Playground Find: Brownington, VT

Brownington, Vermont is located in the Vermont’s “Northeast Kingdom” (Essex, Orleans, and Caledonia counties), about 15 miles south of the Canadian border. It’s a very rural, picturesque part of the state. I was surveying a few properties in Brownington, VT for a work project and wanted to snap a photo of the church in Brownington Center.

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Brownington Center Church, 1854.

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Brownington Center Church, 1854.

Distracted by the building, I almost missed this gem behind it! 

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Vintage playground equipment sitting behind the Brownington Center Church!

Of course, I got out of the car to get a closer look at the playground equipment. First up – a classic 1950s jungle gym (see photos below). The American Playground Device Company (now the American Playground Company) produced similar looking jungle gyms in the 1950s. An easy way to distinguish earlier jungle gyms from 1950s jungle gyms is the rounded elements of the 1950s jungle gyms as opposed to the non-rounded and overall square structures of earlier versions. This jungle gym has “ST. JOHNSBURY, VT” stamped on one of its pipes. St. Johnsbury, is a larger town about 36 miles away from Brownington. Perhaps this was a hand-me-down piece?

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Next up, the slide. Slides are a little harder to date, but based on the design, it appears to be another 1950s apparatus.

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This slide is sinking into the ground.

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Recreation Equipment Corp. Anderson, Indiana. 10-A. (Does anyone know what the 10-A represents?)

Next up: the mystery apparatus. I don’t even know what to call this one. It dates to the 1960s space age era of playground equipment, but nowhere can I find a name for it or a specific manufacturer. It’s part spaceship, part jungle gym, part submarine, part ladybug? Take your best guess. Do you recall playing on something like this?  DSC_1182DSC_1184

I’ve found a few similar images while searching online, but no luck with names. Do any of these ring a bell? Sources are in the photo captions. Click on each image or on the following links (clockwise, starting at top left): Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3, Photo 4. Any help in giving these a name or manufacturer would be much appreciated!

And what is an old playground without a merry-go-round? This is a later version, likely the 1970s, which you can tell by the shape of the handles and the pattern of the metal treads. It still spins – I checked! DSC_1193

Behind the merry-go-ground is an assuming fire truck. These types of play structures were common in the 1970s as well. DSC_1195DSC_1197

And that concludes the tour of the Brownington Center Church playground: pieces from the 1950s – the present (note the plastic playground pieces I did not feature). I hope kids are still enjoying these pieces.

Playground Find: Hancock, VT

Hancock, VT is a small town (population 323) located on Vermont Route 100 in Addison County, on the eastern edge of the Green Mountain National Forest. The two-room Hancock Village School was constructed in 1855 and operated as a school until 2009, when school consolidation measures caused the school to close. Since then the building has served as the town library and the town clerk’s office. The school is a contributing resource to the Hancock Village Historic District, which is listed in the Vermont State Register of Historic Places (VHSSS #0108-1-20). A playground remains on the former school grounds.

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Hancock Village School, December 1976 – Vermont State Register of Historic Places.

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Former Hancock Village School (now library and town offices), June 2019. The windows have been replaced.

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Swings with mountains and blue sky in the background.

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View of the jungle gym and the swings.

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The school in the background.

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A newer, plastic side is in on the left. 

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The apparatus is reminiscent of the “Muscle Man” equipment from the 1970s. 

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From the jungle gym: “Quality Industries, Hillsdale, Mich. 200028”

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No markings visible on the swings, but likely they date to the same time or earlier as the jungle gym.

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Swings.

The jungle gym bears the stamp, “Quality Industries, Hillsdale, Mich., 200028.” Quality Industries began in 1974, and the named changed to Recreation Creations, Inc. (RCI) in 1996. The name changed to Recreation Creations, Inc. in 1996. Without more available information, it is difficult to date this date playground equipment. However, it is reminiscent of similar 1970s playground apparatus, such as the Game Time Muscle Man. The edges appear more rounded than the example linked, possibly indicating the Hancock playground is a later design. If you have a better idea of the manufacture date, let me know. The swings did not have any markings on them.

It’s a shame that the building and the grounds no longer serve as a school, but at least the playground remains; what a picturesque spot for a playground.

Historic Playground: Goshen Jungle Gym

The former Goshen School (ca. 1860) is now used as the Goshen Town Offices. While it still stands in its general form, the fenestration (rhythm and size of windows) has been altered greatly, to the point of loss of integrity.  The only photo I can find is from a German Wikipedia page, or from a Bing Maps streetside view, but it does show you what I mean in terms of altered fenestration.

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Screenshot (dated 2015) from Bing Maps Streetside View. The windows have been replaced and there would not have been a door breaking up the bank of windows on the façade.

At first glance, this might not even look like a school to you; however, evidence of the building’s history as a school sits across the dirt road in a small playground.

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A jungle gym in Goshen, VT.

This jungle gym resembles those available commercially in the 1940s-1950s, though it is appears to be a locally made (vernacular, if you will) version. Some of the pieces are stamped with “Goshen School” and “Brandon Iron”.

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This reads “Goshen School”.

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Don’t fall in the creek – it’s just behind the jungle gym.

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Curved pieces of playground equipment were more common in the mid 20th century, as opposed to early decades.

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Connection details.

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This reads “Brandon Iron.”

“Brandon Iron” conjures up the iron industry of Brandon, even though this metal is steel, not iron. Historically, the Town of Brandon was rich in water power and abundant in iron ore, which led to the growth of the iron industry in Brandon Village and nearby Forestdale by 1810. Once the railroad arrived in 1849, competition hurt the iron industry, and by the 1865 the Forest Dale Blast Furnace no longer operated. What had been the Brandon Iron and Car Wheel Company (est. 1850) and the Conant Iron Works became the Howe Scale Company, a manufacturer of scales. It extremely unlikely that this playground apparatus was constructed during the operating years of the Brandon Iron and Car Wheel Company, so the “Brandon Iron” must refer to something else.

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More details.

Vermont history buffs – any guesses as to the origin of this apparatus?

All photos are courtesy of Devin Colman, 2018.

Brookside Cemetery, Chester

‘Tis the season for cemeteries, foliage, and foggy days. Brookside Cemetery sits in the center of Chester, a picture perfect town in southern Vermont. It is a historic, intact, linear later 18th century to early 20th century Vermont village. The cemetery is located between the Chester Historical Society (the ca. 1881 brick schoolhouse) and the 1835 Baptist Church. Across the street is the town green and on the other side of the green is a beautiful, intact row of a historic buildings. Brookside Cemetery has been in use since the 18th century; the earliest headstone dates to 1770. In New England tradition, the burials face east and the stone lettering faces west. Even on a gloomy fall day, it’s peaceful. Take a look!

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Looking to the schoolhouse and the cemetery.

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View to the Chester Historical Society. 

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Headstones.

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The main entrance to the cemetery; this fence dates to 1867.

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The 1850 Public Tomb was constructed of granite block cut in nearby Gassetts, VT and transported by train to Chester Depot.

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The 1830 Hearse House is a museum as of 2017.

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The main entrance road is lined with cedar trees. The road was laid down and the trees were planted in 1867, inspired by the Mount Auburn (MA) Cemetery and the rural garden cemetery movement.

 

Interested in learning more about Chester?

  • Read more about Chester’s Brookside Cemetery here.
  • Read the Chester Village Historic District National Register nomination here.

 

Tourist Cabins: West Shore Cabins, North Hero, VT

Summer is winding down, but fall in Vermont is a perfect time of year to visit. The humidity has decreased, the leaves are changing, and you can readily find apple cider doughnuts to go with your craft beer. Take a drive on U.S. Route 2 and you’ll pass through the Champlain Islands (or “the Islands”). The Champlain Islands offer a completely different feel than central Vermont. The land is flatter, mountains are in the distance, the lake is visible for much your drive, and fall arrives a bit later than in the mountain towns. It would be a lovely time of year to stay in a tourist cabin on Lake Champlain. I’m happy to report that there are more tourist cabins operating in Vermont!

The West Shore Cabins are operating tourist cabins located adjacent to Lake Champlain on U.S. Route 2 in North Hero, part of the area known as the Champlain Islands. What began as the West Shore Inn in 1927, became the West Shore Cabins in 1945. At that time it was run by the Donaldson family who saw how a motor court would be a good economic venture as automobile traffic increased in the mid-20th century.  Some cabins were relocated to this site and others were constructed on site. Today the family operated business offers five cabins for daily or weekly rentals from May – mid October.

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West Shore Inn postcard. Image via West Shore Cabins.

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The vintage sign between the lake and U.S. Route 2.

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West Shore Cabins sit on U.S. Route 2 with a clear west view to Lake Champlain and its sunsets.

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The cabins retain much of their historic integrity including siding, porches, windows, and fenestration.

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Novelty siding, exposed rafter tails, screened porch and a barbecue out front; Cabin 5 is adorable.

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Cabins 4 and 5.

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Cabin 1.

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The cabins are set back from the road, with no obstructions to the lake views.

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Ca. 1880 (with later alterations) residence associated with the owners of West Shore Cabins.

Happy end of summer! Let me know if you find more tourist cabins and/or stay in one!

Tourist Cabins: Injunjoe Court, West Danville, VT

After eight years of driving by these tourist cabins on Joe’s Pond in West Danville, VT, I finally stopped to snap a few photographs. I figured if I waited any longer, I’d be tempting fate. This collection of tourist cabins is known as “Injunjoe Court”. No, it’s certainly not a name that would be given today. However, it is reportedly named after a St. Francis Indian of the Canadian Coosuck tribe. This site was used for summer hunting grounds, and Old Joe was a scout and guide on the side of the Americans in the Revolutionary War. He protected the builders of the nearby Bailey-Hazen Road. (Source: Vermont Hsitoric Sites and Structures Survey, page 70 of this PDF.)

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You will see this sign on your right as you travel eastbound on US Route 2 through West Danville, VT.

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View from the Joe’s Pond side of the road.

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There are 15 cabins on the property, all slightly different and of varying sizes. Most have novelty siding and a small porch.

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Exposed rafter tails, old screen doors, lots of charm.

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The office sits up on the hill.

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View from the office and upper cabins.

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This one has an original window (2nd from left) and fieldstone chimney. Note the window flowerbox, too.

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A row of cabins.

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Spectacular views from all of the cabins.

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Even the cabins closest to the road offer privacy.

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An undated postcard. Note the signage. It appears that today’s sign is the same, except for the color and the headdress removed on the left side.

Scroll to Book III, page 70 of this PDF of the Danville Vermont Historic Sites & Structures Survey for a detailed history and architectural description.

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From the VHSSS, an undated postcard. The cabin at the road and the entrance gate are no longer extant.

Likely constructed in the earlier decades of the 20th century, the cabins and cottages appear to have changed very little since them. An old brochure (no date, but it is from a 2013 environmental review file) indicates that Injunjoe Court had cabins, cottages, and RV spaces. Guests could borrow canoes, rowboats, and paddleboats for free. Rates included housekeeping, cable tv, heating, refrigerator, microwave, and bathrooms. Some cottages had fully furnished kitchens. Click on the brochure link above to see an interior photo. The distinction between the cabins and cottages was that cabins were smaller (think tourist cabins, no kitchens) and cottages were larger with kitchens and could accommodate four people. At one point the owner was Beth Perreault.

Based on the lack of No/Vacancy signage and the website that is no longer up (injunjoecourt.net), I’d say that Injunjoe Court is not open in 2018. If you know anything about it, please share in the comments.

New Baby, New Perspectives: Accessibility in My City

If you are able-bodied and independent, you walk easily on most sidewalks and enter/exit stores without problems, other than the occasional surprise of a very heavy door or pushing/pulling when you should be doing the opposite. Cobblestones, bricks, steps, small doors – none of these bother you. Some stores might have small aisles, but other than it being cumbersome at times, it doesn’t slow you down too much. At least that is how I moved about my city – with ease.

Yet, over the past 4+ months, I have navigated the sidewalks and stores of Burlington, VT with a stroller. Suddenly, I gave thought to the condition of the sidewalks, the types of entrances, and the width of aisles. Frankly, the sidewalks of Burlington are horrendous if you are on wheels. Stores are a mixed bag of accessibility. I have plenty of appreciation for stores that are stroller friendly and plenty of empathy for anyone attempting to get around with a stroller or in a wheelchair.

Generally when you pushing a stroller, people are very kind and will hold open the doors for you. And you learn the turning radius and proper spatial distance needed for your stroller. You get better at avoiding sidewalk bumps because you don’t want to wake the sleeping baby, nor jostle her fragile head. You know which streets are best to take. And the list goes on.

(The building block above would be easy to make accessible.)

However, there are some limitations with a stroller, and I would imagine with a wheelchair. I spend a fair amount of time stroller walking. Depending on weather, I might pop in and out of stores to browse or run errands. While Christmas shopping, I realized that I could not take my baby into a few of my favorite shops because there were not accessible entrances (read: only steps, no ramps). Sometimes entrances are elsewhere in buildings, but if there is no sign, that does not help, as I cannot leave the stroller on the sidewalk to go in and inquire. Additionally, some stores have accessible entrances yet the aisles or displays are so close together that even my narrow stroller has a tough time navigating between everything.

(It’s hard to see in this photo, but my favorite building block has a few stores without accessible (or at least obviously found) entrances.)

I wondered about how many people face this challenge. Is the percentage of lost customers so small that it doesn’t affect the businesses? What if you’re in a wheelchair, what do you do?

Most businesses have modified their entrances to accommodate all customers. Unfortunately, this often replaces character defining features of historic entrances, or obscures them. The National Park Service Brief 11: Rehabilitating Historic Storefronts discusses the importance of entrances and their rehabilitation, but its only suggestions for access issues are as follows:

Alterations to a storefront called for by public safety, handicapped access, and fire codes can be difficult design problems in historic buildings. Negotiations can be undertaken with appropriate officials to ensure that all applicable codes are being met while maintaining the historic character of the original construction materials and features. If, for instance, doors opening inward must be changed, rather than replace them with new doors, it may be possible to reverse the hinges and stops so that they will swing outward.

(How would you make the above entrance accessible?)

It makes sense that this would be a case-by-case basis discussion; however, I think we need a collection of good examples. And a discussion. What are the challenges to improve entrance accessibility? Are small businesses at risk of losing business if they cannot improve accessibility? Does this affect you? As historic preservationists, how can we find the balance between character defining entrances and not limiting accessibility? What haven’t you considered in your environment until you had to consider it?

With Your Coffee

University of Vermont Alumni House, 61 Summit Street.

Happy weekend and happy Preservation Month! And, Happy Mother’s Day! I’ve rounded up recent links for your weekend reading.

Have a lovely weekend, and hopefully spring is on its way to you. Cheers!

With Your Coffee

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Dreaming of warmer days and spring trips like those to Quebec City. Seen here: Hotel du Parlement. 

Happy weekend, everyone! Happy April! It’s snowing in Burlington, and, no, that is not an April Fool’s joke. How I wish it were. However, the snow is prettier than the barren trees and patches of brown dirt that are usually here this time of year. I suppose snow is okay for another day. A few reading links for the weekend:

  • This 12 stall barn was remodeled into a home. How did they do it? Basically, gutting it. While pretty, the new residence does not retain any historic integrity. What do you think? I was hoping they’d keep some of the stalls for something! (A pantry? A closet? A powder room?) And the doors. Sigh.
  • Are you an alum of the UVM Historic Preservation Program? If you haven’t heard about the 40th Anniversary Celebration on October 13-15, 2017, be sure to check out uvmhpalum.wordpress.com for the latest updates. It’s the perfect excuse to come back to Burlington for a visit! Spread the word.
  • This time of year in Vermont makes me miss North Carolina. Spring is well settled in by now in the south. Vermont has another 3-4 weeks before the leaves start to sprout on the tree branches. I’d say spring comes to Burlington in early May.

I really need a new podcast. Any suggestions?

The Worthy Inn of Manchester, VT

Abandoned Vermont: Manchester Inn is one of the more popular posts in the series. The inn was the subject of debate when it closed and  then again when it was scheduled for demolition to make way for a new hotel. While there was much concern about the new hotel, the architecture fits in with the historic district setting. Have you seen it? What do you think? If you haven’t, take a look at website: Taconic.

The inn has had a few names. Here’s a quick list:

  • 1907: opens as the Orchard Park Hotel
  • 1919: bought by Julia and James Brown, renamed The Worthy Inn
  • 1945-1986: various owners, name remains The Worthy Inn
  • 1986: bought by Ann & Jay Degen, name changed the Village Country Inn
  • 2009: Inn goes into foreclosure

A reader, Gregory, kindly sent some postcard images that he thought fans of The Worthy Inn / The Village Country Inn would enjoy. Take a look!

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Real photo postcard. 

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Worthy Inn dining room, real photo postcard. 

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Worthy Inn lobby, real photo postcard. 

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Thank you, Gregory!