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“Along Route 7” with Photographer Stephen Donaldson

Rural Intelligence Road Trips
“I love Route 7,” says photographer Stephen Donaldson. “It’s not only the history of our region, it’s the history of our country. It’s the road the defines western New England.”  Stretching from Norwalk, CT, on the Long Island Sound to Vermont’s border with Canada, the 308-mile stretch of road has scores of farmhouses, clapboard churches, cemeteries, barns and breathtaking vistas, which Donaldson has loving documented in his new book, Along Route 7 (Schiffer Books; $45.)  While the natural landscape becomes bigger and bolder as you drive north, the manmade landscape—especially from the 18th and 19th centuries—is remarkably consistent, which is why many of the best preserved towns in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont look so much alike. “It’s a very comfortable part of the world,” he says.

Rural Intelligence Road TripsNaturally, Donaldson has favorite parts of the road. He says nothing compares to the stretch from Bulls Bridge in Kent, CT, through Cornwall and Falls Village to Canaan. “It’s the Goldilocks section—it feel just right,” he says. “It feels very intimate. The landscape seems to wrap itself around you.” The most breathtaking part is just north of Bennington, VT. “It’s very dramatic when you arrive in this valley with 3,000 foot mountains. There’s a private toll road called the Equinox Skyline Trail, with incredible views.”

Route 7 is called the Ethan Allen Highway in both Connecticut and Vermont, but not in Masschusetts. “Ethan Allen was born in Litchfield, raised in Sheffield, and was very involved in Vermont politics,” says Donaldson. “It’s the mystery of Massachusetts as to why it’s not named the Ethan Allen Highway there, too.”

Photographs by Stephen G. Donaldson.

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