Friday Vermont Links

Today is the annual downtown & historic preservation conference (combined this year!) in Poultney, VT. The entire conference sounds like fun, but I’m most looking forward to the Streets as Places theme.

Some news from Vermont:

The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation has awarded $186,000 in grant money for preservation and restoration projects throughout the state.

Lake Champlain has reached its record high water level and it seems as though the entire state is flooding. The Charlotte-Essex (NY) ferry is shut down due to high water levels. Rivers and lakes throughout the state are flooding towns across the state. This will create damage for all buildings and displace people and businesses for a time.  If you are aware of a historic building in danger, be alert, now and when the water recedes.

On the night of Sunday April 17, a fire broke out in the historic Brooks House on Main Street in Brattleboro. The five-story French Second Empire building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was home to many businesses and apartments; their fate is unknown at this time.

On a lighter note, the site of the University of Vermont’s first baseball diamond will be recognized on April 30 in the Old North End of Burlington.

Have you heard of the Checkered House Bridge project in Richmond, VT? The metal truss bridge is going to be widened. You can learn more about this unique project on its website.

In connection to Vermont and its tourism, what are your thoughts on covered bridge preservation? A Richmond (Virginia) Times Dispatch article seems to debate the fate and purpose of such a thing. A necessity? An obligation? Too much money? Would a state like Vermont, known for its covered bridges, think it’s a frivolous expense?

A Very Fine Appearance: The Vermont Civil War Photographs of George Houghton was released earlier this month. The book includes over 100 photographs from the Vermont infantry experience during the Civil War. Photographs were all taken by Brattleboro resident George Houghton. You can buy the book in hardcover or paperback through the Vermont Historical Society.

Happy Spring! Happy weekend!

Field of Dreams

In the summer of 2006 I stood on home plate and hit a baseball on the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa.  Yes, I mean Field of Dreams as in Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, and “is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.” Beyond the baseball field was the corn field and along the first baseline were the wooden bleachers. The white farmhouse with its wraparound porch sat overlooking the field. And when I turned around I could see that road we drove to this field is the road that cars drive on at the end of the movie.  The movie was actually filmed in Iowa.   

Approaching the Field of Dreams site in Dyersville, Iowa

Approaching the Field of Dreams site in Dyersville, Iowa

Okay, so it was filmed in 1989, making it 30 years short of our historic benchmark, but Field of Dreams is one of those movies that is so feel-good-Americana that I can’t help but include it here.  When you combine the great American pastime of baseball with the scenic beauty of rural Iowa and cornfields and a man following his dreams, how much better can it get?

Field of Dreams

Field of Dreams

People will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

-Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones)

Field of Dreams site, house and ballfield

Field of Dreams site, house and ballfield

I love Iowa, though most people forget about this state or just associate it with flat cornfields. While there are a lot of those, Iowa is rolling country in its western half (the Loess Hills Scenic Byway) filled with old farmhouses, silos, schoolhouses, cemeteries, county roads mapped on a grid pattern.  Iowa is also home to RAGBRAI, the Great Bike Race Across Iowa. Iowa is worth a visit, trust me. I love cornfields before traveling across Iowa, and I still love cornfields.  If I do ever spend more time there, I probably will end up sounding like Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) in Field Of Dreams: “It’s okay, honey. I… I was just talking to the cornfield.”