A 30-minute train ride north out of Brattleboro delivers the Vermonter rider through the Vermont hills into the town of Bellows Falls, VT. Settled in 1753 by English colonists, the falls of Bellows Falls were long ago identified by the Abenaki as a rich source of food and nourishment. Salmon and shad harvests from this section of the Connecticut River are historically recounted.
Bellows Falls, the 2nd Vermonter destination, is also the sight of one of the first canal systems in America and George Washington is said to have been one of the first surveyors of this canal/train system. The Bellows Falls Canal system was constructed from 1791-1802. Eight locks around the gorge of the river served to guide boats through the rushing waters while these waters also served as the power source for the expanding wood and paper industry of corporate giants like International Paper. Housed along the river and canal, the wood and paper industry created great wealth and prosperity for the newly arriving British colonists and their ancestors. The depression of the 1920s seriously challenged this rampant development such that today, the Robertson Paper Co is BF's only surviving paper business.
Separating the canal and the Connecticut River is a stretch of land 15 acres in size that is known as The Island. Incubator businesses are fostered here. New and technologically driven industries which reflect the changing energy and resource needs of the community and wider world come together in this place, Bellows Falls, VT.
Bellows Falls is the home of the oldest Opera House in the United States. Renovated and open for special events, the Bellows Falls Opera House offers a series of old-time and modern movies, as well as live music events. Bellows Falls entices young artists to the area through a community art incubation program. Like most small villages on the rural Vermont landscape, Bellows Falls strives to grow and sustain itself with local music, art, and food. Downtown development efforts in Bellows Falls also strive to connect visitors and entrepreneurs to the opportunities of the 21st century, as well as a historic past. Walking tours of the 2000-year-old petroglyphs and informative guided tours around historic industrial mills are open and ready for your consumption. Regarding the carvings of faces on the walls of stone around Bellows Falls (the Petroglyphs), their meaning and purpose remain a mystery to travelers and residents of this area. Many have guessed that the Petroglyphs represent the sacred distinction which the Abenaki attributed to these powerful waters. Others say that the faces represent individuals who may have been lost in the roaring river below.
Take a look for yourself. What do you think? Do you feel a connection to a culture of people 500 or 2000 years old? As you reflect, stop in and eat lunch at an old fashioned diner or take in a show at the Opera House, and dinner at Popolos in the historic Windham Hotel. Within walking distance are the Readmore Bed and Breakfast establishment and other downtown services. You will find the Bellows Falls community warm, inviting and very New England. Ground transportation is also available through Greyhound, CRT (local transit system), and taxi service.