In 2015, over 8600 tourists visited the Old First Church.
7 days a week, June - October, volunteers welcome them to the Church, which Tripadvisor and the Michelin Guide rank as the "Must See", "#1", "5 Star" place to visit in Bennington.
Why do so many people come? It is a quintessential New England church, and it's free. Reviewers at Tripadvisor note that the church is "real", "beautiful", "historic", "simple and perfect"; and "a cool place to visit," where visitors wander around, take photos, sit in the box pews and even go up to the balcony. The old cemetery holds graves of Revolutionary War soldiers, as well as that of Robert Frost. The Bennington Monument and the Bennington Museum are a pleasant walk away.
However, I think the appeal is more than that.
I volunteer at the church on Wednesday afternoons, greeting travelers from all over the United States and the world. I encourage them to enter the sanctuary, be in the space and experience the architecture. Then I listen and answer questions.
The online travel reviews reflect that the tours we give - and the questions we answer about the church, the cemetery, the town, and its history - do more than inform. They create a delight in Bennington's rich history, and compel visitors to want to share the experience. The reviews suggest that others look for the boys' carvings in the balcony, the foot warmers in the box pews, and make sure to ask about the Walloomsac Inn.
The 29 volunteers are made up of church members and non members, all of whom love the Church building and its history. We look forward to welcoming visitors to the Old First Church. The visitors know that we will be happy to see them when they arrive!