You See Route 4? I see a Railway
The next time you’re driving along route 4 through Quechee, on your way to Woodstock, think about what the landscape may have looked like a hundred or so years ago. If you visualize pasture-dotted landscapes fanning out around your paid seat on a locomotive; you have an insight into what the new director of the Woodstock History Center, Matthew Powers, sees during that same drive.
I doubt Matthew is given to hallucinations, but he does love to think about history as a continuous story of places and the people living there. He says that he likes the historical perspective this particular daydream projects on to the landscape, which draws travelers along the same path today as it did a hundred years ago, “though perhaps the mode of transport is different.”
It is a given that time will pass and the spaces we occupy will change, possibly on a massive scale, over the generations. For this reason, it is great that we have a passionate and active historical society in the center of Woodstock providing us with a collective memory of our community through time.
The Woodstock History Center has all of the books, pictures, galleries, and exhibits to keep a history buff occupied a millennium, but what I enjoy most are the events they host. The Center makes history fun, and they take full advantage of holidays to share the joy of learning about our town. Halloween is one example, when they put on “Spooky Woodstock,” to bring us all back into the mindset of our slightly more superstitious ancestors. The History Center uses the Village Green to put on skits about the vampire that is buried there (Eat your heart out Count, so to speak) and then members light a fire on the History Center lawn so folks can gather ‘round and listen to local ghost lore. (Woodstock was the site of the classic film “Ghost Story” with Fred Astaire, John Housman and Patricia Neal to name a few stars and showcases many local vistas and buildings).
According to Matthew, the Woodstock History Center hosts one or two lectures per month, covering topics as far ranging as medicinal plants, Woodstock’s role in conservation, and the Civil War. They bring in crowds of twenty to fifty year around, which is a pretty impressive turnout in a small town venue. It gives you an idea of how much people in this area appreciate their history.
With the realization that a lot of our history is captured in the memories of local elders and passed down in the oral tradition of rural Vermont: the Woodstock History Center is dedicated to recording the voices of those who still remember and are willing to share. Matthew hopes to increase the tape and transcript library they have begun so that those who visit can “actually hear the voices” of history.
The Woodstock History Center is open year-round and often rents out its Library and lawn for a variety of functions like weddings, educational events, and local festivities. Their mission is to collect and preserve evidence of the history of Woodstock and surrounding communities, to provide leadership in local history education, and to provide a forum for public study and discussion of current issues which have a strong bearing on the history of the region. I’ve shortened this for the purposes of my blog, but you can find their mission in full at https://www.woodstockhistorycenter.org/.