Tuesday, September 29, 2009

storming the castle

On Saturday, K and I up and went on a little adventure to Wilson Castle. It's a beautiful Victorian mansion that has unfortunately been crumbling and deteriorating for a half-century. It was built in 1867 by an American MD (Dr. John Johnson), who met and fell in love with a wealthy aristocrat while studying abroad in London. He brought her back to the States and built this $1.3 million dollar estate for her, but the Lady died only a decade later. For almost 100 years the castle changed hands until 1939, when a pioneer radio engineer named Herbert Lee Wilson bought the property for his summer home and set up an AM radio station on the grounds. He retired to the estate in the 1950s and opened it to the public in 1962. K read about the mansion in our local weekly cultural & events paper, and got all fired up about helping out with the restoration. He has an avid interest in history&architecture and hopes to get his MA in Historical Preservation, so this obviously caught his eye. I suggested we go on a mini-roadtrip to check it out!

I threw on my trusty travel dress and we took to the road. The leaves have started to change to their seasonal reds & yellows, so it is hard to resist taking fall photos!
Along the way we passed through the Green Mountain Forest and Bread Loaf campus, where the well-renowned writers conference has been held since 1926.

We strolled through the woods up to Robert Frost's cabin in Ripton to see where the Poet Laureate spent his summer days.

I've never been much of a Frost fan--I'm not terribly thrilled by nature poetry and he seems to be a bit too obvious for my tastes. Besides that, growing up in Vermont we were over-exposed to his work for years and years. I think I can still recite almost all of "The Road Not Taken." Still, I really enjoy seeing the places that writers choose to sit & write. Maybe I expect these places to have some sort of magical quality, infused with the spirits of great masters of the written word that will take me by the pen and say "here, look at this... isn't this inspiring?"

When we finally arrived at Wilson Castle there was a Wedding taking place. We were pretty surprised because the article K had read said that the Castle was in such a terrible state of disrepair that it could no longer be used for events and that it wasn't even currently open to the public. We lurked around like creepy Wedding crashers for a while, exploring the overgrown grounds of this once-magnificent castle:

(the aviary)

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
(R. Frost, New Hampshire, 1923)

I kind of love ruined grandeur.

As the wedding showed no signs of stopping (though it was winding down), K and I decided to just take the plunge... after all, we had driven two hours to see the place! We entered through the back door and explored the grand house on our own terms. At this point my camera died, but it really was lovely. On the second floor we were surprised to encounter an in-progress tour, but had already showed ourselves around so we didn't bother to hop on it (the tour guide said something about the bridal suite being off-limits because it was actually in use, but we had already snuck around in there!)

On the way home we stopped in Middlebury to finally experience American Flatbread. We had the Punctuated Equilibrium pizza and it was absolutely divine. I'm so glad that K finally appreciates goat cheese and all the wonders of food-that-is-not-meat. For dessert we could not pass up the homemade pumpkin cheesecake, which was melt-in-your-mouth perfection. Go there. If you have an American Flatbread in your vicinity and you have not been, you are seriously missing out.

I will write about the rest of our Saturday at a later date. The movie we saw that night is worthy of its very own post.

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