[img_assist|nid=190|title=Newfane Village Green|desc=by Hubert Schriebl|link=popup|align=right|width=248|height=250]By Louise Jones
Photographs by Hubert Schriebl
Once land used for communal livestock grazing, village greens today are places of community celebration One of the predominant stereotypes of New England villages is the verdant village green bordered by white clapboard buildings. The green is a relict of the ancient English village common, which was land used by the community for pasture. But usually not so in Vermont. Jan Albers, in her excellent book Hands on the Land: A History of the Vermont Landscape, explains that, “The land speculation that characterized Vermont settlement meant that common land was seldom set aside for grazing…Many Vermont greens are products of the early nineteenth century…often developed on part of the church lot and used as landscape features from the start, rather than…as communal livestock grazing areas.” There are many Vermont villages where sentimental travelers can discover this ideal, but they will more likely find bake sales and concerts than grazing cattle.
The green in Newfane is indeed enclosed by a group of handsome white clapboard buildings—courthouse, Congregational church and town hall. The town was originally sited on Newfane Hill and was moved down to its present location in 1824, when the buildings were erected. The area was known as Park Flats, after its owner, a Mr. Park, who donated the land as a town common “for as long as the public buildings stand.” According to Joan Marr, curator of the Historical Society of Windham County, “The Soldier’s Memorial on the Newfane green was dedicated to Civil War soldiers on May 30, 1916, as a focal point for the Memorial Day parade. Now, the Newfane business community sponsors concerts on the green during the summer and there is a Church Heritage Festival in the fall.”
The Dorset village green, which originally ran between Route 30 and the Dorset West Road, has been in existence for more than two hundred years. Pat Carmichael of the town’s historical society, says, “The West Road was the Post Road from Bennington to Vergennes. In the beginning the green was fairly shapeless, simply following the paths made by wagons and feet. There were no curbs and the house lawns just melted in. When it snowed only the horses knew where the road was. The Dorset Inn, then called The Washington Inn, faced the green on the east; on the west, family dwellings and inns, a few of which are still there; two churches, the Congregational on the south side and the Episcopal, which no longer exists, on the north.” Many businesses, and professional offices also lined it. In the nineteenth century, the green was a Civil War muster station. Later in the century it was the site for baseball games, square dances, foot races, and Memorial Day celebrations. During the last 50 years, the green has featured many town-wide activities: a biennial antique show, an Easter egg hunt, brass band concerts, outdoor art shows each year and bike club rallies; it is still the location for the town Memorial Day celebration. “Now there are granite curbs at a height for plowing and a cross-cut for traffic ease,” Pat says. “A number of Victorian street lamps stand along Church Street which borders the green, now less than a quarter of its original size, which also contains two benches.” The grass is mowed, the trees and bushes are maintained and the Manchester Garden Club plants a bed of flowers at each end of the green as well as doing Christmas wreaths for each lamppost,” she says. ”It’s handsome, but you can’t play baseball on it any more.”…..