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BENNINGTON — Hoping to satisfy some of the intense interest in the Walloomsac Inn, the Bennington Museum will open an exhibit of photographs and items from the historic structure on Oct. 1.
Museum Executive Director Martin Mahoney said last month that the staff was working with the family that has owned the now-closed inn since the early 1900s, and is planning a small exhibit of items related to the inn, which dates to the 1770s.
The museum plans “a small pocket exhibit on the first of October,” he said, “capitalizing on the interest in the inn, which has been sustained for decades.”
The goal, Mahoney said, is to “highlight some of the museum’s collection and some of the objects that the family has lent to the museum.”
A pre-show opening will be held on Sept. 30, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the museum.
The Walloomsac Inn exhibit will run through the end of December.
Callie Raspuzzi, collections manager at the museum, said some of her favorite items include guest sign-in ledgers from the early 1900s, when Walter Berry Sr. — whose family still owns the building — purchased the inn.
“I think that’s particularly interesting,” she said, “because that’s the time where you have this transition from people arriving by rail and people arriving in their own private cars.”
That is reflected in the ledgers through details such as whether guests “were arriving by train, getting picked up at the train station,” or arriving by automobile, she said.
LEDGERS, LIQUOR SALES
There is also a much earlier guest ledger book from the early 1800s, Raspuzzi said, when one of the earliest owners of the inn counted on the stage coach line from New York to bring guests.
In fact, James Hicks, who bought the property in 1818, had been a driver for a family stage coach business when the line passed the inn on the road connecting Bennington to the Troy-Albany area in New York state.
Raspuzzi also noted that “at that time, [Hicks] was selling a lot of alcohol,” a refreshment often considered a necessity for people traveling — or jolting — over unpaved roads in a stagecoach.
“If you are traveling by stagecoach, it is hot, it’s uncomfortable, it is not a fun way to travel,” she said.
The coach line was replaced later in the 19th century by the railroad, which was the principal mode for long-distance travel until the auto began to flourish in the early 20th century.
The exhibit also features historic photos of the inn and a portrait of Elijah Dewey, founder of a tavern in the early 1770s that later was expanded and came to be called the Walloomsac Inn.
The original building — considered Vermont’s oldest hostelry — can be seen in the background in the painting, she said.
The inn sits across from Old First Church in Old Bennington.
Walter Berry Sr., who bought the inn in 1903, was the grandfather of two sisters who died last year and and another sister, Kathleen Kaiser, who with her son, Bill Kaiser, is now working with community members, organizations and others to determine the best method of restoring the building.
The Walloomsac hasn’t been operated as an inn since 1984.