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Stowe-Smugglers' Notch Region

Area AttractionsCultural Heritage

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Stowe-Smugglers' Notch Cultural, Arts, and Heritage

Cultural Heritage in Northern Vermont

Stowe-Smugglers' Cultural Heritage Guide
From arts and crafts to Lamoille County's self-guided Covered Bridge Tour, the Lamoille Valley offers many cultural-heritage attractions.

The feature stories below are about the area. Just click on the titles to see them in their entirety. For a complete guide to the area, click on the Guide cover to open it in a separate window. Right-click on it if you'd like to download it (then click on "Save Target As"). It is large, at 7.30 MB, so please be patient while it downloads.

Maple Syrup, Vermont's Liquid Gold
Vermont has been the leading producer of this delectable taste treat since the Civil War, and Lamoille County has been in the business of protecting one of the state's greatest liquid assets for nearly as long. The Vermont Sugar Makers Association began here in 1893 to protect and promote maple syrup. More maple syrup flows from Vermont-on average between 400,000 - 500,000 gallons each year-than from any other state. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, and each tree gives about 10 gallons of sap during a sugaring season. Do the math, and you will understand why this is such a labor-intensive industry, why the acer saccharum, or sugar maple, has been named our state tree, and why the Maple Open House Weekend, and the Vermont Maple Festival have become must-do events each spring. For a listing of sugarhouses in the area, or to learn more about the events mentioned above, go to www.VermontMaple.org.

Covered Bridges
Covered bridges are among our most treasured landmarks. Stretching across streams and rivers, spanning decades and generations, these simple, straightforward structures are historical sites that give recognition to the men whose construction techniques changed the science of engineering. There is, to this day, an on-going debate as to why they are covered. The discussion is as broad as it is diverse, embracing romantic notions and practical applications. The most widely accepted answer, however, is perhaps the most obvious-to protect the roadbed and trusses that are integral to the integrity of the bridge. The distinctive coverings did not, and do not add to its structural strength. It is what they did do that has captured our imagination. The caps served to protect wagonloads of hay and weary travelers from sudden storms. They also provided clubhouses for local children, hosted meetings, served as boxing rings, afforded a quiet place for lovers and offered advertisement space.

Once privately owned, with tolls being charged and admonishments to go no faster than a walk when crossing given, these lovely testaments to our culture are now maintained by state and local municipalities. Lamoille County once laid claim to over a hundred of these wonderful structures. Some of that original number have fallen by the wayside. Others, like the double-track Cambridge Bridge, which now sits on the grounds of the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT, were replaced with more modern structures. Still others, like the Fisher Bridge in Wolcott have managed to weather the proverbial storm. Lamoille County is currently home to 14 covered bridges-more than any other county in the Green Mountain State.

Each of the driving tours contains one or more of the fourteen covered bridges within the county borders. All are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. All have a unique story to tell. If you would like a more in-depth account of the bridges you will encounter, pick up Ed Barna's book, Covered Bridges of Vermont, or get in touch with either the Stowe Area Association, or the Lamoille County Chamber of Commerce to receive a copy of the Lamoille County Covered Bridges Auto and Bike Tour. Contact information for both organizations can be found in the front of this publication.

How to Make Sugar-On-Snow
The tradition of tapping maple trees in Spring is as old as the hills. Early European colonists learned the technique and the process of boiling the sap from indigenous peoples. Families handed down these skills from generation to generation. Eventually, folks began to celebrate the end of the first day's boil by making Sugar-On-Snow, a delicious, sticky maple syrup candy. Although a springtime tradition in Vermont, it can actually be made anywhere, at any time of year. You will need one quart of Pure Vermont Maple Syrup, a packed snow surface (or tub of well crushed ice), and a candy thermometer. Some folks recommend using a half of a teaspoon of butter as well, but that's up to you. Heat the syrup (and butter) in a saucepan. Watch the pot closely to ensure that the contents do not burn or boil over. Check temperature with thermometer. Cool mixture slightly when it reaches 230 °, or the soft ball stage. Drizzle the syrup onto the snow before it cools too much. Use a fork to wind the chewy strands, or "leather aprons," as they are sometimes called. Traditionally speaking, plain homemade doughnuts and pickles are served with sugar-on-snow. A bite of one is followed by a bit of the other, and the sequence is repeated until all have been consumed.

Living off the Land
Early settlers of the area found it to be timber laden. They cleared the land for home sites, using the harvested wood for their houses, barns and fences. They also burned wood kilns for potash, erected grist and cider mills, and made their clothes "to home." Trees were sawn at timber mills in Johnson, Morrisville and Stowe, then shipped by rail to places like Boston, Massachusetts, Portland, Maine, and the far west. By the mid-1800s, only 20-30 percent of Vermont remained forested. Farmland gradually gave way to forest, however, after the exodus of many Vermonters to the Midwest during that period. Along the streams and slopes of the Green Mountains, and in the valleys below, sawmills and wood industries cut and shaped timber into boards, flooring, butter tubs, chair parts, hand-shaved shingles and dishes. Other resources that provided area residents with a decent livelihood from the late nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century included the manufacturer of starch, cloth, and dairy products, as well as the mining of marble, talc and asbestos.

Historic Districts, the National Register, Local Historical Societies
The National Register of Historic Places is the official Federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. The villages of Jeffersonville, Morrisville, and Stowe are listed on the National Register as historic districts.

The Jeffersonville Bridge, the Lamoille River Route 15-A Bridge, and all fourteen of the covered bridges in the county are listed as structures. Elmore State Park and the Stowe Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Side Camp have also been recognized, as have the Lamoille County Courthouse in Hyde Park, the People's Academy in Morrisville, The Cambridge Meetinghouse in Cambridge, and both the Nye Block and Railroad Depot in Johnson.

Many of the buildings listed on the National Register bear a bronze sign indicating significant dates and some reason for inclusion. Just as the built environment tells us a lot about the region, so do the local libraries, historical societies and museums. There are six historical societies in Lamoille County, five with museums. All provide a glimpse into the collective past. All are working diligently to ensure a place for the stories, artifacts, and traditions of those who proceeded us, for those who will follow. The societies that post regular visiting hours are listed in the driving loops and can be found on the maps outlined in this publication.

For information on the others, head to the nearest computer and check out the Vermont Historical Society web site at www.vermonthistory.org. You will find what you need under Lamoille County.

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