Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Bennington, Vermont

Bennington Battle Monument
After the Hancock Shaker Village, my Dissertation Advisor (DA) and I continued driving north to Williamstown, MA, home of Williams College (a top-tanked small liberal arts school). We stopped for lunch at Papa Charlie's Sandwich Deli, where the menu consists of a dizzying array of celebrity-named sandwiches. For instance, the Neil Patrick Harris consists of grilled chicken, pickles, coleslaw, mustard, and barbeque sauce on a toasted roll. Or you can go old-school with a Columbo: hot roast beef, hot provolone, onions, and barbeque sauce. Filled up with soup and sandwiches, we continued north to our destination: the picturesque New England town of Bennington, VT, site of an important battle during the American Revolutionary War.

On 16 August 1777, American forces defeated the advancing British, who needed the supplies stored in Bennington. Mostly poorly trained volunteers from New Hampshire, the rebels scored a decisive victory against the Red Coats, thanks to a rescue from some Green Mountain Boys. Due in part to their failure at Bennington, the British forces lost the Battles of Saratoga and surrendered on 7 October. The French and Spanish came to the Americans' aid, and the tide of the war turned to victory some six years later. 16 August is still celebrated in Vermont as Bennington Battle Day.

Plans for a Bennington Battle Monument were finally realized in the 1870s and 1880s, and the imposing stone tower was opened in time for Vermont's Centennial in 1891. (It had become the 14th state in 1791.) At 306 feet, 4.5 inches, the obelisk is the tallest structure in the state! Luckily for us, the elevator was out of order. So with a guide and a couple other visitors, we hiked the stairs up to the observation deck, 200 feet above ground. There's a pretty stunning vista in all directions. After descending, we visited the gift shop for the postcards sampled here. Passing over the maple leaf and moose memorabilia, I bought a little maple syrup, because who doesn't love them some pure liquid glucose?

Fence around the Old First Church Cemetery
There was plenty of daylight left, so we walked into the center of historic Bennington, where a big old white clapboard church stands next to a very old cemetery. It was closed that day, so we visited the grave of Robert Frost, whose poetry I sampled in my Poetry of the Pacific series earlier this year. It was a quiet drive back to Stockbridge while DA napped in the backseat. After dinner, I borrowed his car to head south to the larger town of Great Barrington, MA, to visit the Guthrie Center. It's in Alice's house!!! One night a week they have a "Hootenanny." Musicians get in for free, and the public can listen for a $5 donation. They performed a mix of blues and bluegrass acoustic music, some original. We ended with a rousing round of "This Land Is Your Land," of course. Afterwards I asked for a tour of the building, which has been modified from its original purpose as the Old Trinity Church. Awesome.

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