Home to the Simpsons? According to the Hometown Challenge, this small Vermont town beat out 13 other Springfield’s from around the country. And, the recent national attention has put it on the map.

The town was chartered in 1761, and became the center of the Precision Valley, home of the Vermont machine tool industry. Since this industry moved away from Vermont, the community has worked to re-establish its economic base and build on its rich history.  In recent years, the community has sharpened its focus on downtown revitalization projects, particularly redevelopment of its former industrial properties.

One project that embodies Springfield’s respect for its history and commitment to its future is the recent renovation of the 1918 Vermont Foundry building, an excellent example of the industrial structures prominent in the early 20th century Precision Valley.

A grassroots effort raised $5 million to transform the building into the Southern Vermont Recreation Center, a dynamic regional heath, recreation and aquatic center with ties to the local regional hospital. The project was recently honored with a 2007 Smart Growth Merit Award.

Considered the Gateway to Springfield, the Southern Vermont Recreation Center is accessible by various modes of transportation. It also enhances use of the Toonerville Recreation Path, a three-mile long, paved path that links the business district with residential areas, Route 5, and the Cheshire Bridge, which connects to New Hampshire. The trail was built atop an abandoned railroad corridor along the Black River, and offers scenic views.

Springfield is also home to the Howard Dean Education Center, which reaches out to this region by providing a wide array of educational opportunities and resources. The Gallery at the Vault is a nonprofit organization, which serves the local artist community by providing a venue for their work.

As foliage season approaches, you may want to check out the Vermont Apple Festival & Craft Show.  While in Springfield, you can also experience a day in the life of an 18th Century settler at the Fort at No. 4 Living History Museum. Or, take a trip to the Miller Art Center, a 19th Century mansion, turned museum and gallery, with changing exhibits and educational programs for adults and children.

So, this fall when you’re looking for places to pick apples, consider dropping in on Springfield. Who knows, if you’re lucky, you may bump into America’s classiest family!

Photo: Joe Manning, www.morningsonmaplestreet.com