Out and About

Vital statistics and brief descriptions -- the sites to see and the events to attend -- in some of Vermonts cities and towns.

by Craig Bailey

Photos: Rock of Ages, Jane Milizia, and Virginia Lindauer Simmon

Contrary to the old joke, you can almost always get there from here in Vermont. Before you fill your tank and hit the road for your scenic tour, heres some of what you can expect from three of the cities and towns that dot the Green Mountain State.

Barre   Milton   Waitsfield

More towns

Barre

The story goes that Barre was named as a result of a fistfight. The city, originally dubbed Wildersburg, was forged out of 19,900 acres of land chartered in 1780 to William Williams and 60 other people. Legend has it that a fight to decide the name of the city was won by a gentleman from Barre, Mass. The victor, Jonathan Sherman, chose to name the municipality after his hometown, which had been named after British politician Isaac Barre.

While this tale of how the northern Barre got its name persists, there is no town record of it. The official line is that Ezekiel D. Wheeler was granted his choice of names for the town after he donated the most money -- 62 pounds -- toward building a town meeting hall.

Barre The granite industry had its start in the area as early as the 1790s, and continues to flavor the personality of Barre with many street and business names reflecting a stony theme.

Since its inception in 1962, the Rock of Ages Visitors Center, the tourism division of quarrying company Rock of Ages Corp., has hosted thousands of visitors a year who come to gawk at, as one tourist put it, "that big hole in the ground." The center is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday May 1 through Oct. 31.

The city is home to many examples of remarkable granite monuments and granite-faced buildings, like the Granite Savings Bank (1888), the D.M. Miles Block (1898), the A. Scampini Building (1904), and many others. The most recognizable monument might be the soldiers and sailors memorial at the corner of City Park, erected in 1924. Mount Hope Cemetery, north of Barre on Vermont 14, has practically become a tourist attraction for its many remarkable examples of fine granite work.

The Barre Opera House on Main Street across from the post office started a second life in 1982. Built in 1899, replacing the building that was leveled by fire the previous year, the opera house played host to notables such as John Philip Sousa, Helen Keller, anarchist Emma Goldman, and Scottish vaudevillian Harry Lauder.

Barre The building had become a movie house by the late 1920s before it closed in 1944 and lay dormant for 40 years. After a decade of renovations it reopened in 1982 and now showcases a variety of events, including stage productions by the Barre Players.

For a birds-eye view of downtown, take the street that climbs the hill behind the opera house to the intersection of Jacques Street and look out to the right.

The Bombardier Transport Corp.'s rail assembly plant in Wilson Industrial Park is one of the largest employers in the central Vermont area. The facility, established in 1979 and expanded five years later, occupies 20 acres at the 88-acre park. The 60,000-square-foot plant can house up to 12 rail cars inside, where workers build and maintain them for municipal railways in California, New Jersey, New York, and Montreal, not to mention the monorail at Disney World and trains operated by Amtrak throughout the country.

Bombardier, the corporation's Montreal-based parent company, holds $10.6 billion (Canadian) in assets, maintains production facilities in 11 countries, and employs 47,500 worldwide, 28,000 in North America.

During the warmer months, the hills are alive with the sound of motor racing. On a clear night, the drone of revving engines from Thunder Road International Speedbowl on Quarry Hill carries into neighboring towns. Stock car fans flock to the high-banked, quarter-mile oval for weekly Thursday night races in three divisions. On your way up the hill turn left just before the second railroad tracks. Thunder Road is on the right at the end of road.

In 1999 the track celebrates its 40th season. Highlights include the annual Enduro 200, an amateur race; and the season-ender two-day Milk Bowl in late September, where the lucky winner gets to kiss a cow.

Barre

Population (town and city combined, 1997) 17,066
change 1990-97 +1%
Year-round housing units (town and city combined, 1997) 7,342
change 1990-97 +3.7%
Vacation/seasonal housing units (town and city combined, 1997) 1
change 1990-97 -97.7%
Representatives: (Washington-4-2) Ruth H. Towne (R), Oreste V. Valsangiacomo Sr. (D); (Washington-3; Barre Town)Henry L. Gray (R), Thomas F. Koch (R); (Washington-4-1; Barre City) Paul N. Poirier (D); (Washington-4-2; Barre City) Ruth H. Towne (R), Oreste V. Valsangiacomo, Sr. (D)
Senators: (Washington County) Ann E. Cummings (D), William T. Doyle (R), Jeb Spaulding (D)

Milton

Milton

Milton's reputation as a bedroom community for Burlington might be changing with the recent introduction of a major Canadian manufacturing operation.

Twelve miles north of the Queen City on U.S. 7, Milton offers outdoor recreation opportunities with Sand Bar State Park to the west and Lake Arrowhead to the north. The 10-acre Sand Bar State Park was built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a national works program that provided employment during the Depression. The park is named for the sand bar that connects South Hero Island and Milton. It served as a passageway to the island before the first bridge was built in 1850. Lake depth along the bar, created over thousands of years by the Lamoille River's carrying sand toward the lake, is only a few feet where it would otherwise be more than 150 feet. A stone bathhouse was added in 1935, and in 1975 the park grew to 15 acres.

The park's 2,000-foot-long beach, smooth lake bottom and shallow waters make it a favorite of families. Open from mid-May to Labor Day, Sand Bar State Park is the most popular day park in Vermont. It offers great swimming, boating and picnicing in summer, gorgeous vistas of foliage in the fall and occasional challenging driving in winter.

The nearby Sand Bar Wildlife Refuge, founded in 1920, offers a 1,000-acre safe haven for a variety of wildlife, such as beaver, muskrats, turtles and waterfowl.

Lake Arrowhead has no beaches to speak of, but offers plenty of opportunities for boating and canoeing. The five-mile-long lake was created in 1938 by a dam on the Lamoille River. It was in the news in 1997 when fish and wildlife officials tried to drive a number of mute swans away from it, citing the non-native species disruptive behavior toward other waterfowl. Who won the battle wasnt entirely clear after some birds returned after being captured and shipped out of state, and then managed to literally dodge officials' bullets.

Milton Named for English poet John Milton, author of the epic poems Paradise Lost and Paradise Regaind, the town received word June 14, 1997, that Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. intended to build a campus-style manufacturing operation on a 700-acre site along the east shore of Lake Arrowhead. "Husky is a perfect fit for Vermont," said Gov. Howard Dean at the time of the announcement, adding the company "combines world-class technology with a respect for the environment and the very best in comprehensive, health-oriented employee benefits." For Husky, Miltons selling points were Vermont's much-touted quality of life, and easy access to significant port cities like Boston, Montreal and New York.

The Bolton, Ontario-based company was founded by Robert Schad in 1953 to manufacture a snowmobile called the Huskymobile. When that product failed to catch on, the company switched gears and began producing plastic molds five years later. It moved into injection molding by 1961 and has continued to manufacture heavy equipment used in manufacturing plastic products. The company had more than $760 million (American) in sales for fiscal 1998.

Milton Husky's first operation in Milton consists of a state-of-the-art hot runner facility opened in the summer of 98. The company might eventually employ up to 2,000 people, making it one of the largest private employers in the state.

The trickle-down of Husky's move into Vermont has already started: Webco, a subcontractor that designs and installs internal cranes for Husky, established a base in the Catamount Industrial Park, a 174-acre facility built in 1983 off Exit 17 of Interstate 89. Many economic development experts expect more subcontractors to follow in coming years.

Milton

Population (1997) 9,135
change 1990-97 +8.7%
Year-round housing units (1997)3,003
change 1990-97 +3.7%
Vacation/seasonal housing units (1997) 143
change 1990-97 -14.9%
Representatives: (Chittenden 2-2) Doran Metzger (R), Marilyn Rivero (D); (Chittenden 2-3) Martha P. Heath (D)
Senators: (Chittenden County) Jean B. Ankeney (D), Jan Backus (D), Peter C. Brownell (R), James P. Leddy (D), Janet Munt (D), Helen S. Riehle (R)

Waitsfield

The Mad River Valley truly has a character all its own. Whether a result of the wide variety of out-of-state transplants who have settled in the area, or of the insular nature of the valleys geography, Waitsfield and neighboring towns Fayston, Moretown and Warren make up a unique community.

Waitsfield Chartered in 1782, Waitsfield's economy was centered on agriculture, with maple sugaring playing a key role. Today there are only a handful of working farms in the area, with others catering to tourists. The Inn at the Round Barn Farm on East Warren Road is a fine example. Traveling south on the interstate, take a right off Exit 10 and turn left at the bottom of the hill to follow U.S. 2 through Waterbury. Connect to Vermont 100 and travel south for 20 minutes to Waitsfield. At the gas station on the right, take a left onto Bridge Street/East Warren Road, pass through the covered bridge (one of 114 such bridges in Vermont) and you'll see the inn within two miles on the left.

Waitsfield Of the 25 round barns built in Vermont, four were in the Mad River Valley. Five are still standing. The Joslyn Round Barn was built in 1910 by Clem Joslyn and housed dairy cows until 1969. In 1986 the farm took on a new life when it was purchased by Jack and Doreen Simko, who renovated the farmhouse into an inn and then restored the barn, which is used for community events.

The Mad River Valley is virtually surrounded by skiing in the winter. Stowe is 17 miles north on Vermont 100, and Vermont's largest ski area, Killington, is 30 miles south. Vermont 100 is sometimes called the skiers road, thanks to all the ski areas it connects. Closer to home, theres the Mad River Glen Ski Area on Vermont 17 in Fayston, and Sugarbush Ski Resort in Warren. Get to Sugarbush by taking a right from Vermont 100 onto the Sugarbush Access Road about four miles south of Waitsfield.

If ice skating is your preference, try the Skatium, an outdoor rink at the Mad River Green Shopping Center on Vermont 100. Visit the Sugarbush Chamber of Commerce for a trail map of all the snowshoeing opportunities in the Mad River Valley. Nearby Warren offers cross- country skiing on 50 KM for classical or skating techniques at Ole's Cross Country Center at the Sugarbush-Warren airport, and 23 KM of tracked trails at Blueberry Lake Cross Country Ski Center on Plunkton Road.

Waitsfield There's plenty of fine dining in the valley, as well as live entertainment. Phantom Theater is a semi-professional group performing at the Warren Town Hall. The Valley Players is a community group operating out of the old Odd Fellows Hall on Vermont 100 at the north edge of the village.

Waitsfield

Population (1997) 1,525
change 1990-97 +7.2%
Year-round housing units (1997)714
change 1990-97 +11.4%
Vacation/seasonal housing units (1997) 196
change 1990-97 +0.5%
Representatives: (Washington-Addision-1) Bruce Hyde (R)
Senators: (Washington County) Ann E. Cummings (D), William T. Doyle (R), Jeb Spaulding (D)