Plymouth Notch, Vermont is the birthplace and boyhood home of Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States. The village is virtually unchanged since the early 20th century. The homes of Calvin Coolidge's family and neighbors, the community church, cheese factory, one-room schoolhouse, and general store have been carefully preserved, and many of the buildings have their original furnishings. The President is buried in the town cemetery. A National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the village has been designated as the "Plymouth Notch Historic District" and is owned and operated by the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. The site's office, located in the Aldrich House, is open weekdays, year-round and has exhibits especially designed for winter visitors.
The Calvin Coolidge museum and education center was built by the State of Vermont for the centennial of President Coolidge’s birth in 1972. The building's architectural style is similar to early stone structures found in the region. In 2010 a major addition was constructed to the Center and features meeting rooms, a classroom, expanded exhibits, gift shop and restrooms. The introductory exhibit examines Calvin Coolidge's career and changing displays feature various aspects of the Coolidge presidency and his era. The Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation’s office and research library are also in the building.
Changing exhibits at the Visitor Center Offer an introduction to the site and President Coolidge.
The Wilder horse barn, reconstructed in 2003, is a recreation of the original c.1875 barn that was torn down in the mid 20th century. This accurate reconstruction was possible because nearly every angle of the building was photographed in the 1920s. Similar to the adjacent main barn, this is a post and beam "bank barn". Some of the site's collection of horse-drawn vehicles are displayed on the main level; the lower level has restrooms and a picnic area.
The Wilder barn was once part of the Moor-Wilder Farm. Built c. 1875, it is a "bank barn" built into the side, or bank, of a slope so that it could be easily entered on two levels. Typically, hay was stored overhead, the dairy herd was on the main floor, and the basement was for other livestock and manure storage. The hand-hewn beams are pegged together and the exterior is clad with unpainted vertical pine boards with narrow battens. The Wilder Barn now exhibits an extensive collection of agricultural equipment used on a typical hillside farm at the turn of the 20th century.
The Wilder house, originally a tavern built around 1830, was the childhood home of President Coolidge's mother, Victoria Josephine Moor. Victoria married John Coolidge in the front sitting room in 1868. Her sister and brother-in-law, Gratia and John Wilder, lived in the house in later years. The building's exterior is painted as it was in the 1920s with a distinctive mustard-gold and green color scheme. The interior was remodeled as a coffee shop in 1956. It is now the site restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch during the season.
The Coolidge homestead was the boyhood home of Calvin Coolidge. It was while vacationing here that Vice President Coolidge received word of the unexpected death of President Warren Harding. Colonel John Coolidge, a notary public, administered the presidential oath of office to his son at 2:47 a.m. on August 3, 1923. Years later, an inquisitive visitor asked Colonel Coolidge, "How did you know you could administer the presidential oath to your own son?" The laconic Vermonter replied, "I didn't know that I couldn't."
The Coolidges moved here in 1876 when Calvin was four years old. Young Calvin's regular chores included filling the wood box and caring for the animals. Free time was often spent at his grandparents' gray farmhouse, across the pasture behind the Homestead.
Colonel Coolidge lived in this house until his death in 1926. His housekeeper, Aurora Pierce, stayed on for another 30 years. Aurora never accepted the easy life of electricity and "new fangled" plumbing, and so the house remained much as it was in 1923. An addition built by the President in 1931 was removed in 1956 when the President's son and daughter-in-law, John and Florence, gave the house and furnishings to the State of Vermont. The rooms are furnished exactly as they were in 1923.
The Homestead is furnished exactly as it was when Calvin Coolidge took the Oath of Office.
The Plymouth Cheese Factory was built by Colonel John Coolidge, James S. Brown and three other local farmers in 1890. It served as a convenient outlet for the milk produced on area farms. The operation closed in 1934, but was reopened by the President's son, John, in 1960. The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation purchased the factory from John Coolidge in 1998. For the next several years the Division worked closely with other state agencies and the Vermont Cheese Council to bring the building "up to code" while preserving its historic character. Plymouth Artisan Cheese.
The Plymouth Cheese Factory was built by the President's father and other local farmers.
The one-room schoolhouse, next to the Cheese Factory, was built about 1890. It replaced the stone schoolhouse that Calvin Coolidge attended until he graduated eighth grade in 1885. Stones from the earlier school were reused as the foundation for the present structure. The building is now used for school programs at the site and is not open to the public on a daily basis.
The Azro Johnson Farm, a few hundred yards beyond the Schoolhouse, is a fine stone farmhouse built about 1845. It is typical of the "ashlar" stone construction found in this area of Vermont. The mica schist stone was taken from a small quarry southwest of the house. (Not open to the public.)
The Coolidge farm shop, built c. 1870, served as a farmer's workshop for the Coolidge Homestead across the road. A 19th century Vermont hill farmer required skills that we would now regard as many separate crafts and professions; his workbench was the farm's maintenance and repair center. The shop contains an extensive collection of tools for woodworking and blacksmithing. Also on display are the shop contents of W.C. Landon & Co., a late 19th century carriage-maker in Rutland, Vermont.
The Carrie Brown Coolidge garden, opposite the Homestead, was started and maintained by the President's stepmother. Some of the perennial flowers are descended from the original early 20th century plants, others are representative of those found in gardens of the period.
The Union Christian Church was built in 1840 and dedicated as a Congregational Church in 1842. It is in the Greek Revival style. The original iron thresholds for the front doors were cast at Tyson Furnace in the southern part of the town of Plymouth.
Strawberry socials and baked bean suppers were held to raise funds for building repairs in the 1890s. A local artisan, Willie Pierce, redesigned the interior in the Carpenter Gothic style. The hard pine for the woodwork was sawn at a local mill. The interior offered perfect acoustics for the new Estey pump organ, and the Church was rededicated in 1900.
The Church is owned by the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation. The Coolidge Foundation is a private nonprofit membership organization. The Foundation perpetuates the memory of President Coolidge through educational programs and publications.
The Calvin Coolidge birthplace is attached to the General Store. Calvin Coolidge was born in the downstairs bedroom on July 4, 1872. He was the first child of John Calvin and Victoria Josephine Moor Coolidge. His sister, Abigail, was born in 1875. The family lived in this modest house until 1876 when they moved across the road to what is now called the Coolidge Homestead.
Unlike the other buildings in Plymouth Notch, the Coolidge Birthplace was extensively remodeled over the years. The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation purchased the building in 1968 and restored the Birthplace to its 1872 appearance. The Coolidge family donated the original furnishings.
Coolidge was born in the house attached to the back of the general store.
The Florence Cilley general store was built during the 1850s. John Coolidge, the President's father, became storekeeper in 1868. The rent was $40 a year, and by careful management profits averaged $100 a month. Coolidge soon purchased the store and entered into a partnership with his wife's brother in 1875. He sold his share of the business in 1877, but owned the building until 1917. Florence Cilley, whose name appears above the front door, operated the store between 1917 and 1945. The small post office at the front of the store served the town until 1976.
Coolidge Hall, the large vaulted room above the General Store, was used by the Grange for weekly dances and family reunions well into the 20th century. It became famous when it served as President Coolidge's Summer White House office in 1924. The hall has its original furnishings including tables made especially for the President and instruments of the "Plymouth Old-Time Dance Orchestra."
1924 Summer White House Office. Coolidge used the dance hall, located above the general store, as his presidential office in August 1924.
The Plymouth Post Office, located in the former carriage barn attached to the General Store, is an operating United States Post Office.
The Aldrich House, currently the site's office, was the home of Carrie Brown, Calvin Coolidge's school teacher and later his stepmother. Later it was the home of Plymouth's first cheesemaker, Eugene Aldrich, and his daughter Ruth, who was known to all as "Midge." For many years Midge operated a tea room in this house. Built in the early 1800s, the house is a good example of "continuous New England architecture." Inclement weather could be avoided by going directly from the house to the barn. This building is open year-round and has special winter exhibits.
The Top of the Notch Cabins provided Plymouth tourists with modest, but comfortable accommodations. Made in the Boston area, they were shipped "flat" to Plymouth and assembled on the spot in 1927. "Midge" Aldrich operated these cabins, a gift shop and tea room called "Top of the Notch" for many years. The middle cabin has original furnishings and is open as an exhibit.
Top of the Notch Cabins
The Brown family farmhouse, at the southern end of the village, was built in 1869. This was one of Plymouth's outstanding farms, particularly under the care of James S. Brown. In 1879 the farm's production included 4,000 pounds of butter, 400 bushels of buckwheat, 350 bushels of oats, and 80 tons of hay. The garden area in front of the house, which is enclosed by the white picket fence, is the location of an earlier homestead of the Brown family. (Not open to the public.)
The serenity of the village and surrounding mountains is appropriately reflected in the simple granite headstone that marks the President's grave. Visitors are sometimes surprised that a President should be buried in such plain surroundings, but when Coolidge left the White House, he said, "We draw our Presidents from the people...I came from them."
Beyond the Brown House and across Route 100A (16 on map) is the grave site of President Coolidge. Seven generations of Coolidge’s are buried here. Established before 1800, this steep hillside cemetery is under the care of the Plymouth Cemetery Commissioners who are elected at the annual Town Meeting.