Arlington has long been associated with painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell, who lived here from 1939 until 1953. Arlington residents were regularly featured in Rockwell's covers for the Saturday Evening Post. "Moving to Arlington had given my work a terrific boost. I'd met one or two hundred people I wanted to paint . . . the sincere, honest, homespun types that I love to paint," Rockwell later wrote.
Visitors can catch a glimpse of this long relationship in a 19th-century Carpenter Gothic-style church in the middle of town. The church's Norman Rockwell Exhibit (tel. 802/375-6423) is a small museum that features many of the painter's famous magazine covers, along with photographs of the original models. (Sometimes you'll find these same models working here as volunteers!) Reproductions are available at the gift shop. It's usually open from about 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday in summer; call ahead about winter hours, as it's often closed in the off season. There's a small charge for admission to the exhibit.
Manchester has long been one of Vermont's moneyed resorts, attracting prominent summer residents such as Mary Todd Lincoln and Julia Boggs Dent, the wife of Ulysses S. Grant. The town is well worth visiting just to wander its quiet streets, which are bordered by distinguished homes dating from the early Federal period. It feels a bit like a time warp, and the cars driving past the village green seem almost out of place. Be sure to note how the sidewalks are made of irregular marble slabs. The village is said to possess 17 miles of such sidewalks, castoffs from some of the state's marble quarries.
On Route 30, 7 miles north of Manchester, is the village of Dorset. Fans of American architecture owe it to themselves to visit. While not as grand as Manchester, this town of white clapboard and black-and-green shutters has a quiet, appealing grace. The elliptical green is fronted by early homes that might be modest by Manchester standards, but are still imbued with a subtle elegance. In the right light, the village feels more like a Norman Rockwell painting than many Norman Rockwell paintings.
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