Remember that I write for myself to remember – but enjoy sharing. My recent explorations continue to be in Vermont – so close, but so far away in an historical feel. I have been learning about Dummerston, and have become fascinated with Guilford (population now about 2100) which during the early 19th century was the most populous town in the new state. I again toured Guilford on 27 November, and here listed (for my memory) are my trips leading up to yesterday’s drive.
1-I first discovered the Town of Guilford on a snowy day 9 February 2016 – check out the images on this post.
2-On some meanderings exploring covered bridges 1 July 2017, I was again in Guilford discovering for the first time the Green River Covered Bridge, and its wonderful surroundings. It was in this report I said, “…WOW – Guilford needs more exploration.” Do look at the images at the end of this1 July 2017 post.
3-Traveling new backroads to Colrain, Massachusetts, early in 2021 to research the site of the first public school raising of the US Flag, I passed the Guilford Fairgrounds – seeing the grounds – the plan was to return for the fair, and I did with friends 5 September 2021. At the fair I enjoyed the historical society’s exhibit, but neglected to buy the Town History – I regretted that.
4-Heading to the Amos Brown house on 11 November, two weeks ago, I passed the Green River Covered Bridge, and remembered how much I wanted to enjoy picnicking there. I needed to learn more.
5-Communicating with Carol at the Guilford Historical Society, I drove down the day they were closing for the season, Wednesday, 16 November to get the book (checking my database I have bought and sold eight copies over the years – do you have a book when you want it?) Well I treasure my copy now of the OFFICIAL HISTORY – GUILFORD, VERMONT – 1678-1961. I had a nice visit, and they gave me a large wall map to use for explorations, studying it, I knew I had to get back soon. Saturday 27 November was the day – remember, what you see roadside varies each day, and each season.
I studied that map, I studied Google Maps. I always need to know how roads fit together, and why they and points of interest are where they are. Bordered on the east by US Route 5 and I-91, the majority of Guilford’s roads are dirt, and the longest roads run north to south: Weatherhead Hollow Rd. (with the Fairgrounds); Sweet Pond Road; and River Road. I needed to see them all, and off I went to Exit 1 on I-91, west on Guilford Center Road to Guilford Center where I found the library open.
I looped back close to sunset to capture the above image, thus it is dark. A fun little library, I picked up a copy of THE GUILFORD GAZETTE and a smaller map, easier to handle than the wall map that I did pack into the van. My “new” map is already showing wear.
Leaving the library, I headed west to the Covered Bridge to start new explorations, the plan to follow River Road south.
I crossed the bridge, and headed up the hill, always wanting to go up the hill. And for some reason I thought that was the road I wanted. With all my maps, I was wrong, and I finally realized I was heading west on Stage road to Jacksonville. No problem, had not been on this road before. Problem, as I climbed the dirt road was covered with ice. Not a problem since it had been sanded (end of November) and I slowed down. WAZE finally got a connection, and I figured out where to head towards Colrain and Massachusetts Route 112. The occasional sign helped.
Reaching The Mohawk Trail in Shelburne I stopped in the antique and craft store at the corner, and happily purchased another tree for my Christmas Tree Collection. It was then off to a couple antique shops on US 5 in Deerfield, and the gift shop at Deerfield Village. Net result – three cartons of books brought home to eventually find new homes, and some “extra change” for my “toys and trips”.
Then I decided I still had to find River Road in Guilford – that was the main objective for the day. As I said, most of the roads in Guilford (as highly detailed on the map I got at the library) are mainly dirt, and I cannot wait until a spring ride along the Green River in BLUE BELLE or BLACK BEAUTY.
One more road to experience, but first going in an opposite direction I was thrilled to see the Mineral Spring House property from afar. I told you about this spot when I discovered it at the historical society’s exhibit at the fair.
Getting dark a tad after 4, particularly under tree cover, but I was here, and had to head south down the middle route – Sweet Pond Road – and past Sweet Pond State Park. It was dark, and I look forward to getting back on this road which turns east and back to Weatherhead Hollow Road. At that point I turned north, back past the Fairgrounds, and into Algiers (now here is a fun story to tell you someday – the hook to get you back). In Algiers I turned north on US 5 and onto I-91 and home.
And, it was a wonderful seven plus hours out. RAY RECOMMENDS – Get out and explore – Not only educational, but rejuvenating, and I work harder when I get home. Stay safe and stay well. Hopefully catch you again before the holidays – as always, Luv, RAY
This has been a tough year to do anything. COVID has closed travel opportunities, and what has remained open has become expensive, and crowded. I “do not do crowds” and want to stay safe for travels in years to come — yes I have lists of great travels and explorations as I was able to do in 2019. But I needed a “get-away,” and as you have read, the past year I have enjoyed properties owned, meticulously restored, and offered by LANDMARK TRUST USA. In fact, with the additional stay I have planned, in just over a year I will have had my head on their pillows for almost five percent of my nights. Ironically, it was 10-12 November 2020 that I first experienced the Amos Brown House, the oldest house in Whitingham, Vermont.
Even with a one hour, 48 mile trip I can find many routes — routes that others are unaware off. I was off to Guilford, and Green River Village – I last found this little spot when exploring Vermont Covered Bridges, 1 July 2017 — I meant to get back often, and now will for sure. I had fallen in love with this for a picnic spot. There are tables to the left over the mill pond.
I had my paper 1985 Vermont Road Atlas, and was going to wander on roads not yet travelled through Halifax and West Halifax. I soon learned a 35 year old map may not be accurate, well unmarked roads more the problem. But when on dirt with this color – what is the problem, and what is the problem with not knowing exactly where you are – hey, eventually I would find a corner I knew.
plan was to get a sandwich at the General Store in Guilford or Jacksonville. Checking hours on-line I was dismayed to learn that the Jacksonville store was yet another COVID casualty. In searching for hours I stumbled on a Brattleboro newspaper article citing its closing in October — help was unavailable, and with a slightly remote location they no longer got meat and other deliveries. Short of drivers it was not worth many a company’s time to make the trip. Sadly I never made it in during its 128 year existence.
and, then it was down Route 8A in Whitingham, one right, two lefts on dirt roads, fantastic trees and leaves on the ground and, up the last incline…
to the Amos Brown House, the oldest house in Whitingham, and set bucolically on 30 acres of woods and fields.
My Friday plan was the visit a few spots in North Adams and Adams and find the East and West Portals of the Hoosac Tunnel – never taken the time to turn off the Mohawk Trail to do so. I had lots of route choices, but decided upon Tunnel Road heading south out of Readsboro, which is a tad west on VT Route 100. WOW — plans for more explorations on this historic route following the Deerfield River. Here are two views in Monroe, Massachusetts (population 121 – not a typo). The left image is looking south on the river at the old paper mill, and on the right looking north at the dam and power generation. Also in this area is the site of the Rowe Nuclear Plant – the second nuclear power plant in the US beginning in 1958.
the map below (found at one of the Great River Hydro recreation sites) gives an idea of all that is in the area for power generation, and recreation. One sign said that 10% of our renewable energy in the US is hydro generated.
so much more to learn and explore. Of course, when I returned to my abode for the evening I spent time on-line trying to learn more about this section of river, the rail line that followed the Deerfield River here, and joined with the line going through the Tunnel. In reading one newspaper article I learned of THE COMING OF THE TRAIN – a two Volume Set written by Brian Donelson. Published at different times, I was able to purchase Volume II on the way home at the indy bookshop in Wilmington. But the earlier volume I found usually runs around $500 — but you know my search abilities, and I snagged a copy for a tad under $200 — already into Volume II, so glad I got them – so much to learn – so much to explore — and so close by.
I will have to write about the building of the tunnel to share with you. Quite a feat, decades of work for over four and a half mile tunnel that runs about 1200 feet below The Mohawk Trail in Florida (Massachusetts that is), and the loss of much life. Here is the train bridge crossing the Deerfield River just before the tracks disappear into the tunnel.
later I found the West Portal. Posted, but sometimes you miss a sign or two. Once I climbed a grade and found the tracks, the entrance was still a ways off, so I “read the signs” and turned back.
On this day’s short outing (Saturday – never went out on Friday with all the rain coming down) my strong desire was to see the North Adams Historical Society, located (of all places) in the Holiday Inn. So glad I did. Upon entering the docent said they had just gotten notice that the Inn had been sold and they will have to move (and to where?). A group that includes Nancy Fitzpatrick (owner of The Red Lion Inn and The Porches) is the new owner, and wants the space. I chatted with Nancy’s parents many times in Stockbridge. Nancy does not know me, but I had better talk with her — the museum’s exhibits there are wonderful, starting with this train display of the town with the West Portal of the Tunnel on the right. The schedule board is from Grand Central Station having been for the train to North Adams coming through Danbury – gee, was at that station a month ago.
now, here was something new for me – click and read
you know my “rocking chair studies,” well, where do they belong? On porches of course
this winter I read about five books about the French and Indian Wars in this area, and Fort Massachusetts. In one room there was a great exhibit on the fort – the location just a tad west on Route 2, and I have shared that with you in past posts.
Hoosac, or Hoosic, I was thinking I should ask the docent, and then I turned around in another room and saw…
It was then back “home to Amos” and on-line research on what I had newly experienced on the drive to North Adams. But along the way on 8A from Charlemont, there was a stretch I had not been on, and just before the state line —-
do you know what a 1957 Chevy is worth? I have an idea. I sold my 1956 Two-Door Hardtop Belair with a super dual exhaust for $350 in 1967 — today over $75,000 (depending on condition). Condition of the passenger side below pretty nice, but that appears to be it. The “Chevy Ranch” sign? Made of license plates.
And then back and time to settle in with the first book in another David Baldacci series, ironically the main character being another Amos – Amos Decker. What a great read — I finished at 1:15 AM this morning Sunday. But still up in time for one of the reasons you stay at the Amos Brown House – the sunrise. My last morning the weather was right, and at 6:25 AM it started – yes that is snow on the ground.
the progression from 6:37 to 6:41AM
what can I say??
RAY RECOMMENDS: 1 – Experience 2 – Learn 3 – Enjoy 4 – Hit those backroads 4 – Learn about Landmark Trust USA
I usually “don’t do the past” but I did for a sad occasion — a friend I have known since before kindergarten passed away in July 2020, in North Carolina, and her memorial gathering and internment (due to COVID) was not held in our hometown of Wilton, until Saturday, 15 October. About a three hour drive, but more than five decades away in my past. I describe my now “hometown” as my original “hometown” of Wilton was when I was growing up in the 1950s. It is not even close today. But I wanted to re-explore some of my past to see changes – and boy did I. The plan was to travel down on Friday and start those explorations where I used to play in the 1950s – what is now Weir Farm National Park.
I stopped first in “downtown” Ridgefield, CT, had lunch, and then headed up to Silver Spring Country Club. In the late 50s, early 60s I rode my bicycle five miles to spend all day caddying, often carrying bags for 45 holes. When I started driving, I cruised up in my 1929 Model A Ford roadster. After wondering around there, I followed my route back home, crossed into Wilton, and turned on Pelham Lane (a fantastic road, still not big enough for two cars to pass – almost spent a night there once in a ditch where our school bus slid off in the snow). When Pelham Lane dead ends on Nod Hill Road in Wilton – there is the park.
From the NPS website – “Weir Farm National Historical Park is a National Park for Art that preserves the life and work of Julian (J.) Alden Weir, a leading figure in the American Impressionist movement. The home, studios, and a significant portion of the landscape remain largely intact as one of the nation’s finest remaining landscapes of American art.” I would visit a friend, Roger, who lived in the house just south of the above, and we would come here to play with the caretaker kids who lived in the house above. Two things happened to me here that I will relate as we go along. But first, below is the corner of Pelham Lane to the left, and the Weir home with studios and barns to the rear.
Below is the Burlingham House Visitor Center, which bears the name of Julian Alden Weir’s youngest daughter, Cora Weir Burlingham, who lived in this house from 1931 to 1986. As a child, walking about five miles around a big circle of roads Halloween trick or treating, she would invite me into the dining room to make my selection of treats. Trick or Treating back then was not grab and go. People would invite you in, and spend lots of time trying to guess what you were and who you really were – even though they usually knew.
I told the park rangers that everything was just as I remembered it EXCEPT for one thing. I had never seen grass before around the caretaker’s house. You see, the Gullys had seven or nine children in their family always playing around the house.
I had time before a ranger’s talk to get to Weir Pond, built about 1890 and one of the reasons Weir bought this property – for the scenery. Roger and I used to traipse through the woods from his house to the pond to catch (or try to catch) sunfish.
well, below is the spot I distinctly remember. I was sitting here (1957 or 1958) and what did I catch? The second finger of my left hand – hook right through. Yells, tears, running through the woods back to my bicycle, home to my uncle’s next door to our house. He was a doctor, and got out some pliers to remove the hook. I got a tetanus shot that Monday.
and some more views around the pond
then back the path to the road for this view of the 1835 barns behind the house.
you could see exhibits through the doors, but again for COVID the actual barn spaces were not open. Thus I could not re-experience an almost tragedy I had in the barn. The Gully kids were sort of rough and tumble. I was on ground level below the hayloft where they were playing with a pitchfork. Yes, you know what’s coming – that fork came down towards me, landing with tines in the dirt between my legs. Aren’t you glad I can simply tell you about it? Then it was close to 3PM, and my lecture and tour of only the front room of the Weir house. I was Tom’s only guest – he was great, I learned much from him, and he enjoyed my history on the property.
Tom was great. After we looked at the front room, we walked around back to Weir’s studio. Essentially as it was when he last walked out (he died in 1919). From the park’s website – “After Weir’s death, the studio was primarily used for storage. The Weir Studio has been restored to circa-1915 and is historically furnished. Weir’s paintbrushes, pallets, pigments, and paint boxes have been preserved and are on view inside the studio.” The painting is a reproduction of the original hanging at the Smithsonian.
Next door is Young’s studio. “Sculptor Mahonri Mackintosh Youngmarried Dorothy Weir Young in 1931, and moved to the Weir’s family farm, building his own studio built in 1932. Here Young worked on several masterpieces, including his largest commission, a monument entitled “This Is the Place.“ Young died on November 2, 1957. As an auto mechanic at the Gulf station down the hill in Branchville, my Dad would pick up Mahonri’s car for repairs. I vaguely remember looking into the studio once. For COVID they put up Plexiglas so you could at least peer in.
Then it was nine tenths of a mile south to my home on 15 Partrick Lane that my Dad built in 1949. Well, it is the small left hand side he built. Our garage that housed over the years 100s of antique autos was recently replaced with the two story addition on the right.
turning to the opposite side of the little street is the Weinberg’s house (well until the late 50s). Trees gone, changes made, but why show you this? The next owner’s sons kept their new TR3As in this barn. I was hooked when given my first ride in 1958. Thus, BLACK BEAUTY is now in one of my stalls.
To put it all into perspective – I have made some changes on the Weir Farm map below. Note the Boas land outlined and crosshatched, my house, my bus stops, etc. Also of importance is Boas Lane built by my grandmother. When my grandfather was buying the property in about 1927 for a weekend and summer retreat from the city he found the house and barn with 120 acres. Even as a doctor he did not want to spend the $3,000 the farmer wanted for the house, barn and property. Asking what the price was for just the house and barn, the farmer replied, “but, doctor, that is the price for the house and barn, I am giving you the land.” Thus building lots for my Dad, Uncle, and lots of development in the 50s and 60s. I will send my revised map to the National Park Service asking them to make the corrections on theirs highlighting my historical additions. Make sure to click, enlarge and study – there will be a test.
above the roads have been widened, but here are my bus stops – when I rode the school bus that is, instead of walking the five miles to school, each way uphill in the snow and rain. Left, the end of Partrick Lane, and right the corner of Nod Hill Road and Indian Hill Road, about a half mile from home.
and, below, Boas Lane last weekend on the left, and in 2012 on the right.
then I headed off the hill, north a tad on my favorite US Route 7 into Ridgefield, and checked into a motel I remember from the 50s. Half the price of anything else in the area, and I now know why. But onto exploring, and West Redding to find the country store that may have been the start of my fascination with the old emporiums. About the only change is that the train station is now a tad south with a raised platform, and not at the old general store in the left image.
But below is the emporium that I remember, and probably got me hooked on early county stores. It was a big deal when it opened, and I remember Gypse Rose Lee promoted the store, and its shelves on TV to the world. Here is an amazing article you may wish to read – I recommend it. I remember visiting and being amazed at the interior.
SATURDAY — 16 OCTOBER
I left my lodging to make some stops along US Route 7 before I arrived at Hillside Cemetery in Wilton. The train tracks almost parallel Route 7, and I had some focused railroad stops to make. First stop the Branchville station. The Norwalk River separates the station from the former Gulf Service Station where my Dad worked in the early 1950s. My grandparents would come to visit, take the train from Grand Central Station here. Now the stations I visited have all changed, and there are raised platforms a short distance from the stations for easier passage onto the trains. And, most stations now seem to serve other purposes. Here is the Branchville station (from the “new” raised platform) where I flattened many a penny on the tracks. This view is looking north – the service station would be out of view on the left.
Heading south on Route 7 I next turned into Cannondale which is a section of Wilton. Many, many years ago I stayed in the area with a family watching my brother and me while my mother worked. I remember exploring the area, and playing with other kids. With the train station were a few stores, still there, but not busy as in days past. Note the new raised platform almost atop the tracks.
Here are a few views of this historic unchanged spot. The last image bottom right is looking south on the train tracks. As my Dad and I were exploring after the Flood of 1957, I headed south along the tracks to see the washout. My Dad found me, and this eleven year old spent the rest of the day in the car.
and, next the Wilton station – again now with a raised platform (right). I fondly remember catching the train by myself from the platform, and also riding to NYC on a few school trips.
and, time to get to Hillside Cemetery for the service. First I visited my Dad and his parents.
And, then it was “good-bye Mimsy”
followed by a lovely reception at the original Wilton Town Hall circa 1835. Of our class of about 135, below are eleven classmates and two spouses who attended. Yes, me back row third from left.
When we all departed I drove to see New Canaan not having been there in probably 60 years. Chic, still busy and active, just about every spot on the sidewalks with restaurant seating. Then I headed back roads to the Norwalk / Wilton line to travel north on Route 7 to see my four schools, which are below. I skipped showing you Junior High for grades seven and eight. The last image is my high school, and the section on the right is the theater where I was extremely involved. Mimsy and I played opposite each other in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The top images are the former Center School – my kindergarten class in the left image, the corner room. The top right image is the back of the school On the right my first grade classroom, now a Subway sandwich shop – go figure. The mirroring wing to the left with my second grade classroom is gone, and I served third and fourth grades in the same basement room. My mother was school secretary at Center School, and Comstock School (lower left and now a community center) where I was in fifth and sixth grades. It need not be said that I did behave.
Then I headed back up Nod Hill Road to my old home area. I wanted to see first this Glacial Erratic that is opposite the southern part of the former Boas land. I am still fascinated by Glacial Erratics, and seek them out. Don’t think I ever made it atop while stopping on my bike.
I then wanted to hike around the Town Forest and old Boy Scout property. I had to find the “Indian Rock House” – a ledge I used to play on – probably almost 65 years ago. My Dad and my Uncle purchased property from my neighbors the Weinbergs to protect my Uncle’s property across from the pond he dug. They then convinced the Town of Wilton to purchase the property and preserve it as a forest. So, now my Walpole friends, you know the genesis for my desire to preserve land. Successful on one Connecticut River front property here, I still have a ways to go. Here are views at the beginning of the trail, the old road, and a couple spots that could have been where I played – but much smaller than I remember.
Down off the hill to Georgetown, and I wanted to find the old post office building near the now abandoned Gilbert and Bennett Wire Mill. Chain link fences, signs advising prosecution for entry, but the gate was open. Hey, you live once – I found the post office that I remember stopping at, and thought it was immortalized by Norman Rockwell on a Saturday Evening Post cover. I found it – trucks parked near by, and I pulled up to chat with a fellow. “You know you should not be here,” he said. “I know, but I had to see this old post office.” He told me he was working on the property cleaning up, trying to preserve the post office. I said once I took a picture I would be gone. And, all was good.
What I learned later that evening ,when Googling, was the post office was published as “Rural Post Office at Christmas,” Saturday Evening Post Cover, December 13, 1947. And, not by Rockwell, but by Stevan Dohanos – (May 18, 1907, Lorain, Ohio – July 4, 1994). He was an artist and illustrator of the social realism school, best known for his Saturday Evening Post covers. He also helped found the Famous Artists School in Westport, CT. I sure do hope this building is preserved along with the old factory buildings.
I then went over to downtown Geoergetown found a spot to eat that was opposite the former lumber yard where I purchased wood to build sets for my high school theater group. As I ate I looked over at the former general store. My Dad knew the owners, and facilitated my purchase from them of my first Chandler and Price printing press, that they used for printing things in the store. You should know old letterpresses are “in my blood” and have contributed to all that I do with books and publishing still today.
This past weekend I was in Connecticut for a memorial service for someone I have known since before kindergarten. Three days, lots to share from the past, but again you are going to get my trip home first before the first two days (remember I still owe you Lake George – sorry, I am lucky to have too much to do). For the trip home Sunday I planned to visit two railroad museums in Connecticut, and travel up my favorite US Route 7 partially, and then cut back to I-91 and home. I had an adventure, and now some “bragging rights?” I can say I have experienced a train derailment.
My first stop – the Danbury Railway Museum, opening at 10AM – I was there at 9:30. Life in the 50s and 60s was not malls – but Friday nights in the “big cities.” As a family we would travel south to Norwalk or north to Danbury from Wilton. Dinner at diners along the way, miscellaneous shopping, and grocery supplies. On Main Street in Danbury about 1958 or 9 I bought my 3-speed English bicycle. I have not been “downtown” Danbury in maybe fifty years, and not much has changed as far as architecture, but previous stores are now housing something else. The museum in the restored 1903 station is right behind downtown.
Greeting you at the museum is this 38-foot-tall Uncle Sam. ‘Meet me at Uncle Sam’ was a common phrase spoken by patrons of the Great Danbury State Fair during fair week. The fair ran for 112 years, closing in 1981, and I have many fond memories of the fair. From 1971 to the fair’s closing in 1981, Uncle Sam stood on the fairgrounds welcoming all. After the fair closed, he was purchased by the Fairy Tale Magic Forest Theme Park in Lake George, New York, where he resided for 37 years. In late 2018, the park closed, and Uncle Sam was slated to be sold to Troy, New York (legendary home of Uncle Sam). Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton stepped in, outbid Troy, and had the 4,500 pound fiberglass statue trucked back home. In the museum shop I discovered, and immediately bought, the book, THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE GREAT DANBURY FAIR.
The doors opened at 10, I bought my ticket to the museum which included a ride on the 10:30 on the “The Husking Bee” train for a ride out to the Pumpkin Patch!
I have big feet, but putting things into perspective here is my size 12 next to Uncle Sam. PS – this is the largest Uncle Sam in the world.
The Metro-North train from NYC terminates at Danbury. There is a new station on adjoining land with a raised platform. The trains however will remain in the museum’s yard while waiting for their next run south.
The museum’s displays, panels, layouts, and collection of toys are not to be missed. On one panel was information on six classic railroad movies – Silver Streak 1976 – Strangers on a Train 1951 (and directed by Alfred Hitchcock at the Danbury Railroad Station in 1950 – update 30 October – just watched this movie, and loved it from Hitchcock boarding the train at the beginning, to seeing the Danbury station in 1950, and the same as today, and then an amusement park as well — too much fun — great) – Hello Dolly 1969 – It Happened to Jane 1959 (6 November – I found this movie free on CRACKLE (some ads) and it is great, really great — many scenes in Chester, Connecticut, where I attended Camp Hazen in the 1950s. Make sure you see this film) – Harvey Girls 1946 (you best know about the Harvey Restaurants at western RR stations) – North by Northwest 1959. You know what I will now be doing. I also felt I need to share the below image. Hooks were made with messages for the train’s engineer clipped to them. The hook would be scooped up by hand when a train passed, message removed, and hook tossed back for reuse. If the engineer did not like a station master the hook would be tossed further than it should have been.
It was then time to get on the train – a set of 1920’s coaches pulled by a 1940’s diesel locomotive.
I was in the rear coach – loved it.
what I learned is that the train trip was only within the yard since the museum does not have access rights to the adjoining tracks. Thus about a half mile (not even) – stop and throw the switch – a half mile down another track to the pumpkin patch. Well, little pumpkins on pallets for the kids to enjoy. But this kid enjoyed the cider and cookies.
coming back – in the foreground below you can see the original turntable which is under restoration (roundhouse sadly torn down) and to the rear “The Tonawanda Valley is the sole survivor of the 16 heavyweight ‘Valley’ series of observation cars built by the Pullman Company and leased by the New York Central Railroad for use on their flagship train, The 20th Century Limited.” Due to COVID the various cars were not open (guess another visit needed some day)
on the grounds I was trilled to see this Semaphore Tower from the Wilton station. I vaguely remember it when as a 12 and 13 year old I would catch the train by myself (in coat and tie) and head to Grand Central Station in NYC for the day.
ALL ABOARD — and time to get back aboard for the trip to the end of the yard, throw the switch, and head back to start. Toot Toot – short haul – stop and throw switch – Toot Toot, and off to start. I am facing the rear, and see smoke coming up through the rear vestibule. Thump – Thump, and louder, and more smoke, and then the coach begins leaning – a leaning more than there should be. And, thanks to slow speed, slow motion sets in with the coach taking a fall to the ground. Conductor begins hanging onto seats working his way back to the engine to halt the train. Ray starts thinking – “do I brace myself in place, or on the downhill side so I do not fall downhill to the other side?” And, then the train stops and the falling shift appears to stop. In the image below the forward car is the level one.
How to exit? Through our door so the coach can fall on us, or in the forward coach on the tracks? Strangely those not in peril on the level coach exited first. Getting out, this was what we saw – not what you should see.
and, a collection of views which you should realize are not what you should see. The wheels of the truck came off the track, and the track on the other side was twisted in and pulled up from the ties. Not Good.
What can I say? As I was leaving the next group of youngsters was walking to the “pumpkin patch” with no train ride. On the museum’s website they posted – “Due to technical difficulties all operations for today are cancelled. We’re sorry for the inconvenience, all pre booked passengers will be offered a free transfer to another train on another day, or a full refund.
UPDATE – 21 October — I have had some wonderful email exchanges with the Director of the Danbury Railway Museum, Jose Alves, and the Safety Officer, David Fuller. I am so impressed with these folks and their work. Jose emailed again enclosed the below image, and said, “As of Tuesday night, coach “B” was returned to the rails by Winters Rigging (our contractor) and volunteers were able to stabilize the track so that the cars could be moved off, inspected and be ready for departure from another track. The picture was taken last night at the end of the day around 8pm .
(and the Wilton semaphore is lit every night from dusk to dawn).”
If you can, I encourage you to visit the Danbury Railway Museum, and/or make a contribution.
I then hopped on I-84 exiting on US Route 7 north to Brookfield, through New Milford, to the former home of Ray Boas, Bookseller on the New Preston waterfall. As you will read, once I write about the first two days, fortunately once you get north of New Milford not much has changed. Relief for Ray who has little desire to travel again on US 7 south of Danbury – the changes (not nice) and the traffic is not liking to Ray. Cathy and I sold our shop and home on the falls in 2002. The village is as quaint as always, and maybe more posh. The current owner of my home, Anne, advised me a few months ago that water was not going over the falls, but the flow has increased through the dam, owned by the Town. Twenty-five years ago I tried to get repairs initiated. But it is still beautiful.
even without water over the falls on the left, this is a gorgeous spot – so glad I was its conservator for seven years.
above left you see no water to the right where it used to be. Also the vegetation was not there, nor in the right hand view where my drive was to the underneath of the shop. In what I had as a garage – two Model A Fords inside, of course.
And, the former home of Ray Boas, Bookseller. Anne and Rich have done a wonderful job preserving and enhancing this special place.
I decided it was enough for the day, and headed back to safe, remote and bucolic Walpole. Well, to be safe I will not be flying. If a car breaks down you can pull over to the side of the road. If a ship has mechanical problems you can float. It a train derails it is not too far down. If a plane has problems – well, lets not go there.
Stay safe and be well – back to you soon with the first two days of this adventure, and in time Lake George. As Always, yours, RAY
I hope you had a nice “holiday” three day weekend – I did. Saturday I was out early to some “sales” in Guilford and Newfane, Vermont, and found some treasures to place in new homes. Sunday, David and family visited, and we had a leisurely brunch at Stuart and John’s and then walked and picked at Alyson’s Orchard just down the road. We then visited at “44” for awhile. It was a great visit. Here is the family in pictures Mari posted on Facebook:
Today, Monday, I had to get out again, and BLUE BELLE’s headlamps were tearing up. She and I decided we were overdue for a visit Plymouth Notch and President Coolidge. Overcast, not great colors on the trees in town, and amazing traffic heading to Chester (heading back south), but we were on our way. No treasures at Stone House Antiques (getting really hard to spend my money), spot for lunch closed since no kitchen help. Next tried Crow’s Bakery in Proctorsville where I published my first Shunpiking post April 10, 2011 – also closed today. But around the corner is Singleton’s General Store. Never been, but pulled in, and got a great sandwich – to go. The new plan — lunch on a picnic table at Plymouth Notch overlooking the President’s home. We arrived, and the sun came out – “timing is everything.”
Did I say “timing is everything?” Eating my lunch, looking up the road towards the cheese factory and the President’s home, there was Bill Jenney, the State’s director of this fabulous place. He and an associate were working on a garden area. I watched them as I ate, and when I finished up I walked up to say hi. Bill beat me to it, “hi, Ray.” We chatted about how things have gone the past few years. Bill also shared some of his professional background and education. What a treasure you have Vermont — Bill will be very hard to replace. We parted, but later on I saw him again, and he invited me into the former Tea Room (The Aldrich House) – now his office and other exhibit space – he wanted to share a new exhibit there of dolls. And, sadly, just a warning, Bill said there will be no Holiday Open House this December, again with COVID concerns. But for nostalgia, click here for my report of the December 10, 2016 OPEN HOUSE.
Alice based her dolls on real people. Below are some examples. On the left are some of the folks she knew in Plymouth Notch (hope I remembered correctly Bill), and on the right is the last surviving Revolutionary War widow who as a resident here died in 1906. Bill said, “when they married he was really old, and she really young. She kept trying to get as much money from the US as possible.” You know I have to “know everything” so (thank you Google) here are the particulars – the last Revolutionary War pension was paid in 1906—131 years after the Battles of Lexington and Concord began the American Revolutionary War in 1775. to Esther (Sumner) Damon, the widow of Noah Damon. Esther died in 1906 at her home in Plymouth Union, She married Noah 6 September 1835 when he was 75, and she, 21.
Below are two images as I left The Aldrich House. Remember you can click my images or galleries for larger views.
Bill told me I should drive up the road past the cheese factory and see the stone house built about 1840 that is part of the 25 buildings he overseas for the State of Vermont. I did not recall driving up the hill, so off I went. And, at the end of the road at the top of the hill – WOW – my timing to see great leaves was timed with beauty in Plymouth Notch.
And, then I came back down the hill, great dirt road, past the stone house, and back into the “metropolis.”
and, leaving the village, I turned to the cemetery to pay my respects to the President, and see the color there.
Back down Vermont Route 100 – always a treat – I turned east at the Echo Lake Inn onto Kingdom Road towards Reading and Felchville This is another great route I have always enjoyed and highly recommend for the views. But wait, here is Scout Camp Road with a sign to Camp Plymouth State Park. Never been there – seen it from Route 100 across Echo Lake – so left turn.
lots of history here — Vermont’s Gold Rush, and route of the Crown Point Road with a Revolutionary War encampment. These two state signs tell you all — for a start.
so south on Vermont 106, and seeing a road on my old Vermont atlas that I had not explored, I turned left on the first road south of Route 131. Missed a turn I wanted, but all of a sudden stumbled into – what is this. Well, I found the North Springfield Reservoir. Near the airport bet you did not know about this area. Well I will head back for more exploration.
As you can see it was clouding up again. But when I was in Plymouth Notch, the sun was bright and the colors even brighter – TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Hope you had a nice enjoyable holiday weekend. Stay safe and stay well, and I will be back with more soon. As always, yours, RAY
The Tunbridge World’s Fair began in 1867. The first eight fairs were held in North Tunbridge, Vermont, before “moving south.” The fair is currently chaired by Alan Howe,, who took over from Euclid Farnham after the 2009 fair (I chatted with Euclid while watching a hit ‘n miss run). Farnham was president of the fair for over 30 years, changed the fair from a “drunkards reunion,” with “girlie-shows” and unlimited alcohol, to a more family-friendly environment. This is at least the second time I have attended (I have also attended Vermont History Fairs on the same grounds in 2007 and 2014) and I can’t wait to go again, and highly encourage you to take part and experience this truly original country agricultural fair with food, entertainment, and classic carney rides and games. You may know that I have always loved learning about, and collecting World’s Fair items. Why is the fair in Tunbridge (population around 1,100) called a World’s Fair? Help, someone tell me the back story.
The fair is well organized and spread out. So, here goes a photo depiction of this year’s fair to encourage you to make it if you can this weekend, but at least mark your calendar for next year.
Let’s start with an overview from the top of the fair looking over the grounds, and back towards “downtown Tunbridge,” Vermont.
And, remember you may “click” my images for larger views and details
My favorite spot is Antique Hill (more on that later), but this is the path down from that spot looking north to the food area and grandstand.
There are horse events and competitions, trotting races, poultry, sheep, pigs, vegetables, everything from the farm. Here young farmers are having their young calves judged.
and, many, many veggies. Some extraordinary sizes, some decorated by youngsters (hook ’em young, they all got ribbons). The arrangements were creative and colorful.
One reason I will always return is “Antique Hill,” which is billed as “The Fair’s unique agricultural museum with living history exhibits: one-room schoolhouse, printing shop, blacksmith shop, barn & field equipment museum, pump logs, hand-hewn beams, saw mill & cider mill, Civil War camp, and the famous Log Cabin Museum which includes a General Store, Post Office, Weaving and Spinning, Dairy & Household Displays, Farm Kitchen and Hearth cooking.
In the long transportation building you will see the most unique collection of original condition horse drawn vehicles and farm implements. My absolute favorite, which I have to research and write about, is this 1897 hand built Steam Horseless Carriage fabricated by Edwin Flint in Canaan, NH.
This was the first time I really noticed a portable hit ‘n miss driven logging saw — until I got outside and saw one in operation.
now my printing press collection numbers eight, and I have done letterpress for over sixty years. Here is the print shop on Antique Hill.
and to get water from your spring to the barn or your farm house, just drill a hole into a log and make a pipe – and many more.
I showed you one a few posts ago from the Dublin Hit ‘n Miss show, but here is another typical Abenaki engine that was made just over the river from me. Passed the old brick factory building just this morning in BB2.
now here is something “new to me” and fascinating. Never before had I seen (nor thought about) how a log is hand-hewn. Walking along I first saw a log with notches – it made no sense at all. Then two young exhibitors came along, and I asked. By the way, it was so gratifying to see 20, 30 and maybe 40 somethings working the exhibits. Only way to keep things going is involving the next generations.
Well, the notches are cut to the depth for the ultimate width of the beam, and then the log is cut lengthwise from notch to notch, with the excess flaking off in small chips. Makes sense, you could not cut a 40 foot or more beam the entire length at once. So, hope this is a new understanding to you as well, and now all those markings on a hand-hewn timber will make sense to you.
turning around were some hit n’ miss engines in operation – and watch the saw cutting chunks of logs into pieces to later be split into firewood by the machine to the left. Something else I had never seen before was the heater in the cow drinking trough so water would not freeze over in the winter. This is where I chatted with 86 year old Euclid Farnham.
World’s Fairs — Printing Press — and also Country Stores. I have loved, visited, and collected 19th and early 20th century store items for over six decades. Here is the store in the Log Cabin Museum.
in one corner of the building there were these early souvenirs of the fair, and a floral display ribbon winner from 1868.
and, everyone loves babies
it was hard for them all, and one little one was heard to say, “let me in”
well, they had a great deal to say, or squeal about…
I have never seen so many varieties of cows and colorful chickens. Almost want to start a farm out back.
Five plus hours of enjoyment, and time to meander home. Meander I say because I saw I route to take that I had not been on before. After the 144th fair in 2015 I took the back road to Strafford, and cut over to Route 113 to see Thetford Center and Thetford Hill. Looking at the Vermont map I saw New Boston on a dirt road from South Strafford that would eventually get me to Norwich. Off I went. Stafford still great and I need to get back again when the Gothic Revival home and grounds of Senator Justin S. Morrill, a State Historic Site is open. I stopped at Coburns’ General Store in South Strafford to find out which dirt road went to New Boston which was close by. Four people, including the post master in the maybe ten foot square post office in the general story had not heard of New Boston. Finally I found someone who told me to take Mill Road and stay to the left. I was told I would pass a solar field, and wow – I did.
Twenty-eight acres of solar field I learned upon research getting home. And, in researching New Boston — nothing, no mention other that New Boston Road. But, what I did learn. This was the Elizabeth Mine area. An ore deposit was discovered in 1793, but mining of copper did not start until 1809. There was both open pit mining, and from 1886 underground mining was conducted. The mine site covered 850 acres, and over three million tons of ore were extracted from open cuts and below ground. By 1834 the site included one of the nation’s earliest successful large-scale copper smelting plants. Employing as many as 220 workers, the mine had a major impact on the economic and cultural development of Strafford and surrounding towns. By the 1980s the site was identified as a source of pollution in nearby streams. It was designated a National Priorities List (Superfund) clean-up site in 2001 by the Environmental Protection Agency, and a massive remediation effort followed. For lots of detail, and history check out this article — https://vermontbiz.com/news/2017/september/07/vermonts-largest-solar-farm-go-online-superfund-site
Now, I did not know that, and bet you did not either. The clean-up has taken 18 years and 90 million dollars. The solar field was built over the open pit. There is basically nothing in Strafford and South Strafford — and nothing in New Boston. I did see a Meeting House Road, so have to go back and explore that. But the only indication of the area is Mine Road becomes New Boston Road which in turn ends up in Norwich.
RAY RECOMMENDS 1 – Attend and enjoy the Tunbridge World’s Fair in Vermont 2 – Explore the little towns in the area east and south of Tunbridge, including all the covered bridges in the area. Check out my exploration of those bridges, including a floating bridge by reading this 2019 VERMONT EXPLORATIONS. 3 – And, have fun doing so.
Nine years ago, 3-9 September 2012, I attended a Digital Photography Road Scholar program on Star Island, back in in the 19th century. As tradition says “You Will Be Back,” and I finally got back. The nonprofit Star Island Corporation has owned and operated Star Island since 1916, providing individual and family retreats. Founded by Unitarian-Universalism and the United Church of Christ, people can attend religious conferences during the season. Other conferences (e.g. painting, writing, rug hooking, etc.) are available for a quite focused getaway. Dating from 1874, the Oceanic House is the largest structure on Star Island. Its main lobby, writing room, Pink Parlor, and dining hall provide an unchanged glimpse into the late 1800’s at a Grand Hotel. I choose a “Mid Week” conference. Four nights, Monday through Friday, with no schedule. Rocking chairs were reserved for me, and I had writing and reading to accomplish. True to form, not all accomplished. Remember, you can click any of my images for larger views.
The Isles of Shoals Steamship Company sails from Portsmouth to the island. Besides providing transportation for conferences, you can cruise to the island for a 3.75 hours walking tour. And, if you do that, you will probably plan a stay. You park at the dock, tightly packed in, and board with fellow conferees for the hour plus sail to Star. Leaving the dock we were delayed just a tad as this tanker passed going under the new bridge to Maine (the I-95 bridge is in the distance).
I have decided to make this simply a photo post to give you a flavor of what you will experience, so here we go out the Piscataqua River, passing the Portsmouth Naval Prison, closed since the early 1970s. Going to Navy Supply Corps School, the incentive to not doing something wrong was free room and board here.
I have (on land) visited Fort Constitution ages ago, and would like to visit again.- it was closed this year. What you see remains from the 1808 construction.
and, ten miles from the mainland, this awaits you — how can you not want to go?
walking along the pier, and then looking back from the porch.
Following the “water and fire” safety talk, I headed to my second floor room.
ambience has not changed much in 150 years, and the dresser, chair and wash stand may be the originals in the room — but the view from my window, even with overcast that snuck in. And, then the sound of the waves and wind all night long —
topped only by the sunset over Portsmouth
There is a tradition in the evenings of a candle light walk to the chapel, built in 1800, for a short welcoming service. One of the few times for an open flame (but in this case protected), participants receive their lantern on the porch, and walk up to the chapel, where the lanterns are hung on the original wall hooks.
and, so ended day one, Monday
TUESDAY — with a busy schedule – NOT – I took a walk around various spots, read on the porch, and attended a geology walk and talk at 4PM
A few of this weeks Rocking Chair images will be added to my special page, entitled ROCKING CHAIR STUDIES. But here are some new ones.
from behind the “hotel” I took this shot of the Williams light house
and then I walked up to the Tucke Monument, a 46.5 foot tall obelisk gravestone erected in 1914 to honor Reverend John Tucke (1702 – 1773). On the island Rev. Tucke was a minister, judge, educator, and physician. The Tucke Monument is the tallest gravestone in the state of New Hampshire. Just another “fast fact” to win you more drinks at the bar.
new since my last visit is this well hidden Solar Array. Readers of my newspaper, THE WALPOLE CLARION, know that I am not against solar, just the inappropriate location on a visible six acres in town. This array is close, but you have to know where it is and go out of your way to see it. Nice going STAR.
and, I found a secret spot with a bench and two chairs on the other side of this “turnstile” under an interesting tree with dark berries (what do I know?). I came back here a couple times to sit, relax, reflect, and read.
and, so ended day two, Tuesday
WEDNESDAY — with a busy schedule – NOT – Surprise – I took another walk around various spots, read on the porch, and attended a “social hour.”
but first the sun came up and reflected on the white wood of the Summer House, again from my window.
what would you expect to see next?
today’s walk I went east on the island. And, being smart with my balance uncertainty I used my traveling collapsable cane. And, I was smart and did not hike all over the rocks as I would have done, lets say a few years ago. This view is looking out over the break wall (that I was on nine years ago) to Cedar Island in Maine.
there is an art shed open for people to create in. I noticed (you know I do not miss much) that someone enlisted the help of these little guys to help hold the building up and in place.
the path to the eastern most point and the monument to Captain John Smith who set foot here in 1614. The monument was put in place 300 years later.
and on another route back – the “back side.”
I always say there is more than one way to do something – and now you know there is also another way to get over a stone wall. Don’t worry, I did not attempt this. You see, the stone wall ends, and I choose to walk around. In the background of the second images is the sitting area I showed you above. WORTH THE TRIP. Do click and enlarge.
and, WORTH THE TRIP – the chapel from any angle is worth the trip.
and, so ended day three Wednesday
THURSDAY — with a busy schedule – NOT – Surprise – I read on the porch
Actually, I do not remember moving from the porch on Thursday. Well I did eat, but brought breakfast out here. A porch mate took this shot of me. Looks like me, but I do not remember dozing off at all. Probably just turning my head a tad.
With COVID, picnic benches have been placed on the porch to help people spread out even more. The vaccination rate on Star runs 98 percent plus, but still masking and distancing is practiced inside, and fans were constantly moving pulling air to the outside.
and, so ended day four Thursday
FRIDAY — with a busy schedule – NOT – Surprise –but breakfast on the porch, bags out for baggage boat — reading — and with tears leaving at 11:45
seen along the path – a perfect picture
and some views not often seen as we sailed away
and, back in the river passing the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard – which you should know is in Maine.
RAY RECOMMENDS — Learn about Star Island – Learn about the programs available – and, experience life on the island in a Victorian way of the old grand resorts. Any questions, just ask me so I can help you enjoy this amazing place.
and, here are some old (not so great) images from my last trip of the hotel in all its 19th century glory
and, this is my favorite image that I took September 7, 2012
I have had a full week – and making it even better was going today to the annual Gas Engine Meet in Dublin, New Hampshire. This year the crowd was the largest, many fascinating machines, more cars, unique historic tractors, big flea market, and perfect weather for everyone to enjoy. There was no show last year due to COVID, probably adding to the crowd this year, but also the club has built buildings and are “working on the railroad.” I will share these different aspects below, mainly in images. But, here are links to my other gas-engine show visits.
I have attended in BLUE BELLE, and showing up I get in free (saves $5 – goes towards lunch or gas), and park on the field in the car exhibition area. This year BLUE BELLE (1960 MGA) played RAINBOW with a 1928 Model A Ford Roadster, and a 1939 Pickup Truck. Not sure what they talked about, I was off for three hours exploring.
I mentioned above that much building and expansion had been done on the grounds. There are three new buildings with club exhibits where I used to park, and a previously wooded area has been cleaned for a sawmill (hit ‘n miss, of course), and construction for the train which will eventually circle the field (I asked).
the train was in limited operation
end of the line – for now – and an overpass that is now in use
These next images are of some engines that I had not seen before and found interesting and/or great “eye-candy”
the machine below was made just two miles from my home, across the Connecticut River in Westminster Station, Vermont, at the Abenaque Machine Works.
how can you not like this blue? First time I have seen this color. Wonder if original option?
loved this one, and as I was admiring the fellow spun the fly wheel to start her right up so I could see (and share the action) of the worm-gear with you. Do watch the video, and remember you can always click my images for larger views.
Many companies made kits so an old Model T, or Model A Ford could be converted to a tractor. First here is a 1928 Model A that has been converted. The front end was higher than a normal car, and I saw why with extended shafts on the end of the front axel dropping the wheels further from the frame for additional clearance – ingenious, never saw that before – sorry image is dark in that spot.
And this kit was made in Poughkeepsie, NY, for a Model T. They called it a 1916, but Ray knows better. The brass radiator was last used on 1915 Model Ts – hey, my Dad taught me about Ts and As. But still, what a great original find this tractor is. Actually, in my research I just found the company started making these kits in 1916, so probably on an earlier frame. I did not check the engine number or other salient features to be sure – sorry.
below note how a gear coming off the axle drives the gears on the rear wheels. Tires are hard rubber on this conversion.
Here are some machines doing what they do best – WORK – and it is interesting how they have been used to work.
How about CRUSHING ROCKS?
A no hands way to crank your ice-cream freezer – albeit with a tractor take-off, but you can use your hit ‘n miss – I have seen ice cream frozen with a hit ‘n miss here before
the contraption below was designed to crush cans — the sign says, “cans needed”
and a fire-wood splitter is always good to have on hand
I love cars in their original condition. The 1928 Model A Ford four-door phaeton below had all the early features AND the original upholstery. Only two towns away from me, they threw me a number – I was tempted.
across the way from BLUE BELLE was this 1927 Model T Ford (the last year before the A) and a 1929 Chevrolet (hope I remember correctly) with the original paint and interiors.
And a Model T “depot hack” and another tempting engine for sale – I thought the $1800 was a good price.
I had a great time. I headed home via Jaffrey back roads, up to a spot I buy books, and then home.
Often BB2 and I will stop at Stuart and John’s for a treat. Sadly she watched, but I did let her lick my spoon.
I strongly encourage you to attend the Gas Engine Show in Dublin, NH. If you cannot make it the last day on the 12th, mark your calendar to attend next year. And, in the meantime, do look at all my posts of this interesting event.
Stay safe and stay well, and thank you for chugging along this far – as always, yours, RAY
If you have “travelled with me” on “Shunpiking with Ray,” you know that two reoccurring themes for exploration are canals and 19th century summer resorts. Heading home from Granville, NY, the plan was the Champlain Canal to Whitehall, New York, and then find the actual spring in Middletown Springs, Vermont, that I did not locate in August 2013. I am completing this post prior to relating my cruise on Lake George (guess my prerogative as a writer). On the way back from Lake George I stopped at one of the locks but decided to include it here. So here we start with Lock No. 9.
Proposed earlier, in 1819 the Champlain Canal was completed from Lake Champlain to Fort Edward. 35 miles of the total length of 60 miles south of Fort Edwards follows the Hudson River with six locks. Going north from this point are five locks. There is no Lock 10 (I still need to learn why), and Lock 12 is the last in Whitehall, NY.
You can enlarge the map if you wish. This is an interesting area to explore, and I have much to still see.
Below is Lock 9.
In Comstock, NY, just west of the state prison, you will cross the canal and see the old road (now dead end) which you take north to Lock 11.
Then up US 4 to Whitehall, New York, and Lock 12 which connects with South Bay leading into Lake Champlain.
Turning around and looking south back to the business district of Whitehall, it is sad – vacancy next to vacancy in the old brick buildings and blocks. Almost 20 years ago I knew a couple that kept their boat in the area when it was thriving with restaurants and shops for boaters. In fact they purchased a building on the canal to have an art gallery. When I was through four or five years ago that building was vacant and for sale. Now it is an occasional thrift shop. The problem with so many little towns that are charming and deserve a new life. Below is looking south from Lock 12.
In July 2015 I was in this area in BLUE BELLE, and passed through Fair Haven, Vermont, saying, “Fair Haven I have to learn about – great 19th century brick buildings.” Well, the plan was to stop there (on the old US 4, now 4A). I stopped and walked around. Some vacancies, but not as obvious. Subsequently I read the town is, “noted for its Victorian architecture, considered some of the finest in the state.”
I then walked though the large, lovely treed common.
The next thing “on the list” for the trip home was to try to find the old mineral spring in Middletown Springs, Vermont (population about 748). So, head back down south, crossing back into NY and 22A, east off 22A back to Poultney, Vermont, to get Route 140 to Middletown Springs – formerly (19th century) Middletown until it was time to promote the Springs. I first drove this route in August 2013, but with my fascination for nineteenth-century resorts, was not cognizant enough to search for the actual spot even though the Town’s name should have made me. I thought the renovated spring house should be in the center of the village, so explored around the former Town Hall, now the historical society, but to no avail. So I headed south at this intersection – yes, South Street
I had read ahead this time, and learned the spring was first developed in 1868 by A. W. Gray, local manufacturer of agricultural machinery, and was part of the Montvert Hotel resort, 1871-1905. On South Street I found this Vermont history sign, and the road to the left – Montvert Road. So down it I went, and through a stone gate. Dead end, possibly private property – but Ray is on a quest, and an honest guy. (click the image and read)
David told me where the Springs park was that the historical society had established. Going back up north on South Street I saw the sign for it – but alas, the sign was blocked by foliage if coming south. I cannot wait to get back with this spot as a destination for a picnic.
Indians showed the springs to early settlers. Buried by a flood in 1811, they were uncovered by a “freshet” in 1868 and rediscovered by A. W. Gray, whose company owned the land.– walking down the path, the Spring House has been recreated from old photos and sits on top of the original stones for the spring.
At this spot there was a bridge across the Poultney River to the hotel. You can still see some of the stones. Through the trees is David’s home, formerly the bowling alley. The hotel stood on a rise above the bowling alley, but appears much closer to the spring as you will see in the old images below.
The entrance to the right is to the Town Clerk’s office, the rest of the building for the historical society, but essentially two main exhibition rooms are downstairs to the left. The first room has so much on the spring and hotel along with broadsides of the Gray equipment.
David let me copy some stereo views of the hotel. This first below is when under construction, and then completed. From the history, “In 1870 the Montvert Hotel was built near the Springs. With rooms for 350 guests, gas lighting, running water “conducted to every floor,” fine food, an in-house orchestra, a bowling alley and other amusements, it claimed to be “one of the most pleasant and comfortable of summer resorts.” The below image looks across the river. The depth perception is deceiving, probably due to the massive size of the hotel.
As I am sitting writing this while on the porch of an 1870s resort hotel on an island, I could have been just as content on the porch above. Again from the historical society’s website, “Perhaps its size and its splendor were the Montvert’s achilles heel for its success was fitful and relatively brief. With high overhead, profits were slim. Managers and ownership changed frequently. The changing taste of the vacationing public may also have been a factor in the Montvert’s decline. It closed just after the turn of the century and the building was demolished in 1906.” David told me that the successful bidder for the building was a Poultney builder. The salvaged materials were used in building homes in Poultney, and a number of homes can trace their lumber back to the Montvert.
We had a great couple hours. David gives a talk on Mineral Springs which I certainly hope to hear some day. Ironically it was just days later I discovered the Guilford Vermont Mineral Springs which I just reported to you. In my personal library a section of my books is devoted to summer resorts, old hotels, and mineral springs. I will be digging into them soon. The quest is on to find more locations and histories to share with you here, so “stay tuned.”
RAY RECOMMENDS 1 – get out and explore 2- when one thing piques your interest, follow that new path – EXPLORE and LEARN 3 – don’t stop exploring 4 – and share what you discover and learn
I had a great day today, and am racing with limited time tonight to get this post done and to you to encourage you to visit the Guilford Fair tomorrow, Labor Day. I passed the remote, rural fairgrounds several months ago, and said, “Ray, make sure you experience it.” This morning with friends we headed down I-91 to Exit 1, South on US 5, turned right at the country store, took the first left, meandered, and arrived to park in the fields. Free to park, and $5 admission for seniors, yes I am.
As you look through, remember you can click my galleries for larger views.
Passing in, at this first ring this young lady was practicing an obstacle course with her horse for a later competition.
After chatting with the folks at the Guilford Historical Society booth (more on that later) it was into the exhibition hall. The veggies are always colorful.
My friends, T and C, plunked down 25 cents a card to gamble with the Guilford Grange. I knew better.
This fair, now its 76th year, is so old fashioned, so classic, so manageable, and just so much fun that I now have it on next year’s calendar. It was fun watching people enjoy the low-key, low-impact midway. And, at the games, everyone won a prize.
Over at the small display of animals I recognized a voice, and heading just outside was this gentleman with a sheep shearing demonstration. The voice? I asked, “did I see you at Plymouth Notch?” Yes he replied and he lives there. I saw him shear sheep there, and he is the raconteur extraordinaire who gives the wagon rides at Calvin Coolidge’s homestead.
This “snake in the grass” won a blue ribbon.
Did I say agricultural fair? Did you know that milk is the top selling Vermont agricultural item? Are these cows or milk maids impersonating cows?
entertainment at every turn, and a daring lady watching the knives carefully.
of course you have to spend time watching the oxen pull
And, there was an ice cream eating contest. It was announced many times over the loud speaker – free ice-cream, and the person who finishes first gets a prize. There were several age groups. I did not sign up. Good thing I didn’t because they neglected to explain one of the rules.
Guilford consists of Guilford, Guilford Center, and West Guilford. At the historical society booth I learned of a 19th century mineral springs and resort hotel in Guilford Center. I did not know about it, but had explored this small (very small) village in the past where Royall Tyler lived in the late 1700s. An important early American writer. Well I have written about him before, and will add links to that in time here, but I have to get this post off to you.
We headed to Guilford Center having completed over three fun filled hours at the fair. The lady at the historical society booth told me where to turn in the village on Carpenter Road. And, we figured which drive to turn into. And, as luck would have it, as folks were coming out the drive (on the way to the fair) they confirmed that this was the original resort, and how to find the springs. The same thing happened to me this past week in Middletown Springs, Vermont. On a dead end private road on private property I met the fellow who shared everything with me – but that post to come next week. Below is the basically unchanged 37 room hotel hotel and the barn.
The map below will put into place the village, the hotel, and the trail to the location of the springs and bottling plant.
and, here is the beginning of the trail to the springs
and a map of the overall location of today’s adventure.
we drove past the springs toward West Guilford, and what an amazing dirt road, trees, and some incredible views. We came out on a paved road, traveled a tad, and I knew where we were – headed toward West Brat. In fact, I turned around on a road BLUE BELLE and I came out of a couple years ago so I could capture this 1928 or ’29 Model AA Ford truck holding down some weeds.
and, when “downtown” West Guilford, you need to take an image to share.
RAY HIGHLY RECOMMENDS 1 – Read this post, plan your trip for Labor Day, get up tomorrow, and go 2 – If you don’t read this in time, mark your calendar for 2022 3 – Make sure to follow my posts for more Mineral Spring history — I am hooked, more is coming.