Story by Benjamin Lerner
To reach Springfield, take Vermont Route 7 North, then head east on Vermont Route 30 and continue eastward on Vermont Route 11. This welcoming Vermont town is steeped in fascinating history, and it is also home to a delightful assortment of shops, galleries, restaurants, and cultural landmarks. Before you head into the center of town, make a right onto Pleasant Valley Road. After making a left onto Ruusunen Road, you will come across the charming Wild Trails Farm on your left. This enchanting 472-acre sanctuary is home to a beautiful network of outdoor gardens, trails, and orchards, as well as a sumptuous and modern solar and geothermal-powered bed-and-breakfast with breathtaking mountain views. Check in for the night, drop your bags, and take a moment to relax and unwind. A marvelous and memorable evening awaits you in downtown Springfield!
It’s time to head out and explore downtown Springfield. As you follow the gently-curving banks of the Black River towards the center of town on Route 11, you will pass a row of distinctive and imposing brick mill buildings. These storied structures once housed the factories that brought Springfield prosperity and international fame during the apex of its industrial peak. In the late 19th century, Springfield was more than just a thriving manufacturing hub – it was also a nucleus of groundbreaking innovation. The mechanical engineers who came to work at Springfield’s factories invented a vast assortment of ingenious products, including clothespins, hay cutters, guitar cases, steam shovels, mop wringers, and sheep-shearing machines.
Today, the same spirit of innovation that defined Springfield’s prosperous industrial age is carried on through the Black River Innovation Campus (BRIC) on Park Street. As a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging the growth of the local digital economy, BRIC is creating a state-of-the-art digital co-working space that will offer direct support to technological entrepreneurs, as well as career coaching and mentorship services. Their entrepreneurship center will provide much-needed funding and training to local business owners interested in furthering their career goals. It will also offer access to crucial innovation resources through fruitful collaborations with nearby Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman.
BRIC also plans to help facilitate the implementation of a full spectrum of robotics, computer science, and computer thinking initiative programs at schools in the Springfield School District. Highlights of the fledgling educational program will include robotics club competitions,
internships, and classes that focus on the intersection between technology and personal interests. BRIC is currently raising funds for an ambitious renovation project at the historic Park Street School building. Once complete, the Park Street School complex will house modern loft living spaces for 20 people, as well as a cutting-edge auditorium that will host presentations, artistic performances, and large events. In addition, BRIC will work closely with several leading nonprofit organizations (such as the Vermont-based Center on Rural Innovation) to secure the future of Vermont’s digital economy. (For more on the Center on Rural Innovation, see page 48)
After arriving in Downtown Springfield, park your car on Main Street and head north towards Comtu Cascade Park on River Street. Constructed at the former site of the Cobb-Derby Mill, the park provides wonderful views of the Black River Falls, framed by gorgeous brick industrial buildings that provide an atmosphere of nostalgic grandeur. The outdoor park features patio seating, native stonework, and an outdoor performance space. After basking in the beauty of the Black River, head down to Springfield Cinemas 3 on Main Street to catch an afternoon matinee at the theater that once served as the site for the 2007 premiere of The Simpsons Movie. In the months leading up to the theatrical release, the film’s creators launched a contest inviting all of the towns named Springfield across America to submit a video pitch for why they thought their town should host the premiere. Springfield, Vermont submitted a film that showed a Burlington-based talk show host dressed up in a Homer Simpson costume chasing a giant pink donut through town. After amassing over 15,000 votes on the contest website, Springfield, Vermont managed to clinch the premiere by a narrow margin. The film was later premiered at the downtown Springfield theatre and was accompanied by massive fanfare.
After your cinematic interlude, stop in at The Copper Fox on Main Street for dinner and drinks. Their culinary program is headed by native Springfieldian Nick Matush, who first got his start in the hospitality industry by washing dishes at the Morning Star Café when it was still open on Main Street. After Matush completed his studies at the New England Culinary Institute’s satellite campus in Tortola, he trained under the tutelage of several accomplished chefs, and became well-versed in Caribbean, Italian, Peruvian and Cuban Cuisine. Matush then returned to his hometown, where he created a remarkable epicurean dining experience. Their Potato Gnocchi with melted leeks, gorgonzola cream and summer squash pairs nicely with their Castelfeder Pinot Grigio, and their Boneless Pork Chop with cheese grits, tomato gravy and sautéed swiss chard, is nicely complemented by their Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine DIPA. For dessert? Try their Copper Fox Creemee with candied walnuts. Available in maple, chocolate, or maple chocolate twist, this classic Vermont dessert is the perfect way to start your weekend in Springfield off on the sweeter side.
Rise and shine with a delicious cup of coffee, espresso or tea at Flying Crow Coffee Co. on Main Street. Boasting a broad array of organic Fair Trade Certified coffees that are roasted on-premises, this hip and lively shop also offers subscription delivery services for caffeinated connoisseurs seeking to sample the best beans that the world has to offer. Make sure to take some delicious baked goods with you for the road ahead.
Get ready to stretch your legs and embark on a fabulous Springfield expedition!
Outdoor enthusiasts will delight in a trip to one of Springfield’s treasured natural sites. On Fairground Road, the North Springfield Bog features a boardwalk that runs through the site. The raised walkway offers views of a wide variety of fascinating flora, such as remarkably large pitcher plants.
At the Muckross State Park on Paddock Road, a small network of roads and foot trails wind through the former estate of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former Vermont Senator Edgar May, who
bequeathed the land to the State of
Vermont. There are several outcroppings with glorious views of the Connecticut River and the Black River downstream from a dammed pond, and an 80-foot waterfall, as well. Due to the fact that the trails are not maintained and developed, this park is recommended for very experienced hikers.
At Hartness State Park, you will find wide walking trails and a picnic area. Open clearings provide scenic views of the downtown area and the former site of the Springfield Ski Jump, and the park features several different trails for hikers of varying skill levels. Interested in a short and easy hike? Start at the Dell Road entrance, then take the Lena’s Landing trail to signpost 11. Turn left on Hillard’s Trail to signpost 14, and then take the Double Creek Trail back to Dell Road. For a more challenging hike, take the Double Creek Trail from the Dell Road entrance to the Woodbury Road entrance, then turn right on the Governor’s Trail, and turn left on the Outer Loop at signpost 5. Turn right at signpost 6 where it loops back to Governor’s Trail, then make a quick left at signpost 7 and go downhill on the Spring Hill Trail. At signpost 10, turn right on Lena’s Landing to make your way back toward Dell Road.
For an accessible walk that offers wonderful views of the Black River, try the Toonerville Trail. The trail begins a mile east of downtown on Clinton Street, and It follows the former path of the Springfield Electric Railroad, which once ran from Springfield to Charlestown, New Hampshire. The three-mile trail leads from downtown Springfield to the Connecticut River and Hoyt’s Landing. Hoyt’s Landing offers an ideal launch point for kayakers, canoers, and motorboaters who are looking to enjoy a day out on the river. Those in search of placid waters should head up the Black River towards downtown Springfield. Hoyt’s Landing is also a frequented fishing spot, so anglers in search of a happy haunt need look no further.
If you ever find yourself in need of medical assistance, Springfield Hospital on Ridgewood Road provides top-notch care. With well-trained and thoughtful on-staff physicians, your medical treatment will be in excellent hands.
Those in search of cultural enrichment should make a beeline for Gallery at the VAULT (Visual Art Using Local Talent) on Main Street. Founded by Nina Jamison, this well-curated gallery shows the original handcrafted and juried works of local artists, and also hosts lectures and workshops. Their “Open Wall” exhibit serves as a platform for emergent artists to publicly showcase their works in a gallery setting, and their gift shop sells fetching Vermont-made items such as Danforth Pewter keychains and hand-loomed baby hats from K.D. Hill Knitwear.
At the Springfield Art Gym on Clinton Street, guests are encouraged to “Exercise Creativity” in a judgment-free environment that is overseen by a staff of dedicated volunteers. Visitors can make crafts & jewelry, paint, and work with clay in a creatively-nurturing atmosphere. Donations of art supplies are encouraged, and families are welcome to come experience the power of imagination together.
In the warmer months, the Springfield Farmers Market on Clinton Street offers farm-fresh produce, baked goods, meat, honey, maple products, and crafts in a family-friendly outdoor setting. Swing by and grab a delicious and locally-sourced treat, but make sure to leave some room for lunch!
A morning of spirited exploration deserves a filling and satisfying lunch. Stop in at The Sub-Way (est. 1974) on Clinton Street for scrumptious pizza, wings, and sandwiches. With fresh ingredients and courteous service, this relaxed eatery is a wonderful place for visiting vacationers to relish a refreshing bite and recharge their batteries before resuming their afternoon adventures.
It’s time for some well-deserved retail therapy! Consignment mavens will luxuriate in the bounteous selection of fashionable apparel pieces at Shannon’s Upscale Resale and Good Buy Store on Main Street. Down on Chester Road, Tina’s Hallmark features an all-encompassing selection of gifts, keepsake ornaments, and greeting cards that are well-suited for all seasons. Stop in at Woodbury Florist on River Street to grab an artfully-arranged floral bouquet, then swing by Vermont Beer Makers to sample their sublime and flavorful craft beers at their on-site taproom. Their assertive and hoppy Verd Vermont IPA is carried by a soft and smooth malt backbone, and their decadent and flavorful Scarlet Red Ale is malty and roasty with notes of dried fruit and caramel.
Looking to browse through a comprehensive assortment of artifacts that bring Springfield’s storied legacy to life? Take a trip to the Springfield Art & Historical Society on Vermont Route 106. Standout features of their permanent collection include early 19th century paintings from Horace Bundy, Aaron Dean Fletcher and Ashael Lynde Powers, Vermont Novelty Works Carriages, Springfield Jointed Dolls, and historic Springfield photographs and postcards.
Celebrate another well-spent day in Springfield with a delectable feast! At Black Rock Steakhouse on River Street, patrons can enjoy a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. Those who opt to cook their own steaks, chicken, or seafood on Black Rock Steakhouse’s signature “hot rocks” can indulge themselves in flavorsome surf-and turf cuisine for a phenomenal price. Plates are delivered to the tables with sizzling hot black rock in the middle of the plate, surrounded by two tasty sides. Guests are then invited to place their chosen proteins on the hot rocks and cook them to their own tastes. Their menu is rounded out with savory sandwiches such as their BBQ Chicken Wraps and Corned Beef Reuben. This exceptional restaurant is a must-visit for cultured carnivores - and vegetarians in search of hearty nourishment will adore their Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Stuffed Mushroom Caps, and Nachos.
For some equally-extraordinary evening entertainment, take in a show at the Springfield Community Players on South Street. As the oldest continually-operating community theatre in the state of Vermont, they provide a platform for local residents to hone their creative skills in the fields of theatre, dance, music, staging, and set design. Their upcoming musical production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” hits the stage in November, and promises to be a hilarious and unforgettable theatrical event.
Start your day off right with a morning snack from Jake’s South Street Market on South Street. Their fully-stocked deli with rotating specials offers appetizing eats in a rustic and pleasant setting. Come hungry, leave happy, and grab a hot cup of coffee. The time has come to enjoy some of Springfield’s most unforgettable attractions!
For some “out-of-this world” scientific enrichment, head to Stellafane on Breezy Hill Road. Known as “The Birthplace of Amateur Telescope Making,” this beloved site is home to the Springfield Telescope Makers Amateur Telescope Makers Club, which has been holding international “Stellafane” astronomical conventions since 1927 that are still popular to this day. The conventions are held in late Summer every year, and offer an unparalleled opportunity to gain insight into the world of amateur astronomy and telescope construction.
Those who are in the mood for a quintessential Vermont sightseeing experience should stop by the Eureka Schoolhouse & Baltimore Covered Bridge off of Charlestown Road. The Eureka Schoolhouse is the oldest one-room schoolhouse in the state of Vermont, and was reconstructed and restored at its current location in 1968. Built in 1790, the original “Eureka” school was closed in 1900. It sat unoccupied until 1958 when a committed group of local residents recognized its architectural significance. After a prolonged period of study and evaluation, the structure was disassembled and rebuilt at its current site to allow for easier access for visitors.
The Baltimore Covered Bridge is one of Vermont’s most beautiful covered bridges. It is constructed using a unique “lattice-truss” support system, which is comprised of crisscrossed diagonals that connect the horizontal top and bottom chords. It was built in 1870 by Granville Leland and Dennis Allen, and restored through an effort led by former U.S. senator Ralph E. Flanders, who also played a pivotal role in the restoration of the Eureka Schoolhouse.
No visit to Springfield is complete without a visit to the Hartness House on Orchard Street. This Victorian-Style mansion was once the residence of Vermont’s 58th Governor James Hartness. Hartness was a successful businessman, engineer, and inventor. He was most famous for manufacturing the world’s first flat-turret lathe, which increased the efficiency of factories around the country during the burgeoning early years of the automotive industry. His impact on the town of Springfield is further immortalized by the Hartness State Airport on Airport Road, which was the first operational airfield in the state of Vermont. After completing his monumental Transatlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh came to Vermont as part of his cross-country tour to promote aviation. He spoke to a massive crowd at the Hartness State Airport in July of 1927, forever enshrining the Vermont airstrip in the hallowed annals of aviation history.
Looking to hit the links? Book a tee time at the Crown Point Country Club on Golf Course Road. Built in 1953, this member-owned golf course is available for public booking, and features large, fast greens and rolling, hilly terrain. Energetic climbers in search of an electrifying thrill won’t want to miss the Edgar May Health and Recreation Center on Clinton Street. With six individual belay stations, the rock wall tower offers opportunities for climbers of all levels to safely test their skills. Additional facilities include a pool, a fully-equipped gym, and health and fitness classes open for public enrollment.
As your time in Springfield reaches its conclusion, stop by the Springfield Food Co-Op on Main Street to grab some farm-fresh Vermont organic produce for the ride home. While there, make sure to stock up on Plymouth Artisan Cheese, which is made a stones’ throw from the childhood home of former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge. Its flavor is every bit as timeless as the memories you will keep from your Springfield vacation.