White River Rising

From the inside looking out at White River's main drag are notable VT artist Woody Jackson's colorful cows and landscapes.. Photo courtesy of Long River Gallery & Gifts.

"The Junction" Exalts: Moves Forward to its Roots

White River Junction, VT has deep roots that seem to nurture it by sipping clean water from the very shores along which its namesake river flows.  From the essence of life, like the green mountains that surround it, this town blossoms even in late autumn.

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Place-based creation might be attributed to a confluence of events, of people who care, of investors of late who have built new spaces, and of the time and location of a given place.  As the realtors around us say, "location, location, location."  That seems to ring true not just where the White and the Connecticut Rivers turn frothy as they meet, but also at the junction of Interstates 89 and 91 where the spinning wheels of moving automobiles deliver people curious to know what's happening in this latest of hot spots in Vermont, so close to the New Hampshire border.

Revolution, the shop where divas sport couture and culture that will change their lives in revolutionary style.

Let's start with the main block in downtown White River.  The Gates/Briggs building houses a host of places including two great restaurants and a revolutionary clothier named, obviously enough, Revolution.  This lovely shop promises "A Radical Shopping Experience" and one that's for more people than you think in the historic arts community of White River Junction.  The restaurants are PieceMeal Pies where sweet and savory and always delicious are the name of the game, as well as Tuckerbox whose owners are in love with White River Junction and, as far as I can tell, the people of The Junction are absolutely head-over-heals in love with the Tuckerbox's food, coffee, and inviting atmosphere.

A pie? Give it a try! Pork & Parsnip, or Celery Root & Roasted Garlic, or any of many other combinations of epicurean palette teasers that will satisfy your sweet and your savory cravings.

Just up the street in the Coolidge building is a new pop-up gallery that seems to be a sign of the times.  Twenty-five years in the running about 15 miles north in Lyme, NH, the artists of Long River Gallery & Gifts have decided White River is another great place to be.  They've just installed a gallery and gift shop up the street from Tuckerbox and PieceMeal Pies, so you can enjoy the gustatory pleasures of life as well as sate your artistic appetite with works as varied as encaustics, fiber/clay sculpture, jewelry, fine furniture, and oil on canvas works that typically fetch much higher prices in places like NYC, Santa Fe, Sausalito, Provincetown, London, Tokyo, and other parts of the country and the world.  With more than 150 local and world-class artists and artisans in its portfolio, Long River is a gem and adventure for the senses waiting to be explored.

A shaved fennel and asparagus salad as presented by the Tip Top Cafe. With its arugula, crispy prosciutto, parmesan and kimi figs, this starter dish would make Popeye forget his luscious heart-throb Olive Oyl ever batted her eyes at him.

The Tip Top building is just a short walk away from the main block.  It houses artist studios and yet another fine restaurant called, aptly enough, the Tip Top Cafe.  This may have been the first restaurant to pop up and get people to sit up and take notice, but it won't be the last.  If my instincts are true to form, more and more eateries will arrive, much like they already are on Thursdays in the Newberry Market Place where food vendors and artisans all come together to share their edible and functional products.  Try The Cupcake Queen's ridiculously terrific treats, or the empanadas and horchata at the Mexican food vendor table when you go.    

One of the Lampscape lampshade creations, hand-painted by artist Ken Blaisdell. Unique, original, decoratively delightful and dashingly elegant lighting that's a treat to enjoy as well as read by in your most comfortable nook in the house.

And how about lamps?  Not just any lamps, but real, hand-painted shades and hand-made lamps with heavy bases made of brake rotors cleaned and polished to a sheen, or a custom patina that will look like it's been part of your home's special collection.  Walk right in and meet Ken Blaisdell, artist and lamp maker extraordinare who runs Lampscapes on Gates Street, just across from Northern Stage where professional theater productions come alive in the most personal of ways.  Or chat with Ken's colleague Lou who's jokes and wry wit will keep you smiling long after you've left.  No buyer's remorse here.  You'll love the place and it's art studio smell.  It's the most well-lit place in town and you'll marvel at Ken's hand-painted creations that will light up your home with style and electric eloquence.  Make a statement with these lamps that are as functional as they are a thrill to behold.  Lampscapes has hosted poetry readings monthly for the past few years, and it's sister reading location, Long River Gallery & Gifts in Lyme with it's pop-up gallery in White River just hosted the poets laureate of Vermont and New Hampshire for an exciting and well-attended evening reading with more than 75 people and poets coming to listen to Alice Fogel (of NH) and Chard deNiord (of VT) share their verse as spoken word.  

A recently reinvigorated building marked with the year 1930 on its brick facade houses The Engine Room, a co-working and event space as attractive and comfortable as it is necessary and functional.

If you're searching for fast wireless and a comfy place to get some work done, look no further than The Engine Room, where an old building has been resuscitated and renovated into 6,000 square feet of optimal public and private rooms that are as accommodating as they are active with people typing, meeting, and enjoying one another's camaraderie as they pursue their business dreams.  It's just a bit farther a walk down South Main Street, nestled along the railroad tracks. 

And, wait, there's more.  Hop across one more street and you'll find Vermont Salvage where for twenty-five years the most eclectic array of simply great stuff salvaged from all kinds of places in Vermont, from homes and barns to garages and old diner countertop spaces, finds its home in a marvelously old  building that feels a bit like a rabbit warren as you wander its wide pine floors and long-used stairwells.  Getting lost here is a pleasure, a true uncovering of objects that can be dusted off and polished up to make your home or special outdoor space a unique venue people will remember long after they've left.  And you can enjoy these spaces filled with old-world objects of art to their fullest.  "Uniqueuities" is what I call what they purvey here.

Upper Valley Yoga in White River Junction helps you get fully aware and ready for your next stop in this fair town, be it art, coffee, great food, a live play on stage, or just watching the train rumble along the tracks to its next stop up the river.

All of these lovely shops, plus a vibrant yoga studio and two places to take in theatre, plus more, sit on the banks of the White River drinking in the pure Vermont air that makes White River Junction such a special place to live and visit.  The people who make this town their home are a tightly-knit group who appreciate the arts and the natural beauty of the surrounding area.  Even The Center for Cartoon Studies has chosen to make White River its home, now with students and visiting artists wandering the streets.  You're likely to see people sketching on notepads (paper and screen-based) some of the most fascinating artwork anywhere in the country.  It's a burgeoning artist colony that has at it roots generations of artists who long ago found this region to be to their liking for its natural surroundings and pure, back-to-the-earth living.  

Let's not forget the thrill of the train that rolls through the town's center, nor the heartbeat of The Hotel Coolidge that houses long and short-term visitors and hosts events and other festive functions on a regular basis.  It's website suggests this is the place that's "The Cure for Boring Travel Stories," and I can tell you that listening to the bagpiper play in the lobby this past Saturday for a Burns Night Supper of haggis served up hot along with some of the finest aged scotch whiskey (also known as "the water of life") was a moment I'll remember forever.  

The Hotel Coolidge block. A grand facade with a hotel whose lobby you'll want to explore. The BoHo cafe and many retail shops are housed here. Plus an events center and plenty of local color that'll spice up any conversation you might happen to wander into.

While many think White River Junction has made great progress of late in attracting places that serve great eats and even better art from the local community, it's merely a place that has been, for a long moment in history, simply waiting for the right time to return to its roots.  All roads have long led to "The Junction", and so should yours before you miss the excitement that can be felt like a warm blanket of sunshine dressed in the glorious colors that sparkle up from the river along this bubbling town's great northern flank.


Don't ever miss another post!  Click here to sign up for an email alert each time Dave Celone publishes a news piece on the dailyuv.com.  And do Click here to see his previous post on the Newberry Public Market Place that happens every Thursday in White River Junction, VT.  It and its 20 or so vendors  make for a great visit any Thursday except those Thursdays that fall on a holiday.

Dave Celone is not a hand-crafted INK doll (above) as made by Samantha Chalmus of Claremont, NH, as some might imagine. However, Long River Gallery & Gifts in Lyme, NH, and now in White River Junction, VT does sell them with pride!

Dave Celone is a freelance writer, poet, visual artist, art gallery curator, and consultant for the education industry. He co-manages Long River Gallery & Gifts in Lyme, NH with his wife Lisa where over 150 artists and artisans show their work. They have a new "pop-up" gallery now open at 49 South Main Street in White River Junction, VT, right next to The Junction Frame Shop. Dave is also principal of Advancement Consulting Services offering higher education institutions and private secondary schools global best practices and unique ways to increase alumni giving and involvement through programs that develop relationships and value holistically. His "virtuous circle" model on developing fundraising programs, and his belief in "treating students like alumnae/i and alumnae/i like students" have gained favor among development industry professionals and higher education leadership on multiple continents. Dave is former director of development at The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, and former co-executive director of the Dartmouth College Fund. He may be reached at djcelone@gmail.com.


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