Friday, August 21, 2009

Shelburne Museum, Day 2

Thursday, August 20, 2009

After another hot and humid night (we are amazed that we've had to run the AC almost constantly), the temperature seems to have dropped a little bit. However, it is no longer quite as consistently sunny, and it looks as if we might get some rain sometime soon. The Shelburne Museum is not ideal in the rain, since it's necessary to walk outside between buildings, but it's nice to have less heat, so we didn't complain.

We drove back to the Museum and went in around 11:00. This time we headed in the opposite direction from the day before. We began with a small log building (built recently on the museum grounds) which contained both photographs and paintings of Alaskan scenes. The photos in particular were interesting. We then skipped the next building, which was devoted to sport hunting--not our "thing". Instead we went to a group of buildings with a railroad theme. A section of covered siding included several very old steam engines and some small, 3-wheeled hand-powered railroad carts (they looked as if they ought to be used in a Warner Brothers cartoon--we pictured Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny down the tracks in these cars!) Next door was a huge steam locomotive, and--our favorite--the Grand Isle, the private luxury car of Vermont's governor, and a wonderful example of "Gilded Age" rail travel! Of course we could walk through it--we considered it a fine alternative to our RV, although we do love Mo.

Adjacent to the tracks was the original Shelburne railway station, which had been moved from it's previous location to the museum grounds. Inside was a complete set-up of the telegraph and railway station as it had been 100 75 or 80 years ago.
From there, we went to the Ticonderoga. I mentioned in yesterday's post about how "the Ti" was moved from Shelburne Harbor to the museum. Electra Webb was talked into buying the boat when it was operating at a loss and was going to be destroyed. It was truly a unique feat of engineering to bring the boat overland to the museum grounds. It took about 2 months, and had to be done during the winter, when the ground was frozen hard enough to hold its huge weight. A video on the boat tells the entire story, and scrapbooks nearby show photos taken by local photographers (both on the ground and from the air) as the ship slowly made its way across two miles of roads, even crossing the railroad tracks which run next to the museum grounds. The boat itself is, of course, very elegant and it certainly must have been a memorable trip up Lake Champlain. It was quite amusing to us, however, to sit on the deck chairs and look out over the green grass and buildngs of the Shelburne Museum which now surround the Ti.
Nearby, to keep the ship from coming aground (ha ha!) is a lighthouse, built in 1871. Currently it contains a collection of work by modern folk artist Warren Kimble. We really enjoyed his work! By this time it was around 1:00 and we went back out to the RV for some lunch. Just as we finished and came back into the museum, it started to rain lightly but we decided to just ignore it. Our first stop after lunch was at the general store, a structure from 1840, simply crammed with "goods" of the period--truly everything under the sun! Upstairs were offices for the dentist and the doctor, and there was a humungous collection of medicines and medicinal potions of the time. Outside the door was an apothecary garden.

Then we visited several cottages, including one with stenciling on all the walls (it was the original wall treatment, which had been covered up by layers of wallpaper, but had been revealed when the house was renovated), and another one which was furnished with the collection of furniture acquired by Electra Webb's friend, Mrs. Prentis (the house is now named for her.) Many of these houses, btw, are as interesting in terms of their structure as they are in terms of their contents! Then we visited the Horseshoe Barn. This was the first building Electra Webb built, in order to house the extensive collection of horse-drawn carriages, carts, and sleighs her husband inherited from his parents. Since then the collection has grown and expanded into a second annex building, which includes stage coaches and conestoga wagons. (Look at the cities served by this coach!)
In truth, we never went into that building, because it was already getting late and we were tired. Also, we wanted to see two more special exhibits, one of hooked rugs recently done by an artist named Patty Yoder, and one of quilts. Electra Webb collected quilts under the guidance of Florence Peto, a quilter whose work is truly incredible; the exhibit has both Electra's own collection, and quilts on loan from the Peto family. Both collections are housed in the "Hat and Fragrance Textile Gallery", a building ca. 1800. The rest of the building contains Electra's own collection of bandboxes, hat boxes, embroidered samplers, and miniature dioramas. This building was one of my absolute favorites of the entire museum--I fell in love with the bandboxes, and I was absolutely in awe of the quilts and the hooked rugs by Patty Yoder. You can see in these photos the detail in the latter--they are really paintings in wool. The quilts are also very unusual. I can't imagine having the patience to create even one quilt like this; but the rugs so blew me away that they made me want to learn to hook rugs and try to create something like them myself. The thing is, they are truly works of art; I can't even imagine how their creator was able to "see" the picture and create it from yarn. They are just fantastic.

Some of the quilts:

And some of the incredible hooked rugs:

Once again it was 5:00 pm, and we were being politely kicked out of the building--I had to rush through the samplers, and could hardly take time to look at the miniatures. There are probably at least a half-dozen buildings we never got into, including the toy shop, the 1950 house, and the printhouse, so we will have to come back again some day! All in all, we spent 10 hours at the Shelburne Museum, and it wasn't enough. This place is truly a "Don't miss it" attraction if you ever find yourself in the vicinity. Despite occasionally walking through sprinkling rain, we had a really wonderful day!

We came back to the same campground where we spent last night. In the morning before we left, while i was signing up for one more night, the lady in the office told me that, contrary to what I'd been told before, they did have room in this campground over the weekend. I had been worrying that with this the last week before school starts up here, it would be hard to find a weekend campsite. So I looked at the map, and the places we'd still like to visit, and decided that this would be a reasonable place to spend the next two nights as well. It is not gorgeous, but it has several excellent amenities: very reliable wifi, very reliable electricity (we are still dealing with muggy humidity and without AC would be miserable), and a really good bathhouse (very hot showers!). There are also TWO pools (although we haven't gone swimming, but with the heat, it's nice to have the option) and the location is fairly central. So here we are through Saturday night. It is definitely a huge improvement over a Walmart parking lot!

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