Middletown Springs

by Susan Abbott
This professional tourist business is no new thing in Vermont. I think it began in 1805. I have found that in that year many persons came from Albany in a horse and buggy to visit the mineral springs which were then thought notable at Middletown Springs...it is strange, with Saratoga Springs so near, that these New Yorkers came to Vermont to take our waters...Charles Edward Crane


I've been out of the car and in my studio for the last few weeks, getting a good start on my Elements of Landscape series for the Art of Action project. But finally I could no longer resist the siren call of Route 100 South, and on a recent sunny Sunday ventured out on a circuitous path through Rutland County.

My first and only stop in Middletown Springs (for I had many a mile to go that afternoon) was at the crossroads of Routes 140 and 133. That's an intersection with presence, marked by an impressive sign that points you towards Canada or New York City, conjuring up images of Hobbitt-like journeys. I turned right and ventured north up the open road for thirty feet, then turned again and took a closer look at the lovely 19th century buildings that line two sides of the village green.


The tall-steepled church, the neo-classical hall (now the Historical Society, unfortunately closed that day) and the very ornamented large pink and cream wedding cake of a house all spoke of a prosperous past. Then as now, prosperity in a state with many mountains and rivers but few fertile valleys was all about tourism.

Like thirty other Vermont towns that discovered a source of mineral water (and the fouler smelling and viler tasting, the better) Middletown Springs became a destination for infirm flatlanders ready to pay well for remedies promised by the town's waters. ("For asthma, drink from Tap Number 2 and wish on Tap Number 3.") Doctors, patients and owners of mineral springs all testified to their curative powers.

By the early 1900's, sulpher's healing abilities were debunked, and the crowds vanished from the resorts built around noxious mineral springs. Still, a few tourists came and found that after a few days they generally felt better.

Maybe just being in rural Vermont, away from the stresses of city life, rocking gently on the Middletown Springs Hotel verandah, the North Brook babbling and mockingbirds singing, was enough by itself to alleviate dyspepsia and piles.