 of my love letter to the state, to show rather than tell, here is a collection of some of my favorite Vermont photographs that I’ve snapped throughout this past year. Enjoy this entirely subjective selection, much of which is landscaped focused.

Our drive up I-89, August 2009.

Lake Champlain, August 2009.

The Lake Champlain Bikepath, September 2009.

Charlotte, VT, October 2009.

Charlotte, VT, October 2009.

Windham County, October 2009.

Windham County, October 2009.

Overlooking Burlington and the Adirondacks at sunset in December 2009.

Overlooking Burlington and the Adirondacks at sunset in December 2009.

Snowfall at UVM in February 2010.

Lake Champlain sunset as seen from Burlington's Battery Park, March 2010.

The long awaited spring sky, April 2010.

Snow at the end of April 2010.

Playing by the river, May 2010.

The Lake Champlain Bikepath, June 2010.

Billings Farm in Woodstock, VT, June 2010.

On my drive to work in Addison County, June 2010.

Summer sky, July 2010.

Calais, VT, July 2010.

Calais, VT, July 2010.

Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks as seen from Chimney Point VT, July 2010.

Cottonwood on Lake Champlain, West Addison, VT, July 2010.

America’s Kitchens at the Long Island Museum

Currently at the Long Island Museum of Art, History, and Carriages (the Stony Brook Carriage Museum) is the Historic New England traveling exhibit, “America’s Kitchens.” The museum is located on Route 25A in Stony Brook, NY.  The main buildings are the art museum and the carriage museum and there is a collection of historic buildings including a blacksmith shop, a barn, a schoolhouse, and a privy.

We were most excited for the America’s Kitchens exhibit so we headed to the art museum first, where the exhibit is housed. Pictures were allowed, so here are a few.

The entrance to the exhibit.

The exhibit included a few period kitchens from historic houses and displays of changing technology such as ovens and refrigerators.

Food preservation display.

Food preservation display: barrels with sand, ice box, a 1930s refrigerator and 1950s refrigerator (both by General Electric).

1874 "Victorian" kitchen from Illinois.

Post World War II Kitchen.

An easy bake oven, 1975-1985.

We enjoyed the entire exhibit and had a good time looking at everyone, but we came out feeling like it was not thorough enough. The layout may be different in each place, but the layout here wasn’t exactly chronological. It just seemed to be too much of an overview, and we kept wanting to know more. We wanted to open the ovens and learn more about the gadgets. A few other small groups of people walked in while we were there but didn’t spend as much time as we did, so maybe we are just really into kitchens. Other visitors seemed to enjoy it as well.

After America’s Kitchens we walked around the grounds and looked into the other buildings. It was a beautiful day for strolling the grounds. We did not visit the carriage museum, though we have previously (school field trips).

Looking down the hill from the art museum.

The barn at the museum. Inside are the three bays (threshing floor, hay mow, and stalls) with many farm tools.

The school house and privy.

Inside the blacksmith shop.

The grounds at the museum with a fountain for the people and horses of New York, dated 1880.

For anyone in the area, we would recommend the entire museum. Admission prices are $9 for adults and $4 for students. It’s a beautiful place. After the museum, walk down the street to the historic grist mill, the duck pond, and Avalon Park.