Don’t ever think I am “retired.” And, I will tell you I do not like the “R WORD.” But, “working” hard, I needed another break, and even a few hours away can make all the difference and rejuvenate. This past weekend was the train show at the Big E fairgrounds. I thought I would head down on Saturday, but hesitant for the hour and 25 minute drive since I was “not overwhelmed” when I attended three years ago. Saturday I decided to wait until Sunday. But researching around I discovered an interesting lecture at Historic Deerfield on Sunday. So that was the plan instead – attend the lecture, but I needed to fill in a few more hours. Awaking Sunday it hit me – drive through Turners Falls and Montague on the way. – it had been a long while. There was the plan.
About 9:30 I entered I-91, but exited at Bernardston (MA) to see what changes there may have been along US-5 on the way to Greenfield (remember I need to know everything, and scenery is different every season, and every day). Getting onto Route 2, I headed east a tad, exiting at the Art Deco bridge to cross the Connecticut River to Turners Falls. “Hey, what is that?” I exclaimed. Parking, I walked to the GREAT FALLS DISCOVERY CENTER – had never seen it before.
What a treasure and introduction to the entire watershed of the 410 mile Connecticut River, and some local history. Entering, I was met by a great state docent.
the emphasis is on the ecology and nature of the area, and to be honest, I need several more visits to absorb it all. Fantastic realistic displays, and this moose stood still for me.
As I was reading the various displays I was so impressed to see several young families come in with children ranging in age from maybe two to ten. Get them introduced early to the pleasure of learning, I applaud those young parents.
Two “non-nature” timelines were of interest to me. The first being Tales of Tourists and Timber, and another the history of the area.
In reviewing my images of the displays, I thought I would relate the following “fast facts” – for me to remember better, and if you skip over them, I will not know until I quiz you in person.
1700s – Hardwoods were burned to make Potash to export to England for textiles and glass
1798 – First dam at Montague Falls cuts off fish migration
1830s – 65-80% of land cleared in the watershed – mountain soils erode
1840s – Holyoke Dam and Power Canal system built for mills
1850s – Tourism begins with hotels built near mineral springs
1860s – North Woods heavily logged, enabled by railroad access
1870s – White Mountains become popular and the idea of a leisure vacation takes hold
1870s – Turner Falls develops its Power Canal system
1875 – First great log drive on the Connecticut River
1881 – Last mountain lion shot in Vermont
1890s – Vermont works to attract tourists, and sells abandoned farms as second homes (New Hampshire does the same thing promoting its abandoned farms)
1890s – Commercial catch of shad has greatly dropped
1915 – Last log drive
1920s – Outdoor camping and downhill skiing become popular
1920s – Automobile travel impacts tourism. Long hotel stays now replaced by tourists moving about
1938 – Great Hurricane impacts nature and humans alike
1950 – Fish elevator built at Holyoke Dam
1970s – Fish elevator built at Turners Falls
1972 – Clean Water Act
1974 – First salmon return to the Connecticut River
1981 – 83% of Vermont reforested
1991 – Salmon spawn in the Connecticut River for the first time in over 200 years
The discovery center is in old mill buildings which adjoin the “power canal” seen here outside the window. You can see on the right the green Art Deco bridge across the river.
Turners Falls dates from the 1860s when the mill town (following the example of Lowell, Massachusetts) was laid out. The power canal was built, and the town laid out with lettered and numbered streets in a grid. Let me give you a feel for the area with a map, to encourage you to easily detour to the area.
Below you see how the river loops through the area of Turners Falls, Greenfield, and Deerfield – I (and you) have to know how it all fits together. The purple area is Turners Falls where the Connecticut River is turning west before heading south again past Greenfield. My ultimate destination was the Deerfield Community Center at the bottom of the map. You can see the “power Canal” through the town to the east of the river. See how easy it is to detour off I-91 or Route 2 and explore?
Avenue A (the Main Street), and its grand brick buildings are as they were and undergoing a resurgence. I had driven through the town before, but never tempted to explore. This time I was, and started with LOOT – LOST AND FOUND – FOUND AND MADE. Wow, I wanted to buy everything. Fantastic original vintage industrial antiques, and unique repurposed items (using the new vernacular). The young clerk said I could take pictures, and I promised to send a link to what I write.
I continued walking down Avenue A to explore. I chatted with several shop owners in this newly renovated block. LOOT was the first neat place in town, but landlords are encouraging the arts to move in. There is even a vintage pinball arcade in this building. I was told that the arts and culture are moving into the area, and people are escaping Northampton and Amherst to live here. Below is this great block (with STUFF and STENHOUSE) from the other side of the street. (sorry on images, it was an overcast day)
and, a venue to watch as it develops is the The Shea Theater. I commented to one gracious shop keeper that Turners Falls, with the interesting restaurants, and shops could be a great afternoon, dinner, evening at the theater, and home in 50 minutes.
Next on the “new plan” was to scoot down to the Montague Book Mill – remote – not really- but you have to know it is there and consider it a destination location. Cathy and I had stopped several times on book buying trips twenty years ago, but their stock is not what I buy. It is a reader’s shop, and obviously very successful. I wanted to get a bite to eat at the cafe. Both the cafe and bookshop were comfortably populated by students with laptops, books and notebooks – obviously coming up from UMASS or Amherst to the south.
The mill dates from the 1830s. The cafe is on the lower lever to the left, and the bookshop rambles around. There is a separate building with music and an art gallery.
My chicken curry sandwich was amazing.
walking through the book shop and to the river I realized there is a more formal restaurant on the lower lever, and there is outside seating in the warmer times. Alvah Stone is now “on the list.” Applications for dates considered.
WAZE then provided me a shorter route over to Old Deerfield. Originally I thought I would drive south, cut over to US-5 and head north. But WAZE was smarter than me, and I was minutes away to the Deerfield Community Center for the Winter Lecture Series, “Risky Business: Getting Ahead in the Early Republic” – “Making Crime Pay: The Dangerous Careers of Ann Carson and Mary Clarke,” Presented by Susan Branson, Professor of History, Syracuse University. It was interesting this early 19th century crime in Philadelphia, and how its publishing history made these women money.
But, “on the list” for some time has been to become a member of Historic Deerfield. I have been driving through Old Deerfield for over five decades, and still have yet to see it all. I just found out that the Flynt Center of Early American Life was a modern facility, carefully tucked away. Perfect winter indoor activity, and I had my checkbook to become a member. When a member you don’t mind not seeing it all at once, and often it is to hard to absorb it all at once.
Amazing, fascinating, and worthy of many more visits. I need to spend more time in the exhibit on woods and the making of period furniture.
some items are “exploded” so you can see how they were actually made and assembled.
upstairs is the “attic” – items in storage, but on display for further investigation and learning for visitors. Here is a Spinning Wheel chair, made probably about the time of the Centennial in 1876. Nostalgic of our history, people would make these chairs from spinning wheels that were no longer needed.
The museum closed at 4:30, too early to head to dinner, but YANKEE CANDLE’s flagship store is always a fun stop a couple times a year. I always enjoy wandering through the villages and Christmas displays. I even chatted with Santa (no line of smaller kids). Then I saw something new — instead of candle dipping, an attendant would “dip your hand” to make a wax decoration. A charge, of course, but fun to watch.
Timing was perfect, and I headed to The Whately Inn for dinner. First there last September, and I needed to see if I was still impressed – I was. Here is the Inn from that last visit.
Last time I had the lamb dinner, this time Veal Parmesan – more of a comfort platter, but still 4 courses with appetizer, salad, entree and desert. I went all out and started with French Onion Soup, they even bring you marinated vegetables. I do not know how they do it for the price, and they have done it for decades. Here is everything passing in front of me, and what I brought home was two more meals. Again I had the marinated mushrooms (left) – you can click on an image below for larger savory images.
One of the fun things on my trips is to find something that helps me remember the trip – not necessary, but an extra treat. Guess what? More “Flickering Flames” and now within reach as I type. Can you figure why I snapped these up (from among maybe 12 choices – but I will go back)? It was not the $9 each – can you guess?
Home at 8 PM, this was a great 10 1/2 hours off. And,
Another fascinating Ramble With Ray! It’s said life is a journey, but perhaps the most intriguing thing is you never know what’s around the next corner. OK, so my guess about the candlesticks is they are marble and the area around Danby, VT (which is not terribly far from Walpole, NH) is famous for it’s marble quarries. One may retire from a career, but should never tire from exploring and discovering.
Another great shunpike. I haven’t been to Turner’s Falls and Montague in long time. Your post sparked a good lot of memories. Happy that the Whatley Inn was not a disappointment.
Ages ago before I-91 we used to travel to Greenfield and Springfield shopping. Several times we have traveled through Turners Falls and as a child took a class trip to Deerfield. However, I never learned as much about the area as I did reading your latest Shunpiking! Thank you Bill
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