The Lost Resort

So far, one of my favorite parts of living in a city (however small Burlington may be, it’s still a city) is that there is always something interesting to explore or observe, no matter if it’s Saturday at the farmers’ market, strolling around town, or running through parks and along the bike path. Burlington has many, many parks so it will take me a while to get to all of them, but I have already been drawn to the historic Oakledge Park.

I slowed to a stop one day as I passed an informational plaque on the side the of the trail that read “The Lost Resort.”  Within a few words I learned that the park was previously a manor, a farm, and a resort (1929-1961). Aside from the manor house and recreational facilities, there were six small cabins that overlooked Lake Champlain. All are long gone, but the six chimneys are still in the woods, free for the public to explore, discover, and ponder. I quickly veered off the paved trail to the small winding wooded trails and found a few chimneys. The hearths sit high above the ground, indicating that the cabins were built on a foundation.

A search on Google led me to the Oakledge Park History website, organized by the University of Vermont Geology Department and the Governor’s Institute of Vermont. The website has historic photographs, resort brochures, histories, and news articles, as well as now and then views of the park. Sadly, the news articles reveal that the main manor house was burned by the city fire department in a training exercise in the 1970s. People who remember Oakledge from their childhood express their sadness in the history and the articles.

Today the park seems very popular (at least in good weather) and it is a beautiful spot on Lake Champlain. The chimneys and the informational signs provide a quick, appreciative glimpse of the area throughout history. I hope everyone is intrigued by at least one of the signs. I’ll probably be pausing on my runs until I’ve read every sign along my way.

Burlington, Vermont

Perfect Vermont coffee, the best scone ever, and the Red Onion Café on Church Street is how Vinny and I began our Thursday in Burlington, Vermont.  After a delayed flight and short night’s sleep in the respectable and locally owned Anchorage Inn of South Burlington, we were anxious to explore Burlington.  Church Street is the renowned pedestrian marketplace in Burlington.  An indoor and outdoor mall that opens to the brick streets, Church Street marketplace was filled with shoppers and browsers on a beautifully sunny day.  It served as a cool summer retreat from the hot, humid southern summer season.  

Church Street is the heart of downtown Burlington, within walking distance (.5 miles) to the University of Vermont and Champlain College and is just a few blocks from the Lake Champlain water front.  When you think of ideal shopping areas and commercial areas, Church Street should be at the top.  The store buildings are historic, employing the practice of rehabilitation.  While some may see or imagine Church Street to be just for tourists and shoppers, therefore not really applicable to everyday Burlington quality of life, this may not be the case.  (My disclaimer is that I did not get to spend more than one day in Burlington so I don’t claim to have any more than that day’s knowledge.)     

Filled with the locally owned stores and restaurants in addition to the chain stores and restaurants, Church Street marketplace gives the impression that residents of Burlington would frequent here just as the tourists do.  Church Street, being in the middle of downtown, is close to other businesses, the colleges, the library, and many residences.  It’s easy to imagine strolling downtown on a Saturday morning to get coffee and visiting the used bookstore.  With the variety of stores and restaurants and nearby businesses, Church Street Marketplace must appeal to people of all ages. A downtown that appeals to all ages is something that all communities should strive to achieve.  With the dynamic cycle of children, teenagers, and adults, places will continue living.  

 

A half mile up the hill from Church Street, is the University of Burlington.  I visited the Graduate Historic Preservation Program in the Wheeler House on South Prospect Street.  It is a great program and the campus is pretty.   Overall, I enjoyed learning about the program and visiting the campus. I like the program and the professors that I met and the UVM preservation does great work in the field.  Professor McCullough informed me that Burlington is the most urban city in Vermont. (Nice.) The photograph below shows the Old Mill at UVM, which is a great example of rehabilitation. 

 

Mostly, Vinny and I had enough time to hang out on Church Street, visit UVM, stroll through the neighborhood streets, and then hurry to catch the 3:30 ferry to Port Kent, New York.  We had preservation travels to continue.  Before this venture to Vermont, we had never been but always wanted to go.  Vermont just sounded like the kind of place that Vinny and I would love: green mountains, gorgeous weather (i.e. snow in the winter and not deadly heat in the summer), an environmentally friendly lifestyle, downtowns and small towns, and a more rural state with few big box retailers staking claim.  While we may have just seen Burlington, if the rest of Vermont is similar, it is definitely worth visiting and a desirable place to live.   Next time, I hope there is more time to visit places such as the Shelburne Museum (with a round barn!) and other towns such as Woodstock and Montpelier.