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Wells River - Woodsville St. Johnsbury
detail from woodblock by Sabra Field

One River, Two States

From the days of the earliest settlers, nearly three hundred years ago, we in the Northern Connecticut River Valley have had our own way of doing things. We once even tried to form our own state, with the Connecticut River in the center, although General George Washington himself put an end to that idea.

Since then, the region has evolved its own distinctive culture. It's a landscape of hill farms and downtowns, where newcomers might operate the general store and descendents of old-time families run businesses in cyberspace, where loggers make sculptures, and teachers raise sheep. It's a place where the regional culture can't be confined within our great museums. You'll find authentic historic sites from one end of the watershed to the other. Many of our downtowns and neighborhoods are themselves historic districts.

Our church steeples and village greens still provide picture postcard views, and in some places at night you can see for miles and count the house lights on the fingers of one hand. But these days our traditional Town Meetings and old-time church suppers are enriched by lively downtown and village scenes, where you'll find art galleries, antique auctions, craft fairs, concerts, and live theater. Catch the show, join the dance, check out the shops on Main Street.

For calendars and special events, check the Waypoint Communities’ links to the local chamber of commerce or tourism association.

Among the most illustrious artists of the Connecticut River Valley is the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907). The
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, NH, preserves the home, gardens and studios where the sculptor summered from 1885-1897. Among his most well-known works are the Shaw Memorial in Boston, the Chicago sculpture depicting Abraham Lincoln, and the monument to General Sherman in front of New York's Plaza Hotel. Saint-Gaudens drew into his sphere many other artists and musicians who collectively became known as the Cornish Colony, here at "little New York," from about 1885-1935. The National Park Service operates the 150-acre site and its hiking trails that explore the park's natural areas.

Among those drawn to the Cornish Colony was the Parrish family, including popular artist Maxfield Parrish, who created luminous paintings of Connecticut River Valley scenes. Those who live here know that the remarkable lighting for which his work is so well known is a true reflection of the Connecticut River Valley skies. The Town Hall in Plainfield, NH, features recently restored stage scenery of Parrish’s design. His work is shown at the
Cornish Colony Museum, Windsor, VT.

The Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire supports and sustains culture, heritage and the arts in the Colebrook region with a variety of events, performances, and activities. The Great River Arts Map guides visitors on a tour of Connecticut River galleries and other cultural sites.

St. Johnsbury Athenaeum is a distinctive public library and art gallery, in St. Johnsbury, VT. This National Historic Landmark is a legacy of the Fairbanks Family, inventors and manufacturers of the world's first platform scale, who gave the Athenaeum to the Town in 1871. The art collection contains a number of Hudson River School paintings. Dominating the gallery is the magnificent canvas, about ten feet by fifteen feet, of the Domes of the Yosemite, by Albert Bierstadt. The artist visited St. Johnsbury often until his death in 1902, touching up the canvas from time to time.

Among the finest cultural centers in the Upper Connecticut River Valley is Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, with its
Hood Museum of Art and Hopkins Center, a leading venue for the performing arts. One of the Byway's finest regional museums is the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, Brattleboro, VT. A variety of smaller yet equally vibrant galleries includes the Spheris Gallery in Walpole, NH.

The Great River Arts Institute, also in Walpole, draws upon the inspiration offered by the Connecticut River Valley setting, which works as well for 21st century artists and writers as it did for the 19th century Cornish Colony. The Institute has sponsored a major exhibition centered around the river, and published a map of arts and cultural sites in the Valley.

Not far from Brattleboro, in Dummerston, VT, another National Historic Landmark offers a glimpse into the American years of Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), the first English language author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. At the place he named
Naulakha, Kipling himself designed one of the region's finest Shingle Style residences for his American bride. Despite their brief residence in the house (1893-1896), Kipling wrote several of his best-beloved books here, including The Jungle Book and Captains Courageous. The Landmark Trust of America operates the site as a private bed-and-breakfast, which is infrequently open to the public.

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Connecticut River Byway Council