The news that Green Mountain College will close after 185 years hit Vermont like a slushball to the neck at the end of January.
The closure is sad for Green Mountain College students and alumni, for faculty and staff, for Vermont’s tight-knit community of higher education professionals, and for Poultney - a Rutland County town that’s home to the Green Mountain campus. In 2010, when I moved home to Craftsbury and began working at Sterling College, there were 23 colleges and universities in Vermont. With the loss of Green Mountain, there are now 20. In a year or two, there may be as few as 15.
One of the least consequential impacts of the Green Mountain College announcement was the cancellation of my trip to Stratton Mountain and the delay in writing this edition of Today’s Vermont. I had planned to explore the Stratton area over a long weekend in January, scope out some hip rental cabins, and spend at least a day skiing with my college buddy Nick, a lovable rapscallion turned New York City lawyer and father to infant twins. As it turned out, my weekend was spent in my office at Sterling, a college that has long shared an educational mission and a special kinship with Green Mountain. Stratton Mountain will still be there next year, and I’ll just have to visit Nick in Crown Heights this spring, maybe when the cherry trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden are in bloom.
For me, a silver lining to the events of recent weeks has been the chance to spend time in downtown Poultney, where the stately campus of Green Mountain College still presides over the end of a Main Street with a wonderful collection of independent businesses - Hermit Hill Books, Mart’s Sporting Goods, Perry’s Main Street Eatery, Taps Tavern, and the Stone Valley Community Market, a small cooperative whose Board announced in February that it too is closing down.
A note on the homepage of former cooperative indicates a glimmer of resolve, however, ending on a heartening note: “We hope to keep the Co-op spirit alive in Poultney even as we say goodbye to the Co-op in its present form.”
Indeed, I found signs of hope throughout Poultney. Even in the midst of grief and loss, townspeople were taking stock of the civic and community resources in their town, and finding much to appreciate - the historic Main Street, with its tidy storefronts, the cozy slate-roofed homes on quiet residential streets, the meandering Poultney River, the Slate Valley Trails, which run right by the aforementioned tavern, and the Green Mountain College campus itself, one of the most classically gorgeous campuses in all of New England. Personally, I can’t wait to return to Poultney to experience the region in different seasons, and to support the regeneration initiatives that will come along in due time.
It helps that I found a great place to stay - the incredibly sweet Cozy Poultney Village Apartment, which I rented for $60 per night. Attached to the back of an 1850 village home on College Street, right across from campus, this AirBnB is a tiny two-story in-law apartment that’s neat as a pin, with a thoughtfully stocked kitchenette and a terrific collection of vintage Vermont Life magazines - catnip for a fan of Vermontiana like me.
There’s another AirBnB near Poultney that I haven’t yet visited in person, but hope to check out someday. Hobbit Fantasy in the Lush Green Mountains might sound like the title of a highly-niche Tolkien-themed romance novel, but it’s actually a painstakingly crafted Hobbit House, complete with a queen bed, an in-house pub, a clawfoot tub, and a classic round wooden Hobbit door. The Hobbit House is located in a private meadow just north of the village of Middletown Springs, a small town east of Poultney that was once renowned for its healing waters. Staying at the Hobbit House isn’t cheap - the base price on AirBnB is $300 a night - but for those with a passion for Lord of the Rings it might be the closest thing in North America to a night in the Shire.
When you visit Poultney, Middletown Springs, and the other towns of Rutland County - and I truly hope you will - don’t miss a stop in downtown Rutland itself. My go-to spot in Rutland is The Yellow Deli, a restaurant and hiker hostel run by a spiritual community called The Twelve Tribes that’s open 24 hours a day (closed Saturdays). I love the Reuben sandwich and the fruit-flavored yerba mate drinks at the Yellow Deli, and I’ve been intrigued by the Twelve Tribes ever since my wife and I spent a night in their hiker hostel while thru-hiking the Long Trail. Check it out for yourself sometime; you won’t be disappointed.
Real estate in Rutland County is super affordable in comparison to what you’ll find in most other parts of Vermont. Duplex and triplex apartment buildings in Rutland can be had for less than $100,000, and though you’ll see the phrases “sold as-is” and “needs a little TLC” in a lot of listings, there are truly some incredible opportunities for thrifty and creative folks to live well on a small budget in Rutland, walking distance to a bustling downtown and just 20 minutes from Killington Resort.
Poultney is also an attractive destination for folks looking to buy a house in Vermont, despite the uncertainty around the fate of the Green Mountain College campus.
A well-maintained colonial home 234 York Street in Poultney caught my eye - four bedrooms on a huge 1.8 acre lot, complete with a chicken coop and the shell of a sugarhouse in the backyard, listed for $185,000. At 142 College Street, just a few doors down from the cozy apartment where I stayed, there’s a lovely Victorian with sweet hand-crafted details like a mini-climbing wall that leads up to a child’s loft bed, and a private in-law apartment on the second floor. The list price is $169,900, less than half of what a similar property might go for in Burlington. There’s even a former church for sale in Poultney, a one-of-a-kind property with a gorgeous slate roof and over 3,500 square feet of room for creativity.
I’m rooting for Poultney, and for all of Rutland County. I hope you plan a trip there, and I look forward to hearing about your experiences. Join the conversation by using the hashtag #todaysvermont on social media. Barring the closure of another small Vermont college, I’ll be back next month with a new edition of Today’s Vermont. Thanks, as always, for reading.