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St. Johnsbury Athenæum (1871) – Interior: library stacks detail
creating wealth
Image by origamidon
1171 Main Street, St. Johnsbury, Vermont USA • The St. Johnsbury Athenæum is a private, nonprofit public library and art gallery located in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. The Athenæum fills two roles: it serves the people of St. Johnsbury by enriching their lives, and it stands as a regional and national treasure – a monument to the nineteenth-century belief in learning. The Athenæum is a legacy of the Fairbanks Family of St. Johnsbury, inventors and manufacturers of the world’s first platform scale, who gave the Athenæum to the trustees of the institution in 1871. With his wealth Horace Fairbanks created a center of culture for the people of his town – a true "athenaeum." – From the Athenæum’s website.

The Athenæum’s construction (1868-1873), its collection of American landscape paintings and books, its original role as a public library and free art gallery, and the industrial origins of the fortune that provided it, all contribute to the national significance of the building. The art collection contains a number of Hudson River School paintings. This unaltered building retains a strong, elegant Victorian flavor of the 19th century. – From the National Historic Landmark Statement of Significance.

☞ On July 18, 1996, the National Park Service added this structure to the National Register of Historic Places (#96000970).

☞ Also, on July 18, 1996, the National Park Service designated this structure a National Historic Landmark.

National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. Today, fewer than 2,500 historic places bear this national distinction, [and only 17 in Vermont ]. Working with citizens throughout the nation, the National Historic Landmarks Program draws upon the expertise of National Park Service staff who work to nominate new landmarks and provide assistance to existing landmarks.

National Historic Landmarks are exceptional places. They form a common bond between all Americans. While there are many historic places across the nation, only a small number have meaning to all Americans–these we call our National Historic Landmarks. – from the National Park Service.

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In July, 2010, I started a project to visit and document all seventeen Landmarks in Vermont. Here they are (in order of NHL designation):

[01] 09/22/60 – JUSTIN S. MORRILL HOMESTEAD, Strafford, Orange County
[02] 01/28/64 – TICONDEROGA (Side-paddle-wheel Lakeboat), Shelburne, Chittenden County
[03] 06/23/65 – CALVIN COOLIDGE HOMESTEAD DISTRICT, Plymouth Notch, Windsor County
[04] 12/21/65 – EMMA WILLARD HOUSE, Middlebury, Addison County
[05] 11/13/66 – ROBBINS AND LAWRENCE ARMORY AND MACHINE SHOP, Windsor, Windsor County
[06] 06/11/67 – GEORGE PERKINS MARSH BOYHOOD HOME, Woodstock, Windsor County
[07] 05/23/68 – ROBERT FROST FARM, Ripton, Addison County
[08] 12/30/70 – VERMONT STATEHOUSE, Montpelier, Washington County
[09] 11/28/72 – MOUNT INDEPENDENCE, Orwell, Addison County
[10] 12/20/89 – STELLAFANE OBSERVATORY, Springfield, Windsor County
[11] 11/04/93 – NAULAKHA (Rudyard Kipling House), Dummerston, Windham County
[12] 06/19/96 – ROUND CHURCH, Richmond, Chittenden County
[13] 06/19/96 – ST. JOHNSBURY ATHENÆUM, St. Johnsbury, Caledonia County
[14] 12/09/97 – ROKEBY, Ferrisburgh, Addison County
[15] 05/16/00 – ROCKINGHAM MEETING HOUSE, Windham County
[16] 05/16/00 – SOCIALIST LABOR PARTY HALL, Barre, Washington County
[17] 01/03/01 – SHELBURNE FARMS, Shelburne, Chittenden County
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☞ Here’s a link to an explorable GoogleMap with locations (and photos) of all seventeen sites in Vermont with National Historic Landmark designations.

☞ More photos of this and other National Historical Landmarks.

It’s Snowing on the Scarecrow
creating wealth
Image by Len Radin
Glinda, The Good Witch creates snow to wake up Dorothy and the Lion in the Wizard of Oz. Carlee Huttle as the Scarecrow.
Baum’s Strong Women
For the past 104 years, people saw what they wanted to in the Wizard of Oz. In the fifties, conservatives in the government pointed an accusing finger at L. Frank Baum, its author, insisting that Oz is a communistic society lacking money, where all comrades work for the common good. At times religious groups saw the book as demonic, pointing out that Baum pictured witches as nothing more than smart women: some good, some bad. Economists saw the story as a march to the gold standard with “oz” standing for ounces of gold, the green of Oz as the color of money, and the brick road as an “obvious” reference to the yellow metal. Others insisted that the story was a political tract with the lion representing England. In fact, the emerald green of Oz may be a reference to Baum’s ancestral home of Ireland. Yellow brick was a common building material in 1900. The name “oz,” according to one of Baum’s sons, was inspired by a filing cabinet in Baum’s office. The files were listed alphabetically with the last one labeled, “O – Z”
Frank Baum insists in the introduction to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900, that “old time fairy tales” contain a “fearsome moral to each tale.” He would have nothing to do with placing a moral in his stories. Baum insists the story “was written solely to pleasure children of today.”
With that said, and in spite of what the author insists, there is a wealth of metaphor and meaning in his works. Perhaps the most consistent theme that runs through most of his many books is the message that girls may strive to be strong women. In ten of his fourteen books, the hero is a girl or woman. True power in Oz, both good and evil resides in woman. Dorothy, a little girl in the original story, leads (practically drags) her three adult male friends through a life’s journey, helping them find themselves. They discover that they always had the courage, kindness, and intellect that they mistakenly thought they lacked. Oz himself is a fraud.
Baum was an ardent advocate of woman’s rights. As a newspaper correspondent, he wrote numerous articles on the topic. He campaigned vigorously with his wife, mother-in-law, and Susan B. Anthony to win the vote for women in the new state of South Dakota. The vote was lost but his strong feelings for the equality of women continued to be expressed in his stories and papers.

– Dr. Len Radin

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