Historic Sites Along the New England Trail {Massachusetts, New Hampshire, & Vermont}

We ran away to New England for a long weekend and it was wonderful! Fall is in all of its glory right now and we were in awe over the orange and yellow colors everywhere we went. We followed along what is called the New England trail that begins in Connecticut and continues north to the border of Canada. This is a popular hiking trail, sadly we would not be hiking the trail but instead following along the general path of it.

There is so much history to learn from up here since this is where the country started, but we decided to save the big history lessons for another trip and instead to go see the smaller and lesser known historic sites that are often overlooked compared to their more powerful neighbors.

Springfield Armory National Historic Site {Massachusetts}

The first stop of the day was to visit the Springfield Armory National Historic Site. Only a couple of years after gaining their independence, the United States began manufacturing their own firearms. The Revolutionary War had been won with firearms provided by France, but after the war there was a strong belief that we would never be our own country while we were dependent on another for our protection. So in 1777 the armory was established with specific directions from President Washington as to the location to safeguard it from being easily overtaken.

Springfield Armory National Historic Site

Since its beginning, this armory has been at the center of the advancement and technology of firearm manufacturing. They would receive global recognition in their innovations such as interchangeable parts and the assembly line style of mass production. In 1819, they developed a machine that would produce rifle stocks in mass production while keeping a steady consistency. This armory greatly influenced the Industrial Revolution in the country but it also began to be a model in business management and quality control.

The museum offers a look at the progression of the firearm and how they were constantly looking at possible improvements that were needed. It was so fascinating to see the changes made throughout the years that focused on either making the firearm work better or provide better protection for a specific need. But there’s a learning curve to it as shown by the case full of the mishaps that helped them find where corrections were needed. And on display is the ‘Organ of Muskets’ that holds 647 of their Model 1861 rifles.

The armory used multiple building on the hill for production, planning, distribution, and storage. All of the buildings are still there but now serve as a part of community college campus.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park {New Hampshire}

Next we drove north to the small town of Cornish, New Hampshire to see the home and gardens of Augustus Saint-Gaudens who was one of the country’s leading sculptors. Saint-Gaudens is best known for his work commemorating the heroes of the American Civil War that can be seen across the country. If there is a statue or memorial about the Civil War, then more than likely it was a Saint-Gaudens creation.

home of Saint-Gaudens

The grounds are lovely to walk through with the beautiful house at the center, gardens and hedge mazes to explore, and multiple artist studios tucked away in different places. There is no question that many artists have been inspired here in their work.

While most well known for his Civil War sculptures, including many of President Abraham Lincoln, Saint-Gaudens also created a number of pieces that were used by the US Mint for some special coins.

one of Saint-Gaudens sculptures of President Lincoln

I had never heard of Saint-Gaudens before this visit so it was interesting to learn about such a different kind of national historic site as this one.

Lunch in Windsor {Vermont}

After leaving Saint-Gaudens gardens we followed the Connecticut river that separates New Hampshire and Vermont. We crossed the covered bridge into Vermont’s first town of Windsor.

Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge

The Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge is 156 years old and stretches almost 450 feet across the river. For a long time it held the title of the longest covered bridge in the country, until in 2008 it was overturned by the Smolen-Gulf Bridge in Ohio. Now it is only the second longest covered bridge.

We pulled into lunch at the Windsor Diner that has been a local favorite for generations. Set in an old train car and where we were treated with warmth and quippy conversation by those working there, we sat down to a really delicious lunch. Apparently they proudly serve the best hot dogs in Vermont and so we had to try them out.

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park {Vermont}

Our final stop for the day brought us to Woodstock, Vermont to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. This was another historic park that I had never heard of before so it was interesting to learn about. This was the family home of George Perkins Marsh who after serving in diplomatic posts for President John Tyler and President Abraham Lincoln went on to develop the foundation of the country’s first conservation movement. He believed the decline of early societies was due to lack of stewardship of the land and so wanted to preserve the natural environment.

Marsh home

The house was later purchased by Frederick Billings, one of the founding partners of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Billings established a model farm with sustainability practices. The farm is located across the street from the home and offers a great variety of activities all designed to give a good idea of farm life and measures that can be taken to preserve the environment at the same time.

Billings farm

The last owner of the house was Billings granddaughter and her husband, Mary and Laurence Rockefeller. Laurence was an influential conservation advisor to several US presidents and it was their influence that led the house and grounds to be designated a national historic site. This site has received many honors over the years for their land stewardship and forest management.

It has been so interesting to see these smaller historic sites along the New England Trail. It has made us all the more anxious to get back up here and take a deeper dive into the history that surrounds this area. A history road trip through the beautiful fall leaves is definitely my cup of tea!

If you are interested in some other pieces of American history, then check out these places:

The Alamo- Texas

Aviation History- Ohio

Stones River Battlefield- Tennessee

Thanks for joining us as we drove through New England to these historic sites. May you conserve, protect, and honor what you love.

25 responses to “Historic Sites Along the New England Trail {Massachusetts, New Hampshire, & Vermont}”

    • The colors were just amazing! Although we were a little surprised at the lack of red leaves. Maybe they were in the first burst of autumn colors. I always love learning the little history bites from places 🙂

  1. How wonderful to take a road trip along the New England Trail during autumn. That’s something I would really love to do, The historic armoury sounded fascinating and oh to enjoy a hot dog with lashings of mustard in that quaint diner. My perfect kind of day all round. It’s a lovely photo of you and your daughter too.

    • Thank you Marion, that is so sweet of you 🙂 Autumn in New England is just amazing! The armory was really interesting to see the progression of them. The hotdogs in the diner were really good. I havent tried any other in Vermont but I would still stand by their claim of being the best.

  2. Beautiful leaf colours of course – I would expect nothing else! But all the history was new to me. In particular George Perkins Marsh sounds an interesting guy, recognising the importance of conservation ahead of his time!

  3. I have always wanted to visit New England in the autumn, and after seeing your photos, I want to go now! The colors are spectacular, and such interesting history too, in this area. Thanks for sharing!

  4. What a beautiful time of year to visit those sites. We have not visited the Springfield Armory, but what an interesting history! Mike would love seeing the guns. It’s pretty amazing that the buildings are still being used as a community college. Your beautiful photos have inspired me to want to return to New England in the fall.

    • I think you would really enjoy the armory! It was so interesting to see the thought and ingenuity that went into everything they did. I think Brad could have spent all day there looking at all the firearms 🙂 But even being there on the campus, apparently so few of the students ever know or care that it is there which is so tragic.

  5. I have often wondered what it would be like to travel through New England. This post has given me a few answers, with wonderfully crafted historic exhibits set among those rich shades of fall leaves. At first glance I actually thought that musket installation ‘was’ an organ! The covered bridge is GORGEOUS, I would be photographing that from every possible angle. Some great history from lesser known names, Sladja and I would particularly enjoy making these kinds of discoveries. A great piece Meg, it’s hard to imagine a more autumnal looking region than the scenes you have presented here.

    • Thanks Leighton 🙂 New England in the fall is absolutely amazing! Especially with the covered bridge, it was like we stepped into an old postcard. I actually thought that too when I saw the ‘organ’- I saw it from a distance and was really confused why the pipe organ was in the middle of an armory. The armory was really interesting and the Mishaps case made me laugh.

    • The mishaps were probably my favorite thing. I just had to laugh at the twisted shapes of them. Hopefully such mishaps didn’t cause any serious injuries though because no one wants to be the reason for a warning label 🙂

  6. New England is absolutely breathtaking in the fall when the leaves are changing colour. Sounds like you had a wonderful long weekend soaking in the fall foliage and visiting some of the historic sites off the beaten path. And what a beautiful covered bridge in Vermont!

    • Oh the covered bridge with the fall color behind it was so beautiful! It felt like we had stepped into a old movie or something. I told my husband that every fall should bring us north to enjoy the season there. I hope you have a great weekend 🙂

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