If there were railroad tracks between Barre and Montpelier, Barre would be “on the other side” of them. It’s a working-class city that sprang up around the region’s remarkable granite quarries, which are still producing world-class stone. The original laborers were immigrants from Italy and Scotland. This museum documents the history, geology and technology of the dangerous trade that cut many Vermont lives short.
Contemporary quarriers are still at work at the Rock of Ages Quarry, where you can observe artisans cutting massive blocks of stone as well as sculpting the memorials. Take a guided tour (May 23 - October 17, 2008) or check out the do-it-yourself Cut-In-Stone Center.
Located in the Pavillion Office building, this museum offers a great primer on the forces that have shaped Vermont. The permanent 5000-square-foot exhibit “tells the story of Vermont’s people from 1600 to the present,” according to the website. “Using Vermont’s motto, ‘Freedom and Unity,’ as its thematic cornerstone, the exhibition shows visitors how Vermonters have always balanced individual freedoms and community.”
This landmark brick building was once known as "The Socialist Labor Party Hall." Samuel Gompers, Eugene Debs, Mother Jones and Emma Goldman spoke here. And stonecutter Elia Corti was shot here in a scuffle in 1903. It's a must-see stop on any tour of Barre.
The forest is never far away when you’re in central Vermont. In Montpelier, there’s a 28-acre reserve on Elm Street. The North Branch Nature Center maintains a network of hiking trails along the Winooski River and through Hubbard Park that links up with a similar system in East Montpelier. Nature programs for all ages include summer camps for kids, lecture series and amphibian monitoring programs.
You can’t miss the gold dome — Montpelier’s “bling” — on the outside, but the inside of the Vermont State House interior is full of treasures, too. Meticulously restored to its original glory, the building is a lesson in architectural evolution, with excellent examples of Neoclassical, Greek Revival, American Empire, Renaissance Revival, Rococo Revival and Aesthetic Movement styles. Phew. The legislative session runs January through May, but the building is open to the public all summer, too. Weekday tours are every half hour from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. On Saturday, it’s 11 a.m.
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