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Old Times and Places in Richmond
by Brad Elliot
The Times Ink of Richmond & Huntington
April 2001

A standing-room-only audience got a ride in geographer Jane Dorney's "way-back machine" on April 11 through an extensively researched slide presentation on the roads, farms, houses, shops and other changes that have come to the Richmond landscape over the last 200 years.

Dorney's presentation at the Town Center was the second in the four-part "Richmond Geographic" series, a joint project of UVM, Shelburne Farms and the Richmond Conservation Commission.

Those who came learned many things. For example, Richmond would have been called "Minto" had the colony of New York and not New Hampshire won its claim to the territory. In 1840 sheep outnumbered people by five to one. From the 19th century well into the 20th, Richmond's landscape was largely devoid of both trees and houses. The town once supported 100 farms and 10 school districts. The coming of the railroad and construction of an underwear factory each caused the population to spike by 50% within 10 years. Three hotels once stood in the village center, and a passenger railroad station fronted onto a lovely park. And for a time no town in Vermont except for St. Albans produced more cheese than Richmond.

Dorney illustrated her talk with dozens of historic photos painstakingly collected and generously loaned by local historians, including Harriet Riggs, Betty Preston and Marcy Harding.

Richmond's wild side

On May 23, naturalist Walter Poleman - who is organizing the series - will describe "The Birds of Richmond" in a lecture and slide presentation. On June 13 he will cover "The Natural Communities of Richmond." All sessions start at 7 p.m. in the Town Center Meeting Room, and they are free.

Richmond Geographic is a pilot project of the PLACE Program (Place-based Landscape Analysis and Community Education), which is a collaborative effort of the UVM Naturals Areas Center and Shelburne Farms. Through the program, teachers at Richmond Elementary, Camel's Hump Middle and Mt. Mansfield Union High Schools are earning credit at UVM by learning how to incorporate Richmond's natural and cultural history into their curricula and foster a deeper understanding of the town's unique heritage and resources among their students.

For more information on Richmond Geographic, call 434-3543.

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