TOWN GUIDE: Putney
Updated: May 8
JIMMY iENNER, Jr.
To reach Putney, follow the winding curves of Route 5 along the banks of the scenic Connecticut River. Putney is home to gorgeous natural sites, a lively artisan craft scene, and an eclectic variety of specialty shops and attractions. This welcoming Vermont town is the perfect place for an unforgettable Vermont day trip or weekend getaway—and we at VERMONT Magazine have compiled a list of enjoyable activities to help you make the most of every moment.
Upon arriving in Putney’s town center, Route 5 turns into Main Street. Park your car at the intersection of Main Street and Kimball Hill Road, then pop into the Putney General Store to grab a snack, sandwich, or Vermont-made souvenir. The Putney General Store has operated continuously since 1796 and is the oldest still-operating general store in the state of Vermont. After the store was damaged by two separate, back-to-back fires in 2008 and 2009, the town of Putney came together to help bring it back to its former glory. Thanks to the donations and hard work of local residents, businesses, and foundations, such as the Putney Historical Society, it rose like a proverbial phoenix from the ashes, reclaiming its rightful spot as a longstanding commercial center and meeting point for the town of Putney. The Putney General Store offers a vast assortment of specialty beverages and food items, including Vermont-brewed craft beer, maple syrup, and Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea. Their house-made sandwiches are delicious, and the staff is friendly, approachable, and happy to share knowledge of the area with visiting guests. Vermont-themed products, such as general store history books, Putney General Store-branded apparel, and maple candies, make wonderful gifts to take home to friends—or to enjoy yourself.
After perusing the Putney General store and emerging with some well-deserved provisions, head south on Main Street and pay a visit to the Putney Food Co-Op. The Co-Op is member-owned and has strong, symbiotic relationships with local farmers and food producers. Building on their founding mission of community betterment through ethical commerce, they work cooperatively with local nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to ensuring the food security of local residents, such as Putney Food Shelf and the Vermont Food Bank. Their selection of foods, produce, and products includes locally-sourced organic produce; humanely-raised local meats, poultry, and eggs; Vermont dairy products; fair-trade coffee; chocolate; environmentally-conscious cleaning supplies; and homeopathic remedies. Their deli menu features scrumptious and wholesome soups and made-to-order sandwiches, and they also sell a broad variety of Vermont micro-brew beers and hand-selected wines.
A Holiday Adventure
In search of a family-friendly Vermont Holiday adventure? Look no further than Santa’s Land USA. Located north of Putney’s town center on Bellows Falls Road, Santa’s Land USA is a small, Christmas-themed family park in the foothills of the Green Mountains. It is open every weekend on Saturdays and Sundays from late July until Christmas. Their gift shop houses an extensive collection of Christmas ornaments and Holiday souvenirs, and kids will love to explore their fun house or take a ride on their giant slide, train, or carousel. Families can visit with Santa and his elves, indulge in
a sugary treat at the on-site sweet shop, play a spirited round on the mini golf course, or warm their spirits with some fries or a mug of hot chocolate from the concession stand. Don’t forget to write a letter to Santa and drop it off in the official Santa mailbox before you leave!
Wine and Dine
You won’t have to wander far from Putney’s town center for a delicious meal and satisfying sip of Vermont-made wine or spirits. The Putney Diner on Main Street is well-known for its all-day breakfast fare and comfort food, which is made with farm-fresh ingredients. Tempt your sweet tooth with a Belgian waffle or some cinnamon challah French toast, or savor their “Putney Muffin” fried egg sandwich on an English muffin. For those who like it hot, the diner’s breakfast burritos and Cajun skillets never disappoint, and the wide range of specialty omelets offered make use of locally-sourced produce, cheeses, and meats. Lunch starters, wraps, and sandwiches are also available, as well as hearty entrees, such as meatloaf and roasted turkey. Make sure not to leave town without trying one of their fresh muffins or cinnamon rolls.
During the warmer months, those in the mood for some hearty southern barbecue served in an incomparable setting should make a beeline for Curtis BBQ on Putnam Landing Road. Founded by longtime Putney resident Curtis Tuff, Curtis BBQ remains an iconic mainstay of Vermont’s barbecue scene. Born in Georgia, Tuff relocated to Putney in the late 1960s. In 1968, Tuff began serving up delicious southern comfort food to the great delight of the local community. Over half a century later, Curtis BBQ continues Tuff’s tradition of barbecue excellence, offering open-pit-smoked ribs and chicken, which is served out of a repurposed baby-blue school bus. Their open-air dining area is a wonderful place to enjoy a summer breeze and some fantastic food, so be sure to stop by during the summertime and early fall.
For gourmet farm-to-table food in a comfortable and inviting setting, make a reservation at The Gleanery on Main Street. The Gleanery was initially funded using a groundbreaking “Community Supported Restaurant” model (CSR), which is similar to the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model used by small farms across the state. Through the CSR business model, local community members purchase shares in the restaurant, which are paid back through monthly dining credits. The restaurant, in turn, uses the money to support local farmers and food makers by purchasing their goods, creating a mutually-beneficial network of sustainable commerce. In line with that same underlying philosophy, many of The Gleanery’s furnishings and artworks are made by local craftspeople and artists, such as Richard Bissell and Karen Becker, among others.
Oenophiles and beverage buffs, rejoice! The wines and spirits available at Putney Mountain Winery are made with locally-grown fruit, and they are available in a wide variety of flavor profiles. Putney Mountain Winery was founded in 1998 by Charles and Kate Dodge, who channel their passion and joy into every bottle of premium wine and liqueur that they make. Although their operation has expanded considerably since its earliest years, the fruit that they use to make their wines and spirits is still sourced from local and regional farms to this day. Highlights from their product selection include the semi-dry “Apple Maple” wine, which consummately embodies the taste and spirit of Vermont; their sweet and tart “Rhubarb Blush” wine, made with locally-grown rhubarb and strawberries; and their “Simply Maple” Vermont maple and apple liqueur. As a state-certified Vermont Green Business, the winery is powered by 100% solar energy. Putney Mountain Winery is open 7 days a week throughout the year, and visitors can watch the wine being made through an observation window, learn about the winemaking process through their staff members, and enjoy a glass of their favorite beverage in their tasting area.
Farms, Orchards, Markets, and Crafts
Throughout the spring, summertime, and fall, tourists will find superb maple syrup, maple treats, and Vermont souvenirs at Harlow’s Sugar House on Bellows Falls Road. Located a stones’ throw from Putney’s town center, this enduring Vermont family farm has an on-site orchard near the store where visitors can pick fruit during the summer and fall. Treat yourself to a seasonal Vermont delicacy such as Maple Creemees or cider donuts, and be sure to enjoy a glass of warm cider when the fall breeze begins to blow.
Hidden Springs Maple is a family-owned maple farm that stands on a scenic 1000- acre plot. They specialize in organic, family-farmed Vermont maple syrup, and their farm store is open from Thursday through Sunday in the spring, summertime, and fall until Thanksgiving. Patrons will find a broad variety of certified organic maple syrups, maple confectionery, cookies, hot sauce, cookbooks, and Vermont-made jams and marmalades at their on-site farm store. During the winter months, the farm store closes, but their online store remains open, as well as a self-service shed that is open from 9 AM - 5 PM for in-person purchases.
If you’re visiting Putney from mid-July until Christmas, you should visit Green Mountain Orchards to pick some blueberries or apples from their verdant and vast fields. Green Mountain Orchards was founded in 1914 by the Darrow family, who still own it today. It is one of the largest remaining commercial orchards in the entire state. Although Green Mountain Orchards is best known for their tasty fruit and remarkable scenery, their baked goods are amazing, as well. Pick up a seasonal pie, muffin, sticky bun, or cider donut, and take home some locally-made jam, butter, or other food products from their farm store. Additional seasonal activities besides blueberry and apple picking include tractor-drawn hay wagon rides, family-friendly animal visits with chickens and horses, and cider making. Green Mountain Orchards also hosts the Putney Farmer’s Market during the wintertime, which is held on Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas from 11 AM - 2 PM. In the summertime, the Putney Farmer’s Market is held at a location near the town center on Carol Brown Way on Sundays from 11 AM - 2 PM. Local produce, prepared foods, and crafts are available for purchase, and live music performances add to the festive atmosphere.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Putney from November 25 - 27th in 2022, you’ll be able to partake in one of the most exciting cultural events of the year. The 44th annual Putney Craft Tour gives visitors the opportunity to visit local artists, learn about their art, and buy it directly from the source. Whether you’re in the market for landscape or collage paintings, oil paintings, stained glass lamps, wooden bowls, handcrafted jewelry, handblown glass, functional ceramics, custom mosaics, handcrafted bath products, handmade cheese, or artisanal wine, the Putney Craft Tour has something for everyone. The Putney Craft Tour’s Welcome Center Members Exhibition will be located at Putney Mountain Winery on Bellows Falls Road- and will be open to the public from 10 AM to 5 PM from November 1st to November 27th. Artisan craftspeople featured in the tour will open their workshops from the 25th to the 27th of November for guests who wish to come visit their operations in person. Tour brochures are also available at the Putney General Store. The brochures provide addresses for each of the artists whose workshops are open to the public during the weekend of the craft tour.
Regardless of the season, Putney offers ample opportunities for athletically-minded visitors to stretch their legs and explore the great outdoors. Putney and its surrounding areas are home to numerous trails, many of which are open to the public for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. If you find yourself in need of some gear for your expedition, head to West Hill Shop on Brickyard Lane or Caldwell Sport on Westminster West Road. West Hill Shop is well-stocked in high-performance bicycles, as well as Nordic skiing and telemark skiing equipment. For cyclists looking for a new setup, road, gravel, mountain, and hybrid bicycles are available for sale, as well as individual parts, tires, wheels, accessories, clothing, helmets, shoes, and car racks. Skis and boots are available for purchase, and bicycles and skis can be rented, as well. Caldwell Sport specializes in premium cross-country race skis and wax for avid and experienced Nordic skiers. While their well-curated selection of products can certainly meet the standards of high-level winter athletes, their product range is also well-suited to the needs of skiers of all skill levels. Although Caldwell Sport is not a full-service ski shop, those in need of casual tune-ups without a previously-booked appointment will be able to procure those services down the road at West Hill Shop.
For an easy and accessible summertime hike, run, or bike trip, follow River Road from East Putney Falls Road to Fort Hill Road. This wide, dirt path is wonderful for accessible walking, running, and biking, and is the oldest road in Putney. An unforgettable family-friendly hike with panoramic views awaits those who journey to Putney Mountain Summit. To reach the summit, head to the Putney Mountain Association Main Trail on Putney Mountain Road. The Putney Mountain Association Main Trail is the best-known trail in Putney, and is also a well-traveled site for hawk-watching in the fall. Moderate woodland trails that are good for hiking, cross-country skiing, and single-track mountain biking can be found behind The Grammar School on Grammar School Lane, and the Green Mountain Orchards are also open to the public from September to April for walking, ungroomed cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. The East Putney Brook Trail is good for hiking, mountain biking, and ungroomed cross-country skiing. This moderately-difficult trail can be accessed from a footbridge at the end of East Putney Brook Road. For those looking to comprehensively explore all of Putney’s trails, a pamphlet published by the Putney Trails Project can be found at the Putney General Store.
Shop for Something Special
Putney’s independently-owned shops offer visitors a chance to discover distinctive treasures in relaxed and stress-free environments. Next Chapter Records on Main Street is a newly-opened specialty shop that boasts a sensational selection of new and used vinyl records. The owner of Next Chapter Records, Mitchell Harrison, is a longtime resident of the Vermont-New Hampshire border region. As a seasoned collector and keen musical enthusiast, he built his collection through years of private trading and research before opening Next Chapter Records. Guests can browse through a well-balanced collection of rock, folk, Americana, and punk records, and those who wish to add a rare LP to their collection will fawn over the limited-edition vinyl that can be found in the glass case in the front of the store. Harrison is always open to the prospect of buying used vinyl from locals and visitors, so don’t hesitate to bring your collection in for evaluation.
Sartorially-minded visitors would be wise to stop into Swirl Resale on Main Street, where women’s and men’s vintage and modern clothing pieces are sold at affordable rates in a vibrant, offbeat setting. The clothing selection is eclectic and diverse, with colorful, patterned boho-chic dresses intermingled amongst smart and modish ready-to-wear pieces. For additional secondhand shopping, pay a visit to Moose on Main up the street from Swirl, and browse through their collection of secondhand furnishings and household items.
Green Mountain Spinnery on Brickyard Lane is a fiber enthusiast’s dream come true. This independent, worker-owned spinning mill has been producing high-quality yarns for several
decades. Knitters and crocheters will find a large selection of yarns, pattern books, and knitting accessories there, and their store attendants are well-versed in all aspects of both crafts. Visitors can also participate in guided tours of the shop and yarn spinnery, where a tightly-knit team of workers processes a wide array of natural fibers (such as wool, alpaca, and mohair, among others) into striking yarns. By making use of environmentally-sustainable methods, they go above and beyond to ensure that the future of their surrounding environment is every bit as beautiful as the yarns that line their shelves.
For marvelous gifts of all kinds, including apparel, accessories, jewelry, gift cards, essential oils, lotions, natural beauty products, incense holders, cooking accessories, candles, board games, stuffed animals, and Vermont-made products, head to Phoenix Gifts. This charming little gift shop is home to hundreds of quirky, fun products that are sure to put a smile on your face. It is conveniently located on the second floor of the same building that houses the Putney General Store.
Putney is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to many structures that serve as stunning examples of Pre-Civil War architecture. A pamphlet provided by the Putney Historical Society (which is available for free at the Putney General Store) offers a walking, self-guided tour of the most noteworthy buildings. South of Kimball Hill on Main Street, the Our Lady of Mercy Church stands on the western side of the street. Although it was built in Greek Revival style, the interior was remodeled in line with Colonial Revival aesthetics, and its tower was accentuated by a botonée cross when it was acquired by the Diocese of Burlington in the early 20th Century.
At the intersection of Kimball Hill and Main Street, the building that once housed Captain John Stower’s Tavern has now been converted into a multi-use business space. It was originally built with an interior ballroom and arched ceiling, and remnants of its original Georgian architecture can be seen in its wraparound porch and Tuscan columns. Further west on Kimball Hill, the John Humphrey Noyes House stands at the intersection of Westminster Road and Frost Road. The stately home once served as the residence of the former U.S. Congressman, John Noyes, as well as his son, John Humphrey Noyes. A religious and disciplined man, John Humphrey Noyes founded a Putney-based bible study group that came to be locally known as the “Putney Perfectionists.” If you cross the street and head south from the John Humphrey Noyes House on Kimball Hill, you will come across the building that once served as the site of the Putney Congregational Church and the Putney Federated Church. Originally built in 1841, the structure was remodeled in 1893. Bowed pews and Queen Anne windows were added, and additional modernizing features were installed throughout the 20th Century, such as a tin roof and electrical system. After falling into a state of relative disrepair, the structure was eventually acquired by the Putney Historical Society in 2009. The Putney Historical Society then partnered with Next Stage Arts Project to convert it into a state-of-the-art theatre and performance space. Upon establishing the partnership, they embarked on a multi-year fundraising campaign. Their collective efforts resulted in an outpouring of support from private and public donors, including local community members, state-sponsored grants, and investments from nonprofit foundations. After raising funds for several years, they comprehensively renovated the structure, resulting in a magnificent performance venue that now hosts music concerts, theatrical performances by Next Stage’s resident theatrical company, the Wild Goose Players, and community programming. In addition to the main performance hall, the facility is also home to a professional-grade kitchen and an art gallery, which routinely showcases the works of talented local artists. Their Next Stage Cooks Program hosts cooking classes, monthly community dinners, and private events, and dance parties and film screenings are regularly hosted in the main performance hall, as well. Down the street from Next Stage on Kimball Hill, Sandglass Theater offers a unique and thought-provoking entertainment experience that fuses puppetry with music, live acting, and visual imagery. Their original and collaborative puppetry productions have toured internationally in dozens of countries, and performances for children and adult audiences are regularly held in their 60-seat barn theater. Sandglass Theater’s performances explore contemporary issues in an inspiring fashion, provoking thoughtful and respectful discourse through the art of puppetry. Workshops, artist residencies, and intensive training programs are also held on-site. Their Summer Intensive Puppetry Training workshop is ideal for those who wish to hone their puppetry skills in a supportive environment, and in-person and virtual puppet building classes are available, as well.
Down on Main Street, the Yellow Barn hosts dynamic chamber music performances, an annual summer music festival, artist residency programs, and a young artist program. Yellow Barn has
been awarded the ASCAP/Chamber Music of America Award for Adventurous Programming twice, and their unique approach to chamber music and educational programs have earned them international renown. Summer performances are held in the Big Barn, and young professional musicians come from all corners of the globe to participate. Participants explore music from a wide range of genres, eras, and artistic traditions, and master classes are taught by celebrated virtuoso musicians. Their ambitious Yellow Barn “Music Haul” Program brings music to venues of all kinds outside of Putney, ranging from elementary schools and conservatory concert halls to outdoor fields and urban parks. By performing timeless pieces to listeners with vastly-differing degrees of knowledge and exposure, they communicate profound messages through the transcendental power of melody and harmony.
Putney is also home to two well-respected and innovative educational institutions: The Putney School and Landmark College. Located west of Putney’s town center, The Putney School is a private, coeducational high school that was founded in 1935. Ever since opening its doors, it has been on the leading edge of progressive and experiential education. Students are encouraged to learn for themselves and develop keen critical thinking skills and intellectual curiosity. They are given the opportunity to participate in jobs that benefit the greater campus community, such as cooking and tending to animals. The Putney School is located on a gorgeous, 500-acre farm. Its dormitories and cabins provide comfortable accommodations, allowing students to bask in the bucolic beauty of their natural surroundings.
Landmark College is an undergraduate college that was founded on a mission of educating students who learn differently than others. Their programs are custom-tailored to meet the needs of students diagnosed with ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, and Executive Function Challenges, and their program has received top marks from US News & World Report’s “Best Colleges List” as a top-rated “Most Innovative School.” By empowering students to reach and exceed their potential through supportive teaching methods, they allow them to find the focus they need to play on their personal and academic strengths.
Their inclusive learning environment serves as a wonderful reflection of Putney’s welcoming atmosphere, where encouraging community members help each other work towards bringing their
dreams into reality.