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Vermont Products & Parks

Adventurers in New England

Chapter Nine

Vermont Products and Parks Tour


Robin Bowers

Text and Photos by Author

June 17, 2015


The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

Comments are appreciated at...


    This morning started with breakfast in the motel's dining room. Then it was a short walk across S. Main Street ( US Rt 4) to the Holiday Inn to board the bus for today's tour. Heritage Tour - Vermont Products and Parks Tour was scheduled to leave the Holiday Inn at 7:45AM with first stop at the King Arthur Flour, then next stop at the Simon Pearce glassblowing then lunch at the Quechee Gorge State Park and ending up at our last stop at the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site.

    At 9:30 AM, we arrived at The King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center, Bakery and The Baker's Store at 135 SR 5S which draws visitors from all over the United States and Canada.

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    The store is staffed with experienced bakers who delight in answering technical baking questions and are quick to provide demonstrations and samples.

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    The education center offers registrants the chance to work alongside some of the nation's finest master bakers. Classes from half a day to a full week cover subjects from chocolate to artisan breads to pasta.






    In 1984, King Arthur Flour located its new headquarters in Norwich, Vermont, where the company is currently headquartered. Today, King Arthur Flour is America's oldest flour company, having been founded in Boston in 1790. In that year, Henry Wood began importing European flour to Boston, with the goal of providing high-quality flour for area bakers.

    King Arthur Flour website states that "we're the nation's premier baking resource, offering everything from top-quality baking products to inspiring educational programs - all backed by the passion and commitment of our dedicated employee-owners." King Arthur Flour didn't take that name until 1896, when it was given the new brand name when introduced at the Boston Food Fair. One hundred years later, the owners, Frank and Brinna Sands, decided to sell the company to their employees and began an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.






Today's King Arthur Flour Bakery and Store includes thousands of ingredients, tools, and pans, in addition to their various flour products.


Looking for a souvenir that would not take much room in my luggage, I bought two jars of  Blake Hill Preserve, a Blueberry & Lemon, and a Strawberry & Rhubarb.
Both of which I learned on returning home were excellent preserves made in Grafton, VT 05146.


Here in Vermont, a cookbook for my Palm Springs friends.


Looking up the rotunda.

     After we all filled our shopping bags, it was time to board the bus for our next stop. Simon Pearce glassblowing in Quechee, VT.


Last look as we depart King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont.

    After a scenic half hour bus ride, we arrive at our next stop.

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     The work of Simon Pearce has been called some of the leading glass designs in the world, resulting in it being given to foreign dignitaries and to presenters at the Academy Awards. Simon Pearce began his glass and pottery work in 1971 when he opened his first glassblowing workshop in Kilkenny, Ireland. A decade later, he was tired of the high cost and regulatory environment of Europe and moved to Quechee, Vermont. He bought the remains of the former woollen mill and rebuilt it into his new studio using hydroelectric power from the Ottauquechee River to power the entire complex.

    With the opening of the glassblowing studio, Simon Pearce also opened the Glassblower Cafe. with views of the Ottauquechee River and a covered bridge. Visitors can also view the hydroelectric turbine, interact with the teams of glassblowers, and shop in the retail store.

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1760 Quechee Main Street, Quechee. VT.

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Excellent view of the Ottauquechee River, falls and the Quechee covered bridge from your table.

    Downstairs, under the retail store and cafe, is located the glassblowing workshop.

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    Now it was time to go down another level and check out the hydroelectric turbine.

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View of falls from the workshop level.

    Returning upstairs to the retail shop, I stopped at the seconds display. To my untrained eye they all looked exquisite to me. Disappointed now that I didn't buy something and have it shipped home.

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I was most surprised by how heavy the glass items were.

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    Now let's get a closer look at that covered bridge.





The Ottauquechee River.


green arrowClick to see video of falls.
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Walkway for the pedestrians.
    Our time here was running short and it was time to locate the bus and travel to our next stop.


Looking up the Ottauquechee River.


Across the Ottauquechee River.


Parker House Inn & Bistro, Bar Irene, located next to Simon Pearce.
This restored 1857 Victorian-style inn is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The chef-owner prepares innovative dishes using only the freshest, local grown produce.

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Rounding up the bus riders.

    Our next stop was at the Quechee Gorge State Park and adjacent Quechee Gorge Village.

    Quechee Gorge, known as "Vermont's Little Grand Canyon," is Vermont's deepest gorge, formed by glacial activity approximately 13,000 years ago and now the route of the Ottauquechee River. The river is approximately 165 feet below the many viewing points along the canyon walls.

    This area was originally owned by the A. G. Dewey Company, a major wool processor who settled here in 1869. He soon established a woolen mill, employing as many as 500 people. Water from falls and the mill pond just above the gorge were to power the facility. The mill saw few changes over the years, and was reportedly one of the oldest woolen mills in the country by the 1930's. Some of the material made here was used to make baseball uniforms for the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, and blankets for the US Army and Navy.

     In 1952, the mill closed and soon after nearly all of the mill houses and buildings were demolished. Remains of mill and dam can still be seen at the head of the gorge. Quechee Gorge State Park began almost as soon as the mill closed. The US Army Corps of Engineers began taking land in the area in 1952 as part of a large flood control plan, which included the construction of the North Hartland Dam. Construction of the campground and picnic areas began later, in the spring of 1962. In 1965, the park was leased by the State of Vermont and turned over to the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. Today, Quechee Gorge State Park is one of the most visited in the state.


Looking down 165 feet to the Ottauquechee River from the bridge on US 4.

Looking down river.



Looking down river in the GREEN Mountain state.

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Looking up stream at the Ottauquechee River.


165 feet above the gorge.

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Girls playing on rocks in distance.

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    It was now 12:30 PM and time for lunch. Several hundred feet from the bridge was a small snack bar for ice cream and sandwiches. I looked at the menu, found something I liked and ordered. As I waited and talking to locals, who were also waiting for their orders said that ice cream here was excellent. Guess what's for dessert. The eating area was picnic tables under shade of covered roof. I was joined by Sarah Jennings and several other conventioneers. My sandwich was tasty and messy and we ended up talking about getting stains out of clothing. I got several hints on getting red wine stains out of clothes.

    After eating lunch, I walked next door to the Quechee Gorge Village that was once a small woollen mill town that has been turned into a retail center. Leading the attractions are more than a dozen well known stores.   


Display in the Vermont Toy & Train Museum.


I got my train fix for the day.

    One of the most unusual stores was the distillery that has sampling and retail sales.

    Weary of window shopping and tasting free samples from the food vendors, we boarded the bus and enjoyed the ride though the verdant and rural landscape to reach our final stop.

Calvin Coolidge State Historical Site and Homestead District

    This complex of more than a dozen historic buildings is centered around a modest frame and clapboard farmhouse, the childhood home of the thirtieth President of the United States - Calvin Coolidge - and the place where he took the presidential oath of office. Today, the Coolidge Homestead is part of the Calvin Coolidge State Historical Site, overseen by the state of Vermont.   

    The home was bought by the father of Calvin Coolidge and expanded it to its present size and appearance. Coolidge lived there from age four (1876) to 1887, when he departed for Black River Academy in Ludlow for education. Coolidge eventually earned a law degree and lived most of his life in Northampton, Massachusetts. However, he often returned to the home to visit his family. During one visit while serving as vice president, Calvin Coolidge was informed that President Harding had died. Therefore, at 2:47 AM on August 3, 1923, Vice President Calvin Coolidge became the 30th President of the United States when he took the oath of office in the sitting room of this modest frame and clapboard farmhouse. Coolidge's father, a notary public, administered the oath by the light of a kerosene lamp - the family had refused to install such modern conveniences as electricity. This refusal to modernize kept the house from receiving many changes over the years, and much of it still houses the same furniture that Coolidge used.



The President Calvin Coolidge Museum & Education Center was dedicated in 2010. The building serves as the main entrance to the historic site and has exhibits, meeting rooms, museum store, classroom, and restrooms.  A major interactive, multimedia permanent exhibition, More Than Two Words: The Life and Legacy of Calvin Coolidge, highlights Calvin Coolidge's life and accomplishments using his own words, personal and historical objects, and period newsreels to tell the story of how a boy from rural Plymouth Notch became President of the United States.

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The Calvin Coolidge Birthplace is attached to the General Store.


The Calvin Coolidge Birthplace.

    Calvin Coolidge was born in the downstairs bedroom on July 4, 1872. He was the first child of John Calvin and Victoria Josephine Moor Coolidge. His sister, Abigail, was born in 1875. The family lived in this modest house until 1876 when they moved across the road to what is now called the Coolidge Homestead.


The Calvin Coolidge birthplace bedroom.

    Unlike the other buildings in Plymouth Notch, the Coolidge Birthplace was extensively remodeled over the years. The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation purchased the building in 1968 and restored the Birthplace to its 1872 appearance. The Coolidge family donated the original furnishings.


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    The Union Christan Church was built in 1840 and dedicated as a Congregational Church in 1842. It is in the Greek Revival style. The original iron thresholds for the front doors were cast at Tyson Furnace in the southern part of the town of Plymouth.

    Strawberry socials and baked bean suppers were held to raise funds for funding repairs in the 1890s. A local artisan, Willie Pierce, redesigned the interior in Carpenter Gothic style. The hard pine for the woodwork was sawn at a local mill.The interior offered perfect acoustics for the new Estey pump organ, and the church was rededicated in 1900.

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The president's pew.

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The Wilder House.

    The Wilder House, originally a tavern built around 1830, was the childhood home of President Coolidge's mother, Victoria Josephine Moor. Victoria married John Coolidge in the front sitting room in 1868. Her sister and brother-in-law, Gratia and John Wilder, lived in the house in later years. The building's exterior is painted as it was in the 1920s with a distinctive mustard-gold and green color scheme. The interior was remodeled as a coffee shop in 1956. It is now the site restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch during the season.


The Wilder Barn

    The Wilder Barn was once part of the Moor-Wilder Farm. Built c. 1875, it is a "bank barn" -- built into the side, or bank, of a slope so that it could be easily entered on two levels. Typically, hay was stored overhead, the dairy herd was on the main floor, and the basement was for other livestock and manure storage. The hand-hewn beams are pegged together, and the exterior is clad with unpainted vertical pine boards with narrow battens. The Wilder Barn now exhibits an extensive collection of agricultural equipment used on a typical hillside farm at the turn of the 20th century.


The Wilder Horse Barn in center with Wilder Barn to the left, general store on far right.

        The Wilder Horse Barn, reconstructed in 2003, is a recreation of the original c. 1875 barn that was torn down in the mid-20th century. This accurate reconstruction was possible because nearly every angle of the building was photographed in the 1920s. Similar to the adjacent main barn, this is a post and beam "bank barn." Some of the site's collection of horse drawn vehicles are displayed on the main level: the lower level has restrooms and a picnic area.


Collection inside the Wilder Horse Barn.




Back view of the barns.


Family buggy at the Coolidge Homestead.

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The Inaugural Room.

    The Inaugural Room, also known as the "Oath of Office Room," was once the sitting room and is today displayed behind glass, but a visitor can stand in an alcove and see the lamp, Bible, and table that were used in the ceremony, all placed in their historic positions. It was while vacationing here that Vice President Coolidge received word of the unexpected death of President Warren Harding. Colonel John Coolidge, a notary public, administered  the presidential oath of office to his son at 2:47 AM on August 3, 1923. Years later, an inquisitive visitor asked Colonel Coolidge, "How did you know you could administer the presidential oath to your own son?" The laconic Vermonter replied, "I didn't know that I couldn't."


The President's bedroom.


 Parlor room.

    Upon leaving the Coolidge Homestead, we were greeted by a sheep shearing demonstration in the side yard. The demonstrator was only using a manual sheer.





This captivating demonstration held our attention for many minutes.


    The Plymouth Cheese Factory was built by Colonel John Coolidge, James S. Brown and three other local farmers in 1890. It served as a convenient outlet for the milk produced on area farms. The operation closed in 1934, but was reopened by the President's son, John, in 1960. The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation purchased the factory from John Coolidge in 1998. Since then, the Division has worked closely with other state agencies and the Vermont Cheese Council to bring the building "up to code" and to re-establish production on the distinctive granular curd-type Plymouth Cheese. An exhibit on the second floor examines the story of cheese making in Vermont using period graphics and the original 1890 factory equipment.






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Left to right: General Store and Birthplace home, The Plymouth Cheese Factory, The Coolidge Homestead and far right, The Wilder House.
Photo taken standing in front of the barns.

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    The Florence Cilley General Store was built during the 1850s. John Coolidge, the President's father, became storekeeper in 1868. The rent was $40 a year, and by careful management profits averaged $100 a month. Coolidge soon purchased the store and entered into partnership with his wife's brother in 1875. He sold his share of the business in 1877, but owned the building until 1917. Florence Ciley, whose named appears above the front door, operated the store between 1917 and 1945. The small post office at the front of the stores served the town until 1976. The Plymouth Post Office, located in the former carriage barn attached to the General Store, is an operating United States Post Office.


    Coolidge Hall, the large vaulted room above the General Store, was used by the Grange for weekly dances and family reunions well into the 20th century. It became famous when it served as President Coolidge's Summer White House in 1924. The hall has its original furnishings including tables made especially for the President and instruments of the "Plymouth Old Time Dance Orchestra."

    As it was near closing time at this state historic site, we started boarding our bus for the ride back to the hotel. It had been a long and busy day.


Ski trails cut into green forest on Pico Mountain in Killington, VT.

    Arriving at the hotel at dinner time, Chris and I decided to give the Ponderosa Steakhouse, a short walk away, another go. Tonight I did the buffet. Again we chatted and visited with fellow conventioneers.

    After our repast it was time to walk back to the motel.

    Tomorrow we are going to ride a train. Yea! Going to Lake Champlain !!!         

       For More Information

        Web Sites:

    King Arthur Flour

    Blake Hill Preserve

    Simon Pearce Glassblowing

    Quechee Gorge State Park

    Vermont Spirits

    Calvin Coolidge Historic Homestead

    Click BACK button on your browser to return to this page.

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

Comments are appreciated at...