As the unofficial start of summer – Memorial Day weekend – approaches, so does the opening day for most of Vermont’s Historic Sites.
Most of the state-owned historic sites – President Calvin Coolidge, Mount Independence, Justin Morrill Homestead, Hubbardton Battlefield, Eureka Schoolhouse, Old Constitution House, and Chimney Point State Historic Sites – open for the 2010 season on Saturday, May 29.
The Bennington Battle Monument site opened for the season on April 17, and the Chester Arthur Birthplace and the Hyde Log Cabin sites will open on July 3. The state’s underwater preserve – consisting of five shipwrecks in Lake Champlain – is open May 29 through mid-October depending on weather conditions.
“The state’s historic sites are a perfect way for families to get outdoors together,” said John Dumville, historic sites operations chief at the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. “The fact that Mount Independence has been recognized as a 2010 Editors’ Choice in Yankee Magazine’s Travel Guide to New England as the ‘best hike through history’ really underscores the recreational aspect of many of the sites.”
The first of several hikes at Mount Independence will take place Saturday, May 29, at 8:00 a.m. when bird expert Suzanne Wetmore will lead the annual Early Bird Nature Walk. The site features the Baldwin Trail, which meets outdoor standards for handicapped accessibility.
On Sept. 12 and Oct. 3 there will be hikes of the military trail and Mount Zion, respectively, at the Hubbardton Battlefield site.
Other events this summer include the June 5 “Climb of Your Life” at the Bennington Battle Monument, a fundraising “race” up the 34 flights of stairs at the state’s tallest building to raise money for the American Lung Association, and the 5th Annual Battle Day 5K Road Race at the monument on August 14.
Opening weekend also includes artistic and cultural events, including History Happens at Old Constitution House!, where 18th-century re-enactor Carl Malikowski his wife Carolyn demonstrate a variety of period activities including brewing, cooking, woodworking, powder horn carving, and more.
There will be a Memorial Day commemoration at noon on May 31st at the Hubbardton Battlefield site.
As part of Open Studio Weekend May 29 and 30, Vermont artisans will temporarily relocate their studios to the Coolidge State Historic Site, where visitors can watch Irene Ames of Derby demonstrate basket making in the Sweetser family tradition. In addition, Dolores Furnari of Brandon and Pat Lacy of East Wallingford will offer stenciling activities for children- Mary Perry of Salisbury, NH will demonstrate reverse painting on glass- and Rhonda Nolan of Keene, NH will stencil with bronze powders.
On August 7, the Coolidge site will host Plymouth Old Home Day, a daylong celebration featuring wagon rides, a chicken barbecue, sheep shearing, old time fiddling, traditional Vermont craft demonstrations, and children’s activities as well as the grand opening of the new President Calvin Coolidge Museum & Education Center.
Dumville said interest in the historic sites may have been piqued by the demolition of the Champlain Bridge adjacent to Chimney Point State Historic Site, which has allowed archeologists to examine the area of proposed construction further.
That led to the discovery of the foundation of what may be a small French fort dating back to 1731, and a special exhibit showcasing the archaeological work as the result of the demolition and construction has been set up at the site.
Historical re-enactment events at the sites during the season include the annual Battle of Hubbardton Revolutionary War Encampment on July 10 and 11- the Soldiers Atop the Mount re-enactment weekend July 24 and 25 at Mount Independence- and Anniversary Celebration of the Battle of Bennington August 14 and 15.
Art lovers can attend the Grace Coolidge Musicales throughout the summer at the Coolidge site, or the Plymouth Folk & Blues Concerts on September 4 and 5 at the same venue or the Homestead Gallery in the Gardens art showing at the Justin Morrill site’s beautifully restored gardens July 2 through July 18.
Finally, the fall season brings the annual atlatl competition at Chimney Point Sept. 17 through 19- the Plymouth Cheese & Harvest Festival on September 19- and the19th Century Apple and Harvest Festival at the Justin Morrill Homestead on October 10.
For more information about hours of operation or for a calendar of events, visit www.HistoricVermont.org/sites or visit the sites on Facebook.