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Waterbury: It's about more than ice cream

Towns with a fragrance: the "Tacoma Aroma," scent of paper mills also familiar to those who traverse Rumford, Maine; "Eau de New Jersey Turnpike," the sulphurous smell of rotten eggs from oil refineries; "Freshly Roasted Coffee Beans": Surprise! You're in Waterbury, Vermont. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) calls Waterbury home and recently opened a Visitor's Center and Café ©n the town's historic train station. Follow your nose toward the 1875 Victorian Italianate building that squats beside the tracks at the end of Park Row. At the Center you'll glimpse Waterbury's history and learn about GMCR. A graduated cylinder--imagine one from your high school chemistry class on steroids--marks 104 inches, high water in Waterbury during the Flood of 1927. Photos of floating houses illustrate the damage caused by more than eight feet 8 of water: 19 large bridges destroyed and another 11 damaged; 20 houses washed away and another 200 flooded. A mural by local artist Sarah-Lee Tarrat wraps the room with Waterbury scenes of yore in all four seasons. Algonquin, Iroquois, and Abenaki peopled the area in the 1500s and 1600s. A video and old photos document Waterbury's farming, logging, and milling past, its manufacture of scythe handles, children's carriages, and willow baskets, among other wood products. In 1891 the Vermont State Hospital, called the Vermont State Asylum for the Insane, opened its doors. A multi-media presentation highlights GMCR's efforts to improve the lives and protect the environment of one million coffee growers around the world. Despite the ravages of the Flood of 1927, historic buildings abound. A walking tour of Waterbury Village centers on Main and Stowe Streets where two dozen structures boast noteworthy nineteenth century doors, windows, rooflines, and decorative details. The Waterbury tour map, available at many businesses, describes architectural details and the history of each building. You'll learn that the public baths offered tubs for 25 cents, a tower-like structure, called the "dummy policeman," stood at the town's main intersection, and the Waterbury Inn, that burned 26 years to the day after the Flood of 1927, was the site of numerous mysterious deaths. Today, Waterbury's drama centers on a town and village merger. If you read Playboy for the great articles you'll want to see the art at the Alchemist Pub and Brewery at 23 South Main Street. A showcase for local artists, the Pub features Vermont ingredients and organic produce in its soups, salads, paninis, and pizettas. Do save room for some Maple Porter Pudding Cake! Among his more conventional libations- like Knuckle Dragger and Broken Spoke, owner and brewer John Kimmich concocts a Wellness Beer, O-Positive. Additions of elderberry, pomegranate, and red raspberry, aging in a pinot noir wooden cask with organic ginseng and echinacea nearly guarantee that O-Positive will cure what ales you. The Alchemist opens at 3 p.m. Friday through Sunday and 4 p.m. Monday to Thursday. Another quirky Waterbury eatery combines Mexican, Caribbean, and Indian food. Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, Marsala Salsa, at 13-15 Stowe St., serves eclectic dishes derived from the mixed heritage of owner Jan Chotalal. Now it's time for ice cream. Ben & Jerry's Factory on Route 100, about a mile north of the Interstate, draws more visitors than any other Vermont attraction. Don't let that deter you from stopping for a cone--and a few good laughs. Climbing up from the parking lot, you'll pass the Loafing Zone- for employees only. You can be photographed in the bodies of Vermont's favorite ice cream boys, grinning from halos of frizzy hair. If you've forgotten, or are too young to remember, you'll be reminded that humor has always been a hallmark of Ben & Jerry's. For example, we read on the company's timeline of important events that when America's Small Businessmen of the Year 1989 were summoned to meet President Reagan at the White House, Jerry donned his lone suit while Ben borrowed an Indian jacket from a waiter. You'll also find a poster reminding you of B&J's annual free cone day, this year on April 17. Now that tidbit alone is worth the journey to Waterbury!

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