Many towns would enjoy the paradoxical distinction of being both quintessential and totally unique. Brattleboro, Vermont, may well have just about achieved such a description.
Nestled among the hills and rivers of southeast Vermont, the town of about 12,000 is a dream come true for people looking for classic New
England. As early as 1894, an area guidebook lauded the view and the valley in the picturesque place where “mountains and rivers seemed to meet.” The valley begins at the pond-like Retreat Meadows floodplain in Windham County, Vermont. The two rivers which “meet” the mountains are the Connecticut and the West Rivers, and there you can find the fulfillment of your presuppositions and anticipations about Vermont: maple syrup, skiing, scenic farms and Yankee ingenuity.
It’s the Yankee ingenuity that sets this town apart as well. The outworking of the proverbial “indomitable spirit” is still in progress. Begun by the English as a fort settlement (Fort Dummer) in 1724, the town, renamed Brattleboro, was chartered in 1753 and turned mildly industrial during the 1800s. In fact, however, Brattleboro has more of a year-round resort reputation, originally due to the pure springs discovered there. The region itself is considered agricultural, though only nine of 170 farms still function in Brattleboro sincethe agricultural collapse in the 1970s.
During its initial heyday, the town was known not only for its “water cure,” but for the Estey Organ factory which made reed organs and distributed them internationally. Its commercial reputation also encompasses the banking, printing and entertainment industries. Brattleboro’s first bookstore opened in 1795, and the printing industry soon followed. The first Bible printed in Vermont was issued there, as was the first U.S.-printed copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But long before young Harry’s adventures were put on paper, Rudyard Kipling, whose wife hailed from the town, lived there for a time and wrote both Captains Courageous and The Jungle Book at Naulakha, his home in nearbyDummerston.