Then Again: Sharp-edged politics at the sign of the catamount

Then Again: Sharp-edged politics at the sign of the catamount - VTDigger

Bars, pubs, taverns, alehouses, watering holes — by any name, these establishments have played a prominent role in American politics. They are where gossip is swapped, schemes plotted, deals struck.

That’s as true in Montpelier as in Washington, D.C. And it was at least as true two-and-a-half centuries ago as it is today. If you wanted to know what was going on in early Vermont — actually, in the years shortly before Vermont became Vermont — there was no better place to visit than the Catamount Tavern in Bennington.

During the 1770s, the region was ablaze with partisan division and civil unrest, and Bennington was the hotspot. Stoking the flames were the insurgents (or criminals, depending on your perspective) who gathered at the Catamount Tavern. The building, clad in unpainted wooden clapboards, was blocky, measuring 34 feet by 44 feet and rising two and a half stories.

Like other taverns of the day, the Catamount was a rough-and-tumble place. The downstairs was reserved for the functions we associate with taverns: drinking and dining. The main pub room had a low ceiling and heavy pine wainscoting, and was heated by a large fireplace.