Steamboat on Dry Land

During my recent tampering with the blog, a few past posts disappeared.  This was a guest blog from October 2012, by my friend Museum Mutt.  I’m sorry that I lost all the comments.


I love to visit museums that connect art and history.

Willow tree

While visiting friends in Vermont this past summer, I took a return trip to one of my favorite museums– the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. It definitely deserves more than one visit. Not far from Burlington -Vermont’s largest city- it is situated in the Lake Champlain valley. Plan on spending several hours at the Museum as there are 39 exhibition buildings. The Museum is open seasonally from May to October. Check the Museum’s website for exact dates.

A few things to keep in mind: Pets are not allowed. There is food service on site; but you can also bring your lunch and eat at tables. My friend and I chose to eat al fresco. We found a bench near a pond shaded by willow trees.

Ft. Ticonderoga steamship

During this past trip I discovered that I needed to thank the founder of the Museum, Electra Havemeyer Webb (1888-1960), a pioneering collector of American folk art as well as a collector of Impressionist art. She founded the museum in 1947. Our first stop was to visit the Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building that recreates rooms from the founder’s 1930s New York City Apartment. I would love to have just one of the art works displayed on the walls.

We did not have time to visit each of the many exhibition spaces, but we tried to enter as many as time allowed. That is why your ticket allows entrance for more than one day.

Ceiling of Ticonderoga

A must for your visit however is the Steamboat Ticonderoga. The restored 220-foot steamboat is a National Historic Landmark that was built in 1906 and operated as a day boat on Lake Champlain until 1953. What you notice when you enter the Museum’s grounds is the beached steamboat with no water in sight. Although the Ticonderoga originally plied the waters of Lake Champlain, it was moved two miles inland to its present site. The interior of the steamboat is luxurious, not like the way we would travel today.

Ticonderoga side view

After gazing at the land around us, we headed off to see buildings such
as the general store where I shreaked “Post Office” when I entered inside. I
love general store post offices and anything postal so I was very excited when
I came across the post office boxes shown here. It also had a lot of what you
would expect to see in a late 19th century general store.

Post Office boxes

Long after folks in the city had free door-to-door mail delivery, those living in rural areas still had to go to post offices to pick up their mail—many were located in country stores such as the one here.

School house interior

We stopped in the school house as well to honor my mother who was a school teacher. The trip was also an homage to my father who claims to have gone to a one-room school house; but he also claimed to have walked 10 miles to school in the snow!

duck decoy

I also stopped at the Dorset House which displays most of the Museum’s collection of 900 duck decoys. I thought I would be in there for just a few minutes but the guide was excellent. Decoys are not only treasured folk art but they are still used today by duck hunters. I even learned something new. There are also fish decoys. I’m more interested in waterfowl conservation and folk art than in hunting; but I learned a lot of interesting stories from the local docent who grew up hunting and fishing.

circus parade

After a ride on the carousel, our final stop was to visit the circus collection. Among the most popular exhibitions at Shelburne are two hand-carved wood circuses: the Roy Arnold Circus Parade and the Kirk Bros. Circus. The Arnold Circus Parade was made between 1925-55 and forms a parade over 500 feet long. The Kirk Bros. Circus is a miniature three-ring circus that Edgar Kirk created over a 40 year period using only a pen knife and jigsaw. He died in 1956.

There are so many other buildings to explore that I’ll definitely return for a third visit. If you have time, visit the Shelburne Farms which is close by. It is a National Historic Site and a 1400 acre working farm.

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4 Responses to Steamboat on Dry Land

  1. That sounds like it has a really great variety of different exhibitions. Sort of like museums within a museum.

  2. Kathie Shattuck says:

    I remember the steamboat, the round barn and the transported New York apartment. But, of course, what really knocked my socks off was the quilt collection!

    • I don’t remember the quilt collection. I do remember the New York apartment.

      You must get down here. Williamsburg is having a special exhibit of objects — mostly textiles, it looks like — that were left with the orphans who were left at the London foundlings hospital in the 1700s.

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