Located on a bend of the Connecticut River spanned by
the longest covered bridge in the country, Windsor is famous as the "birthplace
of Vermont" and the home of early innovators in the American industrial
revolution. Vermont's first Constitution was adopted here in 1777. In the following
century, in a factory on Mill Brook, Robbins & Lawrence developed a system
for creating interchangeable parts. And in the early 20th century, renowned
artists drawn to the Valley's scenic splendor launched a creative tradition
that continues today. Windsor Heritage Days celebrate the town's notable history,
architecture and culture, all presided over by Mt. Ascutney, an ancient volcano.
Windsor is the Waypoint community for an area that includes the towns of West Windsor, Hartland, and Weathersfield, VT, and Cornish and Plainfield, NH. Its Waypoint Interpretive Center is being established within an historic downtown building across from the Windsor Mount Ascutney train station
The designated Byway routes in the Windsor area are Route 5 in Vermont and Route 12A in New Hampshire.
Mt. Ascutney, at 3,144 feet, is the tallest mountain
close to the Connecticut River and is the tallest monadnock (single mountain
not part of a chain) east of the Mississippi River. It has resisted erosion
for millions of years thanks to a composition that includes a granite rare to
Vermont and an exposed "ring dike" of cooled lava from its origins
as a volcano. A seasonal road and several hiking trails lead to the summit.
White water enthusiasts head to Sumner Falls on the Connecticut River. Now the river is free-flowing, but a dam and canal once stood here, constructed in 1810. They helped to control the movement of logs to sawmills down river and open up the river to flat boats and steam boats that traveled between Long Island Sound and communities as far north as Wells River and Barnet.
The Connecticut's tributaries in the Windsor area include Mill Brook, which once powered 26 mills, and New Hampshire's Sugar River, to the south, and Vermont's Ottauquechee River to the north. Famous Quechee Gorge is a few miles up the Ottauquechee, spanned by an historic bridge that carries Route 4. Here the river cut down 150 feet through bedrock to create a remarkable and visible narrative of geologic time.
The Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee, VT offers year-round educational programs, camps, workshops, events and tours designed to engage people and their communities in the active care of their environment. Its live raptor rehabilitation exhibits are a particular favorite of many return visitors.
For more about birding and nature observation in the Windsor area, visit the Connecticut River Birding Trail.
Windsor and the surrounding area draw their character
from the visual presence of Mt. Ascutney and the beauty of the river valley.
While history and architecture are strong traditions, the artists who established
summer residence in the valley also established the arts as an integral part
of the regional flavor.
Among the most illustrious artists of the Connecticut River Valley was the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907). The Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish, NH, preserves the home, gardens and studios where the sculptor summered from 1885-1897. Among his most well-known works are the Chicago sculpture depicting Abraham Lincoln, the Shaw Memorial in Boston, 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 is work is so well known is a true reflection of the Connecticut River Valley skies. The Town Hall in Plainfield, NH, features the recently restored stage scenery of Parrish's design. His work is shown at the Cornish Colony Museum, Windsor, VT.
Downtown Windsor is an historic district whose architecture
includes the stately Windsor House, a former hotel built in 1836 in the Greek
Revival style. The Old South Church was designed in 1798 by Asher Benjamin,
one of the nation's most notable architects, whose books exerted a profound
influence over the design of Federal-style churches in the Connecticut River
Valley and New England. Historic
Windsor celebrates and preserves historic
The first Constitution of the "Free and Independent State of Vermont" was adopted at Elijah West's tavern on July 8, 1777. The tavern, now known as the Old Constitution House and "the birthplace of Vermont," is a Vermont state historic site. Windsor Heritage Days gather the entire region in a celebration of the village's proud past.
Windsor's "Machine Tool Trail" includes the American Precision Museum a large brick factory, built in 1846, which was the Robbins and Lawrence Armory and Machine Shop. Robbins and Lawrence was an innovator in the new field of manufacturing interchangeable parts, stimulating the growth of mass production and accelerating the industrial revolution in the mid-1800s. The building is a National Historic Landmark due to its importance in the invention of what is known as "precision manufacturing." The museum preserves the heritage of the mechanical arts, celebrates the ingenuity of our talented forebears, and explores the effects of their work on our everyday lives. It holds the largest collection of historically significant machine tools in the nation.
Not far away, in Plymouth Notch, is the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site, both a National Historic Landmark and Vermont state historic site. The 30th president of the U.S. was born here on the fourth of July in 1872, in the house attached to his father's general store. In 1876 the family moved across the street and it was here in 1923 that Coolidge was sworn in as president by his father, a notary public, after receiving word of President Harding's death. The president and seven generations of the Coolidge family are buried in Plymouth Notch, a pristine example of an early 20th century Vermont hill town. It has been called the best preserved presidential birthplace in the nation.
Not far away, the Springfield (VT) Telescope Makers keep alive the traditions established at the Stellafane Observatory a National Historic Landmark. The Observatory played a pioneering role in the development of amateur telescope making and popular astronomy in the United States. The site contains the group's original clubhouse (1924), and the first large optical telescope (1930) built and owned by this kind of amateur society. Both clubhouse and telescope have remained in continuous use, preserved essentially in original condition. Annual conventions attract thousands of amateur telescope makers and astronomers from many countries.
It's fitting that the only National Park in America celebrating conservation history is set in the Northern Connecticut River Valley. The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, VT, honors George Perkins Marsh, one of the nation's first global environmental thinkers, who grew up here, and Frederick Billings, an early conservationist who established a progressive dairy farm and professionally managed forest on the former Marsh farm. Billings' granddaughter, Mary French Rockefeller, and her husband, conservationist Laurance S. Rockefeller, sustained Billings's practices in forestry and farming on the property over the latter half of the 20th century. The Billings Farm & Museum at the site continues the farm's working dairy and interprets rural Vermont life and agricultural history. The Park tells this many-layered story with tours of the mansion, farmhouse, and the surrounding 550-acre forest.
The Windsor area retains an impressive number of historic covered bridges, including the most notable in the entire length of the Connecticut River, the Cornish-Windsor Bridge. The fourth to be built on this site, it is the longest in the U.S. In West Windsor, two covered bridges span Mill Brook: Bests Bridge and Bowers Bridge. Four more covered bridges cross the Ottauquechee River: the Lincoln Bridge, Middle Bridge, and Taftsville Bridge in neighboring Woodstock, and the Willard Bridge in Hartland. Also in Hartland, Martin's Mill Bridge spans Lull's Brook.
Four more covered bridges are nearby in New Hampshire. The and the Dingleton Hill Bridge, both span Cornish's Mill Brook. The Blow-Me-Down Bridge spans a deep gorge on a brook of the same distinctive name. In Plainfield, the Meriden Bridge spans Blood Brook.
State historic markers in the area offer a glimpse into the past, where tangible reminders remain or where events may have passed without a trace.
The Connecticut River Joint Commissions provide maps of the river that identify river access and describe other important aspects of boating on the river. In the Windsor area, from north to south, these include:
In the Shadow of Mount Ascutney
Weathersfield Bow Region
Just west of Windsor, Ascutney Mountain Resort offers skiing and other activities on the western slopes of the mountain. Hang gliders begin their flights atop Ascutney as well as at Morningside Flight Park, across the river in Charlestown.
State parks nearby include:
Wilgus State Park, Ascutney
Ascutney State Park, Windsor
Quechee State Park, Quechee
For more about Recreation on the Connecticut River Byway
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The history of farming in the region is well told at the Billings Farm Museum in Woodstock, VT. The farm itself dates back 1871. Now it's a living museum and working dairy farm operated in partnership with the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.
Across the river, the eagerly anticipated Cornish
Fair draws spectators and participants to the animal competitions, displays
of fruits, vegetables, and crafts, and the sights and sounds of farm life past
Sugar Bush Farm gives tours of its Woodstock farm.
In the Windsor area you may buy many agricultural products directly from the producers.
Windsor and the region are served by Amtrak, which makes two stops daily at the Windsor-Mount Ascutney train station. The Central Vermont Railway built the Romanesque brick station about 1905.
For more about Railroads on the Connecticut River Byway
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Pearce offers glassblowing demonstrations at its facility on Route 5 just
north of Windsor.
Partnership for Upper Connecticut River Valley Tourism
Southern Windsor Regional Marketing Organization
For more about Products on the Connecticut River Bywayback to top
Below, you'll find listings of farmers' markets in the Windsor waypoint region, followed by individual farm stands and farms where you can pick your own farm-fresh products. For more, visit Valley Food and Farm's searchable site.
Cornish Farmers' Market
Cornish Flat, NH Saturdays, May-October, 9am-noon. Local produce, baked goods, bread, woolens, gifts, goats milk soap. Special sales/exchanges once a month, book sale and marionette show. Rain or shine, 603-542-8635.
Paul and Nancy Franklin
141 River Rd., Plainfield NH 03781
10am-5pm, September-October, daily
Pick your own apples, pumpkins, and raspberries; cider, jams, jellies & dried flowers.
Rt. 12A, Plainfield NH 03770
early June-mid October
Small fruit, vegetables, honey, maple, milk, jams, jellies & cheese, annuals and perennial flowers.
Rt 5, 2.5 mi south of Windsor
Windsor, VT 05089
July 15 - August 31
Vegetables, pumpkins, corn and beans, Farm Stand, PYO
Cornish, NH SALMON PORTLAND CHASE
In this house was born Salmon P. Chase, U.S. Senator from Ohio (1849-1855), Governor of Ohio (1855-1859), a founder of the Republican Party and leader in the anti-slavery movement. After serving as Secretary of the Treasury in Lincoln's Cabinet, he was appointed Chief Justice of the United States. The Chase Manhattan Bank in New York was named in his honor.
Located on NH 12-A about 2 miles north of the Claremont-Cornish town line.
Cornish, NH THE CORNISH COLONY
The Cornish Colony (1885-1935) was a group of artists, sculptors, writers, journalists, poets, and musicians who joined the sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens in Cornish and found the area a delightful place to live and work. Some prominent members were sculptor Herbert Adams, poet Percy MacKaye, architect Charles A. Platt, and artist Stephen Parrish and nearby is the studio of his son, Maxfield Parrish, now a museum.
Located on NH 12-A, just north of the entrance to the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site.
Cornish, NH WINSTON CHURCHILL
American author of best-selling novels, such as "Coniston", written between 1898-1941 and partly based upon actual experience in New Hampshire politics. His nearby residence, "Harlakenden House", was built in 1898 and burned in 1923. It also served as a summer home for President Woodrow Wilson in 1913, 1914, and 1915.
Located on the west side of NH 12-A about 200 yards south of the Plainfield-Cornish town line.
Plainfield, NH KIMBALL UNION ACADEMY
This school, known first as Union Academy, was chartered June 16, 1813 "to train young men for leadership in the ministry." The original building, located about 1,000 feet west of here and dedicated January 9, 1815, was destroyed by fire in 1824. Now known as Kimball Union Academy to honor benefactor Daniel Kimball, traditionally it has afforded a broad education to all who have attended.
Located on the west side of NH 120, just south of its junction with Main Street in the village of Meriden.
Plymouth, VT CALVIN COOLIDGE (1872-1933)
Born July 4, 1872, in a house back of store, Calvin Coolidge from 4 years of age lived in the Homestead across the road, now owned by the State of Vermont. Here on Aug. 3, 1923, he was inaugurated President and here he spent many vacations. In the Notch Cemetery he rests beside his wife and son and 4 generations of forebears.
Located off Route 100-A, at Plymouth Notch.
Reading, VT INDIAN STONES
Commemorate event in early history of Vermont. Captured by Abnakis for ransom at Fort No. 4, Johnson Family, Miriam Willard, Peter Labaree, and Ebenezer Farnsworth camped here 30 August 1754 enroute to Montreal. The next day a daughter was born to Mrs. Johnson in a shelter made by the Indians about one-half mile up Knapp Brook. Enduring many hardships the party went on with their captors to Montreal where the captives were turned over to the French for ransom or sold. After six years the Johnson Family was, by various means, reunited in Charlestown. The other captives had been freed as well. Designated an Historic Site on the National Register - 1974. Reading Bicentennial Committee.
Located on Route 106.
Weathersfield, VT WILLIAM JARVIS
Consul to Lisbon was First to Import Large Numbers of Merino Sheep to U.S.
In 1811, Consul Jarvis brought from Spain to his farm in Weathersfield Bow the prized Merino sheep, whose longer fiber revolutionized the woolen industry and stimulated sheep raising throughout the East. In the 1830's Merinos were the state's principal livestock.
Located on U.S. Route 5, Weathersfield Bow.
Windsor, VT WINDSOR: Site of Constitution House
Windsor, settled in 1764, became the political center for the Connecticut Valley towns. Here the state was named and her constitution adopted; here were printed many of the first Vermont imprints and the state's oldest newspaper (1783). Its Yankee inventors made it the cradle of the American machine tool industry.
Located on U.S. Route 5, North entrance of village.
Woodstock, VT HIRAM POWERS
Hiram Powers, one of the most famous nineteenth century sculptors, was born in 1805 in a farmhouse that stood on this hillside. Although he went west with his family at a young age, and took up residence in Florence, Italy, in 1837, Powers always referred to Woodstock as his home town. He said of his most famous work, "The Greek Slave" (the first nude female sculpture ever displayed in the U.S.), that he had dreamt of her rising from the mists of the Ottauquechee River. He died in Italy in 1837, leaving a body of work that included statues of such American heroes as: Andrew Jacskson, Daniel Webster, John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. Today, his works are in private collections and at such museums as the Louvre, the Metropolitan, and the Smithsonian.
Located on Church Hill Road.
Woodstock, VT JUSTIN MORGAN
On this site the progenitor of the famous Morgan breed of horses was owned by Sheriff William Rice about 1800. Justin Morgan took his name from that of the singing schoolmaster who originally brought him to Vermont, but who lost possession of the later famous horse to Sheriff Rice in payment of a debt.
New England Morgan Horse Association, Inc.
Located on Route 4, approximately opposite Lincoln St.
Woodstock, VT SITE OF FIRST SKI TOW IN THE UNITED STATES
In January, 1934, on this pasture hill of Clinton Gilbert's farm, an endless-rope tow, powered by a Model "T" Ford engine, hauled skiers uphill for the first time. This ingenious contraption launched a new era in winter sports.
Located on Route 12, two miles west of Woodstock Village.
Woodstock, VT WOODSTOCK
Shire Town of Windsor County, Chartered 1761 Settled 1768.
Famous for the architecture of its houses, Woodstock is one of New England's most beautiful villages. Only town in America with 4 Paul Revere church bells. Birthplace of Hiram Powers, sculptor, "Greek Slave." Home of Frederick Billings, railroad empire-builder. Site of first ski tow in the United States, 1934.
Located on village green.