Take a free digital walking tour of Brattleboro history
What are you doing next Saturday, the 15th of June, at 11 a.m.? Volunteers from the Brattleboro Historical Society will be debuting a free digital walking tour along Main Street. The tour will begin at the Civil War Monument on the Common and walk south to the intersection of Main and Elliot streets. If you want to hear the digital recording of the tour please use one of those newfangled phones that can download stuff from the internet. We store our recordings on soundcloud.com and you can find all of our podcasts at: soundcloud.com/bratthistoricalsoc/bhs-digital-tour .
The BHS has had this idea for a few years and has moved forward with the effort. The BHS has had a walking tour brochure available for many years. Patti Griffin, Barbara George, Lee Ha, Joe Rivers and John Carnahan have worked to update research first collected by Richard Michelman, Dick Mitchell, Jeff Barry and Harriet Ives. Over the decades, as new research has become available, the brochure has continued to be updated. But it is a paper version that does not get requested often enough. So, the BHS enters the modern era.
Bill Holiday and Reggie Martell brought the idea of a digital recording of the brochure to the Historical Society a few years ago. The thought was that people could download an audio recording of the walking tour and listen to the recording on their phone as they walked along Main Street as you might do at a historic battlefield, like the Bull Run (Manassas) Battlefield in Virginia or site, like Ellis Island in New York City.
In 2017, the Brattleboro Words Project, (a consortium of Marlboro College, Brattleboro Literary Festival, Brattleboro Historical Society, Brooks Memorial Library and Write Action), also began promoting a Words Trail that would digitally share stories about the people and events of particular places in the Brattleboro area. Eventually, the two works are expected to merge and interested people can walk all over Brattleboro and learn its history.
For the past few months Bill Holiday (audio) and Joe Rivers (scripts) have worked with John (Clark) Kilduff (many of you will remember John Clark as the morning voice and one-time owner of WTSA radio in Brattleboro) to produce the first digital recording of a partial walking tour of Main Street. With the help of Kelli Corbeil, Bob Gammon and Ian Kelley, WTSA graciously donated the use of their recording studio and the result is a 14-minute audio clip, pieced together to showcase various properties from the Common to Elliot Street, that you can download from Soundcloud. Again, you can find the recording at soundcloud.com/bratthistoricalsoc/bhs-digital-tour .
For its initial tour, Brattleboro Historical Society volunteers will facilitate the walk and be available for questions. The BHS will explain the controversy surrounding the construction of the Civil War Monument and how today's "Black Lives Matter" ethos may well apply to the plaque on the monument constructed in 1887. Why did electrical power first come to West Brattleboro instead of downtown? How was the early development of Main Street linked with the slave trade? Who was Brooks of Brooks House and Brooks Memorial Library fame? Who was Crosby of the Crosby Block? How was one of the most well-known authors of the post-Civil War era connected to Brattleboro? How was one of the most strident feminists of the 1800s shaped by her experiences in Brattleboro? The BHS will answer these questions and attempt to answer any others those participating may have about the downtown Brattleboro area.
Brattleboro has a long and rich history that continues to have an impact on life today. For thousands of years Native Americans lived here and used the Connecticut River, Whetstone Brook, and West River for transportation, trade and fishing. They managed the land to optimize sustainable food production. Crops were grown along the waterways, controlled burns were used to maintain fields, animals were hunted in the forests and the Connecticut River served as the Abenaki "Interstate Highway."
In 1724 English colonists established Fort Dummer along the Connecticut River to protect settlements founded in the Massachusetts colony. For a century this area was the frontier between competing interests looking to gain control of the resources of the region. Through these years the Abenaki, Iroquois, French and English vacillated between war and trade with another until 1760 when the English gained military control as the French and Indian War came to a close.
In many ways that was the modern beginning of Brattleboro. In the late 1700s flat boats began bringing commerce up the Connecticut River from English colonies to the south. Stage Coaches moved people to and from Boston, New York City and Albany. In 1849, the first train arrived in town. By the 1890s a trolley system had come to Brattleboro and the town was experimenting with crushed stone (macadam) roads. By the 1960s, the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System had made its way to Brattleboro and the region was fully connected with the rest of the country.
What we know as Main Street began as an Abenaki walking trail. It evolved into the Great River Road. Later it was known as "The Street," which morphed into Main Street, "downstreet" and, eventually, "downtown."
On Saturday, June 15, beginning at 11 a.m. on Brattleboro Common at the Civil War Monument, volunteers from the Brattleboro Historical Society will lead a free historical tour of Main Street. This will be the Brattleboro Historical Society's inaugural effort and we hope many of you will join us. Bring your smart phone, headphones and the downloaded audio file and you will be in business. The BHS hopes the feedback you may give will enhance the walking tour. See you next Saturday at 11 a.m.
Editor's note: Two local establishments are supporting the Brattleboro Historical Society's historic tour of Brattleboro's Main Street by offering participants a one-time, Saturday the 15th only, discount on fare. The BHS will distribute coupons to either location to participants. Duo's Restaurant - Take the historic tour and end up in the historic Brooks House with 50 percent off any brunch entree. Amy's Bakery - a free cup of coffee or tea with the purchase of any in-bakery item.
Brattleboro Historical Society: 802-258-4957, https://brattleborohistoricalsociety.org/
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