Getting to Know Guilford, Vermont
December 29, 2017
When Addie Minot’s family was looking for places to live in the 1940s, they descended upon a tiny village in southern Vermont complete with a scenic covered bridge, historic church, and small river.
Instantly, they knew it was a perfect place to live. At the age of 12, Addie and her family moved from Ohio to Green River Village in the town of Guilford.
For more than 70 years, Addie has called Guilford home, living in the same 1780s Vermont farmhouse she grew up in.
Until a few months ago, I had never spent any time in Guilford other than stopping by the Guilford Welcome Center along Interstate 91.
When I did finally visit—first in September and again in November—I immediately felt right at home. The town’s friendly vibe, meandering back roads, and historic charm made me want to know more about this southern corner of Vermont.
Guilford had more people than any other town in Vermont when the first census was taken in 1791. Back then, there were 2,432 residents—more than there are today. Until the early 1960s, Guilford had 13 one-room school houses located throughout the town.
For nearly 200 years, Guilford was a town with four villages: Algiers, Guilford Center, Green River, and Hinesburg/West Guilford. Each area had a school, a church, a post office, a store and light industry and services. Today, only Algiers and Guilford Center are active public centers.
Even though the town has changed in some ways, Addie says it still feels the same in many ways.
“I think what makes the town special is that it’s small,” says Addie, an active member of the Guilford Historical Society. “We haven’t tried to fill every inch of the town with new houses or buildings. We’re spread out with 66 miles of dirt roads.”
Places to Visit and See in Guilford Vermont
Guilford Country Store & Cafe
In the heart of town is the Guilford Country Store, which sells everything from sandwiches and soups to wine, chocolate, and gifts. Founded in 1817, the store is located on the first floor of the historic Broad Brook House. The store closed in 2010, and Friends of Algiers Village purchased the Broad Brook House with the goal of renovating and reopening the retail space. The store’s doors reopened in 2013 under the new management of Mark and Suzanne Tessitore. Stop by for lunch or a cup of coffee—you’ll be glad you did. (475 Coolidge Highway/Route 5, Guilford; 802-490-2233; www.guilfordcountrystore.com)
Green River Covered Bridge
Built in 1830 by Marcus Worde, the 104-foot covered bridge crosses the Green River in Guilford. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and remains one of the most popular places in town for visitors, especially during foliage season. For several decades, residential mailboxes were installed inside the bridge, making it easy for people to get their mail on their way home. In 1953, a Connecticut newspaper called it “the only place in the world where you have to drive through the Post Office to get from one side of town to the other.” Even though the mailboxes were removed around 1990, the bridge still has loads of character. (Getting there: From Route 5, travel seven miles along Guilford Center Road and bear right to Stage Road to the village of Green River)
If you love classic architecture, Guilford does not disappoint. This historic Guilford Meeting House on Guilford Center Road was built in the 1770s, and the Christ Church perched on a hill just off Route 5 dates back to 1817. There are numerous old schoolhouses throughout the town, some of which have been converted into residential homes. The Guilford Free Library was founded in 1890 and is one of the oldest continuously operating public libraries in Vermont. And last but not least, the Green River Church, located near the covered bridge, is one of the prettiest churches I’ve ever seen. If you want to find out more about the town, the Guilford Historical Society at 236 School Road is open Memorial Day to Columbus Day. It maintains exhibits at the 1822 town hall, the 1837 meetinghouse, and the 1797 one-room brick schoolhouse. (Learn more about the Guilford Historical Society for at guilfordhistorical.org)
The Vermont Explorer’s Guide recommends a loop from Brattleboro to Guilford Center to Jacksonville to Wilmington and back. Take Route 5 from Brattleboro south to Guilford, turn right onto Guilford Center Road, and bear right on Stage Road to Green River. Bear right at the Green River Church and then left at the Y. Follow Green River Road along the river and then follow Hatch School Road to Gates Pond Road into Jacksonville. From Jacksonville, take Route 100 north to Wilmington and head east on Route 9 back to Brattleboro.