By Jug Varner
At Lake Chautauqua, NY, the quiet beauty of the water adds a special touch to the huge trees and many old wooden “gingerbread houses” that make the Chautauqua Institution a unique place to visit. History buffs will appreciate both the place and the people who inhabited the homes or participated in the activities such as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Its present day occupants are equally interesting, if not as famous.
This headquarters for a religious retreat began in the late 1800s and evolved into a nationwide movement taking culture to the masses via traveling tent shows, until the great depression of the 1930s made it economically infeasible. It still flourishes with chapters in many areas of the country, but to a lesser degree than in yesteryear's horse and buggy days.
Today it is more famous for its performing arts season which extends from Memorial Day to Labor Day and includes major performers from show business along with lectures, concerts and other interesting and educational presentations. One is well advised to make reservations a year or so in advance for room accommodations there.
Cooperstown, NY, is full of authentic colonial houses — such as the Cooper Inn that originally was an early 1800s residence. These houses and their heavily treed yards lie along the peaceful Lake Otsego, surrounded by green mountains. It looks like a picture postcard and is the sort of place one thinks of when the term “New England village” comes to mind.
The Baseball Hall of Fame there is thoroughly absorbing and well worth seeing. Surprisingly, it is not officially connected with organized baseball, but under private ownership. It has always enjoyed good cooperation with baseball, however, and offers more information and unique presentations than one can fully assimilate in a single visit. Doubleday Field is where the annual baseball game is played as part of the ceremonies for induction of players, coaches and managers each year. It is located only a few blocks from the Hall of Fame building.
There is also a fine museum on early American farming there, a small recreated New England village and other interesting attractions for the entire family.
West Chesterfield, NH, is a couple of miles east of I-91 and Brattleboro, VT, on Route 9. That's where you'll find the Chesterfield Inn. If you are smart and plan your trip in late September or early October to drive south on I-91 from the Canadian border, the colors of that mountainous area will be so vivid and stunning that you will be ooohing and aaahing like a city slicker who had never seen the country before.
And, if you've never stayed at a country inn, Chesterfield Inn will no doubt exceed your expectations. Originally it was an 1800 era barn, but it is so well cared for you think it is recent construction. Our room was spacious with a high (barn beam) ceiling and very nicely appointed. The king bed was comfortable and its top cover was a hand-made patchwork quilt. Breakfast and dinner are included in the daily rates.
Chef Warner's evening meal was something to write home about. His reputation is such that diners come here from all over the area, including Boston, some 100 miles away . Owners Phil and Judy Hueber spend their waking hours making sure you will find everything to your liking. It requires their total effort seven days a week, but they've been at it a while and seem to enjoy it. Its great!
A few miles south on I-91, then west on I-90 will lead to West Stockbridge, MA, and a visit to the Normal Rockwell Museum. What a treat! Many of this unique American artist's original works are displayed here, as is his studio, moved here from Stockbridge. Most of his Saturday Evening Post covers were painted there, using local Stockbridge residents as his frequent models.
Not only was the original art inspiring (so much better than the reproductions), but the setting was in a gorgeous area of mountainous western Massachusetts. It was like something out of a storybook scene. Everything is of good quality and the displays are tastefully done, even the gift shop. There is a minimum of “commercialism” although many unique gifts and souvenirs to choose from.
A visit here will surely stir your patriotic emotions.