Sunday, October 26, 2014

Waterford (Vermont) Sugarhouse: But Which One?

At the Waterford Historical Group meetings (held at the Davies Memorial Library in Lower Waterford), we often find details on the old maps of town that intrigue us. One last summer turned out to be a bit discouraging -- at the time when the 1875 Beers map of the town was drawn, there was an important sugarhouse in the center of Waterford, owned by O. Cushman, on the Duck Pond Road.

It would be great to make a visit to the remains of this sugarhouse, even if it's just a cellar hole or a foundation edge. But, of course, sugarhouses (farm structures!) don't usually have cellars or foundations. And the more we studied the map, the more we all became sure that the location of this old sugarhouse is probably within today's tangle of gravel pits owned by the Town of Waterford and Pike, Inc. In other words, there's probably no trace to find. We'll just have to keep looking in old magazines and newspapers for a possible description of how much maple syrup came from that sugaring operation and whether it was a "destination" for local residents.

Meanwhile, this postcard, clearly labeled "Sugarhouse in Waterford," turned up at a postcard show in New Hampshire last summer. The photo looks recent enough (in full color!) so that this structure might still be standing. Is it the one on County Road North? I think the row of trees is too close to it. What do you think? Can you pinpoint its location? -- UPDATE: Thank you to Dave Morrison, who identified this sugarhouse as the one on the Frank Bullock property -- the landscape has since closed in somewhat around it but it is still standing. SECOND UPDATE: Vermont Life Autumn 1957 cover featured a 1951 photo of the same sugarhouse: click here.

All the details keep adding up to the history of our town.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Power Plant and Business in Neighboring St Johnsbury, Vermont, Circa 1910

This winter, we'll work on more of the details of Waterford's water-powered mills, which ranged from traditional sawmills, to a tannery, and an oil mill (linseed!). And of course, Waterford's 20th and 21st centuries are strongly influenced by the three linked power dams on the Connecticut River (including Moore Dam, the one that most affected the town's history, and Comerford, with its amazing construction in 1928-1930, explored elsewhere on this blog; the third is McIndoes).

So it's a good time to look at this postcard of a power station that still exists, at the confluence of the Moose and Passumpsic Rivers in the next town west, St. Johnsbury. (Click on the images to see them enlarged.) My ever-researching husband Dave dates this postcard at about 1910; the "reverse" treats economic hard times pretty cheerfully! Local residents and dedicated visitors will recognize this mill site, where today's "Old Mill" fitness club and neighboring restaurant prosper. A fishing platform is being installed a short distance downstream, at Fred Mold Park. Changes! But good ones, we hope.

Three cheers for O. V. Hooker and Son, promoting their sturdy business through the power of the press and postcards, a century ago.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rocks, Quarries, and Mines: Digging into Waterford's 19th Century

Yesterday evening's well-attended meeting of the Waterford History group was the last scheduled one for this season; we'll resume in February, weather permitting!

Meanwhile, in January, an archiving group will meet to sort out and catalogue the many intriguing documents that people have generously provided to our files. Count on some surprises as we share images and information.

We also hope to host a professional geologist early in 2015, as we need to learn more about the rocks, sand, and "dirt" of our town. This season's exploration of our copper and gold mining past (no fortunes were made!) kept some of us among the ridges and hilltops, but we also have "history" to explore in farm fields and along the river. This area in the 1800s provided wide-ranging resources and commerce. We're also mapping the industries and businesses from that period, with the help of atlases, business registries, and a gazetteer.

One of the longer lasting "extractive" industries in Waterford involved quarrying slate for roofing. (Have you driven along Slate Ledge Road lately?) Here is a double photo (stereo view) of the nearby slate quarry in Littleton, NH, when it was active -- click on the photo to see it better.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lower Waterford: Changes on the Main Road

The postcard above was mailed in 1909. You can see the town was already famous as a destination!

And here's one mailed in 1907:

But today's Lower Waterford Road, even though part of the stage route, was once a country lane, as shown in this postcard mailed in 1912:

Later that year, the inn would close -- part of a long intriguing tale told at the Rabbit Hill Inn website, -- and in 1957, it reopened, but as a "motor inn" owned by the St. Johnsbury House. Check out the sign on the roof!

In 1968, Ruth and John Carroll owned the inn, and later, Eric and Beryl Charlton:

Here's a Lower Waterford postcard from the 1990s, courtesy of Dave Kanell:

Today's Rabbit Hill Inn innkeepers are Brian & Leslie Mulcahy, and they will host, on November 2, the annual Apres Foliage Fest, an elegant get-together where the tickets and auction raise funds for the Davies Memorial Library, across the road.