I needed a break, we all need a break. But, I am afraid that taking a traditional break, and get-away could be a year away. Just a change of scenery is rejuvenating, and helpful, even if like me, you love being home. But how do you travel, and avoid the world? Carefully, and
remotely! Remember when friends and I visited Rudyard Kipling’s home, Naulakha, in Dummerston, Vermont, last year? The Landmark Trust USA owns this property, as well as others in the area (and over 140 around the world) that they have carefully preserved, and rent as vacation get-aways. I spent much time looking at their Vermont properties, and decided on a plan.
I have a project I had to figure out the best approach for. A full day away from distractions would help. After much study and thought I focused on The Amos Brown House in Whitingham, Vermont, and made arrangements with Michele at Landmark for a two night retreat, on the 10th and 11th. Son Gary also needed a break, and the plan was for him to join me.
An easy hour away, but I left early to head via Deerfield to chat with the owner of the camper restoration facility I recently discovered – you know I am on a “canned ham” hunt. Now, given the choice – I-91 or the old route US5 – you know I headed south on US5. And, with eyes focused for a “canned ham,” this trip started and ended with finding vintage trailers (actually, now looking, campers were to be observed everywhere in yards and behind trees and barns). First, anchored to a “home” on Route 5 was this vintage 13 foot Scotty – just what I want – but restored.
and, next I found this 1930 Model A Ford tractor conversion. The driver was wearing appropriate COVID protective gear. Any idea why I travel back roads?
Finishing up my visit with Brian at Two Feathers Restoration, I headed west on the Mohawk Trail, and turned north on back roads to intersect with Route 112 at Colrain (more on it later). Entering back into Vermont I saw this colonial home flying true colors on its side (no, not from the trees as Gary asked).
and, I arrived at my destination, The Amos Brown House, circa 1802, at about 3PM.
looking south down the dirt road from where I parked
I headed inside
left my bag in my downstairs bedroom
and sat down on the porch reading, awaiting Gary’s arrival
how can you not feel relaxed?
Of course, for my own curiosity I had to research this house, the oldest in Whitingham. And, it is amazing that it is brick, well over a foot (almost two) feet thick. Made in the area, bricks were used on several homes in this remote area. You may enjoy this article on the restoration – British group saves 1802 Vermont home. Eventually I found this fascinating report on the restoration – REPORT INTO REPAIR AND CONSERVATION WORKS TO THE AMOS BROWN HOUSE, WHITINGHAM, VERMONT, USA DURING THE SUMMER OF 2001. In this video, Tristam Johnson, tours you through the property. But for the best professional interior photographs, visit The Amos Brown House page on Landmark’s site.
Gary arrived well after dark, at about 6:20. Hard to find, even in daylight, you just have to watch for the last few turns. We made dinner, ate in the dining room, and then decided it was time for ANIMAL HOUSE, an annual viewing tradition, and planning ahead I had brought my projector to hook to a computer. Then exhausted (partially from laughing) we turned in.
I rolled over in the morning, and the inside wall was fiercely red. Looking out the window, I saw why to the east – it was 6:50AM.
It was time to read, and I also broke out my project notes. I have been working on assembling my history articles into another book, and also outlining “Development of a Village…” which started as a talk I gave at the Horse Thieves’ 200th anniversary dinner. Gary stirred, came downstairs, and soon sat in on two planned Zoom meetings. I worked with my notes. The idea of a getaway worked. Isolated from distraction, outlining the “development” book, it came to me. Much of my work was done with my articles. They just need to be arranged, and then I “fill in” the gaps with more research. Doing so will provide more history articles. It was great, and my winter’s work will go forward.
By 11:30 we headed off to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, for lunch. The house is on an old dirt road. Directions bring you in from the north, but Google maps showed me we could head out south to Route 8A into Massachusetts. We headed south, passed two hunting cabins, and the dirt road became a path. Well, a path with massive rocks to weave around, and pockets of mud waiting to swallow you up. I love dirt roads, BLUE BELLE loves dirt roads, but now having been down this one, once is enough. GiGi still has her crankcase cover intact, BLUE BELLE would not have been as fortunate.
Following 8A, or the other way around, there is a stream, and this abandoned mill village, or mill structures. Wouldn’t it be fun to own a village? Maybe more so than a “canned ham?”
But, wait! How about this – and negotiations are underway for this “fixer-upper” and barn for my books and toys.
And, continuing south, almost to the Mohawk Trail, in Charlemont is the Bissell Covered Bridge.
Pulling into Shelburne Falls I first showed Gary the Trolley Museum (open May 2021 – lets hope). I visited there September 2011 for a ride on the 1910 Shelburne Falls & Colrain Street Railway trolley car (see picture below I took then) and also I got to operate the hand truck. After enjoying the luncheonette on Main Street we walked over to the Glacial Potholes, formed beginning about 14,000 years ago when Lake Hitchcock drained and the Deerfield River first started to flow over these rocks. The sediments left these amazing patterns that you must see.
and, if you wish you can open this gallery for larger images
We then headed back up Route 112 through Colrain towards Whitingham, which is a village in Jacksonville. But it was bothering me. Colrain is remote, why did the trolley run up there? You know I am not satisfied unless I have an idea why something (a place, town,
factory, etc.) is where it is. The trolley line began in 1896 to move freight and people to Shelburne Falls, and to connect with the railroad in Buckland. There was even a trolley picnic grounds built for Sunday amusements. The property is now the transfer station – I have to re-explore the area obviously. I encourage you to visit, and for some history click this link, and enjoy. And, to win another drink at the bar, in May 1812, it was in Colrain that the first American flag was ever flown
over a schoolhouse, or any public building. For years Colrain would celebrate this event in re-enactments, poetry, art and parades. Hopefully you want to know more. I did, and here is one of the better articles I found on this first in the US, and Massachusetts.
But, after three hours of exploring, Gary and I returned to our “new old home.” This resting up stuff can be exhausting.
Returning, we walked around outside, but first marveled at the front entranceway stepping stones. Not something easily moved, especially over 200 years ago – but they were smarter then. Surrounded by fields on both sides of the dirt road, even in the light rain this tree speaks to you.
And, appears ready to “hug you”
here is the backside of the house. Barns were typically not painted where people would not be looking.
let’s call these “studies in red” – click to enlarge
coming inside we explored awhile the barns. The first image is in the basement, which I find unusual. My Colonial, on the Common, was built in 1806 without a basement. Half was later dug out in my home for a coal furnace installation, now converted. The workmanship Landmark had done is exceptional, and you can tell everything appropriately replaced from the first floor down. The mechanical systems are top line and subtle not detracting from the historical ambience of the house. The barns have been preserved as original – amazing. Below you will see a four-holer, a wall study, and Stations of the Cross mounted. These were found in the attic during renovation. At one time the property (read the links I provided) served as a retreat for monks.
you know I like images looking out windows. Here is from the second level in one of the barns.
Still decompressing and tired, we decided not to head off to an inn in Readsboro for dinner, but instead nap, and then reheat left-overs, or munch on grapes, cheese and pepperoni. Waking a few hours later, we did the later. But wait, there is more, and a new tradition. Gary had never seen KELLY’S HEROS before, another annual classic of mine. Well, we now have a new shared annual “must watch” – we know each other’s level of humor – Gary approved.
Thursday morning came too soon. Gary headed back east and home for another Zoom meeting. I relaxed and enjoyed the home until 10AM, then to head northeast toward home I went west – you know me. Vermont Route 100 can be considered the “backbone” of Vermont, but from Jacksonville west to Route 8 I will call it a tail before it twists back south with Route 8 to the Massachusetts border. Not a stretch of road often travelled, I think I may have headed to the border on Route 8 only once before. Back on Route 2 (Mohawk Trail) at North Adams, I went to Williamstown, had a sandwich, then to my favorite US Route 7. Then east on VT 9 from Bennington to Brattleboro.
Remember how this trip started? And, now it ended similarly with a vintage trailer. Gliding into West Brat there is a new RV place, and what did I see to the rear…
it is a 1966 Eljay, 17 footer, made right in Brattleboro on the property with the Estay Organ factory. This is the very last Eljay trailer made, and was owned until 1976 when it was sold to the previous owner of this RV store on Route 9, where it has been for 54 years. The fellow there was so enthused that I was enthused (I stopped to network to find a “canned ham” – “good luck” he said to me). He got the keys, we headed out, and he showed me through. He restored the interior which has bunk beds and a toilet. The exterior is all original, and sadly it has not been used. Then to (sorry) I-91, and home
I got home, and “went to work” processing orders. The phone rang, it was Ms. T saying, “look out your window.” WOW we all have now said the most amazing sunset ever. From my yard, looking west of course…
and, I turned around catching the red reflection on the CONGO Church.
hope you are still with me..
RAY RECOMMENDS – NO STRONGLY RECOMMENDS:
1- Visit Landmark Trust USA and review the exquisitely restored properties you may rent and experience.
2- Spend your money for experiences and memories
3- Document those experiences and memories such as I do. You have no idea how much pleasure I get rereading what I have done, particularly now when our travels are impacted by COVID-19
4- Did I say book a stay at a Landmark property? Book a stay at a Landmark property, just don’t bump me from getting back, and back soon.
Stay well, wear your mask, and have a Happy, albeit solitary, Thanksgiving. Hopefully I will be writing. before Christmas comes. Love, RAY
one last sunset you may click for full screen