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Wonderful Walpole

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Academy 20081010-2Walpole Academy (Pictures from Web)

While not exactly a tourist mecca, Walpole, our final New Hampshire destination, does have a few claims to fame:

  • First bridge across Connecticut River (1795)
  • Master builder Aaron Prentiss Howland’s Walpole Academy (1831)
  • Plethora of lilacs here prompt Louisa May Alcott’s Under the Lilacs (1878)
  • Documentary film-maker Ken Burns lives here.
  • Burdick’s chocolates & restaurant

Lucia, one of the innkeepers at Meadowlark Inn, told us about Burdick’s and were we glad we followed up on her enthusiastic recommendation. Absolutely everything about our lunch was superb from beginning to end. It easy to understand why people, like the woman sitting next to us, drive for an hour or more to dine here regularly.

When we left the restaurant, it was raining again, and I didn’t get any more pictures.  I regret that now, as there were some old homes and other buildings we found interesting and it turns out there are few photos of the town available on the web.

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Saint-Gaudens

Other than that portion of the Appalachian Trail which runs through the state, New Hampshire’s only national park site is the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. Located in Cornish, just across the Connecticut River from Windsor, Vermont, the site comprises the home, studio and gardens of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, probably the preeminent American sculptor of the late 19th century. Thanks to the presence of Saint-Gaudens, a summer art colony flourished in the Cornish area from the 1890’s until after the end of World War I, attracting many famous artists and sculptors as well as literary icons and politicians, including the odd President. (Wilson was very odd.)

Our visit was somewhat hampered by on-and-off rain, wind, and the chill factor. Other than the small gift shop, the indoor spaces felt unheated. Touring the house was not offered as an option, possibly because of a group of elementary school students on a field trip. Listening to kids individually react to the sculptures and overhearing a couple of docent-led discussions with the group was the best part.

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hishouse2(Photos of some of Saint-Gauden’s work on display below the fold)

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American Precision Museum

museum1Who’d have thought a museum dedicated to antique shop equipment would be so much fun? The lack of heat in the building (it was 43° outside when we arrived and not much warmer inside) was a minor drawback,  but the American Precision Museum in Windsor provided a fascinating glimpse into early American rifle-making as well as machine tool developments over time.  Like most of the smaller museums we visited, the operation seems to be operated on a shoe-string budget, heavily reliant on volunteer help and in great need of more. At places like this one, we tried to pick up a locally made souvenir relevant to the specific location.

As Wikipedia reports, the museum is “in a building which was once home to the Robbins & Lawrence Armory company. The museum is home to the largest collection of historically significant machine tools in the United States. The Robbins & Lawrence building itself is an outstanding example of New England mid-19th-century mill architecture and in 1966 was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also on the ASME list of historic mechanical engineering landmarks.

The museum shows old machines typical of the American civil war. Among the excellent collection of pieces found numerous guns and rifles of the time. Among other machines can find all sorts of gadgets whose purpose is to create metal parts and gear for other machines.”

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Back North to Windsor

After waking to a windy, very much colder morning with rain expected throughout the day, we scrapped our original plan for a leisurely drive through New Hampshire’s Monadnock region to Harrisville. We decided to head north along the Connecticut River to Windsor, as there were a couple of museums in that area that sounded interesting, dry and warm. (We were right about them being interesting, half-right about them being dry, and 100% wrong about them being warm.)

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Until completion of Ohio’s Smolen-Gulf Bridge in 2008, the 449′-long Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge spanning the Connecticut River since 1866 was the longest such bridge in the United States. Despite being widely referred to as a Vermont covered bridge due to it’s proximity to Windsor, it is actually entirely within the state of New Hampshire.

conshouse

The Vermont Republic was created at the Old Constitution House on July 8, 1777. Vermont’s constitution was the first in the Americas to ban slavery and indentured servitude, provide universal suffrage for adult men, and require free public education for all citizens, both male and female.

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Vermont Country Deli

deli4Established in 1986, the Vermont Country Deli is located outside of town on a small triangular plot bounded by two side streets and a highway.

deli1Although severely damaged by fire in 1990,  traces of the 100-year-old building’s can be seen inside.

deli2The owner told me there 3 chefs created all of the tempting baked goods daily beginning at 2 A.M.

deli3About 2 dozen employees make fresh salads, side dishes, main dishes as well as hot and cold sandwiches to order. The pulled pork in maple barbeque sauce sandwich was magnificent. The sauce wasn’t too heavy, as I often find barbeque sauce to be.

Like our hostesses at Meadowlark Inn, the deli served great coffee roasted locally by Mocha Joe’s. Almost all of the products not created in the store, such as jams and preserves, are made inVermont or other New England states.

Whetstone Brook

While we were in Brattleboro, after giving up trying to turn left across the highway to this gas station:

gasstationI ended up making a right turn and then turned turning left into Creamery Bridge in order to turn around:

Creamery2While filling up at the gas station, I heard the sound of falling water nearby and decided to investigate by peering over the railing alongside this not-pedestrian friendly road:

railingWhat I found was a well-hidden and unmarked waterfall along Whetstone Brook:

waterfall2I also noticed that deli marooned on a triangular island bounded by streets, but that’s another story, not this one.

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Brattleboro

When I mentioned that we were planning to stay in Brattleboro for a couple of nights, a couple of Vermonters responded, “Brattleboro? Are you serious?” Other than a small covered bridge, there aren’t many noteworthy historic buildings or locations in the town. While a nearby north-south interstate diverts most of the traffic  by the town, the main street remains busier than most places we passed through, being part an east-west two-lane highway running from New York to New Hampshire. Galane’s Vermont Shop on Main Street was the best gift & souvenir shop I found on the trip.

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brat2(Middle photo from Web)

Brattleboro is the oldest town in Vermont and, with 12,000 residents, currently its 7th largest by population. (Montpelier, the state capital has about 8,000 residents, making it #13 in the state and the smallest in the United States.) Brattleboro is noted for its large arts community and was rated #9 in John Villani’s book The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America. Brattleboro’s other claim to fame is that Ida May Fuller, the nation’s very first Social Security recipient (#000-000-001), died here at age 100.

We especially liked wandering around the heights just above Main Street. Along High Street and side roads from there, we found many interesting and well-maintained early 20th-century houses. Someone built quite a few Dutch Colonials which reminded me of my house in Portland.

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