Out & About: Justin Morrill Homestead Celebrates Vermont History

  • Matt Perry, left of Sharon,Vt., and Michael Caduto, Director of Friends of Morrill Homestead of Reading, Vt., dig holes for new pear and apple trees in the orchard at the Justin Morrill State Historic in Strafford, Vt. on April 18, 2016. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Children sample apple at the annual 19th Century Apple and Cheese Harvest Festival at Justin Morrill Homestead in Strafford, Vt. (Courtesy Michael Caduto)

Valley News Calendar Editor
Monday, May 15, 2017

The Justin Morrill Homestead is located in Strafford and will open for the season on Saturday, May 27. Michael Caduto, director of the Friends of Justin Morrill, and Tracy Martin, the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation’s Historic Sites chief, answered questions through email about the state-owned historic site. The interview has been edited for length, style and clarity.

Question:What kind of programs does the Justin Morrill Homestead have coming up this summer?

Michael Caduto: Our offerings bridge the historic aspects of the Morrill Homestead with the kinds of experiences that people are interested in getting involved with today. In recent years we’ve been working hard to diversify our programs and increase geographical outreach to touch the lives of people from all ages and backgrounds, and we also offer several summer camp scholarships to be more inclusive. As a result, attendance has quadrupled over the past four years.

In addition to offering a very full calendar, the Friends also manage the historic Victorian gardens at the Morrill Homestead and we are restoring Morrill’s historic orchard by planting some of the original heirloom varieties of fruit trees that Morrill originally planted on site in the mid-to- late 1800s.

Q:Are there any new programs this year? If so, what are they and what are they about?

Michael Caduto: Yes we have a number of programs that are new for 2017.

(Editor’s Note: New programs include “Traditional Farmstead Skills — A Workshop With Andersen Thorp,” “The Fruits of Time: Heirloom Apples, Then and Now,” “The Art of Growing Food, with Auhor Ellen Ecker Ogden,” “Justin Morrill and the Gothic Revival in Vermont” and “Architecture Walking Tour.” For more information, visit https://www.morrillhomestead.org/news-events/2017-programs-events-exhibits/)

Q:What are some of the most popular annual programs? Why?

Michael Caduto: The Morrill Homestead is an alluring site that includes a traditional 19th-century farmstead, the historic family summer home of a Vermont senator who achieved national acclaim and a magical, ornate Gothic Revival house surrounded by lovely Victorian gardens. Our most popular programs tend to be those that connect visitors to the site’s rich history, its rural traditions and the artistic and natural elements of found here. Our art and nature camps for children, and watercolor classes for adults are very popular. The pruning and grafting workshop and wild edible and medicinal plant walk are always overflowing. Our major events attract anywhere from 100 to more than 400 visitors, including Open House (June 11), Gallery in the Garden (June 30), the Fairy House Festival with Tracy Kane (July 22) and our Apple and Cheese Harvest Festival and Apple Pie Baking Competition (Sept. 24). Their popularity is rooted in celebrations that blend art, history, music, connection to rural traditions and lots of food and drink.

Q:What makes the homestead a treasure of the Upper Valley?

Tracy Martin: The home of Sen. Morrill stands out today as a premier example of a Gothic Revival-style house and is representative of a widespread trend in the mid-19th century to build rural cottages in landscaped settings as a sign of sophistication and good taste. With the design and construction of his house in Strafford, Morrill placed himself squarely in line with other successful and enlightened gentlemen of his generation. In 1960, it became the first National Historic Landmark to be designated in Vermont.

Q:What should people who wish to visit the homestead know?

Tracy Martin: Justin Smith Morrill was born in 1810 in Strafford. The son of a blacksmith, Morrill completed his elementary education before proceeding to Randolph Academy. Despite his passion for learning, he was unable to finish his studies due to limited family finances.

Yet, he rose from his modest beginnings by working as a store clerk and bookkeeper, returning to Strafford in 1830 to form a commercial partnership with Judge Jedediah Harris. He traveled regularly throughout New England and the eastern United States to purchase merchandise for the stores and collect debts owed to the partnership.

His business ventures proved so successful that Morrill retired at the age of 38 to become a gentleman farmer and turned his attention to the study of architecture, horticulture and agriculture. Retirement was short, however, and Morrill was soon elected to the U.S. Congress and later to the Senate. There he sponsored legislation establishing the nation’s land-grant colleges, forever changing the shape of the nation’s higher education system.

For more information, visit https://www.morrillhomestead.org, email director@morrillhomestead.org or call 802-765-4288.

Here’s more about what’s happening this week:


Spanish Conversation in Hanover: 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. All levels of proficiency welcome. No purchase necessary. Group offers conversation groups, parties, cultural events, dinners out, book clubs, movie club, networking and mutual support. Free. Umpleby’s Bakery Café, 3 E. South St. 802-649-5151. uvbuenagentesocialclub@gmail.com.

Spanish Conversation Group in Newbury, Vt.: 3 p.m. - 4 p.m. Practice speaking, discover new phrases and learn verb conjugations. Come prepared to speak only in Spanish. All ages and levels welcome. Free. Tenney Memorial Library, 4886 Main St. 802-866-5366.

Linux Users Group in Windsor: 5 p.m. - 6 p.m. A meeting for people interested in the Linux operating system. All are welcome. Free. Wincycle, 59 Main St. 802-674-6320. david.lavie@gmail.com.

Irish Set Dance Workshop in Lebanon: 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Weekly classes for adults (age 18 and up). Set dancing is a social dance with four couples in a circle or square. No partner needed. Wear smooth-soled shoes that can slide on the floor. Free. Salt hill Pub, 2 W. Park St. 603-667-0844.

Knitting Group in Newport: 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. Bring a knitting project and join in conversation. Free. Richards Free Library, 58 N. Main St. 603-863-3430.

Duplicate Bridge Club in Hanover: 6:30 p.m. - 10 p.m. The weekly games are sanctioned by the American Contract Bridge League. Participants tend to be reasonably experienced duplicate bridge players, but all experience levels are welcome. $4. Hanover Friends Meeting House, 43 Lebanon St. 401-215-4135. michael.morris@alumni.brown.edu.


Outdoors: Warbler Wednesdays in West Lebanon: 7 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. A search for warblers and other spring migrating birds. Starting point is the parking lot on Route 10 directly across from the Wilder Dam. Conditions include uneven surfaces and an uphill climb. Free. Boston Lot Lake, Route 10. 603-795-4167. mascomabirds@yahoo.com.

Second Hand Rose in White River Junction: 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Includes clothes for men, women and children. Free admission. United Methodist Church, 106 Gates St. 802-295-7091.

Community Meal in Windsor: 5 p.m. - 6 p.m. Sponsored by Windsor churches and community groups. Free. American Legion Hall, 4 Court St. 802-674-5407.

Sherlock Holmes Club Meeting in Hanover: 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Discussion subject is Doyle’s non-Holmes short stories. Free. Murray Room, Howe Library, 13 South St. 603-643-0036.

Talk: “Will Marine Spatial Planning Save the Oceans?” in Hanover: 5 p.m. - 6 p.m. Aslaug Asgeirsdottir from the department of politics at Bates College discusses marine spatial planning as a way to use ocean space efficiently. Free. 101 Fairchild, Dartmouth College, 19 Fayerweather Hill Road. 603-646-2838. kim.wind@dartmouth.edu.

National Ride of Silence in Lebanon: 6:30 p.m. The goals of this worldwide event are to honor bicycle riders who have been injured or killed, raise awareness of riders and ask that all share the road. Information at www.lebanonnh.gov/recreation Free. Lebanon Mall, 20 Hanover St. 603-448-5121. recreation@lebcity.com.

Meet your State Representatives in New London: 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. An opportunity to hear from state representatives from 11 towns in the Kearsarge-Sunapee area. Learn what’s happening in the current legislative session and bring questions. Free. Tracy Memorial Library, 304 Main St. 603-456-3371. shm@tds.net.

Lebanon Art and Crafts Association Meeting in Lebanon: 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. Learn more about digital bar coding to help with sales. Free. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center conference room, 1 Medical Center Drive. 802-295-1932. timberneedle@aol.com.

Meeting of the Upper Valley Refugee Working Group in Hanover: 7:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. An informal association of area residents working to support refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants in Vermont and New Hampshire. All are welcome. Free. The Howe Library, 13 South St. 802-281-2845. jenjab3@hotmail.com.


Talk: “Collaborating with Lakota People” in Hanover: 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Photographer John Willis will present on his work with Lakota people through a cross-cultural youth arts program and the resistance movement against the Dakota Access pipeline. Free. Haldeman 041, Dartmouth College, 29 N. Main St. 603-646-2838. kim.wind@dartmouth.edu.

Knitting Group in Woodstock: 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. All knitters are welcome, from beginners to experts. Bring current project, knitting questions or problems, or a pattern to share. Free. Norman Williams Public Library, 10 The Green. 802-457-2295.

Farmers Market in Lebanon: May 18, 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. Local fresh produce, plants, prepared foods, baked goods and handmade crafts. Colburn Park, 51 N. Park St. 603-448-5121. recreation@lebcity.com.

Green Drinks Program: Waste Management and Recycling in Woodstock: 5 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. A discussion and presentation with Ana Dinatale about understanding the recycling and trash system and how to responsibly manage waste. An optional dinner follows ($20), with reservations required. Free. Mon Vert Cafe, 28 Central St. 802-457-2911. zach@sustainablewoodstock.org.