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Her World

Behind the Barn Doors

September 21, 1986|JUDITH MORGAN | Morgan, of La Jolla, is a nationally known magazine and newspaper writer

At the western edge of Brattleboro, Vt., beyond a copse of birch and still-green maples, loomed a barn, a grand old barn of rain-darkened wood. Light streamed from its open doors cross-patched in white and from the hayloft above.

This for me was Vermont: substantial, proud, inviting. I slowed in the dusk to read the sign: Fitness Barn.

Inside were shiny exercise bikes and body-building machines. So much for fat cows and rural tradition.

New England's graceful barns are scattered throughout the Green and the White mountain ranges, but they house more than stock or feed, tractor or truck.

Not the Old Fragrance

Some barns have become country stores, fragrant with apples, maple candy and extra-sharp Vermont cheddar cheese. Others sell giant scoops of homemade ice cream--irresistible on Indian summer days in these pristine villages.

Restored and converted barns have become elegant restaurants, wayside inns, doctors' and dentists' offices, museums and antique shops. One spiffy model is The Inn at Sawmill Farm near West Dover, Vt. With hand-hewn timber and a decorator's flair, it's a place of studied elegance which, with pool and skiing and golf nearby, seems more country club than country.

Spacious barns have been turned into weekend homes for city dwellers and studios for artists, sculptors and violin makers. The sun glints on skylights and solar panels atop their sloping roofs.

An Elks Lodge meets in a red barn not far from Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. Near Ossipee is a hulking Pizza Barn. It is not unique.

Shopping Center

The New Hampshire town of North Conway has a pleasant setting, east of the forests and streams of the Kancamagus Highway, but that's not what brings visitors by the busload. The town's streets are lined with factory outlet shops offering discount prices on bedding, china, luggage, lingerie, baby clothes, sportswear and shoes. One of the brighter clusters is called Red Barn Factory Stores.

At the Old Tavern Inn of Grafton, Vt., a Colonial hostelry where I could happily retire to read and write and stalk the land, I paused at the desk to ask where I'd find a public phone.

The receptionist pointed over her shoulder and smiled: "It's in the barn."

But of course. And so is the taproom.

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