The day before we left Hanover, New Hampshire we drove to Plymouth, Vermont to visit the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site. We were quite surprised to find not only a small museum but grounds that included among other things his birthplace, his boyhood home, a church, a general store, an active post office, a one room schoolhouse, a cheese factory and a large barn.
First we watched a video in the museum on his life from his birth in 1872, to his presidency. It was a nice video but I wish it had continued through his presidency so we could learn more about his accomplishments and challenges while President. The small museum also told us very little about his presidency.
Calvin Coolidge is the only president born on the 4th of July and he also was the 30th president of the United States. Vice President Coolidge was actually at his home in Plymouth, Vermont when he received word that President Harding had unexpectedly passed away. Coolidge’s father was a notary public and swore his son in as president of the United States in the family home on August 3, 1923. We don’t usually take tours of homes but the tour of his birthplace and boyhood home was included in the admission to the grounds so we took the tour so we could see things like the room where he was sworn in as president.
The church was built in 1840 and was the church the Coolidge family attended. It was beautiful inside with pine wood cut at a local mill. The 1900 Estey pump organ is still used today.
Coolidge was president from 1923 to 1929. He was known as a man of few words and as a small government conservative. Coolidge’s presidency was during the “Roaring Twenties”, a time of rapid economic growth. Some historians argue that Coolidge’s laissez-faire ideology and disdain of regulation led the country into the Great Depression.
Coolidge chose not to run for a second term, saying that would mean he would spend ten years as President and that is too long because the office of President takes a heavy toll on the President and his family.
He retired to Northampton, Massachusetts. He died in 1933 at the age of 60. He is buried in Plymouth, Vermont down the road from his birthplace. We stopped by to visit the gravesite.
On the way home we stopped by Quechee Gorge, advertised as Vermont’s Little Grand Canyon. What a disappointment. Calling this a little Grand Canyon is quite a stretch. Thankfully it was on the way home and we didn’t make a special trip to see it.
Saturday we drove to Essex Junction, Vermont for the Escapade RV Rally, held by our camping group: Escapees. Along the way we stopped at the Vermont state capitol building in Montpellier. Now that is a beautiful gold-plated state capitol building and one of the most picturesque we have seen. Nestled in the hills, it is one of the oldest preserved state capitols in the country. The House and Senate Chambers are the oldest legislative chambers in their original condition in the United States. The building was constructed in 1859 and the Greek Revival Architecture is similar to the US Capitol. The dome was gilded in the early twentieth century and on top of the building is a statue of the ancient Roman goddess of agriculture. Montpelier is the smallest capital city in the United States.
On Sunday we took some time before the rally began to drive 45 minutes to the Chester A. Arthur Historic Site in Fairfield, Vermont. There is some mystery about where Arthur was really born and the granite marker is located where their best guess is for his birthplace. The house is a replica of what they think his boyhood home looked like and inside is a very small museum with some display boards about Arthur’s life and presidency. The museum is only open July through mid October. Arthur, born in 1829 in Fairfield, was the 21st President of the United States and succeeded President James A. Garfield when Garfield was assassinated. Strangely enough, the only other president from Vermont, Calvin Coolidge, also became president when the incumbent president died in office. Arthur served from 1881-1885 and did not have a Vice President the entire time he was president. Our museum volunteer guide and the museum displays were open about Arthur’s early career when he was seen as a corrupt man who used his position as Collector of Customs to collect bribes and was the political puppet of New York Senator Roscoe Conkling. This political control by Conkling continued into Arthur’s vice presidency. Less than four months after Garfield’s inauguration, he was shot. President Garfield lingered near death for 80 days. During that time Arthur was often accused of having something to do with Garfield’s death, reportedly causing him much anguish. When he assumed the presidency many expected him to continue to be a political puppet of corrupt politicians. But according to the guide, the museum displays and what I have read, the presidency seemed to bring out the best in Arthur. As president he is known for signing the Pendleton Civil Service Act:
- mandating that certain federal government jobs be distributed based on merit rather than political connections
- The act also forbade workers from being fired for political reasons and prohibited compulsory political employee donations
- The Civil Service Commission was established to enforce the law
He did not seek reelection due to poor health. He died in 1886 at the age of 57 and was buried in Menands, New York. His wife, Nell Arthur died the year before he became President. Arthur’s sister served as the unofficial First Lady during his Presidency.
We enjoyed the Escapade RV rally. It was a time of fun and fellowship as well as learning new things at daily seminars. Vermont is a beautiful state. We enjoyed being in Essex Junction in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. Nearby Lake Champlain stretches 125 miles to the Canadian border. To the east are the Green Mountains and to the west are the Adirondacks. Vermont:
- ranks 43rd in population with approximately 626,000 residents
- was the first state to abolish slavery in its constitution
- has the highest number of sugar maple trees in the United States
- the largest producer of sugar maple sugar, producing about 1.3 million gallons per year, which is one third of the country’s supply.
Vermont is a very popular state to view the fall foliage.
Next stop is Glen, New Hampshire for a week.