Monday, February 11, 2019

North to Canada…Almost!

…continuing with our summertime adventures in New England.

Following our brunch and a quick look around Shelburne Farms and its Inn, we still had daylight left.  I consulted my map (yes, a real map!) to see where we might explore.  What the heck…let’s head up toward the United States-Canada border to see what that area is like!

Since we like backroads, we avoided I-89 north and stuck to US Hwy 7 and VT Hwy. 36 north.  We had no idea what we might see along the way…

Along our way north, we came to the town of St. Albans Vermont.  One of the first things I spotted was the fact that St. Albans has an active Amtrak Railway station/platform.  The 2-story brick building on the right down the tracks serves at the passenger station.  Formerly a switch house, it was built ca. 1900.

St. Albans is the northern USA terminus for Amtrak’s ‘Vermonter’.  Since 1995, the ‘Vermonter’ has operated 1 train every day to and from St. Albans to Washington D.C.  This route is primarily financed by the Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut Departments of Transportation.  This train used to be called the ‘Montrealer’ as it continued north into Quebec Canada to the city of Montreal.  That service was discontinued... 

St. Albans and St. Albans Town (latter surrounds St. Albans) have a total population of about 12,900, with about 49,000 in the County.

  • If you enlarge it and look closely at this photo, the old locomotive ‘roundhouse’ can be seen along the tracks to the upper left.  I just missed it when I was there…

Service to St. Albans on the Vermont Central Railway began in 1851.  A new station and this adjacent office building were completed in 1867.  It was part of a major construction project of the railroad’s main shops.  Service under the Central Vermont Railway, later part of the Grand Trunk Railway and the Canadian National Railway ceased in 1966.  The old station was razed in 1963…

The New England Central Railroad began operations in 1995.  It is a subsidiary of Genesee and Wyoming.  It operates from New London Connecticut to Alburgh Vermont at the Canadian border…a distance of 366 miles.  The St. Albans rail yard is the largest railyard in Vermont, handling up to 40,000 cars a year.  Back in 1902, Vermont Central Railway had 1,700 employees in St. Albans alone…

St. Albans House at 60 Lake Street was built ca. 1840.  Originally it was built as a 2-story hotel in the Greek revival style.  It was intended to lodge travelers from the stage road.  But, with the increased number of travelers that the railroad brought to town, the 2 upper stories with that Mansard roof were added in the 1870s.  From what I could determine, it is now an apartment building.


·       On 10/19/1864, St. Albans was the site of the St. Albans Raid.  This was the northernmost Confederate land action in the Civil War.  A total of 21 Confederate cavalrymen came south across the Canadian border (then part of the British Empire) and carried out a raid, robbing 3 banks in the process.  They killed one armed civilian and wounded 2 others, returning to Canada with a total of $208,000 ($3,330,000 in 2019 dollars).  To read more about this incident, go to

This 2-story corner building at 1 Federal Street was originally occupied by the St. Albans Foundry and Implement Company.  The Foundry greatly contributed to early industry in the area.  It made castings for the railroad, silage cutters, fodder shredders, threshing machines, circular saws and many other products.  It was established in 1840 and it ceased operation in 1911.  It was then turned into a cigar making shop.  

Today, both this building and the adjacent structure have been converted into a restaurant.  The Old Foundry Restaurant can be found on Facebook at   

As the signs indicate, this Romanesque revival beauty was recently occupied by Vermont State Offices and as well as the District Court.  If my research is correct, the employees who worked here have moved nearby to a new building.  Originally this structure was built in 1895 as the US Customs House and Post Office.  It had almost been completed in that year when it was gutted by the ‘great fire of 1895’.  The historic value of the building is being discussed by local government…

Regarding the ‘great fire of 1895’, a woman was heating her curling iron over a kerosene lamp near the lumber yard.  The lamp exploded, scattering the flames.  Before the fire could be extinguished, the fire burned over 50 acres sweeping the heart of the business district, wiping out 50 business places and 75 houses in only 3 hours!  A hundred homeless families were sheltered in local churches and schools…  

My timing was good… New England Central Railroad’s locomotive 1750 is an EMD SD9 and it was built by Electro-Motive Diesel in 1959.  EMD built 515 of these 1,750 HP locomotives between 1954 and 1959.  This locomotive will be 60 years old in April of this year.

FYI… Electro-Motive Diesel is an American manufacturer of diesel-electric locomotives and related parts.  It used to be a division of General Motors but now it’s owned by Progress Rail Services.  I was surprised to learn that Progress Rail Services is a subsidiary of Caterpillar!

This building is part of the Central Vermont Railroad Headquarters listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  This complex of railroad-related buildings and infrastructure was developed between the 1860s and 1920s by the Central Vermont Railroad (CVR).  The 12 buildings listed are the largest grouping of railroad related building in Vermont. 

I’m unsure what this building was but the grouping includes the general offices, a freight station, platforms, a passenger depot, roundhouse and various maintenance shops and repair sheds.  As you can see, this old structure is occupied by Mylan Technologies.  That company designs, develops and manufactures transdermal drug delivery systems as well as a variety of other products.

It’s only 15 miles from St. Alban Vermont before you come to the border with Canada.  No surprise to see the Border Patrol cruising along the road.   

As we rolled along the shore of the northern segment of Lake Champlain Laurie took this photo of Ospreys on their nest…

This is the US Hwy. 11 border crossing (USA facility) at the Canadian border.  It’s just north of Rouses Point New York.  
US Hwy. 11 is 1,645 miles long.  Its southern terminus is at US Hwy. 90 in the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in the eastern part of New Orleans Louisiana.  This is the northern terminus…the Rouses Point – Lacolle 223 Border Crossing.

We use US Hwy. 11 all the time.  It runs right through Loudon County and Knox County Tennessee.  In Knox County it’s named Kingston Pike and in this area of the country it’s referred to as the Lee Highway.  Given the current political climate, it’s just a matter of time before this ‘southern’ name is changed… 

Rouses Point’s Delaware and Hudson Railway terminal was built in 1889 and later abandoned.  In October 2009, it was reported that Senator Hillary Clinton had secured $750,000 for the village to restore it.  So the Village of Rouses Point and the Rouses Point-Champlain Historical Society restored this Romanesque brick and stone train station at 68 Pratt Street.  It now serves as the Rouses Point History and Welcome Center.

Although Amtrak serves Rouses Point along its Adirondack Route between New York City and Montreal Quebec Canada, this stop offers no shelter…just the boarding platform next to the old depot.  

Rouses Point New York was named after Jacques Roux, a French Canadian soldier who fought alongside the American forces during our War for Independence.  The village is only a mile from the Canadian border.  It was first settled ca. 1783 by Canadian refugees who were granted tracts of land as a reward for their services with the American Army during the Revolutionary War. 
The proximity of the Village to the Canadian border has greatly influenced its history.  Before and during the Civil War, it was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, which many former slaves used to escape to freedom.  During Prohibition (1923 – 1933), the town was popular with smugglers who transported illegal alcohol into the USA.  Three speakeasies, one named the “Bucket of Blood”, operated nightly and the forces of organized crime came to the area. 

As we drove across the US Hwy. 2 Bridge from Grand Isle County Vermont to Clinton County New York we noticed a lot of police and first responder watercraft activity…as well as scuba operations.  Later we learned that a Vermont resident had jumped off the bridge, committing suicide. 

This is Fort Montgomery.  It is the second of 2 American forts built at the northern end of Lake Champlain.  The first fort is commonly referred to as ‘Fort Blunder’.  Construction began on the first fort in 1816.  It was an octagonal structure with 30 foot high walls and its mission was to protect against an attack from British Canada.  Then it was discovered that the fort had actually been built on the Canadian side of the border…hence, ‘Fort Blunder’!

Fort Montgomery, a massive stone fortification, was built over the years between 1844 and 1871.  It was actually built on Island Point, the same location as the first fort.  The difference was that the border had been adjusted in favor of the USA after the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.  The fort was named after Revolutionary War hero, General Richard Montgomery.  He was killed at Quebec City in Canada during the American invasion of Canada.   The peak of the construction effort was during the American Civil War due to rumors that Britain might intervene on behalf of the Confederacy. 

Fort Montgomery has a long and complex history both during its time as a fort as well as following its abandonment.  To learn more, just go to 

Alternatively, you could just purchase the fort along with the 260 acre property for only $1,400,000.  Check it out along with a couple of photos at

For our drive back to Burlington, I decided to take US Hwy. 2 down the Lake Champlain Islands.  This was a view of Lake Champlain and the low mountains in the distance.  It was taken toward the northern end of our route south.

Grand Isle County has a population of about 7,000.  It is the second-least populous and the smallest county in the State of Vermont.  It consists of a peninsula (an enclave known as the Alburgh Tongue) and a number of islands.  The 3 major islands are La Motte, North Hero and South Hero.   

This old single room schoolhouse is referred to as Grand Isle School #4.  It was built in 1814.  It’s more complex than it appears.  It was constructed of 12” thick squared off logs which were filled in with lime and sand mortar.  Then 1.5” thick planks were nailed to the outside of the logs…and clapboards were nailed over the planks.


·       When the Revolutionary War officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, Vermont’s border with Quebec Canada was established at 45 degrees north latitude.  This explains the “Alburgh Tongue” and why Grand Isle County lacks a dry-land connection to the rest of the United States.

The Hyde Log Cabin is situated along US Hwy. 2 near the one-room school shown above.  This cabin was built in 1783 by Jedediah Hyde, Jr.  He surveyed the Grand Isle area for Ira and Ethan Allen.  Hyde and his wife raised 19 children in this cabin and it was owned and occupied by the Hyde family for 150 years.  

It’s significant to note that this is believed to be the oldest log cabin in the United States!  The cabin is owned and operated as a historic house museum by the Grand Isle Historical Society.

Back to our Hampton Inn in Colchester near Burlington!  It had been a long day and we 1) didn’t want to explore anymore, 2) wanted something simple for dinner and 3) we didn’t want to drive very far.  So we stayed in Colchester and headed over to City Sports Grill which is attached to an operation named Spare Time Entertainment.

Inside City Sports Grill there was a cacophony of HDTV screens, sports memorabilia, beer signs, lots of wood, a couple of hunting trophies and even a race car dangling from the ceiling… It was sports craze meets north woods ambiance tempered by a ceiling that was pure industrial design.

The overall complex isn’t called Spare Time Entertainment for no reason!  This brightly and colorfully lighted bowling alley was right through the doors from the Sports Grill.  In addition to bowling, this complex also features laser tag and around 50 arcade games…

For her evening repast, Laurie went for a double Tito’s Vodka and Tonic with 2 slices of lime. ($7.75) We shared an order of Crispy Pickles, 6 slices of hearty dill pickles, battered and fried, then served with a nice Sriracha aioli. ($6.00) The pickles were pretty good.

Her ‘entrée’ in the photo was a Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwich…with both Swiss and American cheese. ($7.00) The sandwich was cheesy and satisfying too.  

A number of sides can be ordered with your sandwiches/entrees.  They include French Fries, Crisp Golden Tots, Seasoned Broccoli, Mac and Cheese, Fresh Seasonal Vegetables, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Coleslaw.  We both opted for the relatively healthy coleslaw...

I started out with my usual Miller Lite and shared those fried pickles with my bride.  Then I ordered the Firecracker Burger. ($13.00) This medium rare 8 oz. burger is topped with jalapeno honey bacon, Sriracha aioli, pepper jack cheese, lettuce and sliced tomato.  I left the onions off…

For a restaurant/grill attached to a bowling alley the food was better than I would have imagined.  It was all good and the menu was wide ranging too.  The City Sports Grill offered pizza, salads, a variety of sandwiches, fried fish, salmon and shrimp, a steak and more.

Spare Time Entertainment is a small New England based chain with 17 locations in 10 states.  This even includes 2 in Tennessee!  Besides the locations in Vermont and Tennessee, family owned Spare Time Entertainment has operations in Alabama, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and South Carolina.  Their website is at

…and so ended the thirteenth day of our August 2018 adventure!

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 


  1. Awesome post, friend David … Thank you … What's going on here? Baby, it's cold outside … so Theo and I are huddling and cuddling in order to wait it out … smiles … Love, cat.

  2. Wow you sure made great use of our extra daylight.

  3. Mercy! That's a lot of stuff and it's all interesting, Dave! That's one old locomotive, you rarely see them any more. The architecture of the old buildings is great as well as the fort. The view of the lake is so pretty, nice area. Thanks, good post!!!