There are many "hidden" opportunities to experience firsthand
the human desire to achieve something special in Vermont. From
famous paintings and indigenous marble to elegant mansions and
intriguing museums, a sojourn "off the beaten path" can lead to a
greater appreciation for the human aspirations that are so deeply
embedded in this state's history.
Ambition, an industrious nature and creative talents have always
characterized Vermonters and these traits and their resulting
achievements can be seen in visits to two very special and historic
places, the Vermont Marble Museum and Wilson Castle.
Both are living monuments to Vermont's power to excite, awe, and
inspire. As regional treasures, they are worthy of a visit - and
are impressive places to take vacationing relatives or company as
Vermont Marble Museum in Proctor
A visit to the Vermont Marble Museum, home to the largest and most
unique marble exhibit in the world, is an absolute must this summer
because the owners announced recently that they will have to close
the museum in October. Hopefully, a way to keep this amazing museum
open will be found - there is talk of non-profit status - but the
reality of costs in today's world, in particular electricity costs
to light the facility, are jeopardizing its future. So do yourself
a favor and visit soon.
There are over 100 exhibits in 17 rooms, including a grand
entrance hall with impressive marble statuary. It is a fitting and
awe-inspiring entry that speaks of the promise to wile away an hour
or two or three taking in the history, art, and science of Vermont
The Geology Room provides an educational and entertaining look at
the history of marble while the movie on how the Vermont Marble
Company came to prominence is an interesting look at its founding
and accomplishments. Its ambitious founder Redfield Proctor was
responsible for Vermont marble being used in such famous buildings
as the U.S. Supreme Court and Jefferson Memorial.
The Hall of Presidents, which features marble busts of our
presidents, is a favorite for many, and it's fun to compare notes
on which is the best likeness. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Exhibit also should not be missed.
Besides learning about the world's largest underground marble
quarry in Dorset Mountain and the fascinating ways of quarrying,
you can learn about the many famous places Vermont Marble is being
used. It is also intriguing to learn about the current uses of
ground Calcium Carbonate (marble) in the paper, plastic, food and
pharmaceutical Industries - yes, even in our chewing gum and
And on a practical, interior decorating level, you can see
displays of marble use in the home, from elegant marble bathrooms
to the impressive kitchens with serpentine counters - just
For those of us who find it challenging to carve a piece of soap
or wood (remember those camp days?), watching sculptor-in-residence
Allen Dwight provides an awe-inspiring appreciation for the
painstaking process of carving marble. The sculpting studio is a
wondrous prelude to the visit to the Gallery that features finished
work that is for sale.
There is an exceptional gift shop that features all things marble
as well as marble and pewter items like cake and pie servers,
cheese knives, rolling pins, letter openers, and salad servers -
made in partnership with Danforth Pewter. This is a great place to
shop local for wedding and graduation gifts.
Just a short quarter-mile walk or drive from the museum, you can
view the Sutherland Falls Quarry, the original Proctor Quarry and
an impressive experience.
Among the many buildings you will see constructed of marble in
Proctor, there are the Union Church on Church Street and St.
Dominic Church on South Street and the Proctor Family Mausoleum
across from it. [The "marble trail" continues in nearby Rutland
with the U.S. Post Office and Court House at 121 West Street made
of local marble and no less than 13 buildings featuring marble
construction and/or various marbles in lobbies and entryways from
banks and the Paramount Theatre to the medical center and City
The Vermont Marble Museum is open seven days a week starting May
25 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (tickets to the museum are $7
adults, $6 seniors, $4 teens, children free, group rates for 20 or
more, and reduced advanced ticket rates by calling
Directions: The museum is located northwest of Rutland. Take
Business Route 4 to the turn for Route 3 North in Center Rutland
and follow a few miles to the scenic town of Proctor, which boasts
marble sidewalks, benches, foundations, retaining walls, Veterans
Memorial, and steps. Bear left (west) across the marble bridge and
continue along Main Street as it bends north and the museum will be
on your right.
Close by on the West Proctor Road is the magnificent Wilson
Castle, with a façade set in English brick and Vermont marble.
Modeled after an English castle so that his wife would be "less
homesick," the Castle was built in 1867 for Doctor John Johnson who
took advantage of his wife's wealth to construct the $1.3 million
home. They divorced, and he ran out of money causing the estate to
be bought and sold four times from the 1880s to 1939.
In 1939, Herbert Wilson, a pioneer in the AM radio field who was
looking for a place for a radio station and summer home, spotted
the vacant edifice and bought it - a bargain at $40,000! He added
many artifacts from his travels and when he retired to the castle
in 1962 began giving tours, which his daughter carried on when he
passed away in 1981.
Today, his granddaughter keeps this treasure open, providing a
unique opportunity to see antiques and furnishings from around the
world - like the Pope's chair or the engraved head of Martha
Washington which resembles Bill Clinton!
The artwork, décor, and 86 stained glass windows are astounding,
but it is the unusual stories that make the castle truly memorable!
That is where the guided tour comes in - the tales alone are worth
the price of admission.
To help with the considerable costs of operating and maintaining
the estate, there are special events throughout the year -
Halloween Haunted House and murder mystery events - and private
parties and weddings are also hosted.
The Castle's 2012 season begins with an Open House on May 25 from
5 to 7 p.m. and welcomes volunteers to join them and learn about
opportunities to assist in keeping this wonderful estate open to
The Castle is open for guided tours every day, starting on May 26
at 9 a.m. (tickets are $10 for adults, $9 for AAA members, $5.50
ages 6-12, under 6 free) with the last tour at 5 p.m. Groups of ten
or more are asked to call ahead (773-3284; rates are $6.30/person
for 10 or more adults in a group).
Directions: From Business Route 4, traveling West of Rutland, turn
right onto the West Proctor Road 1/2 mile beyond Route 3. If going
East, turn left 2 1/2 miles from West Rutland. (If you are using
the U.S. Route 4 highway, take Exit 6 and then follow directions
for traveling east.)