Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Brattleboro Scenes

It's time for a Vermont road trip, and the first stop was Brattleboro, in the southeast corner of the state. It's dense and city-like for a relatively small place, with lots of interesting buildings that go beyond the quaint New England style and several good bookstores.

Damaged art deco movie marquee with yellow caution tape below
Little did I know I was arriving on a day when some local news had just been made. A truck driver, impatient that he had to wait for a train to pass through a little way down the street, tried to go around the stopped cars ahead of him by using the sidewalk beneath the marquee of the historic Art Deco Latchis Theater. (Full story from the Brattleboro Reformer.)

Close up of the damaged marquee
Needless to say, there wasn't room for both objects to exist in the same space, and the marquee lost. The good news is the nonprofit Brattleboro Arts Initiative, which renovated the theater and hotel complex, had been raising money to restore the original marquee, and now they'll have insurance money to help with the cause.

Colorful terrazzo floors with inlays and a plaster statue of a woman, after a Green classical figure
The Latchis Theater was build in 1938 by a local family in honor of their patriarch, a Greek immigrant named Demetrius Latchis. It features beautiful terrazzo floors like these, decorated with scenes from Greek mythology and the zodiac, as well as a statue of Hebe in the lobby.

Large theater with painted murals on the far wall and a replica of a Greek temple with columns
They've managed to wall off two additional small theaters without affecting the hugeness of the main theater. The murals on the walls (visible above) are due for restoration, as well as the large, gold zodiac figures that decorate the ceiling. (More and better photos are available on the Latchis Theater site.)

Brattleboro is also home to very nice food co-op, and it's about to get nicer as well as greener. There's a new store under construction next door to the current store (PDF describing the project here). It looks as though the new store will be about 4,000 square feet larger, with the current store being turned over to parking and green space along the Whetstone Brook and waterfall once the new store opens. It's also the only co-op project I remember seeing that's intentionally dense: It's a multi-use building with housing above the store.

Green garden cart with a sign on the side that says FoodEx, mimicing the FederalEx logo
Above: Someone at the co-op has a sense of humor when it comes to labeling the wagons they provide for shoppers to roll their food away. (Although they weren't astute enough to nail the details, such as the little white arrow that should have been created by the negative space between the E and x.)

I visited two bookstores while in Brattleboro. Sad to say, I missed out on a third bookstore, The Book Cellar, which lost its entire inventory after a fire in April.

Everyone's Books (seller of new books) was just the place to pick up the fifth book (A Dance with Dragons) in George R.R. Martin's guilty pleasure series, which was released just today.

Postcard with pink headline reading Resistance Is Fertile
Everyone's Books also had an extensive collection of political bumper stickers, shirts and the like; kind of like the Vermont branch of Northern Sun Merchandising. I particularly liked the headline on the postcard above -- Resistance Is Fertile -- although I think it could have been applied more creatively to a broader topic.

Brattleboro Books is a classic used bookstore, packed to the ceiling with one delight after another. It had a better-than-average selection of juvenile/young adult books. I picked up several Robert Newton Peck first editions, plus a first edition library copy of Patricia Windsor's The Summer Before (a real find, as far as I'm concerned).

Light brown sign with hand lettered cursive Children's Library, with silhouettes of a girl and boy, probably from the 1940s
The children's section also had this lovely sign, from the Greenfield, Mass., library.

Brattleboro is largely an art and tourism town, with a decidedly lefty bent. So I wasn't surprised to see a store like this:

Storefront with awning labeled Save the Corporations from Themselves
Though just a block or so down the street was this bit of corporate America unloading outside a restaurant:

Silver Sysco truck unloading on the street with ramp down, blue and green logo with leaf and the tag line Good things come from Sysco
I vaguely knew the institutional food company Sysco had switched logos recently, although I guess it was longer ago than I would have though: back in 2008. I can hardly remember seeing this logo before now, though, since all of the trucks in the Midwest sport the red, white and blue version. Interesting that the company rolled out the leafy bits for a town like Brattleboro, while still parading the patriotic identity for the yokels in Flyoverland.

White wheat-pasted garden gnome on a green utility box with other graffiti nearby
One last image from Brattleboro: A gnomish graffito seen along the street.

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