Morrisville History and Art Walk

In a project that underscores their mission of creating a viable and strong downtown, Morristown Alliance for Culture and Commerce has plans to highlight points of historic and artistic interest in the downtown through their new Morristown History and Art Walk. The downtown nonprofit, known locally as “MACC,” plans to launch the cultural footpath next spring.

The idea came to board member Todd Thomas who also sits on the Morristown Historical Society. Growing up near the Freedom Trail in Boston, a red lined walking path which celebrates the story of the American Revolution through stops at several crucial historical sites, Thomas has always wanted to create a similar journey through the streets of Morrisville.

After reading an article about Civil War bells and wondering about the bell atop the Grace Brethren Church which he passes every day on his walk to work, he asked town historian, Francis Favreau, for more information on the building. It was then that Thomas was struck with an idea.

“There is some really rich and wonderful history in Morrisville that most people don’t know about,” he says.

Take, for instance, the story of the Grace Brethren bell. During the Civil War, Union General Benjamin Butler captured the city of New Orleans along with a supply of bells the Confederates were planning to melt into ammunition. Butler used the bells as ballasts on ships sailing back to Boston and then them sold at auction. It was there that the bell was purchased and brought to what is now known as the Grace Brethren Church.

“It is believed to be one of only three churches in Vermont that has a bell stolen from the Rebels in the Civil War in its spire,” Thomas says. “People need to know about this.”

With help from Favreau, who drafted a walking tour of town in 2007, the pair set to work learning about other interesting stories behind the downtown’s art and architecture. They decided on sixteen sites throughout the village and are now working on signs which will be posted at each site.

The signs are an important element of the tour. Wanting to create something more visually appealing than a traditional plaque, the board plans on using 12×18 sheet metal signs that detail the year the structure was built and provide information on what makes the site interesting. The signs will display turn of the century photos and newspaper article excerpts that provide a window into the past. The first sign will be posted at 5 Park Street, a beautiful building that was originally built in 1877 for Vermont Governor George Hendee.

The tour will weave through the village and its shops making stops at some of the obvious historic places like the war memorial at the intersection of Park and Upper Main as well as less obvious locations like behind River Bend Market which hosts a mural of Fenway Park in Boston. Thomas anticipates the path will be completed by May.

In addition to sharing the notable history of Morrisville, Thomas hopes that providing a “successful and free attraction in our downtown will increase visitors and drive increased commerce while telling the history of Morrisville’s historic downtown to a new generation.”