Reprint from the New York Post June 22,1999

Yankee charm in Vermont

The Vermont town of Dorset's a chic haven for writers, artists and outdoorsy types


The first thing my boyfriend Leslie wanted to do in Dorset was hike the length of the village. "Is there anything else you'd like to do?" I asked, knowing that traversing the one- third-square mile town center of this enchanting Vermont hamlet would take all of 10 minutes.

Six miles northwest of Manchester, wee Dorset occupies the highest valley between New York City and Montreal, and is tangible proof that it takes money to prevent the future. A fashionable summer refuge since the 19th century, when physicians re- commended its Green Mountain environs as a restorative sanctuary from the cities, Dorset has become a chic haven for outdoorsy types, the affluent, and artists and writers.

The 6 square miles of Dorset are home to about 2,000 residents. (South,North and East Dorset used to be separate towns, but are now sections of Dorset.)

The town's current tranquility contrasts sharply with its mutinous youth, when Ethan Allen's Green Mountain Boys convened here in 1776 to declare Vermont's independence from New York and New Hampshire.

Few signs of commerce have since tainted Dorset's carefully preserved state of Yankee simplicity, save a new sign on Williams' Store, an old-fashioned general store on the outskirts of town. There had never been a sign before, and if you wanted to get vegetable seed or a leaf rake, you had to, know the store was in the faded, red building on Route 30.

But the store has acquired one of those generic painted signs, and on our first day exploring - by car - Les and I had no trouble finding it to ask directions to the marble quarry up the road.

Dorset's marble quarry, on Route 30 in the direction of Manchester, is one of the oldest in the country and also the most popular summertime swimming hole for miles around.

Once a major part of the 'town's economy, the quarry has provided marble for such venerable landmarks as the main branch of the New York Public Library and the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

Taking a quick peek at the cluster of stone chunks for posterity's sake, we kept on t'rucking down the road until we reached the South Dorset General Store, where we were greeted by a jovial fellow named Don Merrow.

A walking chamber of commerce, Don told us proudly that the late painter Dean Fausett had lived in Dorset and that the actor Dom DeLuise and writer John Irving also call the town home.

Dorset's town center has been zoned as what is called a design district and is on the National Register of Historic Places. As such, a town ordinance dictates that all of its old wooden clapboard homes must be painted white with green shutters.

After gazing for a spell at the modest beauty of Church Street, I coaxed Les into stopping at Carlson's Antiques, a truly New England shop with sterling jewelry, hand- loomed rugs and vintage mittens. Here a turn-of-the-century hat box cost a mere $120.

We bypassed Sweet Creams, a gourmet candy shop, and Flower Brook Pottery, and descended upon the Dorset Public Library, once a roadside tavern.

After perusing a small fraction of the library's 20,000 volumes and marveling at the number of rooms inside the building's tiny, 18th-century frame, we turned north towards Peltier's Market. We picked up a container of Peltier's own roasted garlic hummus, some green apples, and a six-pack of Otter Creek Copper Ale, brewed in nearby Middlebury.

Resuming our "hike', Les and I turned up Cheney Road to have a look at the Dorset Playhouse.

I Reconstructed in 1929 from two pre-Revolution barns, this charming, 218 seat theater has been home since 1975 to the Dorset Theatre Festival, which produces emerging and off-Broadway playwrights each summer.

The next day we resolved to go for a real hike. Looking out across the Hudson River Valley all the way to the Adirondacks, we could see why so many people lock to southern Vermont every year in search of its unstained wilderness.


From New York, its about a 4-1/2 hour drive to Dorset.