Special Collections

The Vermont State Historic Sites collect, preserve, manage, and exhibit materials that help us interpret Vermont’s rich history.  From Presidential gifts, painted screens and quilts, our collections include many thousands of artifacts dating from prehistoric times to the early 20th century.  Here are some highlights.

Bennington Battle Monument, Hubbardton Battlefield and Mount Independence State Historic Site

Revolutionary War Artifacts.The Vermont State Historic Sites collection includes artifacts recovered from the Revolutionary War period at Mount Independence and the Hubbardton Battlefield, in addition to an iron kettle located at the Bennington Battle Monument captured from British Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne.  Featured items on display include munitions (musket balls, cannon balls and other balls, gunflints, a cannon), remains of metal tools used to build the defenses at Mount Independence, fragments of ceramics and glass, and other items.

Chimney Point State Historic Site

People of the Dawn exhibit, Chimney PointVermont’s Native American Past.  The site displays artifacts from the first human habitation in the southern Lake Champlain Valley of Vermont up through the contact period (after the arrival of Samuel de Champlain in 1609).  The collection shows the evolution of stone tools, including projectile points, drill points, ax heads, and more.  Also on display are fragments of stone pipes and pottery, metal fishing hooks, and stone gorgets (which were worn on a cord around the neck).

Early French history of Chimney Point.  A small collection of artifacts recovered in archeological work, including fragments of ceramics and metal tools including a shovel blade, hoe, and ax many with the symbol of the British “Broad arrow” indicating it was the property of the British army.  

Justin Smith Morrill State Historic Site

Artwork by Constantino Brumidi. Constantino Brumidi (1805–1880) is best known for the murals he painted in the United States Capitol over a 25-year period, including the Apotheosis of Washington, the Frieze of American History and the walls of the Brumidi Corridors. His artistic vision was influenced by the wall paintings of ancient Rome and Pompeii and on the classical revivals that occurred in the Renaissance and Baroque periods and in the early 19th-century.

Brumidi decorated walls and ceilings in the U.S. Capitol Building, first demonstrating his skill with a trial fresco in the House Appropriations Committee Room. Three painted plaster studies for this work can been seen at the Homestead.

His murals combine classical and allegorical subjects.  Brumidi’s copy of Guido Reni’s “The Aurora” is at the Homestead Portraits of noted people were also painted. A painting of the noted 19th century historian William Prescott depicted on a painter’s palette is at the Homestead. 

Morrill had many copies of history books written by Prescott in his private library.  Additional paintings of noted authors, originally executed for Morrill’s Washington, DC home are now in the Harris Library - Morrill Memorial building (next to the Morrill Homestead.). He also incorporated scenes from American history and tributes to American values and inventions.  His study for “Washington at Valley Forge” and of the “Boston Massacre” are at the Homestead.   Brumidi designed and executed murals for the Hall of the U.S.House of Representatives, various committee rooms and other office spaces.  The Senate first-floor corridors are now known as the Brumidi Corridors). 

Brumidi worked intensively at the U.S. Capitol through the early 1860s and sporadically after 1865, adding murals into the 1870s. His major contributions are the monumental canopy and frieze of the new Capitol Dome.  Brumidi began painting the frieze depicting major events in American history in 1878 but died on February 19, 1880, with the work less than half finished. Filippo Costaggini carried out Brumidi’s remaining designs between 1881 and 1889; the entire frieze was only completed in 1953. A charcoal study done by Costaggini of the Reading of the Declaration of Independence is at the Homestead.  This amazing art work is done in such a manner that the painting actually looks like three dimensional marble sculptures.

Unusual Window Screens In five windows at the Homestead can been seen screens which are rare and remarkable.  When inside the house the screens look like regular fly screens allowing you to look through them to the lawns and gardens but when you are outside you see a painted scene of an imaginary landscape.  This made it so people on the outside could not see into the house. 

Victorian Furnishings.  The Victorian furnishings in the Gothic Revival house reflect the lifestyle of a prominent family in a rural village.  All furnishings belonged to Senator Morrill and are from both his home in Strafford and his home in Washington, DC.  Our site interpreters will be happy to describe the hallmarks of each style and the period they represent.  They can also help you to better understand American decorative arts in the nineteenth century and are always interested in what you may know.  You can learn from them and they can learn from you.  A guided tour of the Homestead can be tailored to your interest level. Insert photo

Landscape.  Stroll the grounds and gardens of this Picturesque landscape designed in the best of Victorian manner by Justin Morrill who studied the various books on architecture and landscape gardening.  Many of these books are in the Homestead’s collection.   In keeping with the romanticism that prevailed in mid-nineteenth century landscape and architectural design, Morrill created curving flower beds with gravel carriage drives and walking paths to complement his Gothic Revival house. This picturesque landscape design was in contrast to the earlier and later garden designs which were rectilinear and very geometric. The formal term “Picturesque” was not used by Morrill; his intent was to design and plant a landscape that was pleasing to the eye and would and invite people to stroll through his ornamental lawn viewing the various flower, shrubs and trees.  Today you are welcome to stroll the grounds and explore the gardens which are being restored by the Friends of the Morrill Homestead.

Ice Harvesting.  Learn about ice harvesting in the Morrill Ice House and understand the use of the various tools used to harvest ice and how the ice was stored during the summer months.  Walk up the path between the various barns to the man-made Ice Pond at the top of the hill.  Ice was harvested in the winter and hauled down the hill by horses and placed in the Ice House for storage.  The walls of the Ice House were insulated with sawdust and between each block of ice was sawdust so the blocks could be easily separated in the summer.  Louvered and screened vents in the gable ends of the Ice House allowed warm air to escape and the floor of the Ice House was constructed with round stones allowing any melting ice to drain back into the nearby stream.  Ice stored in this manner would last throughout the summer and into the fall.

Book Collection.   Justin Morrill was a lifelong student, avid reader and collector.  The books in his collection range from political philosophy, architecture, landscape design, political issues, Native Americans, novels, cookbooks, and journals.  Many of these are in the Homestead’s library and others are in the Education Center. By prior arrangement these rare books, many with the Senator’s end notes, can be reviewed at the Homestead.

Old Constitution House State Historic Site

Staffordshire ceramics.  The site collection includes a number of excellent examples of ceramic earthenware made in Staffordshire, England from the late 18th to mid 19th centuries.  Objects range from a c. 1770s platter that was used at another Windsor tavern to a set of “flow blue” dinnerware dating from the 1840s.  Staffordshire ware was the average consumer’s answer to expensive porcelain as it was mass produced and shipped all over the world.  The transfer print designs include scenes of the English countryside, exotic Far East, and – particularly popular in the United States - American military victories over the English!

Local and regional furniture.  Late 18th and early 19th century Vermont furniture is displayed in several period rooms, including the table from the original West tavern, a Martin Cheney tall case clock, desk and bookcase made for a prominent Windsor resident, grain-painted chairs and bedstead, and a square piano made in Burlington.  Graining was a painting technique used to imitate expensive wood.  A skilled craftsman could transform a piece of maple or cherry furniture into an elegant faux rosewood or mahogany - woods that had to be imported – by employing this technique.

Early cookware.  Iron cooking equipment, believed to be among the earliest in the state, is featured in this year’s seasonal exhibit.  Also on display is a Conant cooking stove, made in Brandon, Vermont c. 1819.  The Conant stove at the Old Constitution House may be the only one of its kind. It illustrates the revolution that occurred in the preparation of food in the early 19th century: cooking on a stove was much easier than using an open hearth.  It has a bake oven, griddle, and two side compartments for simmering a stew or soup all day long – the original crock pot!         

President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site

Presidential Gifts of State.  The collection includes many of the gifts presented to President and Mrs. Coolidge from world leaders.  Some of these are in the permanent exhibit, “More Than Two Words”: The Life and Legacy of Calvin Coolidge.  Objects include: a finely engraved glass bowl from the Prince & Princess of Sweden, a humidor from the President-elect of Cuba, and an elaborately carved chair from the people of Hungary.   

Coolidge Homestead.  The Coolidge Homestead is a perfectly preserved example of an early 20th century Vermont farmhouse.  The Homestead has all its original furnishings from 1923, when Coolidge was sworn in a president in the sitting room: furniture, textiles, decorative arts, ceramics, farm tools, etc.

Frog City Chairs.  A complete set of these chairs can be seen in the Coolidge Birthplace.  They were made by Josiah Coolidge, an ancestor of Calvin Coolidge, in Frog City (a village of Plymouth, VT), c. 1840.  It was a local custom to give a set of these chairs to newlyweds.

Agricultural Implements The Coolidge Site has one of the northeast’s best collections of late 19th – early 20th century farm equipment.  The collection includes tools and other implements that would have been used on a typical Vermont hill farm.  The maple sugaring equipment is from the Coolidge farm.  These items are located in the Wilder Barn, Coolidge Farm Shop, and Coolidge Homestead.

Cheese Making Equipment.  The original 1890 equipment of the Plymouth Cheese Factory is displayed in the exhibit “Say (VT) Cheese!” at the factory.  The display includes cheese vats made in Rutland, Vermont, a gang press, milk cans, cheese molds, etc.

Horse-drawn Vehicles.  The Wilder Horse Barn houses 19th century carriages, sleighs, and wagons that are from the region of Plymouth, Vermont.  Also on display is the Concord stagecoach used to transport travelers from the Woodstock, VT train station to the Woodstock Inn, and a 1923 “Tudor Sedan” Model T Ford. 

Fine Art.  The collection includes several portraits of members of the Coolidge family, some of which are on display in the Museum & Education Center.  Prominent early 20th century artists are represented, such as Philip de Laszlo, Frank O. Salisbury, and Herman Hanatschek. 

Textiles.  A large assortment of early textiles, made by the Coolidge family and their neighbors, is displayed in the various site buildings.  Highlights include the “tumbling blocks” pattern quilt made by Calvin Coolidge when he was ten years old, Calvin Galusha Coolidge’s frock (used by his grandson, Calvin, when he returned to the farm in later years), and a needlepoint bench cover made by First Lady Grace Coolidge.  Special exhibits periodically feature Calvin Coolidge’s formal wear and Grace Coolidge’s gowns, shawls, fans, and other accessories.