Historic Sites In Vermont. More Than Just Parks has 10 incredible must-see sites for you to visit.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
I’m going to give you my list of the Top 10 Historic Sites In Vermont that you’ll want to see.
To be clear, this list includes national park sites (as in sites managed by the National Park Service) as opposed to national parks.
One book that you might want to pick up before making your trip to the Green Mountain State is: Scenic Driving Vermont: Exploring the State’s Most Spectacular Byways and Back Roads by Stewart M. Green.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
Historic Sites In Vermont
10. Appalachian National Scenic Trail
We begin our countdown of the Top 10 Historic Sites In Vermont at #10 with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail .
It’s the longest hiking trail in the world.
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a marked hiking trail that runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Just how long a hike is that? Approximately 2,200 miles.
The original concept for the Appalachian Trail was the brainchild of Benton MacKaye. MacKaye was a forester, planner and social reformer who wrote a 1921 article in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects first proposing it.
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In MacKaye’s original vision, the Appalachian Trail would put back together the various parts of American life that were rapidly coming undone in the early 20th century.
It would fuse leisure and industry, environment and labor, community development and wilderness preservation into an interrelated project
Giving City Dwellers An Escape
MacKaye wanted to give city dwellers an escape from their humdrum urban existences. His bold proposal was nothing less than a wholesale reinvention of social life, economic organization, and land use.
The trail was built by private citizens and completed in 1937. It is managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, numerous state agencies and thousands of volunteers.
It’s a truly magnificent hiking trail traversing the scenic, wooded, pastoral and wild lands of the Appalachian Mountains.
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Historic Sites In Vermont
9. Hildene – Lincoln Family Home
At #9 on our list of the best historic sites in Vermont is the Hildene – Lincoln Family Home.
Hildene was the summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln who happened to be the son of America’s 16th President-Abraham Lincoln.
As a lifelong history buff, I quickly learned that Robert Lincoln was an accomplished man in his own right. He became a business lawyer and company president. He also served as U.S. Secretary of War and U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Hildene was built in 1905 and it remained a Lincoln home until 1975.
Today it’s a museum featuring a 400-acre estate, a Georgian revival mansion, 13 historic buildings, a working dairy farm, a goat’s milk cheesemaker and a celestial observatory. Guided tours are offered daily.
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Robert Todd Lincoln & Presidential Assassinations
But there’s more to this man’s life than what I’ve already reported.
Robert Todd Lincoln occupies a unique place in American history. President and Mrs. Lincoln invited their son, then Capt. Robert T. Lincoln of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s staff, to Ford’s Theater to see a performance of Our American Cousin on the night of April 14, 1865. The younger Lincoln declined, telling his father that he planned to retire early that night.
After John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln at the theater, numerous people came to Robert Lincoln with the terrible news. He immediately left for the Petersen house, where his father, unconscious but alive had been taken. Robert was there at 7:22 a.m. on April 15 when President Lincoln died.
The Garfield Assassination
Fast forward to July 2, 1881. President Garfield was scheduled to leave for a trip to New England. Robert Lincoln went to Washington, D.C.’s Baltimore and Potomac train station that morning to meet the President and let him know that the Lincolns would be joining on July 3.
Believe it or not, he was about forty feet away and walking toward President Garfield and Secretary of State James G. Blaine when Charles Guiteau approached from behind and shot Garfield twice.
As historian Jason Emerson notes, Lincoln’s decisive actions after the attack on Garfield were reminiscent of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton’s on the night Booth shot Abraham Lincoln. However, the memory of his father’s murder sixteen years before haunted him.
“My god,” he said to a New York Times reporter the day after the shooting. “How many hours of sorrow I have passed in this town.”
The McKinley Assassination
But the story doesn’t end there. Fast forward to 1901. The Lincolns vacationed all summer in New Jersey. As they traveled back to Chicago, in early September, they decided to make a stop in Buffalo, New York, to visit the Pan-American Exposition, a world’s fair intended to promote trade and friendship between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
The Lincolns’ train pulled into the Buffalo train station on the evening of Friday, September 6.
A Pullman employee was waiting. He immediately handed Lincoln a telegram that read: “President McKinley was shot down by an anarchist in Buffalo this afternoon. He was hit twice in the abdomen. Condition serious.”
McKinley had been in a reception line and he was shaking hands with the public when anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot him twice in the abdomen.
The Only Man On The Scene For Three Presidential Assassinations
McKinley initially appeared to be recovering, but he took a turn for the worse on September 13 as his wounds became gangrenous, and he died early the next morning; he was succeeded by his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt.
Robert Lincoln is the only man in American history who was on the scene for three presidential assassinations.
At the bedside of his father, Abraham Lincoln, when he died; at the Washington railroad station when Garfield was shot; and also at the Pan-American Exposition as McKinley was mortally wounded.
Historic Sites In Vermont
8. Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium
We continue our countdown of the Top 10 Historic Sites In Vermont. At #8 we have the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium.
The Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium is a combination natural science museum, history museum, and planetarium located in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
It was founded in 1890 by businessman, politician, naturalist, and collector Franklin Fairbanks.
The museum houses 75,000 natural science specimens, 95,000 historical artifacts. It also houses Vermont’s only public planetarium.
Live presentations of the cosmos and how it works happen throughout weekdays, and the site is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.
The neighboring athenaeum is a public library and gallery founded by Horace Fairbanks.
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Historic Sites In Vermont
7. Brown Covered Bridge
At lucky #7 on our top 10 countdown is the Brown Covered Bridge.
The Brown Covered Bridge is a wooden covered bridge in Shrewsbury, Vermont. Located in the northwestern part of the town, it carries Upper Cold River Road over the Cold River.
Built in 1880 by well-known Vermont native Nicholas M. Powers, the Brown Bridge features a lattice-truss design that was popular at the time.
It was closed to vehicular traffic in 2011 due to damage from Hurricane Irene.
Carefully restored after Hurricane Irene, the bridge was named a National Historic Landmark in 2014 and cited as one of the “finest, least-altered examples” of lattice-truss in the U.S.
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Historic Sites In Vermont
6. North Country National Scenic Trail
At #6 on our list of the best historic sites in Vermont is the North Country National Scenic Trail.
The North Country National Scenic Trail provides visitors opportunities from bird watching to backpacking.
The trail traverses eight northern states and connects a host of natural, historic and cultural sites. You can see everything from small towns to larger cities, valleys to hilltops and much more.
The History Of The North Country National Scenic Trail
In 1980, the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) was authorized by Congress. It stretches 4,600 miles from upstate New Hampshire to its western terminus at Lake Sakakawea State Park.
The trail actually traversed seven states until 2019 when Vermont was added. The Vermont section is only about 70 miles long. From the Middlebury Gap, the NCT follows Route 125 into Middlebury and joins around Middlebury.
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The Top 5 Historic Sites In Vermont
5. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
In 1609, the French Explorer Samuel Champlain discovered Lake Champlain. It had been a freshwater highway for hundreds of years prior to his discovery however.
The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is a waterfront museum with outside and indoor exhibits, classes, camps, boat building, rowing, underwater research, and more on Lake Champlain.
The Museum includes stories and images of over 300 historic shipwrecks.
Its mission is to preserve artifacts and educate people about the fascinating history of Lake Champlain.
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Historic Sites In Vermont
4. Robert Frost Farm
We’re on to the Final Four. At #4 we have the Robert Frost Farm.
Robert Frost was one of the most celebrated poets of all time. He was an American poet who depicted realistic New England life through language and situations familiar to the common man.
Frost won an incredible four Pulitzer Prizes for his work. He spoke at John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration.
Robert Frost’s most famous poems included “The Gift Outright,” “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” “Birches,” “Mending Wall,” “The Road Not Taken,” and “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
If you enjoy poetry then you might be interested in The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems.
There’s also a wonderful biography of Robert Frost titled Robert Frost: A Life by Jay Parini.
The Robert Frost Farm
The Robert Frost Farm Historic Site was home to Robert Frost and his family from 1900-1911.
There are tours, displays, a nature/poetry trail, programs and poetry readings all available at the park.
Seasonal programs are offered to the public at no charge. They run from May through October.
The Robert Frost Farm is a National Historic Landmark which is supported by the Division of Natural and Cultural Resources, Bureau of Historic Sites and the Trustees of the Frost Farm.
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Historic Sites In Vermont
3. Bennington Battle Monument
Coming in at #3 on our list of the best historic sites in Vermont is the Bennington Battle Monument.
The Monument was built to commemorate the Battle Of Bennington which occurred on August 16, 1777.
This battle was part of the Saratoga Campaign of the American Revolution. It was fought on a farm owned by John Green about 10 miles from its namesake, Bennington, Vermont.
The Battle of Bennington was the precursor to the defeat of Burgoyne’s army two months later at Saratoga, turning the tide of war in favor of the Americans.
The monument is 306 feet 4 and 1/2 inches tall and was completed and dedicated in 1891. It is constructed from blue-grey magnesian limestone.
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Historic Sites In Vermont
2. Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site
In the runner-up position at #2 on our list of the best historic sites in Vermont is the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site.
Calvin Coolidge became America’s 30th President upon the death of Warren Harding on August 2, 1923.
During his presidency, he restored public confidence in the White House after the many scandals of his predecessor’s administration.
Coolidge also signed the Immigration Act of 1924, which greatly restricted immigration into the United States.
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What To See At The Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site
The President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch preserves the birthplace and childhood home of Calvin Coolidge.
Visitors to the site can see the homes of the Coolidge family, their relatives, and friends edge the small village green, joined by the 1840 church, 1890 school house and cheese factory, pre-1835 store with post office and dance hall, and historic agricultural structures and barns.
There’s also the 1924 Summer White House Office and the tourists’ cabins constructed in 1927 for the first of many visitors making the pilgrimage to explore the rural environs that shaped Coolidge’s life and those of his ancestors who first settled here in the 1780s.
A Museum & Education Center, added in 1972 and enlarged in 2010, houses the exhibits and archives recounting Calvin Coolidge’s private and public lives.
Visitors to the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site will also enjoy two museum stores, walking trails, and sheltered picnic area.
The #1 Historic Site In Vermont
1. Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park
As the #1 Historic Site In Vermont, we have selected the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.
George Perkins Marsh was one of the first environmental leaders, some would argue the very first, to challenge the idea that human activity is always beneficial to the environment. In 1864, he published his groundbreaking work, Man and Nature.
Marsh charted the rise and fall of great civilizations such as the Roman Empire. He saw a connection between how these civilizations managed their natural resources and their long-term survival.
Marsh warned that humankind could destroy itself if it did not protect these precious resources.
The First To Document The Effects Of Humans On Their Environment
George Perkins Marsh was the first to document the effects of humans on their environment. Through his insightful writings, he influenced many people including John Muir, Gifford Pinchot and Theodore Roosevelt.
Learn More About George Perkins Marsh At The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park
Today, the legacy of George Perkins Marsh can be explored at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Institute in Vermont or at The George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University. Both of these places celebrate the legacy of this extraordinary man.
At Woodstock, Vermont, you can visit the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park which the Rockefellers donated to the National Park Service in 1992.
The park includes Marsh’s birthplace, a carriage barn which is the visitor center, and more than 500 acres of managed forestland on Mount Tom overlooking the village of Woodstock.
Things To Do & See At The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park
During the open season (May – Oct) the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP offers the visitor the opportunity to explore the formal gardens in full bloom and also guided tours of the Mansion.
Annual Peak to Peak Hiking Event at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP takes place in October when Fall foliage creates a spectacular backdrop.
The community event offers a variety of hikes and activities for all ages and levels. The challenge hike includes scaling both peaks: Mt. Tom and Mt. Peg in the same day. (Source: National Park Service)
The Marsh Legacy Lives On | Vermont National Parks
At the George Perkins Marsh Institute, Marsh’s legacy lives on. Much of their work revolves around examining one of the most fundamental questions confronting humankind: What is and ought to be our relationship with nature?
To learn more, I would recommend David Lowenthal’s outstanding biography titled, George Perkins Marsh: Prophet Of Conservation.
Map Of Historic Sites In Vermont
List Of Historic Sites In Vermont
- Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park
- Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site
- Bennington Battle Monument
- Robert Frost Farm
- The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
- North Country National Scenic Trail
- Brown Covered Bridge
- Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium
- Hildene Lincoln Family Home
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail
About The People Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and a proud dad of these two wonderful guys who are hopelessly obsessed with the national parks. I taught history for over a quarter of a century. Now I enjoy researching and writing articles for More Than Just Parks. I’m always on the hunt for topics where nature and history intersect so please feel free to share any ideas that you might have with me.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then please sign up below!