Explore the Shelburne Museum, Vermont
by Candyce H. Stapen
The Shelburne Museum, dubbed “New England’s Smithsonian", is an extraordinary find. You could spend the day browsing the collections of American folk art, artifacts and architecture, including an historic steamboat, an authentic lighthouse, a covered bridge and paintings by well-known artists. The museum consists of 39 exhibit buildings sprawled on 45 acres in Shelburne, Vermont.
Aboard the Ticonderoga, Lake Champlain’s last operating side-wheel passenger steamer, discover how people crossed the lake during the days of steamboat travel. A walk through the Grand Isle, an elegant 1890 railcar outfitted with mahogany paneling, brass fixtures and plush seating, shows you the luxury of Gilded Age rail travel. A tour of the 1871 Colchester Reef Lighthouse and related exhibits brings alive the history of navigation on the lake and the dangers faced by those who braved its waters.
Like the lighthouse, the railcar and the steamer, many of the Shelburne’s
exhibit buildings are also interesting period pieces. The A. Tuckaway General store, built in 1840, originally stood in Shelburne Center. Looking as it did in that era, the store has cider jugs, mailboxes and a pot-bellied stove.
Our favorites: the barn with its wagons, sleighs and coaches as well the carousel and the Circus building. Outside the Circus building, kids can take a spin on an old-fashioned carousel. Inside, admire the 500-foot long miniature circus complete with horses, lions, cowgirls and cowboys. On display as well are many life-size carousel figures carved by the Gustav Dentzel Carousel Company of Philadelphia.
Kids also like the one-room schoolhouse, Alyssia’s Garden with its swings and the summer activities offered at the Owl Cottage Family Activity Center.
Not everything is from the distant past. For a nostalgic look at post –WW II life, visit the 1950 House. The 1,000 square foot ranch is a typical period starter home. Check out the 1939 Chevy in the driveway, the yellow Formica in the kitchen, the wringer washing machine in the basement and listen to Perry Como on the radio.
If you have young children, visit nearby Shelburne Farms, a 1,400 acre farm with plenty of Lake Champlain frontage. You can walk or ride a hay wagon to the children’s Farmyard to pet the goats, rabbits and pigs. Picnics are encouraged.