BENNINGTON, VT. >> Park McCullough House has become Bennington's unofficial public park. People walk on the lawns and have lunch on the porch. A summer garden, Highland Hall Gardens, extends the grounds with flowers and fountains, and a set of trails lead into the Mile-Around Woods. Angus Mc- Cullough, a local artist and a descendent of the family, is renovating the old corn crib as an art space. A croquet club holds matches on the lawn.
"Many people have links to the house," said Treasurer of the Board Judith Frangos of North Bennington. "Their ancestors worked here, or they got married here. It has a lot of atmosphere — it's such an authentic place."
"Everyone has a memory here," agreed Dahlia Buckley, events coordinator at Park McCullough. "People came to Easter Egg Hunts when they were 3."
Children come to see the doll's house with miniature wood stove. When Buckley was young, she said, she used to pretent she lived here.
Trenor Park built the house 50 years ago, just at the end of the Civil War. He was born in Woodford, Vt., Frangos said, but he spent many years as a lawyer processing claims in California during the Gold Rush and setting up mining companies.
His wife persuaded him to move back East, and their daughter, Eliza, married John G. McCullough, a young associate of her father's — after a long courtship and a set of love letters that now live in the University of Vermont's archives.
The family has included two governors of Vermont, Frangos said, and has entertained President Harrison at dinner in 1891. They have also had a hand in Mile-Around Wood, the McCullough Library, Bennington College and the first municipal water supply system in the village. Their descendant, Allen McCullough, now sits on the board.
In celebration of the anniversary, Park McCullough House will again have a gala dinner this summer, she said — a rare event — and they will host a family picnic in the ground for the community with games and music.
Visitors can tour the house on Fridays in the summer, fitted up with authentic furniture and fabrics the family has owned from the beginning, and the carriage barn with wooden pannelling, tack, fittings and carriages.
People come to the carriage barn for a series of live performances: Living Room Theatre performing French absurdist playwright Ionesco; Mettawee River Theatre's giant puppets and masks; pianist Jeremy Denk and concerts with Music from Salem and Bennington Baroque.
"The light bounces off the wood," Buckley said. "It gets very warm when there are people in there."