History of the Brattleboro Area
Brattleboro hugs the shore of New England’s largest river, the historic highway to the north country: the Connecticut River. Near present day downtown, Fort Dummer was built in 1724. Because the growing populace was subject to frequent Indian raids, the English built a fort on the future site of Brattleboro. It became both a secure position and a trading center for the English settlers. More settlers came to the outpost and cleared 200 acres surrounding Fort Dummer in 1752. The town was chartered the next year in the name of the title owner, William Brattle, Jr. A well known Boston resident, he was a Harvard graduate, a preacher, lawyer, doctor and legislator. Following his military duty, Brattle died in Nova Scotia in 1776 having never visited the town named after him.
In the remaining years of the 18th century, Brattleboro’s population continued to flourish in the new America. A gristmill and sawmill were built on the Whetstone Brook in the center of town. A post office opened in 1784 at the Arms Tavern near the Retreat Meadows. The town was at the natural intersection of traffic coming up the Connecticut and out from the mountains and the north country. Brattleboro benefited from the trade and transport of grain, lumber, turpentine, tallow and pork.
In the 1800’s the Vermont Valley railroad ran directly through town providing a vital link north. The current design of Main Street is a result of goods being unloaded from river and rail traffic next to the shoreline of the Connecticut. In the 1840’s Brattleboro developed a reputation as a resort town. The pure springs discovered along the Whetstone Brook by Dr. Robert Wesselhoeft became the Brattleboro Hydropathic Establishment, or the “water cure”, in 1846. Wealthy patrons from the United States and abroad came to Brattleboro for treatments which included plunges in the cold springs, healthful food, but no alcohol or tobacco. The water cure operated until 1871. Around this time the photographic record of the town begins in earnest. If you would like to see some of the collection, take a look at the Brattleboro Historical Society website.
Not long after the establishment of the water spa, the Estey Organ Company was founded. It employed more than 500 people at one time and marketed its reed organs worldwide. The prosperity of the Estey family also funded other enterprises in town and its slate-sided factory buildings can still be seen on Birge Street, much as they were in their heyday.
The town entered the 20th century as a vital regional center with a bustling Main Street. In the early years of this century, the town built a trolly which travelled the length of Main Street and out Western Avenue to West Brattleboro. At its peak, there were thousands of riders per day! Movie theaters, department stores and restaurants lined Main Street as they do today. The downtown was – and is – a busy center of commerce and social interaction.
Today Brattleboro is more than Main Street. Its allure and character extend to the surrounding communities of Dummerston, Putney, Newfane, Townshend and Marlboro. On their own, each of these villages is a rich community of friendly folks whose character is tied to the land. Together, they combine with Brattleboro to make a region of exceptional beauty – both man-made and natural.
The history of Brattleboro and Vermont is written by longtime residents and new comers alike. But throughout its history, the state and town are tied to the beautiful land and the hard working people who have struggled to ultimately create one of America’s great treasures of culture and landscape. And those of us who live in southern Vermont are privileged to be your host. We hope you will return many times.
In 2012, Smithsonian Magazine selected Brattleboro as one of the top 20 small towns in America. They said:
“Nestled in southern Vermont, the riverside town of Brattleboro is a common rest stop for travelers driving up Interstate 91 from Massachusetts. Once you’ve strolled through the downtown historic district, lined with galleries, antiques shops, theaters and dance studios, it might be hard to get back in the car. Brattleboro takes pride in its reputation as a hidden artistic haven. On the first Friday of every month, local artists, galleries and museums exhibit new work and put on performances as part of the traditional Gallery Walk. Even if you don’t plan it, your visit will likely coincide with at least one of the many annual festivals in town: there’s the Womens’ Film Festival in March, the summer Brattleboro Literary Festival, and the Brattleboro Music Center’s Northern Roots Festival in January, which celebrates Northern music. In the unlikely event of boredom, take a day trip to nearby Naulakha, the estate of Rudyard Kipling, who once wrote of “a desire to be back on Main Street, Brattleboro, Vermont, U.S.A., and hear the sody water fizzing in the drugstore…and get a bottle of lager in the basement of Brooks House and hear the doctor tell fish yarns.”
Hotels, Bed and Breakfasts and Inns in Brattleboro and Southeastern Vermont
Something wonderful happens when you visit Brattleboro and southern Vermont. From our classic art deco, downtown hotel to the country inn or bed and breakfast of your dreams, we enjoy accommodating you in comfort and style. The area’s location provides the perfect jumping off point for day trips of great variety. Your hosts are always eager to make sure that you get the most from your stay. We want to make sure that you look forward to coming back to the vibrant villages of southern Vermont again and again.
Antiquing in Southeastern Vermont
Brattleboro and Southern Vermont are loaded with antique shops. Start downtown at Twice Upon A Time provides 10,000 square feet of goodies in a restored early 20th century department store (and an auction twice a month.) Head northwest on Route 30 and you will discover many antique shops. There are several individual dealers and consignment shops on Route 30. Each village seems to offer its own collection of treasures. Both Route 5 north and Route 9 west over to Wilmington will provide ample opportunities for treasure hunters as well.
Art Galleries in Brattleboro and Southeastern Vermont
“Brattleboro is Culture Country!”
Boston Globe 2002
Brattleboro seems to draw artists like a magnet. Studios, galleries and shops abound and the variety of work on display is both surprising and a pleasure. Artists enrich the cultural environment of Brattleboro and the surrounding area at all times, but especially during Gallery Walk on the first Friday of each month.
In 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 readers of American Style Magazine have chosen Brattleboro as one of the top 25 art destinations in America for towns with populations under 100,000. They’re right and you’ll see why!
Arts and Cultural Events in Brattleboro and Southern Vermont
“Brattleboro’s cultural scene is extraordinarily rich in visual arts, music and literature. In our small town (pop. 12K) you’ll find more events each week than you can possibly attend. Online, take a look at this wonderful Brattleboro site for a current calendar of events. Below, we have included organizations and regular events with links to their websites. For additional information you can visit the Brattleboro Reformer (newspaper) online and Brattleboro Tix for another look at what is currently happening in the Brattleboro area.
In June of 2012 American Style Magazine readers voted Brattleboro to be one of the top 25 art destination cities under 100,000 pop. in the United States. They did the same in 2011, 2010 and 2009.. six years in a row. It won’t be hard to see why when you visit.
Also in 2012, Smithsonian Magazine also named us one of the top 20 small towns in America. They have good taste ;-)”
Attractions and Activities in Brattleboro and Southeastern Vermont
Whether you’re driving or walking through Brattleboro and the surrounding villages, you’ll find activities for the family, the sports enthusiast, the artist and the art lover, the history buff… and there’s never a shortage of beautiful scenery year round.
In 2012, Smithsonian Magazine said about Brattleboro, “On the first Friday of every month, local artists, galleries and museums exhibit new work and put on performances as part of the traditional Gallery Walk. Even if you don’t plan it, your visit will likely coincide with at least one of the many annual festivals in town: there’s the Womens’ Film Festival in March, the summer Brattleboro Literary Festival, and the Brattleboro Music Center’s Northern Roots Festival in January, which celebrates Northern music.”
Restaurants and Dining in Brattleboro and Southern Vermont
Dining in Brattleboro provides some of the best restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and bakeries in Vermont. There are more than 35 fine restaurants in and within 20 minutes of downtown! (Below are 25 of them.) Italian, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Korean, Mexican and good ol’ American food are all in easy reach of I-91. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all a treat in our little town with the big city flavor.
Education in Brattleboro and Southeastern Vermont
Brattleboro’s position as a regional center has created a strong foundation of educational institutions in town and the surrounding area. In Brattleboro itself there are five elementary schools, the Brattleboro Area Middle School and the Brattleboro Union High School, not to mention the Austine School for the Deaf, a boarding and day school for ages 3-21.
There are many choices for private institutions including Hilltop Montessori, The Grammar School in Putney, the Putney School and various parochial schools. In post-secondary education, the area boasts eight colleges and university extensions. They include: Community College of Vermont, Landmark College, Marlboro College and the Marlboro College Graduate School, Southern Vermont College, Union Institute and University, University of Vermont Continuing Education and the School for International Training/World Learning.
Nightlife in Brattleboro and Southeastern Vermont
Live music, a variety of atmospheres, brew-pubs and relaxing views – Brattleboro’s nightlife is a tapestry of offerings, all within easy walking distance from each other. These downtown pubs, winebars and restaurants provide a variety of styles for you to enjoy Brattleboro in the evenings. Along with the constant offering of theatrical and musical performances each week (see our calendar of events), you’ll be able to create your own good times in Brattleboro.
Shopping, Art Galleries and Boutiques in Brattleboro, Putney and Southeastern Vermont
Shopping in Brattleboro and the surrounding area is an old fashioned pleasure with all the modern conveniences. No artificial environments here. Just genuine New England hospitality and ambiance combined with a surprising array of interesting and fashionable stores – all within easy reach. An elegant appointment for your home or for yourself or the perfect gift or souvenir – folks here are happy to help and you’ll have plenty to choose from. Just one thing… take your time, there is something surprising and wonderful around every corner.