We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
No, not a fantasy. Tourists were visiting that spot by 1858, the year of the painting.
The party is near the “Nose” on the summit ridge of Mount Mansfield. They are looking at Lake Champlain and the sunset to the west. The highest point on Mount Mansfield is the “Chin” which is on the summit ridge north of the Nose. Trails to the summit ridge near the Nose were completed by the early 1850s on both the east side of the mountain (the Stowe side) and the west side (the Underhill side). In 1856 two men from Underhill “provided the first overnight lodging on the summit [ridge] in the form of a platform tent near the site where the Summit House subsequently was located. Boards for the structure were carried up the Underhill trail by a man and a boy for 25 cents each. Making one trip a day, the man carried four boards at a time and the boy two.” Meanwhile the trail on the Stowe side was being improved into a carriage road. A house was built in 1857 on the Stowe side below the summit ridge. “Then in 1858 [the year of the painting] this house was moved a half-mile to a new site just under the Nose. Thus began what was to be a 100-year career for this interesting hostelry. First known as the Tip Top House, sometimes the Mountain House, and at a later period the Mt. Mansfield House, the Summit House is the name it carried for most of its life[.]”
The Summit House was taken down in 1964. The trail from the Underhill side to the Nose remains a hiking trail, known as the Halfway House Trail. The road on the Stowe side is open (in the summer) as the Auto Toll Road.
The quotes above are from Mansfield: The Story of Vermont’s Loftiest Mountain, by Robert Hagerman, 1971, pages 76 and 58. There is much interesting history about Mount Mansfield. As noted in Mark Bushnell’s column in VTDigger that Bird Dog linked to, the mountains of northern New England and New York inspired many artists and writers in the last half of the nineteenth century who were “seeking the sublime.” Ralph Waldo Emerson is known to have stayed at the Summit House. That was the era of Transcendentalism and Romanticism.
The Switchel Philosopher / The Switchel Traveler