So Long, Farewell 2011

A busy year it has been. Everyone always makes that remark at the end of a year, and it’s nice to hear people amazed and impressed¬† by the year that has just passed. And my goodness, it has been around here, too. From record setting snowstorms last winter, to flooding in the spring, a tropical storm and more flooding in August and the recovery efforts, – it’s been exhausting and uplifting to live in the year 2011.

Mr. Stilts &  Squawky: the flamingos wish you a happy 2012.

Wishing you all health, happiness and success in all aspects of life. Cheers! Happy New Year! Enjoy saying farewell to 2011 and welcoming 2012.

Hostess Frozen Food Saw

Are you hosting a dinner party on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day? Setting the table for guests and decorating is part of the fun, while another part is the behind the scenes kitchen work with all of the crazy gadgets and gizmos that are available today. (Really, the variety is nothing short of mind boggling.) But there is probably one that you haven’t thought of… ever hear of a frozen food saw? Me neither, at least until recently when I was sorting through my grandparents’ belongings. Apparently my grandfather actually used this. Take a look!

Hostess Frozen Food Saw.

The back of the box.

The saw still looking new and shiny.

Whatever gadgets you use for food preparation, I hope they are as entertaining to you as this saw is to me. I don’t know that I’ll ever use this myself, but I like having it for my vintage kitchen and as a family conversation piece. Happy New Years party planning & dining!

1930 GE Refrigerator

Our 1928 house came with a 1930 GE Monitor Top Refrigerator in the basement, which was a fun addition to the many retro features in the house.

Our 1930 GE Refrigerator, likely original to our house. It reminded us of Disney's Carousel of Progress ride.

It came complete with metal trays, enamel coated trays, and a terrible smell of ammonia.

General Electric tag on the refrigerator.

Without knowing what exactly what to do with this neat old artifact, we decided to just leave it in the basement (it also weighs about one ton) and figure it out later. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irene flooded our basement and took the fridge with her. There was no way to get all of the river mud and silt out of its intricate parts, so we sadly had to send it away with the rest of the flood debris. Aside from the gravity coal furnace, this is the one object I am most upset about losing to the flood.

One day while shopping in an antique/toy/gift store in town, we came across this vintage ad for the same GE Refrigerator that we had in our basement. It looked identical. We had to have it for a sentimental memento, as well as for the entertainment value of the advertisement.

1930 GE ad.

The text of the ad is classic 1930: “Why hesitate to suggest to your husband the gift you long for most? … The refrigerator with the Monitor Top – as distinguished in its modern beauty as in its splendid record of economical performance – what a glorious gift for any woman to receive!”

While the ad plays to outdated domestic roles, it also speaks of what an economical and efficient gift this is. People are concerned with appliance noise, cost, payment plans, appearance, convenience and of course finding good gifts for mothers and wives. Perhaps it is not so different from today’s advertisements and domestic concerns.

Home for the Holidays

Wishing you + yours safe travels to and from home this holiday season. And wishing you your favorite type of Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa) weather. We woke up to a snowy Vermont this morning (it’s about time).

Snow covered trees, hooray!

Snowy Vermont. Drive carefully.

Happy Holidays! Check back for fun holiday related posts throughout the rest of this year.

Baling the Christmas Tree

Do you have a Christmas tree in your house? Do you prefer real or artificial, fresh-cut or chosen from a lot? Some of my favorite holiday childhood memories includes hunting for a Christmas tree on a tree farm with my parents and sisters. We couldn’t always find a tree to cut — for a while it was much too expensive so we had to resort to those already cut (I suppose the tree farms ran out of old enough trees). Thankfully the trees are tall enough once again so my parents can still cut down a fresh tree. And, to my delight, up here in Vermont we have many tree farms.

One part of the tree farms that I always liked – aside from the wagon rides on some farms – was watching the trees get baled by those crazy looking machines. Much to my delight, the tree farm near us had a seemingly older tree baler in operation. Rather than white plastic rope or some white plastic netting, this baler wrapped the tree in red twine. How festive! (In full disclosure, I know nothing of tree baler history. Searching Google Patents reveals some Christmas tree balers in the 1950s and 1960s. My guesses are only guesses – not facts. Feel free to jump in.)

Christmas tree baler in operation. The metal plate reads "Howey."

A search for Howey tree baler finds that this company has been making tree balers since 1967.

Red twine! Metal hooks attach to the bottom tree limbs.

The end of the machine. The pulley system is on the other side - it seems to operate in a circular or oblong shape.

All baled up and ready to go, with help from the tree farm employee.

So, any tree baler historians out there? How about you industrial archaeologists? Fill me in! I’d bet this one is a few decades old. The farm had a newer one (shinier, white plastic rope) in operation as well, but I much prefer this one. If we go back next year to the same farm, I’ll ask a few questions.

Enjoy your Christmas tree cutting and decorating!

Newfane Bridge

Sending some Christmas cheer from Vermont, historic bridge style. Combining inspiration from Preservation Photos #110 and #111, here is a concrete post & metal tube railing bridge located in the Village of South Newfane. These photographs were taken on a rainy December day, but the lack of sun allowed the bridge details and the color of the concrete and metal to pop. Take a look at this lovely bridge.

Bridge marker. Constructed in 1945.

View from the west. This bridge fits into the village nicely.

Looking east from the other side of the bridge.

Nice view through the railing.

View looking west, standing in the middle of the bridge. Note the narrow sidewalks and the drainage beneath the sidewalks.

Railing detail. You can slightly see the curvature of the bridge, too.

Looking down at the concrete post and metal railing.

More connection details.

It's camouflage with the landscape this time of year.

A former highway marker adjacent to the bridge.

What do you think of such bridges? Are you ready to love them, too?

Preservation Photos #111

A concrete post and metal tube bridge railing in Newport, VT. Photo taken August 2010.

Do you ever think of bridge railings as historic? Many are character defining features of historic bridges, so much so that when one is replaced, the historic integrity of the bridge is adversely affected. These concrete & metal tube railings certainly are not loved like covered bridge or respected like truss bridges, but hopefully their time will come.

Flamingo Motel

Who wants to stay at the Flamingo Motel? I’ve seen one in Michigan, but I also have one under my tree.

Flamingo Motel located underneath my Christmas tree.

Click and zoom in for some fun details like $29 per day, Check out time at 11:00 am, after hours key drop, curtains in the window, smaller flamingos around the building, a Do Not Disturb sign, Color TV & air conditioned…. such fun!

Holiday lights on the Flamingo Motel.

Enjoy the week before Christmas. Anticipation is one of the best parts of Christmas.

Abandoned Vermont: Story House

By Josh Phillips

Though a town best known for its endless bog, Victory, Vermont (population 100) has a few very interesting buildings. There’s an old blacksmith shop sheathed entirely in license plates, a 19th century train station from the abandoned settlement of Steven’s Mills that was relocated and converted to a horse barn, and a variety of curious hunting camps, hill farms, and timber industry remnants.

The first thing a visitor from the south (via Concord) encounters, however, is an abandoned homestead that hints at a vitality that has long disappeared from the town and indeed much of Essex County. On the west side of Victory Road is an irregular  pile Рa massing like those found in typical Vermont Greek Revival houses, but here with steep wall dormers at one end. This home was built after the Civil War by Charles A. Story, a veteran of the Union Army and a native of neighboring Kirby.

The story house in 1979. Photo credit: Allan D. Hodgdon.

In March, 1979 the Story House was recorded by the Vermont Historic Sites and Structures Survey and was found to be in good condition. Given the wild character of the place now, it’s difficult to envision Story’s diversified farm here, which included an apiary and a flock of 46 swans.

The Story House in 2011. Photo credit: Josh Phillips.

The Story house has deteriorated some in 30 years but is still in fair condition. It is now more exposed to the elements with several missing panes in the 6/6 windows and a failing porch that formerly protected the front entry.

Across the road from his home, Charles Story built a shop for his primary trade. He was a talented and well-known stonecutter, producing monuments for the lumber barons and other prominent citizens of the Northeast Kingdom. He also produced granite watering troughs and had a ready supply of material from a quarry he co-owned in Kirby. Story’s work can be seen today at the Governor Josiah Grout monument in Derby Line and the Judge Calvin Morrill memorial in East St. Johnsbury.

The shop in 1979. Photo credit: Allan D. Hodgdon.

Like the house, the stonecutting shop was in good condition in 1979. The shop has since fallen into ruin. The roof of the main block has collapsed and the gable of the small wing will soon join it. Appropriately enough, the stone foundation remains solid. The pieces of granite resting beside the shop will be there long after the building has disappeared.

The Story Shop in 2011. Photo credit: Josh Phillips.


Josh Phillips is the Director of the Vermont Barn Census. He is a 2003 graduate of the University of Vermont Historic Preservation program and has worked since then on tobacco barns, Rosenwald schools, New Deal era hiking shelters, African American horse-drawn produce carts, and other seemingly hopeless causes. You can follow Josh on Twitter @joshuadphillips or check out his photography at