This is the One and Only Brattleboro on earth, and it boasts a long list of unique superlatives:
In 2007, Mother Earth News listed Brattleboro as one of “Eight Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of,” citing arts, covered bridges, cows, steeples, skiing, kayaking, food, and “civic activism to preserve quality of life.”
Brattleboro rates as one of the Ten Best Small Art Towns in John Villani’s book, The 100 Best Art Towns in America.
To explore Brattleboro’s art, you might start during Gallery Walk – the oldest community art walk in Vermont – held on the first Friday of every month, when art venues all over town host special events, many of the exhibit openings with meet-the-artist receptions
The Brattleboro Arts Initiative is a unique organization providing leadership and advocacy for the arts, supported by the for-profit Latchis Corporation which operates theLatchis Theatre and Latchis Hotel and rents space to other enterprises in the Latchis Building. The Latchis is one of a handful of surviving art-deco theaters in New England.
Founded in 1952 by artistic director Blanche Honegger Moyse, the Brattleboro Music Center is a unique, community-based organization, exceptional for the breadth and quality of its programs. Today, under the artistic advisement of Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson, the BMC consists of numerous performance, participation, and education programs.
Brattleboro’s New England Youth Theatre provides professional theatrical training to young people, guided by the unique belief that with guidance from adults, the youth can run their own theater.
There’s a lot of music in these hills. For more than half a century music has drawn thousands of visitors to festivals such as the Marlboro Music Festival, the Yellow Barn Music Festival, the Friends of Music at Guilford, the Brattleboro Music Center and the Vermont Jazz Center.
Strolling of the Heifers, which happens annually on the first weekend in June, is Brattleboro’s answer to Spain’s Running of the Bulls. It’s the world’s first and only parade featuring a procession of flower-bedecked heifer calves led by future farmers. Followed by a day-long festival, its mission is to help save family farms by connecting people with healthy local food.
Speaking of cows, every black-and-white Holstein-Friesian cow in America is registered at Brattleboro’s Holstein Association, the world’s largest dairy breed association.
Can you feel the literary and cultural vibes around here? Not only are there more than 20 bookstores of all stripes in the county, but the Brattleboro area has long been a magnet forwriters, painters, poets, and artisans, including writers Rudyard Kipling, Robert Frost, Sinclair Lewis, Pearl Buck, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Grace Paley, Craig Nova, Jamaica Kincaid, renowned artist Wolf Kahn and architects Richard Morris Hunt and William Rutherford Mead.
At Naulakha, a unique shingle-style house built by Rudyard Kipling near Brattleboro in 1893, the novelist wrote Captains Courageous and The Jungle Books, along with short stories and poetry.
Brattleboro is the setting for H. P. Lovecraft’s story “The Whisperer in Darkness” (1931); it’s also the locale of the Joe Gunther mystery novels penned by Archer Mayor, who lives nearby in Newfane. And downtown Brattleboro features five great independent bookstores including one dedicated solely to mysteries.
The Harris Hill Ski Jumping Competition is a celebrated Brattleboro, Vermont tradition that dates back to 1922. Thanks to a community-supported rebuilding effort, Brattleboro can now claim the newest and one of only six Olympic-size (90-meter) jumps in the country – and the only 90-meter ski jump in New England.
The annual Women’s Film Festival, held in Brattleboro each year in March, benefits the Women’s Crisis Center while showcasing documentary and feature length films as well as guest speakers, filmmakers, panel discussions and other community events highlighting women’s issues and their place in the arts.
Brattleboro-based World Learning, which bridges cultures around the world through education, training and exchange programs, originated in 1932 as Experiment in International Living, the first organized program for sending students to live and study abroad.
The Brattleboro Retreat was founded in 1834 as the first American institution to provide humane treatment for mental patients by recognizing mental illnesses as diseases rather than character flaws. Between 1836 and 1914, the Retreat had established the first patient run dairy farm; the first continuously published patient newspaper; first gymnasium in a mental health hospital, outdoor therapeutic programs, and a number of sophisticated treatments for mental illness and addiction that were at the forefront of care
Big box stores are foreign to Brattleboro – our vibrant downtown shopping and dining district is anchored by Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, an eclectic emporium that calls itself “the biggest little store in the world.”
Brattleboro’s daily newspaper, the Brattleboro Reformer, is the only newspaper in the U.S. with the name “Reformer,” which derives from its founding in 1876 as a campaign paper supporting Samuel J. Tilden for president in his race against Rutherford B. Hayes.
In the late 1800s, Brattleboro’s Estey Organ Company was the largest organ manufacturer in the world. The factory’s assembly-line operations inspired Henry Ford when the auto magnate visited in 1915 to order an organ for his house. The company produced more than 500,000 organs of all kinds during a century of operation ending in 1955. Today an Estey Organ Museum is in the works at the historic slate-sided factory buildings.
In Brattleboro, the circus is always in town! The New England Center for Circus Arts, one of the few training centers for circus aerialists anywhere, attracts students from around the world to its Brattleboro circus school.
The first Bible to be printed in Vermont was printed in Brattleboro in 1812; and the first U.S.-printed copy of the Harry Potter series (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) was printed in Brattleboro in 1997.
On July 1, 1847, Brattleboro postmaster Frederick Palmer had the bright idea of putting adhesive on the back of stamps, and so (while waiting for a supply of the first official federally-issued stamps) he produced and sold the first gummed postage stamp in America, now known as 1847 Brattleboro Postmaster’s Provisional stamp.
Gateway to Vermont: Coming from New York or Boston, Brattleboro is the first town you encounter on the interstate. And Brattleboro is the smallest town in the U.S. with three interstate highway exits. (At least, that’s the legend around here, and we’re sticking with it until somebody can find us a smaller one.)
Brattleboro is the only town in Vermont with a representative town meeting.
Part of the town’s aesthetic appeal derives from the fact that, as in the rest of Vermont, no billboards are allowed.
Brattleboro was the birthplace in 1811 of John Humphrey Noyes, the utopian socialist, best known for advocating “free love,” who founded the Oneida Community in New York.
Brattleboro was the birthplace in 1955 of Bill Koch, the first world-class cross-country skier from the U.S., and in 1956 of Ernie Johnson, major league pitcher and longtime Milwaukee Braves radio broadcaster.
Hippie communes abounded in the Brattleboro area in the 1960s and 70s – and while the communes are gone, the hippies have had a lasting influence on the town’s character and values.
As the result of a teenage prank that “went viral,” Brattleboro gained some global notoriety a few years ago for tolerating public nudity. But rest assured – the town passed an ordinance requiring clothing; you won’t encounter anyone au naturel, unless you visit an isolated swimming hole.