I am forcing myself to learn how to travel again – it has been so long, and things are different. People are getting out, thus lodging harder to find. And, in the last two years it has become harder to talk to a real person to ask about room availability, details, and make a reservation. Labor shortages? Possibly, or just the proliferation of reservation “plug-ins” for Inn, B&B and Hotel websites. One night, when playing with LandmarkTrustUSA’s availability page, I was shocked to see their change. Harder to navigate, at least for me – easier for them – but for me? I guess you have to be younger and grow up with these “improvements.” Last week I started playing with different B&B and Inn website reservation pages. You can tell from the URL that these are outsourced. One vendor’s calendar shows all days open, but when clicking on a date the response is “no availability.” The best system I found was at The Old Stagecoach Inn in Waterbury, Vermont. I have stayed there twice For my second trip last year, when I called all my information was in their computer. But clicking on “Check Availability” their vendor – rezstream.com – has a user friendly system – well, at least to this “old user.”
But – let’s get to this overnight. I have often done one day book scouting trips along Antique Alley or Route 101A in New Hampshire. So, I thought why not an overnight going out to the coast, overnight, and back the next day. Yes, hours searching for the right lodging, but then I found the Silver Fountain Inn in Dover, NH, and their reservation system was workable for me. I did not really know that area, so plan and booking made.
From Concord I headed east on Route 4 and Antique Alley. I opted not to stay in Portsmouth, but a tad to the northwest in Dover not having been there (remember I need to know all, and how things fit together). Dover (population under 33,000 – “big city” near me is Keene at about a scary 23,000). Pulling into town I drove around and was thrilled to find a visitor center. Hostess was helpful, and in the main booklet I got I learned that Dover, settled in 1623, is the seventh oldest settlement in the United States and the oldest continuous settlement in New Hampshire. Called the Garrison City, its connection to the Atlantic ocean through adjoining rivers played a major role in its development as a successful shipbuilding community. The river powered its many mills, and for a time Dover was the leading national producer of textiles. Much more to learn and explore.
I highly recommend you consider a stay at the Silver Fountain Inn. Below is my second floor room, stairway outside my door, and the doorway vestibule where I spent some time reading.
For dinner the hostess at the visitor center recommended Ember Wood Fired Grill, and Pam at the Inn agreed. It was a walk, something harder for me recently, but I wanted to see the area architecture and downtown close up, so off my feet went for well over an almost two mile round trip. Not having a reservation, they were booked, but I slid into a space at the end of the bar and had a great Ricotta Gnocchi with roasted cipollini – snap peas – haricot vert – mushroom – radicchio – grana padano – romesco.
When I returned, several guests were assembled talking about the Murder Mystery event the next evening. I was invited to sit in and listen. Years ago I wanted to attend such an event so was intrigued, and now the quest is on to find such a weekend in rural Vermont.
One of the reasons I enjoy staying at B&Bs and old Inns is for the possibility of meeting people and sharing ideas and experiences. I overheard Bill talking about hoping to do a book for a museum where he volunteered. I interrupted saying, “I can offer advice.” And so started conversation for the evening, and at breakfast the next morning. Ironically the museum he is a docent at is new, and just the other month I discovered it on-line — The American Heritage Museum in Stow, Massachusetts. Absolutely amazing military equipment, aviation, and automobile collection, and so close with many activities. I will attend their events including the October Battle for the Airfield WWII Re-Enactment Weekend — but there is so much more. I just signed up for their newsletter. I showed Bill on my lap-top the 300 page book I am currently completing, and offered to help him get started. As I say, “I know enough to be dangerous.”
Breakfast – no words, just an image to entice you…
Originally I thought I would head Saturday to the Museum of Printing at its new location in Haverhill, Massachusetts, but playing with the map thought I would take back roads instead to York, Maine, to some antique shops I had not been to in many years. Yes, I bought.
And then, it was south on US Route 1 (no need to do it again – just junky urban sprawl in NH) to Route 111 towards Exeter. A great town. I stayed at the Inn at the Bandstand 13 years ago but forgot how quaint and busy the town is around Phillips Exeter Academy. Then Route 111A to Brentwood and eventually to Danville – both places you have to specifically go to since not on the main routes. What a treat to see this historical marker. I do hope you know that trees greater than 24 inches in diameter were property of the King for ship’s masts.
Danville is also interesting as an old community on the stage route as well.
And, I continued buying my way west on 101A, the plan being to arrive in Temple and have dinner at the Birchwood Inn. I arrived shortly after 5PM – and was pleased for them that all tables were reserved. But at the bar there was space for me. Hey, I am easy.
The Birchwood Inn is a special place to me. Cathy and I would stay here when we came up from Connecticut book scouting. Why? A book I would always sell immediately was about the itinerant painter, Rufus Porter, and his murals. The Birchwood has his original work, thus we had to stay here. And, we were staying here with Bill and Judy on the trip up to NH when we bought our home in Walpole, thus changing life’s direction – most assuredly for the best. Here is that room with Rufus’s work, and you probably know that we did our dining room at “44” the same way. Remember you can click an image in my galleries to enlarge them.
My spot at the bar (again) and great wrapped meatloaf dinner.
So besides a break and experiment in getting back out, what did I accomplish?
1-I met Bill, and besides hoping to talk book making with him, he filled me in on the American Heritage Museum where I will have some fun – about two hours away.
2-I have a renewed desire to find the perfect Murder Mystery weekend and share that with friends.
3-I bought 38 books, and have since getting home catalogued them on-line for sale at a tad over $1200 – I am good at what I do.
Looking back, I have not had many adventures to share with you the past year plus, and we know why. But I just got home from another “Change of Scenery” at Kipling’s Carriage House – essentially replicating an adventure from 13-16 January 2021. I am not sure when and why I booked another stay with LandmarkTrustUSA, but I did, and so glad I did. A storm approached for my original dates, but with emails with Michele, we went in a day later to Kipling’s Carriage House avoiding the hill up Black Mountain Road in ice and snow. This was a break, a retreat with no plans. I worked on my next book, Gary had work projects and Zoom meetings, and Ilana was finishing up a year long contract – she is an accomplished attorney. Gary and I also had plans for a HOGAN’S HEROES marathon, with my video toys.
In the last about 14 months I have arranged seven stays at the impeccable LandmarkTrustUSA properties which are unequaled in history, restoration, and amenities. Make sure you look at the link above with the visit Gary and I made last year. Again we arrived, with snow on the ground…
Do look at Landmark’s website for professional images, but in my gallery below are images of the first floor of Kipling’s Carriage House. On the second floor is the bath and two bedrooms. Remember you can click my galleries to enlarge the images.
Plans for Sunday were no plans. Reading, writing, eating, and a start on the HOGAN’S HEROES marathon. Going in order we saw about six episodes – we estimate about 84 hours of watching to go. Two nights away staying at the same inn or B&B is good because you have one full day in between. Three nights away even better, with two full days to do nothing or something. The plan for that something on Monday was a tour through Guilford, Vermont. Based on my recent CLARION writings, Gary has started reading Royall Tyler’s THE ALGERIAN CAPTIVE, (first published in Walpole in 1797) so I wanted to introduce Gary to all things Royall. And, from my recent writings here you know I have developed an affinity for Guilford visits, and Green River.
Leaving shortly before noon we drove by Prospect Hill Cemetery in Brattleboro where Royall and his wife are buried (they moved from Guilford to Brattleboro in 1801). Still snow covered, we did not traipse around to find the grave on the far side of the cemetery overlooking the Connecticut River and New Hampshire. Excuse (none needed) for next road trip.
UPDATE 14 MAY 2022 — ROYALL TYLER’S GRAVE – yes on a nice warm day I found it. All I had was a small image on-line of his stone, but with the curve of the New Hampshire hills in the background of that image I was able to narrow down the location. And, Royall’s stone is straight on top, and in that on-line image I saw a larger stone to the rear, and a tiered base to the left. The cemetery has three rough dirt roads heading off the street and to the east. Take the center road, and about half way back, well plus a tad, park and walk to the left. Below is the row of stones of Royall and his wife, and a closeup of his stone. Historic and thrilling – enjoy, RAY
It was then lunch at the 1817 country store in Guilford (Algiers) – name no relation to Tyler’s book, but do read my stories on both – see the articles I wrote in the January 2022 THE WALPOLE CLARION on pages 12 and 14.
Do you enjoy “small world stories?” I do. Gary and I were at a table in a corner eating (Ilana stayed back to work), I looked over to the counter and said to myself, “that is Chris Parker.” I called over, and it was. He lives in Guilford. We visited for awhile. Chris, as a restoration contractor, advertises in my paper, and he currently has several projects a stone’s throw from my home. Have a project? Talk with Chris.
It was then off to Guilford Center to show Gary the Tyler historical marker, and where Tyler lived. In reading the town history the home he lived in was in the parcel of land that the mineral springs and hotel is located. Here is “downtown” Guilford Center – the historical society and library and old meeting house.
And, looking across the field behind the meeting house is the old beautiful Mineral Spring property and location where Royall Tyler lived, and most likely wrote THE ALGERIAN CAPTIVE.
Heading further west-ish, on bucolic dirt and snow covered roads we came to the Green River section, which I have mentioned I plan on picnicking often at. You may remember my sharing views here, but now in the snow.
on the other side looking back at the hill, and the restored Crib Dam.
more bridge and Green River flowing to Massachusetts — RAY RECOMMENDS, follow River Road south.
nowadays when people want to plan a route they look at a little screen held in their palm. I love paper maps, I love to study them and how an area “goes together.” Gary and I when exploring call it “filling in the map.” To show Gary where we were, and the route I planned “home” I reached back and pulled out the map of Guilford that the historical society gave me on my visit. He found the large size funny – you may have heard his laughter. With the topographical lines he teased it was on old piece of parchment.
Monday night Ilana made (from scratch) a cake for Gary and I – we both have March birthdays, but he is a tad younger than I am. As a result, currently I weigh a tad more than I would like.
And then, Tuesday morning came, and we left but to return another time.
1 – Explore LandmarkTrustUSA’s website, and plan a fun escape. They have changed how reservations are made – now through an on-line service – not as personal and easy, but what you younger generations are more comfortable with. I still like to talk with someone, or email.
2 – Learn about and visit Guilford, Vermont. Plan to explore and picnic at the Green River Covered Bridge – there is a picnic area.
3 – Get out and explore – I have been afraid to, but have stayed healthy, and hope to get back into the “swing of travel.” Hey, I still have to find Royall’s tombstone.
That title may get you to read further. Six weeks into the new year, and I drove about 140 miles on 12 February – more miles than I have driven in two months. Yes, I have stayed home and safe, but continue to explore, and learn via books and electrons. A month ago I gave an overdue report on the Blackstone River Valley in Massachusetts, but that and my interest in Isaiah Thomas, and other things led to my getting out to Worcester, Massachusetts for some initial investigations. First wanting to learn more of the city, which like Rome is built on seven hills, I started at the Worcester Historical Society, here at the second largest city in Massachusetts and also in New England. Population 206,000 – you know any community over 4,000 give me the shakes.
Often considered the seat of American industrial revolution, and the home to many famous Americans, the area is rich in history. It was the opening of the Blackstone Canal and the arrival of the railroad that changed the area from farming to an industrial center bringing in new workers and traditions from afar. At the historical society you are first routed into the industrial exhibit to get a focus on that flavor.
just some brief background on these two panels that you can click for a larger image
first below is a fascinating stove made in Worcester. In the center of the lower crossbar is a hole that can be used to heat a kettle of water
you should know that I enjoy old diners. The Worcester Lunch Car Company manufactured diners here from 1906 to 1957, and I sat at the counter at this display.
an enlargement of that image you see on the wall above the original panel “Diner Deluxe”
I have an affinity for all things Isaiah Thomas, the patriot and printer. Sadly his home was razed in 1923, but here is a shingle and some nails that were saved, along with some items made of “coffin wood.” Thomas died in 1831, and his grave moved to Rural Cemetery sometime after it opened in 1838. My guess is that these items were made of wood from his original coffin.
Another thing I have always had a curiosity about is old amusement parks. On the east side of Worcester is Lake Quinsigamond (still have to see that). And at the turn of the century there was an amusement park built there – THE WHITE CITY. You would find parks built all over the country with the same name coming after the nickname for the 1892-93 Columbian World’s Fair and Exposition in Chicago.
Now, here is the “pièce de résistance” of this post, and the one thing that you will probably remember – Worcester, Massachusetts, is the birthplace of the SMILEY FACE. And, in a small room in the museum, here is everything you need to know, and must know for that next conversation at the bar.
and, a slideshow of details
Clark University was founded in Worcester in 1887. My great-grandfather, considered the Father of Anthopology, taught at Clark from 1888 until 1892. He was the adviser for the first Ph.D. in anthropology which was granted at Clark in 1891. A course still offered – Global Ethnographies in the 21st Century – in its description states, “…It also analyzes traditional ethnographies and ethnographic methods of the founding pioneers, including the work of the famous Clark University ethnographer Franz Boas.” If you wish – here is a nice bio and photo. In my uncle’s biography of Franz Boas is this image of my great-grandparents in front of the triple-decker (an interesting building type seen all around the city) where they boarded on the first floor – address 210 Beacon St. My grand-father, Ernst, was born in Worcester in 1891.
Checking street views on Google Maps, it appeared 210 was gone, so when I arrived in front of 212, it was not a surprise the building was gone. Replacing many triple deckers around the area are duplexes, and to the left of 212 Beacon Street are now two such duplexes – 204 and 202 – after a small opening.
I next wanted to revisit Union Station. Was last there exploring in April, 2011, when I met David and family in the area. I thought I could have lunch there, but alas a lovely station without any services. I am getting too old for all the “new ways.” Insert parking ticket here, credit card here or cash. Four attempts machine would not take my card, spit the cash back out. I push button for attendant. A voice comes on, “try again.” No luck, Voice then says try machine at exit. Once I find way to exit the machine is out of order. Turning around to go back to other machines I see a policeman coming. I jump out to ask for help. Sadly car was still in drive. I jumped in before my car hit a car and the wall. Telling me to “focus” the nice fellow opened the gate and let me out. I saved $4. Well, enjoy my pictures of Union Station, Worcester. I visited with the T conductors waiting to return to Boston.
Failing in getting something to eat, I was off to the Salisbury Mansion for a tour. Built in 1772 by the first of three Salisbury generations who were instrumental in the establishment of Worcester into the industrial center it became. Well worth the visit, and I had a personal tour by an extremely competent docent.
these two panels outside the home detail some of the family’s contributions. I learned more earlier at the historical museum.
Also on my list for the day was the Worcester Art Museum. My legs were giving out, and I did only a brief visit, but this is why I have a North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) level membership at Old Sturbridge Village (OSV). My $18 entrance was free with my NARM membership – this now the third museum I have visited with my OSV benefit, and you do not mind not being able to “do it all.” I only saw a fraction of the exhibit halls, hitting the lower level and some ancient civilization exhibits.
I mentioned Isaiah Thomas earlier. You need to learn about him. In 1812 he established the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester. Yes, on my list for a visit (currently closed with COVID) and I need to do research there, but at least I was able to see the building which was endowed by Salisbury money. I cannot wait to visit.
Well, pelvis hurting, missed lunch busy exploring, it was after 3 PM, so I thought let me head to the 1761 Old Mill Restaurant in Westminster for a late lunch or early dinner. Did eat there once with David and family, and you would never know it is right off Route 2. A bucolic spot, great flowing water, many rooms, and extremely popular. But due to the size the kitchen must be pretty institutional. My salmon was good, but nothing special. Glad I stopped, but don’t have to again. Nice setting as you can see below.
I am so glad I got out again, and initiated explorations in this area that will lead to further travels. So close, so easy for day trips, or overnights. I cannot wait for better weather.
Thanks for getting this far, and do get out and explore and learn. Stay safe and well, as always, luv, RAY
It is January 9, 2022, and I am getting crazier. I do well being by myself, but I do like to travel, explore, and learn. The past few months I have been reviewing and traveling with my posts of the past; but, there were not many to relive from 2020 and 2021. In my reviews, I could not find some areas I thought I had visited. I wanted to reread my visit to Slater’s Mill. Upstairs in the house I have an extensive archive of travel material that I have collected – much needs better organization – but in traveling through those piles and boxes the last couple weeks I found my notes from August 19, 2017, about the conclusion of my trip sleeping in the room where Lizzie Borden swung her axe. Remember that? If not – click onWHACKED IN FALL RIVER and enjoy a bloodless time. Who says you can’t have fun going through your writings and the material you’ve collected?
In reviewing those notes I found, and finding the raw images saved on iCloud, and looking at the date and time stamps, I was able to recreate and enjoy my visits to Battleship Cove and along the Blackstone River Valley. Slater’s Mill is but 2 1/2 hours away, and much is along the way to spend time with, and then even more fun traveling back home along the Lost Villages (Route 122) Scenic Byway (also check – Western Massachusetts Scenic Byways), and the Quabbin area. Remember I write for myself to remember, and for reference for continued adventures.
So, now I am planning touring this area in detail, possibly using a base in Woonsocket, RI. The region has much to offer in my areas of curiosity: canals, railroads, water power, and industrial development. In December I was also spending time in my chair touring and planning trips in the Catskills – but was afraid to head out – go away COVID! And, I want to get back to East Aurora and Buffalo, Eric Canal regions along the way there, OSV, and train whistles keep calling me. I found I also owe you my cruise on Lake George from this past fall, and still some Erie Canal and Hudson River cruising. But, for now, back to August 2017.
I have printouts from 15 August 2017 planning my route to Fall River through the Blackstone River Valley. On the 16th I briefly explored the route while heading to Fall River.
and stopped at the River Bend Visitor Center along the old canal
a great little museum – I need to get back. The one image I seem to have is of this model of a local canal boat.
In my post – WHACKED IN FALL RIVER 16 and 17 AUGUST 2017, I stated, “…I realized I should separate out this adventure to 230 2nd Street in Fall River– my B&B for two nights. The trip there and back will come later on.” But I did not think I would take almost 4 1/2 years to do so. Above is a synopsis of the 16th heading to Lizzie’s house. The day between my two nights there listening to stories and hoping for a ghost experience I headed to Battleship Cove in Fall River. On your visit, which I encourage, here is a sampling of what you will see, including a battleship, destroyer, submarine, and PT boat.
To the left is a section of main deck plating from the USS Massachusetts BB 59, frame number 40 Portside. During the early morning hours of 8 November 1942, as flagship of Task Group 34, the Massachusetts was engaged with the shore batteries at Casablanca French Morocco. This hole was caused by a shell from the shore batteries which penetrated a berthing space starting a fire which was quickly extinguished.
You know I like to frame my images through windows, and doors — looking out at the submarine – USS LIONFISH
fascinating, and I will go back this year. Instead of detailing all I saw, maybe I will do that following my next visit, so instead, here are some galleries of images around the site that you can open up if you wish.
all right, just a couple words since you will want to know that the “block” I was told is imported China tea for the mill worker’s table
finishing up around noon I asked where to eat in the area, and was provided a list of “Lunch and Diner Options in Nearby Pawtucket and Central Falls, RI.” One jumped out as a “must do.” And, that winner was – THE MODERN DINER
And my notes from 19 August 2017 remind me that my meatloaf lunch cost me $8.95
It was then time to meander home, and I choose to head off to Worcester, and then Route 122 – The Lost Villages Scenic Byway – towards the New Hampshire border. One of the markers I visited is below – COLDBROOK SPRINGS – and I collected many pamphlets on the towns on the route. I will be back in the spring, and I will report to you.
1- If you cannot get out and explore – explore what you have written about before, explore the travel materials you have collected, and explore on-line what piques your curiosity in doing so.
2- Keep learning and working your brain to stay young.
3- And stay safe and healthy so when this pandemic abates we can again get out and SHUNPIKE
In the very early 1990s I was the lone book dealer at local antique shows. I saw some interesting boxes, and began collecting boxes that “spoke” to me (and I have a collection of books on boxes – of course). Then I started collecting things that look like books, but are not books, serving different functions instead. Cathy and I got real good at finding these items, and we called them “book-likes.” My formal living room looks like a library, but there is not a single book on those shelves. The book has yet to be written about this collectible – on my list to accomplish.
Stays at the Red Lion Inn prompted another collection – and again I probably have one of the largest hoards of Red Lion Inn souvenir items. Cathy and I had a few candlesticks, but after loosing her, this “hopeless romantic” found candlesticks and candelabra speaking to me – and there are over 60 around the house that have spoken to me – “take me home, please, Ray.” And then there are my miniature Christmas Trees – generically known as Bottle Brush trees, but I will not get into that history now. Why these? I believe I know the events in my life that lead to their attraction, but does it really matter? Main thing is I wanted to document and share them with you this Christmas Eve. Many I now leave out year round – they just fit in, and bring me pleasure.
My largest forest is in my kitchen. The trees in the center island come out for the season, lasting often until Valentine’s Day.
Below, in the kitchen, the trees on the mantle now “grow” there year round. The second from the right is really uncommon and unusual with “real faux” fruit on the boughs – not usually seen (well, only such example I have seen). You can see some RLI items here, including the souvenir plates we received during the Millennium Celebration. Below the hearth is an extremely desirable camphor chest (box) that I found a couple years ago in Peru, Vermont. And, those books? Not books, but “book-likes.”
Next, on the top of the pie safe with some of Cathy’s Westies providing protection. On my table in the kitchen on the lazy Susan, that group of trees is new to me. I found them in an antique shop in Bennington a couple weeks ago. The owner said, “they are old, I personally bought them 30 years ago.” Old? What does that then make me? The flanking trees are also new this year, but also “new”
And, onto the porch — well for images – I am awaiting a part for my stove there to enjoy the porch with snow on the ground. The tree in front of the door I keep lit year round. I found this, along with the pedestal it stands on, in an antique shop in eastern Massachusetts several years ago – both “spoke to me.” The other two images – surrounding a model of LADYRABIII are a group of trees I bought about ten years ago at the Sugar Hill Sampler in Sugar Hill, NH. The white trees? Different.
My dining room – and in looking at my images I realized I have not gotten out my special red German Christmas china ware yet, with, yes, green Christmas Trees. Well, something to do tomorrow as a reward to myself.
This is an uncommon music box. See the glass turtle on the left? From my grandmother’s home in the Bronx, this is a candy dish I would raid in the dining room when visiting. It sat on a tea cart, which is just to the left of me now in my “informal” parlor.
Don’t think I have to identify the candle holders, but in the rear is a special anniversary pitcher I got at OSV when I was there on opening day this year on their 75th anniversary. The red house – Sugar Hill Sampler. BUT, do you know the significance of the group of “three pines” on the right? I found this (and the remaining last three for friends) at Christmas Days in Sunderland, Vermont, just two weeks ago. “Three Pines” you ask? Think Louise Penny.
Below is what I am looking at while I am writing this. Throw me anytime in this “briar patch. I can even feel the “warmth of the fire.”
and a close up of the mantel — ironically, I had this image on the screen of my computer when Scott and Betty called saying how much they loved listening to A CHRISTMAS CAROL REDUX as they were driving to their son’s home. See the Airstream under the group of three trees I found as a lot last year at Stone House Antiques in Chester (another important turning point in my life)? Scott and Betty found it and sent it to me last year. The story behind it is on my LADYRABIII pages. See, I found the second owner down south of my Airstream, and she told me it was purchased as a Christmas surprise for her family. She placed an Airstream ornament on their tree, and eventually told her boys that the real thing, now mine, was delivered and in their drive. Betty has a great memory.
and, on 28 December, while in the bookshop, I remembered that I had forgotten to share with you the view I must endure while at my desk there. This tree grows next to the popcorn wagon every day of the year.
There are some additional trees around “44,” but these are my main groupings.
We have all missed much these past almost two years. Friends and I always have enjoyed our special dinners at THE CASTLE in Ludlow, Vermont. But it has been over two years since we have been able to go. A chance call yesterday, a call back thanks to a cancelation, and it was dinner at seven. How special. And a special place to be with your closest friends. Plan a dinner or stay.
the library at The Castle, where in the past we have started our evening with wine around the table in the center.
and this just behind our table
always a festive tree here — a great way to “get in the mood.”
Just about done (and the fire is burning down – will have to press rewind). Time to make a special dinner before the Live Nativity just outside “44.” But I would like to remind you to enjoy A CHRISTMAS CAROL REDUX. Click the link on the capitalized title above, and enjoy. I have gotten emails and calls from folks whose sides are aching.
MERRY CHRISTMAS and have a safe and healthy New Year, love, RAY
This post has been eleven years in the making. About a year and a half after Cathy died, I learned of the Road Scholar programs and began devouring their literature. I found many unique programs, offering access to places and adventures unavailable to the casual traveler. In nine years, between August, 2009, and October, 2018, I availed myself of thirteen unique programs. Sadly since that time none of their offerings has piqued my interest. I believe I know why. Needing to learn, I talked with the leaders, and in many instances learned how they arranged the special events with special connections, but they were retiring. For example, I toured the Rideau Canal with the lead historian on her last adventure before retiring. That program is no longer offered. Likewise my experience on the Roycroft grounds learning of the Arts and Crafts movement was amazing. The most knowledgeable leader related she was soon to have heart surgery. I next got her obituary. That program is no longer available. But I am still looking.
Still offered yearly, I attended the program – Fête de Noël: Christmas in Québec City, December 21 to 26, 2010. It was great, and the tour leader was the gentleman who taught all the tour leaders in Quebec City for their licenses. Could not get any better. Besides the history there was Christmas Eve Dinner at the Hotel Frontenac, and a carriage ride in the snow around the city on Christmas Day.
Heading home on Autoroute 20, the afternoon of the 26th, I was dial switching the radio. Now, you may recall that from 2008 through 2014 I produced, as a benefit for local food shelves, my own adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Having completed performances before I left for Canada, this tale of redemption as Scrooge faced three separate ghosts, was fresh in my mind. Landing on the CBC I heard that A CHRISTMAS CAROL REDUX, narrated by Russell Thomas, was about to begin. “Now I want to hear that,” I said to myself, and it soon began with a kazoo prelude.
Now it will help if you know the basic plot before you spend 54 minutes listening to this REDUX production, but not necessary. I was soon laughing hard, tears of laughter were streaming down my cheeks, and I feared that the car seat was not waterproof in case my bladder lost control. Fortunately I saw a rest area, and pulled in, parked, and listened to the radio. I had to find a copy to share.
I found part of the show on-line about five years ago, and then forgot about it. But the thought resurfaced recently. I went searching 29 November, and FOUND IT. But how to share it? I enlisted son Gary, and he went to work. It took some time, but he was able to complete the task.
So, now I invite you to the party. Pour some non-dairy eggnog, or glasses of wine, get some dry underwear in case, put your feet up and turn out the lights and close your eyes. Click the audio link below Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball. But my disclaimer – the show is irreverent, often politically incorrect, raunchy at times, and hysterical – ENJOY!
Yet again we face a difficult holiday season. Limited gatherings, limited holiday events. But 2020 was worse and there were none of the holiday tours I have enjoyed in the past. Most fun has been the Inndulgence Tour which friends and I enjoyed first 3 December 2016 and again 8 December 2019. To help you get in the mood with great decorations take a look at those two posts. Sadly again this year the Inndulgence Tour was cancelled out of caution since the festivities involved many people gathering in small spaces and sharing conversation and goodies of all sorts. Exceptional was the 9 December 2017 Manchester Vermont Holiday Inn Tour. You can read about it, and see great holiday decorations at the end of this link. The Manchester tour was scheduled for 2021 with additions and deletions from my last attendance. I also read of a holiday festival in my favorite Grafton, both on the 11th. Thus, I decided to travel and “get in the mood.”
Saturday did not look good, rain, icy roads, but checking the weather maps it appeared clearing by the time the Manchester tour started at noon. Off I went, first stopping for “Christmas in Grafton.” You can see my special Inn at Grafton below in the rain. Not much going on in the almost deserted village, so I continued west.
Compared to the joyous experiences of these past tours, today was a disappointment. I never want to sound negative, and choose to not say something if I cannot say something nice. Yes – COVID – it cancelled last year’s events and has dampened what has attempted to open this year. At some stops I was the only person instead of dozens as in the past. The decorations I wanted to see and become uplifted by were fewer or absent. The joy of sharing goodies around a table also was gone. No one to share with, and just a few cookies to take away. Don’t get me wrong, I had a full eight plus hour day out on my circle route west to Manchester, south to Bennington, and east back home. BUT – there were two very bright spots,
My plan was to start at the northern most stop in East Dorset, Vermont, and head to the two new additions in Bennington – at the southern most point of the tour. My first stop was amazing – well decorated, and an important historical spot I did not know existed here – THE WILSON HOUSE – birthplace of Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). You know I love to learn something new – and then share with you.
I arrived just before noon, and since this was my first stop purchased my ticket, with all proceeds going to the local food banks. Operated as a non-profit, Executive Director, Berta Maginniss, welcomed me, toured me, and shared local history of the Inn and the Wilson family. In the first image in the gallery below (hopefully displaying properly – WordPress is becoming less user friendly), the lamp is the spot (ironically behind the original bar in the inn) where Bill Wilson was born in 1895. Next the dining room, the back barn where meetings and seminars are held, and one of the showcases of AA memorabilia.
The Inn welcomes more than 10,000 visitors annually (surprising since this is really rural Vermont – but an important pilgrimage spot), and hosts about 300 meetings, and more than 35 seminars while providing over 150,000 cups of coffee. I had driving once into East Dorset which is just east of my favorite US Route 7 – my favorite Battenkill River – and a set of railroad tracks. Two trains a day Berta told me when I asked. “And, they stop the freight right here, and cross 7 to the general store for lunch,” Berta told me when I asked if the tracks were used. She also provided a map to the local cemetery and resting place of Bill W., and invited me to join in the community dinners on Friday nights – suggested donation $15. I already mentioned that to BLUE BELLE, and she is ready for the trip when it gets light out again (and a tad warmer).
I spent an enjoyable, learning time here, and recommend you stop to see the small village, and the displays in the inn – and maybe I will see you at a community dinner.
Then I began my journey south stopping at spots I did not see on the previous tours. The next three probably recently added – probably just for the publicity exposure, but not decorated, and for the two large venues nothing welcoming at all for the tour participants. But here goes. First on Route 30 just outside the center of Manchester on the way to Dorset is The Barnstead Inn. An employee was showing another person some rooms and suites – I joined in.
The old farmhouse has suites, and the rear cow barn as well. To the right (not in my image) is a bar and restaurant. Nicely done and appointed, but no holiday decorations or cheer did I see to share with you. Here are some interior views.
I then went into the “new” Kimpton Taconic Hotel which recently replaced a wonderful rambling old inn that stood here. Nicely done, high end, but nothing to share with you, and a holiday tour disappointment. Sadly the same feeling I had for The Equinox Resort. Hosting Lincoln’s wife and sons prior to that 1865 event, and in the early 20th century falling into disrepair, fortunately the Inn was saved. The resort is massive, the front desk people handing out a map and said you could walk around. Again nothing focusing on the holiday tour, Cathy and I had dinner here in 1996 while still living in Connecticut. We were staying at The Arlington Inn just down the road, and that was the night my first herniated disk popped – hard drive home and following recuperation. Here is the Equinox in the rain, and the one nicely decorated stairway I saw.
Because the tour now extended to Bennington making it hard to see everything, I decided I was not going to stop at the spots I really enjoyed in and around Arlington, but I needed some good holiday decorations, so stopped at The Inn at Ormsby Hill. Glad I did, welcoming, chatting with the owner was nice, decorations as I remembered them, hot cider and cookies wrapped to take. Not the wine, cheese, music and crowds I experienced before, but at least some lovely decorations and atmosphere. Plan a visit here.
My next stop I did not make during the last tour. And my stop at the Ira Allen House made up for some of my other disappointments. Cathy and I stayed here a couple times in the late 90s before we moved to NH. Mike and his partner Kevin have now owned the inn for nine years. Kevin is a buyer for the Vermont Country Store, and Mike runs the Inn, and does a fine job welcoming and making you feel as though you belong. This is just what I expect of an inn owner, and an experience on such a tour (please remember – places I did not visit this year e.g. the Wilburton Inn, were and are outstanding)
I loved this image on the tour website, and since there was no great snow, I needed to catch this to share.
Here are some nicely decorated rooms here – main guest room and the dining room – and then an upstairs suite where we had stayed.
now, this feels like Christmas
and, an image to share on my “Rocking Chair Studies” page.
Leaving the historic Ira Allen House I figured I had enough time to get to Bennington to see the two inns that I do not believe had been on the tour previously. Passing CHRISTMAS DAYS in Sunderland I quickly turned around and went back. Not having seen many decorations as yet on the tour, I needed a fix. In business for 52 years, and in this spot since 1972, I have been driving by for over four decades, and maybe only stopped once. So glad I did as you will see below. Open all year – make the stop.
Just west of Old Bennington, on Route 9, I have passed the Four Chimneys Inn, also for well over three decades. It was time to see it, and again I was the only one. I did not have to wake up the innkeeper however.
A lovely inn with exquisite appointments, I am glad I got to hop in and learn its history as a “farmhouse” in an area that residents of Troy, New York would venture to for second homes.
At least there was a lovely tree in the porch. The last stop in Bennington I will not even share the one sad tree. I went in, said something to a young girl playing games on her laptop on a couch. She said she thought the owner was in the kitchen. Lovely woodwork in an old Victorian spacious mansion, but I headed back out making some antique shop stops on the way home. Just disappointment reflecting back on the previous tour here. I would imagine that three places I did not go to again that were tremendous last time did so again, but it is hard to do everything. The addition of the Bennington properties was not a good idea, stretching the tour distance too much.
But besides the gracious visits and welcomes by Berta at The Wilson House, Mike at the Ira Allen House, and the owner of The Inn at Ormsby Hill, I “scored” at CHRISTMAS DAYS, and one other antique shop. For some reason I have been “hooked” on collecting “bottle brush” trees that “grab me.” Just like my candlesticks that I have shared on my FLICKERING FLAMES page. I am going to have to update my candlestick page, and it is about time I document and share with you the over 60 trees I have around the house – many of which I now leave out and enjoy all year. But, here is a teaser with the special one I got at CHRISTMAS DAYS (I seldom see this size ornaments on these trees), and a small forest I got from the owner of antique shop who said he bought them for himself thirty years ago. I usually do not see this much snow of these little trees.
and, a teaser of how I decorate – looking at this now as I “keyboard”
Hope you got this far. Not sure what else will come along to share with you this calendar year, so let me take the opportunity to wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR – as always, luv, RAY
and, one last thing – I research to learn – write to remember, and love to share. Two years ago I researched and wrote about the background to “candles in windows.” As the top “google hit” on candles in the window history searches, my published post has been read over 11,500 times in two years, and over 1,500 times in the past two weeks. Not quite “viral,” but you may also enjoy learning about “Candles in the Windows.” Click on this link – and please share.
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.