You know you’re in New England when you roll into Norwich. Main Street is lined with historic Georgian, Federal, and Greek Revival brick and frame buildings, and the local village green is busy with bandstand concerts, community picnics, and soccer games.
Settled in 1761 across the Connecticut River from Hanover, N.H., Norwich is a dream for anyone who loves architecture, history, and classic New England beauty.
But Norwich is more than just a pretty town. What makes Norwich so appealing is its sense of place and the impressive variety of things to do.
A Town with a Prosperous Past and Vibrant Present
To get a sense of Norwich, they key is to look at the town’s early beginnings. In the 1820s and 1830s, Norwich experienced prosperity as the town exported apples, wool, and other agricultural products. Tanneries and potash, cloth dyeing, and other factories joined the local grist and saw mills. The presence of Norwich University and Dartmouth College across the river attracted educated, affluent people, who built stately homes in the village center.
Similar to other Vermont towns, Norwich’s fortunes began to erode in the 1840s as the price of wool dropped and people migrated west or to the cities for factory jobs. Norwich University moved north to Northfield after the school’s South Barracks burned in 1866. As the town’s population went into decline, so did the rate of new building. But by the late 19th century and early 20th century, building activity returned with Queen Anne and Colonial Revival style buildings, including the Norwich Inn and Norwich Public Library.
Norwich has worked hard to protect and preserve its architectural heritage for the modern age. The village’s historic district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Historic Preservation Commission of Norwich has produced a Historic Walking Tour map to showcase 19 buildings, including churches, homes, and stores built between 1773 and 1918. The tour offers an in-depth look at the town’s history and gives visitors insight into what makes this community so special.
Where to Go in Norwich
Dan and Whit’s
At Dan and Whit’s general store, the motto is “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” This beloved local landmark, which dates back to 1890, sells everything from donuts and apples to light bulbs and long underwear. Open every day of the year except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Dan and Whit’s is open for business. Stopping by is a must if you’re in Norwich. (319 Main Street, Norwich, VT; 802-649-1602; danandwhitsonline.com)
King Arthur Flour Company
King Arthur’s flagship campus in Norwich includes The Baker’s Store and a state-of-the-art Baking School with classes that draw visitors from around the country. Stop by and watch bakers in action or enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, or coffee at its café. (135 US Route 5 South Norwich, VT; 802-649-3361; kingarthurflour.com)
Montshire Museum of Science
The Montshire Museum—named for blending Vermont and New Hampshire—is a hands-on science center with more than 140 exhibits relating to the natural and physical sciences, ecology, and technology. The popular children’s museum is located on 110 acres along the Connecticut River, and its outdoor environment is a special part of the visitor experience. (One Montshire Road, Norwich, VT; 802-649-2200; montshire.org)
Where to Stay and Eat
A lodging establishment has occupied this site on Main Street for more than 200 years. The original building was destroyed by fire 1879 and the current building was built in its place in the late 19th century. The current three-story Norwich Inn is an elaborate Queen Anne/Stick Structure with a tower and extensive front porch.
The main inn offers 17 rooms, and additional rooms are available in the nearby Walker House and Ivy Lodge. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at the inn. Rooms are comfortable, and the location in the heart of town is hard to beat. (25 Main St, Norwich, VT; 802-649-1143; norwichinn.com)
Jasper Murdock’s Alehouse at the Norwich Inn
A unique offering at the inn is the Jasper Murdock’s Alehouse, which features 15 varieties of craft brews made onsite and sold only at the inn. The inn’s four-barrel brew house, built in 1995, now produces 125-gallon batches and is one of the smallest breweries in America.
After visiting Norwich this summer, I’m looking forward to going back soon.
**If You Go: Norwich is located off Interstate 91, just north of White River Junction.