Museums: Victoriana in Vermont

St. Johnsbury, Vt., population 6,809, could be the archetypal New England mill town. Except for city cousins and stray tourists, the prim stillness beneath the elms is rarely disturbed by outsiders. The world—and even St. Johnsbury itself—seems unaware that the brooding, red brick building across from the courthouse is the U.S.'s oldest unaltered art gallery still standing.* Founded in 1871, the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum grew out of the 19th century fashion for industrial tycoons to dabble in the arts. Horace Fairbanks, whose uncle invented the platform scale, and whose family built the invention into the Fairbanks scale works, made...

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