The House on Garden Street

Rut Reader spring coverOriginally printed in the Spring 2015 edition of Rutland Magazine, this article represents only a portion of the information I discovered in my research. It is my hope that one day I’ll be able to add to this story, either in a fuller non-fiction piece or a fictional one (both of which would include a little ghostly action…)


Rut Reader spring pg 1At the opening of the twentieth century, when a nickel plater named Edgar Wood had risen in society to become an attorney, Rutland was on the verge of complete electrification and bustling with industry. My home, one of the first built on the newly opened Garden Street (renamed Kendall Avenue) in 1887, was home to the Wood family for three-quarters of a century. Its lack of fireplace or chimney, the wrought-iron heating grates, parquet floors, rounded-cornered walls, and molded ceilings are all indications of modernization around 1912, in the midst of an era of great change—for the Woods, for Rutland, and for the country.

~

A skating rink?! Fourteen year old Florence Wood was no doubt excited to learn that the opulent Bicycle Club rink, built in 1884, would be within sight of their soon-to-be built family home on a new street bracketed by the grand Baxter estate on Grove Avenue and attorney Redfield Kendall’s lofty home perched high on the corner of Main Street.

What Florence couldn’t foresee was, even before her home was finished, the skating rink would be defunct and within a decade torn down. Neither could she know that the day-to-day life of her little family—the emotional details of which we will never know—would be a reflection of their times in a way only we, in retrospect, can now recognize. Continue reading

Tracking up to Lake Bomoseen

The fountain behind Trak-In which was once a attraction at Bomoseen Park.

The fountain behind Trak-In which was once an attraction at Bomoseen Park.

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 Continue reading

When the trolley tracked through town

trolleys

Part 1 of two stories on the Rutland Trolley. See Part 2 here.

When the street was dug up in front of Green Mountain Power’s new Energy Innovation Center on Merchants Row in the fall of 2013, the workers hit steel. Hiding just below the asphalt on which we daily drive our (one- or two-person, gas-guzzling, road-hogging) cars, they had discovered tracks to another time: The Trolley Era.

It was a short-lived era in Rutland; approximately 40 years, from 1882 to 1924, with its heyday spanning from 1913 to 1916. But the trolley was an innovation that changed the scenery and infrastructure of Rutland County, where people built their homes, and the way in which they spent their weekends. Continue reading

Clarendon’s curing waters

Clarendon Springs House Buggies with Visitors c. 1890

Clarendon Springs House Buggies with Visitors c. 1890

Asa Smith, “the strange mystic of Clarendon,” had a vision of “chalybeate water impregnated with lime” that would lead him in 1776 to discover the springs in the western part of town that would cure his “scrofulous humor” (cancer).

Five years later, a business-savvy Mr. George Rounds, saw the potential of the area after another man, a Mr. Shaw, was also cured of cancer by anointing himself with the clay surrounding the springs. He built a simple log cabin and took in as boarders those who traveled in search of a cure and in doing so gained the distinction of opening the first spa in the state of Vermont. Continue reading

William Barstow, Chittenden’s Electric Man

William S. BarstowBarstow Memorial School in Chittenden is, according to many, one of the finest in the state. For a rural town buried in the hills of Green Mountain National Forest, this seems a little surprising. But the fact that this school is just one part of a legacy left by a family of philanthropists, headed by a man of whom it was said, “To know (him) was to admire him; to know him well was to love him,” may help explain why Chittenden is rich in offerings as well as beauty. Continue reading

Rutland’s Catholic churches’ foundations of rock

Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo St. Peter Church in Rutland.   04/11/14

Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
St. Peter Church in Rutland. 04/11/14

Today, a Rutlander’s choice of church isn’t determined by their country of origin or native tongue. All churches now reflect the community in which they reside: a homogeneous melting pot of those who call themselves Americans. But not so long ago — the century spanning from approximately 1830 — this was not the case. Continue reading

Vermont Eugenics, the Rutland connection

Prof. Henry Perkins. (UVM / photo)

Prof. Henry Perkins. (UVM / photo)

“One eugenical scheme to purify the state’s polluted protoplasm was bring in a better class of Vermonters — tourists and summer homeowners.”

What is one of the first things you notice when you cross the border back into Vermont? No billboards, right? What about the other features we take for granted: tourist information booths, great hiking trails, summer homes — many, many summer homes — cabins, cottages and even a few mansions. Yes, our tourist industry is one of the major things that keeps Vermont on the map. We have a brand that, thanks in part to various movie references across the decades, is known even internationally. And we are proud of it.

But what if I told you this tourist industry had racist and socially discriminatory roots? That even the construction of Route 7 and the improvement of other highways starting in the 1930s were to make our state more attractive and accessible to the “right” people”? Continue reading

Poultney’s Writing Man: Horace Greeley

GreeleyDid you know there could have been a third president with a claim to Vermont?

In 1872, one Horace Greeley, formerly of West Haven and East Poultney, a Liberal Republican candidate endorsed by the Democrats, ran against Ulysses Grant, whom he had formerly supported. Ridiculed by Republicans and attacked in the political cartoons of Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly as an extremist and turncoat — he campaigned to pull the Federal troops out of the South arguing the war and slavery were over and that the people should now essentially govern themselves — he only received 43 percent of the popular vote.

Shortly after this defeat, his wife Mary died. Thirty days later, before the electoral vote was cast, Greeley also died, leaving him with the unfortunate distinction of being the only presidential candidate to ever die during the election process.

But this is hardly a fair claim to fame. Continue reading