Visiting Vermont
Published: August 1, 2010
By Russ Melocik
Billings Farm, VermontIn all the years we have lived in Vermont and otherwise called it home, we have overlooked a good number of local historic sites. Two come to mind quickly: The Billings Farm and adjacent Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park in Woodstock and the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in nearby Cornish, NH. Each is the only “National Historic” designation in its respective state.

Woodstock has a very long history as, among others, the shire town of Windsor County and, briefly, the meeting place of the Vermont Legislature prior to its moving to Montpelier. It is better known and appreciated as the village Laurence Rockefeller so thoughtfully restored. Think of Colonial Williamsburg but about 125-plus-years younger – and very New England. Now dependent on tourism, the town’s economy once flourished in textile milling and manufacturing thanks to hydro power provided by the Ottauquechee River which, like today’s U.S. Route 4, bisects the village.

Remember the1981 movie Ghost Story with Fred Astaire, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and Walter Pidgeon? Woodstock. How about the Budweiser commercial featuring the Clydesdale Hitch in a snowy nighttime trot through town? Woodstock.

If your plans allow for a visit to Vermont, consider Woodstock. It will be as pretty as the brochures and internet images portray it. Being a largely unmodernized village, there are no wide-berth roads or accessible parking anywhere near the sites. Do bring your comfortable shoes.

The Saint-Gaudens site, a half-hour drive to Cornish, New Hampshire, on the east bank of the Connecticut River, comprises the summer home, studio and grounds of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the Irish/American sculptor. Coin collectors remember him as the designer of the 1905-era Double Eagle gold coin considered to be the most beautiful coin ever issued by the U.S. Mint. The only surviving 1933 edition of this coin fetched some $7 Million at auction a few years back. The grounds, museum and studio are open to self-guided touring. The house tour is conducted by a NPS guide. The gift shop includes a small theatre and features a short film on the Saint-Gaudens experience.

The grounds are RV-accessible thanks to a grassy overflow parking area. If you visit, consider calling ahead to see if the overflow area is available.