Trip Start Mar 04, 2005
253Trip End Dec 31, 2014
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We started with a drive south of about 30 miles to the Saint Gaudens National Historic Site. Augustus Saint Gaudens first rented this property in 1885. He grew to love the peace and quiet so much that he purchased the property in 1892. He would spend summers here until 1900 when the family took up year round residency.
Saint Gauden was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1848. At the age of six months his family immigrated to New York. He would leave school at the age of 13 to apprentice with a cameo cutter. He worked cutting cameos during the day and attended art classes in the evening. Determined to become a sculptor he traveled to Paris at the age of 19. He would eventually become THE sculptor of the American Renaissance.
The national park site contains his home, his studio and several of his sculptors. Besides doing large works he was commissioned by President Roosevelt in 1904 to design three coins for the U.S. Mint, the one cent piece and the 10 and 20 dollar gold pieces. These coins were minted until 1933.
From the Saint Guadens site we traveled back into Vermont - crossing over the Connecticut river via a covered bridge. After a quick stop for lunch in Woodstock we paid a short visit to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. This site is set up to preserve a legacy of land stewardship.
It is hard to believe that by the mid 1800's most of Vermont's forest had been cut down. This caused problems with severe erosion and flooding. George Perkins Marsh, whose family owned the land and home for which the park is now partially named for, became concerned with this "desolation that was almost as complete as that on the moon". He would go on to write a book titled Man and Nature which documented his careful analysis of the human impact on nature and his plea for responsible land stewardship.
The Marsh family farm was purchased by Frederick Billing in 1869. He set out to build a farm that would serve future generations as a model of wise stewardship. He would develop one of the first programs of scientific forest management. After his death in 189 his plan was sustained by three generations of women. First by his wife and their three daughters and then by his granddaughter, Mary French.
Mary would marry Laurance Rockefeller in 1934 bringing together two families with a strong commitment to conservation. The Rockefeller family had generously created or enhanced over 20 national parks, and Laurence became a trusted adviser to five American presidents. He helped to make conservation and outdoor recreation an essential part of the national agenda.
Our last historic stop of the day was at the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic site. Located in Plymouth Notch, Vermont this site contains the home that Calvin was born in along with the home he was raised in. It was in this latter home that Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President on August 3, 1923 after the unexpected death of President Harding.
Two interesting facts about Calvin Coolidge. He is our only President to be born on July 4 and he is the only one to have been sworn in by his father. Years later when an inquisitive visitor asked Colonel Coolidge "how did you know you could administer the presidential oath to your own son?" He answered " I didn't know that I couldn't". The historic site also contains the cheese factory, still in use, that the Coolidge family once held partial ownership in.
Done with all our history we made a short detour to the Long Trail Brewery, Vermont's largest brewery, for a quick 'cold one' prior to heading home. It was an excellent day filled not only with stunning scenery but lots of history along with new things learned!