It Ain't the Ritz - Corner of Main and Langdon Streets

Five Walks Through Montpelier VT: Tour #3 - The Elm Street Mini Loop

It Ain't the Ritz - Corner of Main and Langdon Streets

Montpelier, Vermont 05602, United States

Created By: Kiltumper Close Press


If I say the words “cracker barrel”, it might make you think of that family-friendly restaurant chain that has an outpost off highway exits all over America. But at one time the meaning was a literal one. There were actual barrels filled with actual crackers, and like the pot-belly stove, they served as a gathering point for chatter and gossip at local country stores in days of yore. These barrels were not filled with crackers of the Ritz, saltine, oyster, or Keebler variety. They were shaped more like a biscuit, hard and round and about an inch thick, and they could be stored for months if not years. They were known as “common crackers”, and from 1828 until 1959 most of them were baked right across the street in a building long since replaced.

A Horse-Drawn Oven
It was known as Cross & Sons Baking Company. It was originally started by Timothy Cross, but his brother Charles took the business to a new level. In the early days, he baked three days a week and delivered on the other two. He had a horse that worked the same schedule. Three days a week it pulled a revolving stone oven that baked the crackers, and two days a week it was hitched to the wagon for the deliveries. As time went on Cross was joined in the business by his sons and continued the partnership with his brother Timothy. Gradually they added more rooms, more ovens, and then finally a cracker-making machine that turned out to be a game-changer. By the end of the 1890s, they were reportedly turning out 50,000 crackers a day.

After Charles died at the age of 93, his son Bart carried on for a few years, but then sold the business to George L. Edson, whose family is directly descended from – guess who? Our old friend and founding father, Jacob Davis. George, and later his son Landale, continued the business under the name of Cross & Sons, and for decades they made “Montpelier Crackers” a household name throughout New England. The company was also known as a progressive employer, one of the first in the country to offer insurance and a retirement system for its employees.

The years after the Second World War were not as kind, however. The Montpelier factory closed and operations moved to Claremont, NH, and by 1966 the company closed for good. But that wasn’t the end of common crackers. They sold the recipe and all their machinery to Vrest Orton, the famous founder of the Vermont Country Store in Weston, Vermont. So, the Vermont Common Crackers you can buy today are essentially the same as the Montpelier Crackers that originated right here, over 190 years ago.

What do they taste like, you might ask? Well, they are not known as having a robust flavor on their own, but they have a way of making everything you eat with them better. If you toast them with some melted butter and Vermont cheddar, you might never eat a Ritz cracker again.

James Langdon’s Shopping Mall
We’ve come just about full circle now, and if you turn down Langdon Street to head back to our starting point at the Court House, you’ll be strolling along one of Montpelier’s early urban redevelopment projects. In the late 1800s, James Langdon had a vision for a fashionable shopping district in this area, and he’s responsible for the building directly across from Down Home Kitchen. It’s a handsome piece of architecture that fills the block between State Street and Langdon, and you’ll notice the decorative granite blocks running up the building at each corner. These are called “quoins” and you can see the style repeated in the other buildings on Langdon Street.

And that’s it for the mini-loop tour! If you continue across the Langdon Street bridge, you’ll find yourself back where we started, or you can do a little more exploring along Main Street. If you decide to skip the bigger loop of Tour #4, you can catch up with me in front of Charlie-O’s on Main Street for Tour #5. See you there!

This point of interest is part of the tour: Five Walks Through Montpelier VT: Tour #3 - The Elm Street Mini Loop


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