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Travel

A Tank Away

History and artistry in St. Johnsbury, Vt.

It’s a wonder the town elders of St. Johnsbury didn’t rename their community Fairbanks given the contributions of brothers Thaddeus and Erastus Fairbanks. On the banks of the Passumpsic River in 1830, they established E&T Fairbanks & Co., a platform-scale manufacturer that grew, by the standards of the time, into an international behemoth, once employing some 1,000 Vermonters. The family served its community well: Erastus did a stint as governor as did a son, Horace. The Fairbanks were generous. Their beneficence resulted in the construction of churches; the St. Johnsbury Academy, a school still thriving today; the Fairbanks Museum & Observatory; and the Athenaeum, the library and art museum now on the National Register of Historic Places. The small town has slipped since its industrial heyday. Yet it’s lively enough to draw an ample share of visitors with art galleries, an art-house cinema, eateries, and roads that lead to mountains and forested trails for alpine and Nordic skiing.

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