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There is an unsophisticated permanence about Bennington, Vermont, tucked as it is in a valley in the southwestern corner of the Green Mountain state. The city has a classiness about it that defies the ages. Old Bennington was chartered in 1749 and first settled in 1761. By the mid-nineteenth century the area was an industrial hub and one of the most desirable locations to live in the north east. During the late nineteenth century, many city folk came to escape the heat and to enjoy the healthy fresh mountain air. A few built the large and elegant homes that line Bennington's streets, as summer residences.
Today, Bennington is alive with history. The Revolutionary War is remembered with three hundred and four foot tall Bennington Monument that commemorates a battle which took place in August 1777. The age of Victorian elegance is displayed at the Park-McCullough House, a thirty-five roomed Victorian mansion with period furniture, antique clothing and a great collection of antique carriages. Bennington Museum & Grandma Moses Schoolhouse has outstanding collections of American glass, Vermont ceramics and Revolutionary War artifacts, not to forget the extensive collection of Grandma Moses paintings.
Although grand commercial blocks indicate a prosperous time when manufacturing was king, part of the city's current charm and lure lies not in the distant past, but in the second half of the twentieth century. Who has not heard of Robert Frost, the poet who immortalized rural America during the early 1900's? Frost lived in the state of Vermont. After his death, his body was interred in the cemetery at First Church on Monument Avenue in Old Bennington. The Avenue is lined with some of the best examples of old colonial architecture in the state. The Church, surrounded by a gorgeous high white wooden fence, is easy to find.
Small signs point the way to Frost's simple stone that overlooks his beloved green mountain. There is no monolithic monument to mark the final resting place of the man who wrote "The Road Not Taken". There are always flowers on the grave as a steady stream of Frostophiles visit the quiet corner that marks the man's final resting place.
The cemetery warrants closer inspection. It is one of the earliest in Vermont and a Mecca for genealogists and family historians. Inscriptions on stones tell the story of people whose lives were forged surrounding peaks and valleys. An imposing mausoleum sports a magnificent Tiffany window that can only be seen by looking through entrance bars and past the moldering interior. Long-time servants were buried in the Colgate family plot. C1806 Old First Church is an architectural beauty and historical landmark. If the door is open, step inside for a look around.
More recent attractions can be found on West Main Street. Bennington Motor Inn and Hemmings Motors, two local landmarks are located below the cemetery and just past the Museum. During the 1950's when gas was cheap and automobiles the vehicle of choice for restless people, a variety of accommodations were built to house the throngs that descended on southern Vermont. Bennington Motor Inn is an excellent well-maintained example of mid-twentieth century "tourist" architecture. The pretty white building is located at 143 W. Main Street. Its architectural style with cosy verandahs on first and second floors, is pure " Americana". The Zink family knows what an architectural treasure they own and run the business more like a cosy country inn than motel. Decorative touches in the rooms make visitors feel like they are guests in a private home. The evening we stayed at Bennington Motor Inn a number of classic and antique cars were parked out-front, which brings me to the second attraction located directly across the street, Hemmings Motor News Classic Old-Time Sunoco Filling Station.
First time visitors to Bennington think they are in a time-warp because of the ever changing selection of vintage and antique cars parked around the service station lot. Take a close look you'll see that the building is great example of mid-century retail architecture but don't be fooled. This isn't your local "change-the-oil" garage. It sports more than gas pumps. It is automobilia at its best. Advertised as an outstanding car lovers convenience store, the shop with an excellent selection of car-oriented gifts including toys, models, books and videos. You can buy snacks, health food and pick up tourist information. There are traveler necessities and Vermont products for sale too. You can also bring your car in for a fill-up at the old-fashioned full-service Sunoco filling station. Attendants will pump your gas, wash your windows, headlights and tail lights, check your oil and inflate your ties.
The headquarters for Hemmings Motor News, known for their various car newspapers, magazines and books, is located in a brick building next door to the filling station. At various times during the business week private tours can be arranged to see the Hemmings Auto Collection which is housed in the headquarters building.
Hungry? Bennington Bagel Company is a short walk from both the Motor Inn and Filling Station. Try one of their innovative bagel combinations for breakfast or lunch. West Main Street leads directly to Bennington's historic centre of commerce with its great architecture, tree-lined streets and old-fashioned Victorian Street Clock, one of the finest examples left standing in the U.S.A. Bennington and area also has a large collection of antique, craft and gift shops. Visitors also enjoy seeing three covered bridges on their way to the historic Bennington Battlefield.
IF YOU GO:
Bennington, Vermont 05001
Mailing address is:
P.O. Box 100
Bennington, VT 05201
Bennington, VT 05201
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