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A Tank Away

New heights

Town blends history with more modern comforts

At 306 feet, the Bennington Monument is the tallest structure in Vermont. At 306 feet, the Bennington Monument is the tallest structure in Vermont. (Bryan Marquard/Globe Staff)
By Bryan Marquard
Globe Staff / June 8, 2011

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BENNINGTON, Vt. -- Famous for lending its name to the Battle of Bennington, a Revolutionary War engagement that actually was fought several miles away in New York state, the town at first glance can seem caught between two worlds. Bennington blends old and new, historic and modern, the affluence of Bennington College and the remnants of a blue-collar manufacturing past. Impressive Colonial houses catch your eye on one street, while a neighborhood away, much more modest abodes reflect economic woes more deeply rooted than the recent recession. It makes for a fascinating mix in a place where you can relax and walk to restaurants and shops downtown or jump in the car for comparatively short drives to state parks and scenic overlooks.

STAY

Little more than a mile from the center of downtown, and a short walk from the Bennington Monument, the Four Chimneys Inn (21 West Road, www.fourchimneys.com, 802-447-3500) is a spacious bed and breakfast that also is one of the best places in town to dine. Weekends book quickly so reserve early to enjoy the elegant grounds and the main building, which is about a century old (the site goes back to post-Revolutionary War times, but the original building burned in the early 20th century). Rates start at $129 a night, but those rooms go fast, so anticipate stays ranging up to $299. You might get better prices at the Hampton Inn (51 Hannaford Square, www.hamptoninn.com/en/hp/hotels/photo_gallery.jhtml?ctyhocn=BENVTHX, 802-440-9862, doubles start at $139, free breakfast), within three miles of downtown.

DINE

If you’re staying at the Four Chimneys, and price is not a consideration, stay and make reservations for dinner. The menu can change, but entrees start at $20 for vegetarian risotto and go up to $37 for roasted Australian rack of lamb. About a block from the main downtown intersection, the junction of Routes 7 and 9, the Allegro Ristorante (520 Main St., www.allegroristorante.com, 802-442-0990) offers updated Italian fare with a fettuccini alfredo entree priced at a humble $10, or you can spend twice as much for wild boar and porcini. On a budget? Take the kids to the Blue Benn Diner (318 North St., 802-442-5140), with its classic metal design, dinner specials such as meat loaf with potato and a vegetable for less than $8.95, and a clientele that on any given night might mix locals with artsy types from Bennington College. For lunch, try Izabella’s Eatery (351 Main St., www.face book.com/pages/Izabellas-Eat ery/53583042525, 802-447-4949) for a variety of sandwiches made mostly from food purchased locally. Sandwiches start at $6.25 for egg, ham, and bacon, but at $7.75, the Pancho Villa (Vermont goat cheese, tomato, and avocado) might tempt you to spend more. And their homemade scones sell out every day — for good reason.

DURING THE DAY

History is the biggest draw, even though the Battle of Bennington wasn’t fought here. Start with the Bennington Monument (15 Monument Circle, www.historicvermont.org/bennington/), little more than a mile west of downtown in the Old Bennington section of town. At 306 feet, it’s the tallest structure in the state — a fact that reminds all that Vermont still has a low population and strict environmental laws. It’s $3 for adults and $1 for children to take the elevator to the top, where views await of Vermont’s Green Mountains, Massachusetts, and New York. A quarter mile or so from the monument is Old First Church (1 Monument Circle, www.oldfirstchurchbenn.org, 802-447-1223, no admission charge), where poet Robert Frost and dozens of Revolutionary War soldiers from both sides are buried. Downtown offers a mix of stores that reflect the arts and crafts influence of Bennington Potters and the fine arts of Bennington College, including the Bennington Arts Guild Gallery (103 South St., 802-442-7838, www.benningtonartsguild.org) and Hawkins House crafts market (262 North St., 802-447-0488, www.hawkinshouse.net). Bennington Potters (324 County St., 802-447-7531, www.benningtonpotters.com) is a half-mile walk from downtown, or jump in the car and head north and west out of town for a trio of covered bridges (Henry, Paper Mill, and Silk Road) over the Walloomsac River. Need an outdoor hiking fix? Head east on Route 9 and in a half hour or less you’ll reach Woodford State Park (142 State Park Road, www.vtstateparks.com/htm/wood ford.htm, 802-447-7169). The Hemmings Motor News Car Lover’s store and Sunoco station (216 Main St., www.hemmings .com, 802-447-9652) is a mecca for auto enthusiasts.

AFTER DARK

Madison Brewing Co. (428 Main St., www.madisonbrewing co.com, 802-442-7397, open until 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 on Friday and Saturday, and 9 on Sunday), has a pub menu that reaches out to different parts of the social spectrum with items such as the You Had Me at Brie salad ($9.99) and the North Country Venison Burger ($12.99). Carmody’s Irish Pub (421 Main St., www.carmodysirishpub.com, 802-447-5748) is across the street and is open until 11 p.m., except on Sundays.

Bryan Marquard can be reached at bmarquard@globe.com.