News Releases

June 30, 2010

Bennington Battle Monument Offers Tour Of Stairs

BENNINGTON, Vt. – Visitors will be given the opportunity for a rare treat on Saturday: a chance to climb the stairs of the Bennington Battle Monument.

The Friends of the Bennington Battle Monument will be hosting guided climbs of the tallest structure in Vermont Saturday, July 3rd, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Mary Lou Chicote, regional sites administrator with the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. “The 417 steps were closed to the public in the 1970s, and we’ve only opened the steps for two charity stair climbing races since then.”

Built to commemorate the Revolutionary War Battle of Bennington – which actually took place in nearby Walloomsac, New York on August 16th, 1777 – this Vermont State Historic Site opened to the public in 1891, some four years after construction began, at a cost of $112,000.

“The steps were the only method of going up to the observation level until 1953 when the Otis Elevator was put in,” Chicote said.

The monument, a 306-foot stone obelisk, was constructed on the site of a Continental military storehouse that was the objective of the British attack.

With his army short of ammunition, food and arms, British General John Burgoyne moved to capture the storehouse and its supplies, dispatching about 800 men into battle against what he thought was a militia force about half that size.

Instead, they met nearly 1,500 New Hampshire militiamen under General John Stark, who attacked after reportedly telling his troops, “There are the Redcoats;

they will be ours or tonight Molly Stark sleeps a widow.”

After defeating the main British force, which also included Loyalist troops, Native Americans, and Hessian mercenaries, Stark himself was thrown on the defensive when he was attacked by roughly 500 British reinforcements sent to aid the original raiders.

But he rallied his men, and the timely arrival of Colonel Seth Warner and his 500 Green Mountain Boys turned the tide as the combined American force counterattacked and drove the British from the field.

Today, thousands of visitors ride the elevator each year for the breathtaking scenic vistas of Vermont, Massachusetts and New York from the observation level high within the Monument.

On Sunday, visitors are invited to celebrate the Fourth of July with old time fun on the lawn of the Monument that will include games; activities for children; and the reading of the Declaration of Independence by local actor Willy Jones at 1:00 p.m. A discussion and audience input will follow, and the event is free and open to the public.

The Monument and gift shop located in Old Bennington are open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. through October 31st. For further information visit www.HistoricVermont.org/Bennington or call (802) 447-0550.

Source: Division for Historic Preservation
Last Updated at: June 30, 2010 16:21:20