Abandoned Vermont: Shaftsbury House

Driving by in the summertime, this house gave that abandoned aura. Driving by in the winter, it gave me the same feel. Finally, I had an opportunity to pull over and gaze at the building. The verdict? On a frigid (2 degrees) February day, this house looked frozen (actually frozen). With snow over my knees (and not the proper boots), I couldn’t get very close. Abandoned, vacant, seasonal or used for storage – it’s hard to tell.

Many readers always ask for information about the photographs on Preservation in Pink. Information is not always available. But, lucky for us, this house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Center Shaftsbury Historic District (see #22, Section 7, page 50).

The ca. 1850  Norman R. and C. Amelia Douglass House.

The ca. 1850 Norman R. and C. Amelia Douglass House. It looks as though someone started to paint… sort of (note the white and gray on the first story).

A bit about the architecture (from the NR): This ca. 1850 Greek Revival style house is a two-story, three by three bay gable front with sidehall plan, a two bay wing and rear attached shed. The single story porch wraps around the west and south elevations of the main house block.

The house is clad in clapboard on all sides except the area sheltered by the porch, which is flushboard. The double leaf doors with stained glass on the front porch were likely added at the beginning of the 20th century, perhaps when the windows were changed from 6/6 to 1/1.

Beautiful mature trees on the property.

Beautiful mature trees on the property. As for the house: note the 6/6 sash on the second floor and the 1/1 sash on the first floor. The first floor windows would be newer. Also note the tapered corner pilasters.

Side elevation, in which the house looks frozen.

Side elevation, in which the house looks frozen (one clue is the snow between the storm window and the interior sash).

A bit of history (from the NR): This house was owned and built by Norman R. Douglass (1818-1897) who from 1851-1856 was one of the principals in the Eagle Square Manufacturing Company of South Shaftsbury, a long-lived and successful company that formed for the purpose of manufacturing accurate metal carpenter’s squares. His wife was C. Amelia Douglass (1828-1919).

Clark and Rhoda Stone lived here in 1869 and in 1880. The Child’s Gazetteer lists Stone as a livestock dealer and farmer with two hundred acres of land, as well as one hundred acres of timber land in Glastenbury and part interested in 2,500 acres on West Mountain in Shaftsbury. Subsequent owners included Ralph Bottom and Harry Ellison.

Sunny, frigid day.

Sunny, frigid day, and nothing shoveled or plowed.

View from across the street.

View from across the street.

At the time of the National Register nomination (1988), the property was owned by Priscilla & Woflgang Ludwig and the house was rented to tenants. A search reveals that Ludwig Dairy remains in operation in Shaftsbury, today. Where does this leave the beautiful house, 27 years after the NR? Often old farmhouses are used for storage or seasonal use, as descendants built new houses down the road for one reason or another. The Douglass House appears to be generally maintained and on land used by the family farm.

This is large cement block barn sits behind the Douglass House. It and a few other farm buildings appear to be in use.

This is large cement block barn sits behind the Douglass House. It and a few other farm buildings appear to be in use.

The conclusion? It’s not quite abandoned, but it certainly does not appear to be lived in. Hopefully there is a brighter future for this Greek Revival house.

The picturesque road adjacent to the Douglass House.

The picturesque road adjacent to the Douglass House.

Mid-century Lodging: Lake Placid

Lake Placid, NY, nestled in the Adirondacks, is one of those perfect winter towns. Whether you’d rather be skiing or strolling and shopping down Main Street or taking a sled dog ride on Mirror Lake, the snow covered evergreen trees and constant snow flurries will delight you, particularly at Christmastime. My sister Annie O’Shea prefers to be sliding down Mount Van Hoevenberg on her sled at 80 mph (she’s on the USA Skeleton Team). When skeleton season rolls around, we typically find time to visit Lake Placid.

Lodging in Lake Placid provides an eclectic mix of luxury resorts, standard hotel accommodations, trailside cabins, small inns, and a look back to roadside America. The Lake House (part of High Peaks Resort) is a 1961 roadside motel. Rumor has it that the place was pretty run down and outdated until this spring 2014 when the hotel closed for a renovation. My family and I chose to stay here and we were pleasantly surprised. Imagine mid-century style combined with the Adirondack aesthetic in crisp, modern lines. Got it? Take a look at some of these pictures.

Welcome to the Lake House.

Welcome to the Lake House. Nice font, right?

Every room has a view of Mirror Lake (which was snow covered and difficult to see as a "lake").

Every room has a view of Mirror Lake (which was snow covered and difficult to see as a “lake”).

The lobby of the Lake House. It was a great spot for sitting by the fireplace (not shown, on right). The only downside was having to leave early on Friday because there was a private party in the lobby. That seemed odd for a hotel.

The lobby of the Lake House. It was a great spot for sitting by the fireplace (not shown, on right). The only downside was having to leave early on Friday because there was a private party in the lobby. That seemed odd for a hotel.

Another view of the lobby. Modern with the ski/ADK aesthetic, yes?

Another view of the lobby. Modern with the ski/ADK aesthetic, yes?

Logs (though the fireplace is gas) and a nice beverage. What better way to spend a chilly, snowy December evening?

Logs (though the fireplace is gas) and a nice beverage. What better way to spend a chilly, snowy December evening?

The chandelier - very creative!

The chandelier – very creative!

Another lobby view. Though the Christmas tree left much to be desired (it was a bad fake tree), everything else made up for it (unless you're my mother, who is still scarred from the cheesy tree).

Another lobby view. Though the Christmas tree left much to be desired (it was a bad fake tree), everything else made up for it (unless you’re my mother, who is still scarred from the cheesy tree).

Nice headboard in the room!

Nice headboard in the room!

The Lake House was great, and I’d recommend a stay there. It’s a great example of modernizing an outdated hotel while keeping the feel of its historic roots. See more photos on the website. What do you think?

And, of course, a view of the bobsled/skeleton track. Go Annie!

And, of course, a view of the bobsled/skeleton track. Go Annie!

A Preservation Video & Essay, of sorts, with a 1945 Tractor

Historic preservation is everywhere. Appreciation for our past is comforting to find beyond our typical conversations, meetings and writings. Recently I found preservation in a unexpected place, from someone who is not a preservationist by trade, schooling, self proclamation, or profession, yet it can easily speak to preservationists. Presenting a video and its companion essay shared by the talented Bus Huxley. I could not give Bus nor his work the introduction they deserve, so read on and enjoy the video. I recommend that you watch, read, watch. 

By Bus Huxley

A few years ago I was care-taking an old farm when I came across the chronological collection of the N-news. This is a quarterly publication dedicated to Ford and Ferguson tractors from the middle part of the last century. I poured over each magazine, starting from the earliest and looking forward to the next installment as a kid anticipates the new issue of a comic book. Hidden in these pages were countless tips for maintenance, improvements, operation techniques and a detailed and rich history of Henry Ford and Harry Ferguson’s brilliant and tumultuous partnership and collaboration. I was eager to glean as much information about the first machine I ever piloted while perched on my dad’s lap at seven years old.

At its essence, my 1945 Ford 2n is a combination of simple machines working together to make hard jobs easy. I stopped in to milk an old timer at his Ford shop for sage mechanical consultation in northern Vermont one snowy afternoon. After dolling out the solution to my problem, he began to wax on about the year 1942, when he and his brother were dairy farmers, and had always used horses. The look in his face as he described the vast improvement in their two lives upon purchasing a Ford 9n for the farm was fantastic. They no longer needed to grow ten more acres of hay for their pulling power. When the tractor went to sleep, it did not need to eat or drink, and it could lift massive weight with an ingenious hydraulic lift mounted on the back of the rig.

Operating this tractor most of my life, I’ve mown countless acres of field, twitched endless cords of firewood from the forest, moved piles of rocks, pushed tons and tons of snow, and trailered decades of split firewood into the barn for the winter. It’s also taught me how to work within very specific parameters of power and ability. This is by no means the strongest machine in the world, and two wheel drive has some limitations, but with careful planning and gentle throttle manipulation, the old Ford/Ferguson can do all I ever ask of it. And I can fix it! Anything on it, no matter what, can be mended. I have no idea what kind of steel or magic alloy this was made of, but there is not a bolt on it that won’t thread out if I ask it. There is practically no rust on it, and its been outside for 70 years!

Don’t get me wrong and chalk me up as some nostalgic troglodyte, wishing for the good old days. I love the internet in my pocket, connected to my telephone that also has the sharpest camera I own, but I also love a well designed, innovative and wonderfully overbuilt contraption like the old Ford tractors. I’ll own this rig for the rest of my life, and look forward to working together whenever we get the chance.

Thank you, Bus!

Words on Winter, Snow, Frost

It’s going to be winter for a while in Vermont. And apparently in most places, even Georgia. Stay warm and safe, all! Aside from global warming, freakish weather or whatever you believe, the freezing southern temperatures and wintry precipitation come as a shock to me. For the six years that I lived in the south (Virginia and North Carolina), I recall only a handful of snowfalls. One happened to be on President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, which made for an extra special day. The other snowfalls were in Virginia. I recall a few inches that would melt by late morning.

Mother Nature definitely entertained herself for those six years of my southern life by bringing snow to New York the weeks before and after I visited. That is no exaggeration. Basically, I didn’t see a good snowfall for six years.

Enter my Vermont life, and the snowiest winters ever (for me), and the coldest I’ve ever been. Still not a skier, winters are not my favorite. Blame the problem of permanently cold feet. But winter comes with starkly crisp sunny days, the smell of wood burning stoves, white blanketed landscapes, and leafless trees (all the better for photographing buildings). Still, January and February are long and winter lingers long past its welcome. Perhaps my southern life lingers in my preference to warm weather. Until summer, when Vermont is absolutely perfect.

Climate and weather are so critical to defining place, wouldn’t you say? They serve as foundation to memories. What temperature was it? What were you wearing? What were you doing? Start telling a story and see how long it takes before weather or climate plays a roll.

What are thoughts on weather and place? Do you stories include the two? I’d love to know.

Burlington, VT. It's cold here. Thankfully sunny days and frozen lakes make up for the cold.

Burlington, VT. It’s cold here. Thankfully sunny days and frozen lakes make up for the cold.

Preservation Photos #214

A barn on the verge of collapse with another snowfall sits peacefully watching the sunset.

A barn on the verge of collapse with another snowfall sits peacefully watching the sunset. Located in Addison County, VT.

Vermont loses many of its barns in the harsh winter seasons.

Winter has Arrived

Good afternoon all. Temperatures are dropping, snow is falling, and winter is coming. It’ll be here in time for Christmas.

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