Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 39/60: Burlington, Shelburne

A perfect autumn day in Vermont. The sun was shining; by noon I was able to strip from three layers of jackets to just one, and even switch from a knit hat to a sun hat. This was most fortunate because our plan was to visit outdoor attractions.

View from Shelburne Museum Parking Area

The Shelburne Museum is a collection of old structures and artifacts strewn across 40 acres in the green hills of Vermont. It is an odd story, rather inspiring. A woman named Electra Havermayer was from a wealthy New York family living on Park Avenue, but as early as 19 she began collecting big old stuff: she started with a cigar store Indian. She married a man named Webb, who was related to the Vanderbilt family, so she had a lot of money to work with. She established this museum in Shelburne. It has a round barn, a steam ferry that used to ply Lake Champlain, a lighthouse that used to be out in the lake, residences from the 1700s, a schoolhouse—that sort of thing.

The Round Barn

The Covered bridge

The Horseshoe Barn

View of the Shelburne Museum Grounds

Dan especially enjoyed the ship, called the Ticonderoga, which was beautifully restored. We were able to explore all over it from the wheelhouse to the lowest deck.

Lake Champlain Steamship Ticonderoga, 1905
Every building had an exhibit of some sort: the round barn had an exhibit of antique snow vehicles—sleds and snow mobiles, and such.

The trees on the property were all the golds and reds you hope for; the Adirondacks in the distance were several hazy shades of blue-gray.

You won't be surprised to hear that we mostly looked for art. Here's another strange story. After Electra's death, her children built a memorial for her in the form of a home-like building that displays six rooms from her Park Avenue apartment. In other words, they built a building like a house that Electra had admired, but adjusted its proportions so that it could hold the rooms of her apartment in New York, which they dismantled and rebuilt there. The apartment contained the art collected by Electra's mother, Louisine Havermayer. Louisine was friends with Mary Cassatt, who advised her on collecting art and got her interested in Impressionism. The house has a lovely painting by Cassatt of Louisine and Electra as mother and child.

xxxx by Mary Cassatt, 

It also has a few excellent works each by Manet, Corot, Degas, Monet. Really quite impressive.

Ice Floes by Claude Monet, 

Ballet Rehearsal by Edgar Degas

zzzz by Manet,

And it was a marvel to see a Park Avenue apartment out in the hills of Vermont: leather-covered walls, leather-bound books, sculpted mantels and all.

Hounds by Marshall

We had lunch in the café, a self-service place on the grounds; quite decent soup.

We also saw an excellent quilt exhibit, featuring quilts by men and boys—some very interesting bold designs. Not surprisingly, men get into competitive quilting, like the largest number of pieces of fabric in one quilt, etc. There was also a show of traditional women's cooperative quilts.

About 3 p.m. clouds started filtering in, pushing us to the next phase. Dan was very interested in the Crown Point Bridge, also known as the Lake Champlain Bridge, so we drove down to investigate. Historically there had been a bridge across the lake from Chimney Point in Vermont to Crown Point in New York. When it had to be closed down for safety reasons, it "threw businesses on both sides of the lake into a tailspin." They formed a coalition that first got a car ferry going—one of four at various points on this long lake—and then built a handsome new bridge in under two years. On the New York side, Crown Point park has an old military installation that had belonged first to the French, then the British; it was a grass-covered ruins that we did not explore. We got some lovely views of the bridge and the lake and the mountains beyond.

Lake Champlain Bridge, 2012
On the way back to the motel we stopped at Pauline's for dinner. Dan had the veal meatloaf and vegetables; I had a burger plate with chèvre cheese and vegetables. We both started with white bean and vegetable soup. All this food was excellent, first-rate. We shared a piece of key lime pie that was just right.

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