Part 2 of two stories on the Rutland Trolley. See Part 1 here.
Emerging from the greenery which threatens to envelope it, it looks like a beehive, one of those conical ones that Pooh Bear would get excited about. But it is actually a fountain, and it sits behind the Trak-In Restaurant on Route 30 in Bomoseen. A century ago, this rock formation with its metal water spout was a novelty, which, along with other attractions, drew large crowds to Bomoseen Park.
Bomoseen Trolley Park was the last stop on a spur, which from 1906 to 1918 extended off the main trolley line which ran from Rutland to West Rutland to Castleton Corners (and on to Fair Haven or Poultney). One of many amusement parks around the country — such as New York’s Coney Island — created by the rail companies to increase ridership in the evenings and on weekends, Bomoseen’s Trolley Park was a destination for summer holiday-makers. Unlike the bigger parks which featured Ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, and other electrified entertainments, Bomoseen nonetheless attracted thousands of visitors with music, dancing, baseball, fishing, and bathing. (Roz Rogers, the current owner of Trak-In and Edgewater Resort, whose parents, the Poremskis, purchased the property in 1957, explains that “bathing” meant exactly that: visitors often used the lake to get clean.)
The dawn of the 20th century found five large hotels hugging the shores of Lake Bomoseen. The rich and famous from New York City would ride the train to Hydeville and then board a steam boat which would carry them to their hotel of choice. Here they would stay for weeks, even months at a time, wandering the grounds, paddling along the shores, and dancing into the night.
But the working classes of Rutland had no way to escape the city heat unless they were willing to take a rather long, sweaty horse or carriage ride to the lake. For 25 cents a ride, the trolleys changed all that. When Rutland Railway, Light and Power Co. extended the lines for their already popular trolley cars out to the lake, the locals jumped right on board.
Stopping first at Castleton Corners at what was Coon’s store (now a real estate office and tourist information site), day-trippers could pick up their picnic foods for a long day of fun. With the electricity snapping and popping in the lines above, the open-air cars would rumble along the tracks of today’s Route 30, where it would stop at the long roofed station outside the Lake House, which had been built in 1882 (now Edgewater Resort).
A baseball diamond occupied the grassy area beside Trak-In and was surrounded by concession stands, benches, picnic tables, and strolling paths. People played lawn tennis next to the kiosks. Further back was the fountain and a bandstand and dance floor, the steps and iron railings of which can still be seen amongst the undergrowth. (When this bandstand was dismantled after the park’s closure in 1918, it was reconstructed at the Rutland Fairgrounds, where it was used until it burned in 1970. Three years later the Gibson Crystal Ballroom, the largest in Vermont, was constructed on the former baseball field.) From there, paths wandered through the trees, with swinging seats and gazebos along the way. Today the grassy trails bear no evidence of these shady places of repose.
In 1906, its very first year of operation, Howe Scale held its company picnic at the park. From that point on organized entertainment was provided from 10 a.m. to midnight during the height of the season, including fireworks and clambakes. One steamy July 4th in 1907, according to Jim Davidson, curator of the Rutland Historical Society, the trolley transported a record 8,000 visitors to the lake. But according to the book “Lake Bomoseen: The Story of Vermont’s Largest Little-Known Lake,” in 1908 the park saw 13,000 visitors who were treated to a military drill competition and boat regatta.
After the original owners of the Lake House died, the Rutland Railway purchased the hotel in 1912 and continued to operate the trolley park and the hotel, which was renamed the Trakenseen for the partners who ran it: Tracy and Kennedy. Wanting to expand their hotel, they filled the bay with slate which they had dragged across the lake during the winter. The lawn area now in front of Edgewater was once water!
With businesses such as milk delivery, and little stores operating along the shore, the area near the park became a lively little village during the summer months. The lobby of the hotel was even used as the Bomoseen post office until 1914, the little boxes of which are still being used today as room key holders, according to Rogers.
But WWI and the increasing popularity of automobiles marked the end of Bomoseen Park and the Bomoseen trolley line itself. During the summer of 1918 the tracks were torn up and the iron re-purposed for the war effort. While Lake Bomoseen continued to enjoy many more decades of fashionable summer vacationing by both the working classes and the elite (including the likes of Dorothy Parker, the Marx Brothers, Laurence Olivier, and many others), the days of efficient, energy-saving public transportation were over. But the fountain, still standing proud, endures as a reminder of a time that has gone on down the tracks.
Originally published in the Rutland Reader on July 2, 2014