Saturday, September 8, 2018

Digging into History, with Waterford's Kids and Coaches

Surveying the barnyard.
Waterford Historical Society Kids’ Presentation 
Wednesday, September 26, 6:30 pm
Community Room, downstairs in the Lower Waterford Congregational Church (next to the library and across from the Rabbit Hill Inn)
Lower Waterford, Vermont

A week-long coached "dig" by kids in the barnyard of a historic barn yielded evidence of the farm's past uses, and lit interest in archaeology for grades 4-8 students in Waterford. See their discoveries and hear about this community collaboration.
Learning about Waterford's past.

This presentation the regularly scheduled Waterford Historical Society meeting, and also part of Vermont Archaeology Month.

How do archaeologists do this part?
Are you curious about what the students found? It was part of the local school's summer adventure camp, and was a big success! Each day the students gathered at "Base Camp" in the community room of the Lower Waterford Congregational Church, did some thinking and brainstorming with coaches like Helen Chantal Pike, Craig Brown, and Donna Heath, then walked the mile down the road to the farm.
Sifting the soil and hay -- what's in there?

Base Camp!

[Photos courtesy of Donna Heath and Helen Pike -- thank you!]

Saturday, August 4, 2018

A Waterford VT and Monroe NH Farm Business: Pete and Gerry's Eggs

In the Caledonian-Record of August 4, 2018, this supplement was included -- and astute history readers will notice a brief history of Pete and Gerry's Eggs on the page. To be protective of the chickens, as well as to encourage use in other regions, the Monroe NH family-run company hosts poultry barns in many locations.

Monroe is one of two New Hampshire towns that border Waterford, VT (the other is Littleton). The region's shared history continues to be important!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Grape-Nuts Cereal Commercial Featuring Lower Waterford

Image courtesy of ThrowAway History.
Talking about the Rabbit Hill Inn and its history always rambles around to the February 1975 commercial for Grape-Nuts cereal, where part of the filming angle is from the grounds of the inn. The cereal was considered a health food at the time, so the spokesman for the product here is Euell Gibbons, noted for his book Stalking the Wild Asparagus and other publications.

Click on this YouTube link to watch the ad! Anyone recall being an extra during the filming? (There are other Grape-Nuts ads with Mr. Gibbons on YouTube, but this is the only one set in Lower Waterford, Vermont.) All of the children of the Carroll family, the innkeepers at the time, took part.

If this makes you nostalgic or curious -- please join us Wed. July 25 at 6:30 pm, in the Community Room of the white church shown here (Lower Waterford Congregational Church), for the first ever Rabbit Hill Reminiscence Reunion, sponsored by the Waterford Historical Society.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Hull Family at the Rabbit Hill Motor Lodge

Judy Hull Groskopf provided these wonderful photos from the late 1950s or early 1960s, while her father Alden "Tony" Hull managed the Rabbit Hill Motor Lodge in Lower Waterford, Vermont, along with the St. Johnsbury House. Here he is, on the porch with Judy -- and here's his wife Margaret, enjoying a break from raising three daughters with Tony.

Do you have photos of the Rabbit Hill Inn from another time period? It would be wonderful to see them. Join us at the Rabbit Hill Reminiscence Reunion, on Wed. July 25th at 6:30 pm, across the road from the inn, in the church Community Room. Refreshments and good memories to share.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Rabbit Hill House, 1952: The Well

This 1952 photo, taken at what was then Rabbit Hill House where Mrs. John W. Davies resided, was provided this week by Speedie Morey, whose mother worked for Mrs. Davies. (Mr. Davies "created" the White Village when he purchased many of the structures in Lower Waterford, Vermont, and had them painted similarly.) Thank you so much for sharing the image!

What memories does it bring back for others? Share yours at the July 25 gathering in Lower Waterford. (See posts below.)

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Rabbit Hill Inn: Some History of the Main Building

The Rabbit Hill Inn as Rabbit Hill House, home of the Davies family. Photo taken by Arthur Morrison in 1937, from the roof of the Lower Waterford Congregational Church.
When the Rabbit Hill Inn was owned by the Bowman family, under the name The Valley House: "Mr. Bowman is holding the horse and Mrs. Bowman is standing behind the seated lady, whose identity is not known. The side door was used as the entrance to the Post Office. The barn seen over the roof of the ell was used to stable the horses of travellers." (Eugenia Powers, writing for the 1965 town report)
Thanks to Eugenia Powers, who gathered Waterford history from both documents and those with long memories in the 1960s, we have these wonderful photos of the Rabbit Hill Inn before it bore that name.

The Vermont historical survey of Waterford's structures, written by Allen Hodgdon, dates the main structure of the inn to 1795, without more detail on that time period. Hodgdon then says, "A part of the main building was erected around 1830 by Jonathan Cummings, who used part of it for manufacturing sleighs and window mills." Eugenia Powers corrects that by saying he built winnowing machines, and windmills for grinding corn, and that the building was only one room deep then.) Nathaniel Bishop, she wrote, bought it and ran a store and a tavern there.
The next information comes from another history gatherer, Dr. C. E. Davis, who wrote Waterford's story in A Vermont Village. Dr. Davis wrote that Jonathan Cummings (but perhaps this should be Nathaniel Bishop) sold this building to O. G. Hale and F. A. Cross, who in 1840 enlarged the building to its "present size." Around 1859 (date from Eugenia Powers), they added two front "piazzas" with an alcove in the peak, supported by four enormous Doric columns, each made from a pine tree cut across the river in New Hampshire. According to local memory, these massive trees were dragged by oxen across the Connecticut River when it was frozen, and then shaped by hand.

The building then served the very active Burlington-to-Portland stage route as an inn, and stayed in business until 1912. Among its names were Fred Cross's Churn, then for a long time The Traveller's Home; the Bowman family (according to Eugenia Powers) renamed it The Valley House, and Bowman's Hotel.  Other innkeepers included J. Hosmer, Russell Armington, William Goss, Walter Buck, and O. D. Hurlburt; Mrs. Hurlburt, as a widow, sold the place to the Ed Bowman family, who rain it as a hotel until 1912 and continued living there until 1919.

This photo of Eugenia Powers's report on the inn includes some local color:

At that time, Lower Waterford had become a sleepy little village with many part-time residents, and the need for its dozens of small horse barns faded with the advent of automobiles. John W. Davies purchased the inn and many nearby properties, and he and his wife lived there until his death in 1936. Then Mrs. Davies used the inn as her summer residence.

When Mrs. Davies died, the inn was called back into service: The St. Johnsbury House, Inc., acquired it, in 1957, and converted the attached ballroom and carriage stalls into guest quarters. Manager Alden "Tony" Hull and his family became part of Waterford life then. And the names continued to change a bit: from Rabbit Hill House, which Mrs. Davies had called the place, to Rabbit Hill Motor Inn and Rabbit Hill Inn.

That is the time period we'll explore on Wednesday July 25, 6:30 pm at the Community Room of the church across the road from the Rabbit Hill Inn -- if you have memories to share of working at the inn, staying there, getting married there, having a special meal, and so on, please do come join the Waterford Historical Society and share your story (free event; refreshments provided; some handicap access).

[Many thanks to Dave Morrison for sharing his copy of the 1965 town report, which contained the two photos and a long history of the Rabbit Hill Inn by Eugenia Powers.]

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Rabbit Hill Inn: First Structure, "The Beye-way"

Here is a photo "today" of the western-most part of the Rabbit Hill Inn -- the part that older local residents still call the Beye-way.

This structure was built in 1795 as a store, according to its recorded history in the Vermont Historic Sites and Structures Survey. The store name, in the early days of the Rabbit Hill Inn, was The Briar Patch (now it is rooms for the inn, instead). Inn legend says that Samuel Hodby built it as both a tavern and general store, where dry goods and notions were sold. In the early years, people called it the Brick Front Store because of its ground floor front of local brick, made at a nearby clay pit. The two front piazzas are supported by four log pillars.

Subsequent storekeepers are said to have included Mr. Stoddard, two sisters named Winch and Wilbur, the Bowman boys, M. A. Farr (1842), and Solomon Wood (1844). For another period, "Mr. Hunt" used it for a workshop.

After 1922, the structure was owned and occupied by a sister of Mrs. John W. Davies (Mr. Davies owned many structures in the village at that time, creating the White Village). This sister's name was Miss Beye, which led to the building's next name, the Beye-way. Also in this building, for a few years, was the town's library, operated by Mrs. Davies; she eventually moved the library across the street into the former Goss store, now called the Davies Memorial Library.

The next set of photos will show what became the main building of the inn -- also assigned a construction date of 1795.

Please do mark your calendar for the Rabbit Hill Reminiscence Reunion, a special evening of memories of the inn over the past three generations, in the Community Room (downstairs of the church) across the road from the inn, on Wednesday July 25, 2018, at 6:30 pm (free event; refreshments provided; some handicap access).