Rutland does not appear on the list of top places to visit in Vermont, and so it’s been a long time coming for me to explore it. This fall, we rented a house in Clarendon, a little southwest of Rutland, to check out the area.
Rutland is actually three distinct places – the town of Rutland surrounds Rutland City, then off to the west is West Rutland, which the town of Proctor attempts to cut off from the rest of Rutland by encroaching between them from the north. All of these areas were part of the original Rutland, which got cut up in 1886.
Don’t be fooled by the word “city”. As is often the case in New England, towns may take a city form of government and still look like, well, a town. In Rutland’s case, with the city’s population of under 16,000, and the surrounding town with under 5,000, it is more like our vision of a suburban town, though it is the third largest city in Vermont. It has a sizable downtown, which gives way to the town’s sprawl of homes, before quickly dissolving back to the rural surroundings.
Vermont may be known for dairy, apples and maple syrup, but its entire western area is also, and probably firstly, famed for its marble, that beautiful pearly stone. The Danby marble quarry in Dorset, in fact, is the world’s largest underground marble quarry, and has been producing its gorgeous, durable marble for over 100 years. Budge over Italy. Well, actually, many Italian marble craftsmen came here to work in the 19th century.
Marble is what drove Rutland’s fame. Deposits were found in the early 1800s, and with the arrival of the railroad in mid-century, Rutland quickly became one of the world’s leading producers of the stone, with the bulk of the quarries in what is now Proctor and West Rutland.
The historic downtown of Rutland is very appealing. Like so many New England towns that relied on the railroad and manufacturing it experienced a significant decline, and the pandemic did not help recovery efforts. Still, GE Aviation, solar industries, the farm to food trend and other growing businesses are doing much to sustain the town, and it shows.
What’s really great about spending some time in Rutland are the murals and marble sculptures. Here’s a map for a walking tour from the Downtown Rutland Partnership. Make sure you wander further up Center Street to ogle at the First Baptist Church, the Rutland Superior Court and the Rutland Free Library. If you’re too tired from wandering around to climb the hill, you can drive up and park.
Danby Quarry – Vermont Quarries Corp. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2022, from http://www.vermontdanbymarble.com/home-5-7-4/
Wikipedia contributors. (2022, October 11). Rutland, Vermont (city). Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutland,_Vermont_(city)
Building the New Rutland Economy. (n.d.). The University of Vermont. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.uvm.edu/news/engagement/building-new-rutland-economy
Once you’ve explored Rutland, be sure to check out these nearby towns for some great side trips, or just drive out onto the area backroads and enjoy the scenery.
A must is the Marble Bridge. Park and get out of the car to walk across and admire its beauty up close. Sutherland Falls is close by, but Google will lead you astray – Navigate to Peach Street – the road to the falls is off that. I would dearly have loved to tour the Vermont Marble Museum, but it was temporarily closed.