The route takes the right fork in the village and then bears left between Hubbard Hill and the Connecticut. About three miles north, near the village of North Charlestown, whose white church steeple peeps above the trees, the road forks at the stone watering trough.
Note. The left road straight ahead, shorter, beautiful and practicable, but steep and narrow in places, leads to the Ascutneyville bridge across the Connecticut to the West Bank Route (p 342). It follows the valley, with charming views of Ascutney Mountain, and then as the river swings to the west around Barber Mountain, the road continues to the east of Barber Mountain into the Sugar river valley, along the old King’s Highway, where the first settlers of Claremont built their log huts on the south side of Sugar River.
The righthand road is the main-traveled highway to Claremont. At the next fork, keep right and cross R.R. This broad valley was in former geologic times the valley of the Connecticut river.
11.0 CLAREMONT. Alt 580 ft. Pop (twp) 7529. Sullivan Co. Settled 1762. Mfg. mining machinery, diamond drills, bedspreads, paper, and shoes.
This is a manufacturing town in the midst of beautiful hills. Hemming in the town are Flat Rock, Twist Back, and Bible Hill, the latter with a small summer colony,while Green Mountain to the east is the dominating feature of the landscape. The growth and prosperity of the town in the last half century have been intimately connected with the development of industries dependent upon the waterpower of the- Sugar river, which falls some 200 feet within the town limits. This power is supplemented by the hydro-electric power of the Claremont Power Company, transmitted from its large plant near Cavendish, Vt.
The Sullivan Machinery Company manufactures mining machinery, more particularly coal cutters, rock drills, air compressors, and diamond drills. It employs over i000 hands and s products are sent all over the world. The Monadnock Mills specialize in cotton bedspreads. The central square is a vacant, unlovely area. Broad Street, quite correctly named, terminates in a small triangular common, on which are the Town Hall and Library. The High School was endowed by Paran Stevens, who made a fortune in the hotel business two generations ago.
Along about 1752 an adventurous trapper named Eastman from Killingworth, Conn., spent a winter along the Sugar river and its tributaries, where he found beaver and otter in great abundance. So rich was his harvest that he returned the following year and was never again seen, but years after his supposed skeleton was found near Mink Br90k. He had probably been killed by Indians who were jealous of his success.
The first settlement was made in 1762 along the south bank of Sugar River, near the Connecticut. The town was granted by Governor Benning Wentworth in 1764 to seventy proprietors, only two of whom became resident. It was named for Lord Clive’s estate in England, owing to Wentworth’s fondness for complimenting his noble friends. Up to 1769 the early settlers returned each winter to the southern towns.
The first citizens of the town were about equally divided between the Episcopal and Orthodox faith. The Episcopal Church, organized here in 1771, was the earliest in this region. In the Revolutionary days the Churchmen were generally loyal to the King and paid a heavy penalty for their Toryism. A letter of Colonel John Peters, a brother of the first Episcopal rector at Claremont, gives a little idea of the unkindly way in which they were treated. “They seized meand all the Church people for 200 miles up the river, and confined us in close gaols, after beating and drawing us through water and mud. Here we lay sometime and were to continue in prison until we abjured the king. Many died…. We were removed from the gaol and confined in private houses at our own expense…. Rev. Mr. Cossitt and Mr. Cole had more insults than any of the loyalists, because they had been servants of the Society, which, under pretense (as the rebels say) of propagating religion had propagated loyalty.”
A band of stalwart young “Sons of Liberty” was formed with the avowed purpose of exterminating all Tories,to capture them if possible, otherwise to shoot them. Between the Rich farm and Red Water Brook is the `Tory Hole,’ a secluded hollow surrounded by swamps and dense thickets in which in Revolutionary days the poor hunted Tories were wont to seek refuge. The Hole was not discovered by the patriots until 1780, when two Tories who had sought refuge there were chased across the river and to the summit of Ascutney Mountain, where they were captured and sent to Boston.
From the northeast corner of the square the route follows the trolley, past mills and machine shops, down a badly kept street which the factories have narrowed by encroachments. Crossing the Sugar river, the route follows the valley, crossing Red Water Brook to (14.0) West Claremont, locally known as the `west part.’ Here the waterpower is utilized by mills which specialize in tissue papers, importing the wood pulp from Canada. The paper for Butterick’s patterns is made here. The road passes under the R.R. bridge. This was built by the father of Whistler, the artist, his last job before going to Russia, and was considered a difficult engineering feat in those days. The span is 110 feet above the river. At Cupola Farm the road forks.
The righthand road along the east bank of the river to Cornish is sandy in spots, but practicable. The best road and pleasanter route is on the Vermont side. As we cross the iron bridge of three spans there is an extensive view up and down the river. To the south the large white house in the meadow on the slope above is Upland Court, the summer residence of George B. Upham, a Boston attorney. It is on his ancestral heath, as are two other Upham residences. The Uphams have been prominent hereabout for a century and a half.
19.0 CORNISH. Alt 380 ft. Pop (twp) 1005. Sullivan Co.
The Cornish colony had made this one of America’s famous summer localities long before it became the `Summer Capital’ during the administration of President Wilson. It is sometimes referred to as `Little New York’ because of its Metropolitan summer residents. On the hills of Cornish and Plainfield, the next town north, along the tortuous valley of Blow-me-down Brook, are the residences of those who make up the colony, thirty or so in number, among whom are names illustrious in art and literature. The great desideratum here is to have the beautiful cone of Ascutney in the view with a bit of the river in the foreground.
There is nothing of splurge, not even so much of fashion, as goes to make up the Dublin colony, perhaps not so much of intellect as went to make up the Chocorua colony of former days; but taste and intelligence of the highest order have gone into the planning of the estates. They vary from the simplest old farmhouse, slightly made over, to establishments costing hundreds of thousands, in the style of Italian villas or
stately English country seats. C. C. Beaman was first attracted hither by his father-in-law and partner, Wm. Maxwell Evarts, and bought up some 5000 acres. He in turn induced his friend Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the greatest sculptor of our time, to settle here. Charles A. Platt, the architect, was also an early comer, and his taste in architecture and landscape design is seen in many of the Cornish places.
Here, during the last two decades, in winter or summer or both, have resorted the sculptors Augustus and Louis Saint-Gaudens, Herbert Adams, James Fraser, Henry Hering, Robert Paine, Frances Grimes, Daniel French; the painters Stephen and Maxfield Parrish, Kenyon Cox, Henry B. Fuller, Lucia Fairchild Fuller, Thomas Dewing, John W. Alexander, George de Forest Brush, H. O. Walker, Henry Prellwitz, John Eliot, William Hyde; the writers Winston Churchill, Percy MacKaye, Louis Evan Shipman, Witter Bynner, William Vaughn Moody, Robert Herrick, Norman Hapgood, Herbert Croly, Langdon Mitchell; the musicians Arthur Whiting, Otto Roth, Mme. Louise Homer; and many other artists.
Cornish has played its part in history. During the period of ferment in 1778-79, when twenty-six New Hampshire towns in the Connecticut valley seceded from the New Hampshire government, Cornish was the place of meeting of the committees and conventions. Here in 1779 Colonel Chase assembled the militia to withstand the armed forces of New Hampshire.
Salmon P. Chase, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, was born in a house still standing about one mile south of the old Cornish church, which in turn is about half a mile south of the Windsor Bridge.
Close to the old covered bridge from Windsor is the Hillside Creamery, a model cooperative farmers’ enterprise. From the bridge the road northward was reconstructed by special enactment of the New Hampshire legislature and re-named, in honor of the President, Wilson Road. On the right is the Tea Tray, a little white house with romantic green blinds and a swinging sign, obviously painted by Maxfield Parrish. The second house on the left is the Turnpike Inn, owned, like most property around here, by the Beaman estate. Note. To the right a steep-incline road climbing the wooded bluff leads to the estate of Miss Augusta Slade. Perched hundreds of feet above and overlooking the valley, it is said to have involved an investment of $300,000. The house, designed by Platt, is filled with Italian furniture and antiquities. The rose garden with old Italian marbles has inspired one of Mildred Howells’ most beautiful short poems.
Note. The next road climbing the hill to the eastward through the pines and birches leads to the homes of many of the colony. First on the left, behind a high pine hedge, is. the place of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, known as Aspet, named from the little town in France where his forefathers lived. It was back in the early ’80’s that Saint-Gaudens bought this place for a song from Mr. Beaman. The stately old brick tavern, dating from about 1800, which in early days had been known as `Huggins’ Folly,’ was harmoniously remodeled by the gifted architect George Babb. Since the death of Saint-Gaudens in 1907, Mrs. Saint-Gaudens has transformed the two studios into a permanent museum of the great sculptor’s works, which gives a broad and faithful suggestion of his accomplishment. Here in bronze and plaster she has had reproduced the greatest of his things, the originals of which are scattered throughout Europe and America. Visitors are welcome in the summer time.
The Studio of the Pergola, originally the stable of the old hostelry, was the sculptor’s own work room and remains much as he left it. On the outer wall facing the Pergola is a portion of the Panathenaic frieze, full size, on which Saint-Gaudens and his painter friends delighted to experimentally try out their theories as to its original coloring. The Studio of the Caryatids was for the use of his assistants, and now contains copies in bronze or plaster of his larger sculptures, some scale models, and others full size.
Under great whispering pines on the brink of a deep glen, and looking out upon Ascutney which he loved so well, is `The Temple,’ a memorial enclosing the funeral urn erected by Mrs. Saint-Gaudens to her husband. It stands on the spot where was celebrated in 1905 the now famous Masque, imagined and executed by his Cornish neighbors, and offered to Augusta and Augustus Saint-Gaudens on the twentieth anniversary of their coming to Cornish.
For this Masque, written by Louis Evan Shipman, a prologue, by Percy MacKaye, was recited by Miss Frances Grimes, the sculptress, who, clad in the rainbow tints of Iris, emerged from the pines and spoke these lines:
“Fresh from the courts of dewy-colored eve Jove summons me before you.
Whether I pause Midway my quivering arc, that spans the roar And tumbling prisms of sheer Niagara, Or by the ferny banks of Blow-me-down Trellis my hair with braided fleur-de-lis, Still I am Iris But whence, emerging from the curtained wood Of Aspet, on this longest summer eve, While yet the veerie rings his vesper chimes, I have made journey thither, hearken!”
Under a Renaissance canopy of warm-toned Vermont marble, designed by his old friend Mr. Kendall, of McKim, Mead & White, is a Roman sacrificial altar, a reproduction of the one modeled by his studio assistant, Henry Hering, for the ceremonial finale of the above-mentioned “Masque of Ours,” the “Masque of the Golden Bowl.”
Just above, on the left is Barberry House, the home of Homer Saint-Gaudens, editor of his father’s “Reminiscences,” and stage director for Maude Adams. Here his friend Witter Bynner, the poet, wrote “The New World” and other poems. Continuing north, where the road turns to the right, a private way leads to the house of Herbert Croly, editor of “The New Republic,” and author of “The Promise of American Life.” Further on, to the east, is the house of Mrs. Louis Saint-Gaudens, no mean sculptor herself. The house, once an old Shaker meeting house, removed from Lebanon, N.H., looks straight down the road from an elevation. A quarter mile to the south is the house of Dr. Albert P. Fitch, President of the Andover Theological School, Cambridge, and author of “The Hungry Boy.” A tortuous climb of some hundreds of feet brings one to the residence of Miss Elizabeth Slade.
Continuing on the Wilson Road, just beyond the old stone bridge to the left is the modest home of Mrs. C. C. Beaman, who owns most of the land in this vicinity. Here on the right is Blow-me-down Mill, an old grist mill which still performs its useful functions, named from the brook which turns its wheel. The original name was Blomidon and Mr. Beaman gave this name to his estate, but later the native pronunciation of Blow-me-down was adopted and the Beaman place is now called Blow-me-down Farm. The road skirts the mill pond with sharp curves, and forks just beyond the old Plainfield burying ground.
Note. The road to the right leads to Plainfield Plain past the estates and the homes of many of the Cornish-Plainfield colony. The first on the right is that of William Hyde, the painter, formerly the home of Thomas Dewing, also a painter. The next on the right leads to the home of George Rublee, instigator and member of the U.S. Trade Commission. The next on the left is the home of Charles A. Platt, with beautiful Italian gardens just glimpsed from the road. Beyond the Platt estate on the left are the places of Henry O. Walker, the painter, wellknown for his mural decorations in the Congressional Library; and the residence of Admiral Folger. On the right, just opposite Mr. Platt’s gateway, a private entrance between stone pillars leads to High Court, commanding a most roman-tic view of Ascutney and the river gorge. Built twenty-five years ago and formerly known as the ` Lazarus place,’ it was for some years occupied by Norman Hapgood, and is now owned by Conger A. Goodyear of Buffalo.
On the left, just beyond Admiral Folger’s, and part of his estate, is the little Snuff Box, for a while the leased home of
Percy MacKaye, and later of Langdon Mitchell, dramatist. Just beyond, at what is known as the Four Corners, or Wilder’s Corner, the turn to the left leads to the homes of Kenyon Cox and Winston Churchill, and to the right, uphill, to the places of Stephen Parrish, Albion Lang, and Percy MacKaye.
From the fork by the graveyard the Wilson Road, straight on, passes first on the right a house which bears on its portal the date 1794. This was originally the old Chase homestead, and now belongs to William A ..Beaman, grandson of William M. Evarts, and said to be his living image. He raises pigs and names them after fellow members of the last two legislatures whom he didn’t admire.
The road from here on, which once ran sociably past the front steps of the old farmhouses, has been altered from its ancient course out of deference to the more retiring nature of the summer colonists. An avenue of pine trees planted about twenty years ago marks the innovation. To the left is the home of the Misses Arnold of New York, and next beyond, of Dr. Arthur H. Nichols of Boston, whose daughter, Rose Standish Nichols, has won reputation as a landscape gardener and as the author of a book on gardens.
Half a mile beyond, two square stone gate pillars mark the entrance to the erstwhile `Summer White House.’ President Wilson during the first three years of his administration leased the residence of Winston Churchill, the novelist. No view of the house can be obtained from this road, but by turning left a mile south of this point and following the river road one may catch a glimpse of the house.
It was in 1898 that Winston Churchill purchased a farm in Cornish and here built Harlakenden House, named for his wife, Mabel Harlakenden Hall of St. Louis. It is a generous brick mansion designed by Platt in the southern Colonial style and built around three sides of a court. From the study windows through the pine branches is seen the Connecticut flowing placidly below. To the west rise the swelling green slopes of the Vermont hills, and southward, Ascutney looms up grandly. The changing moods and blue shadows of the mountain permeate Mr. Churchill’s writings, and he has found literary values in its dominating tone,”Blue-purple, the color of the bloom on a Concord grape.” In 1903 and 1905, in the unregenerate days of corporation control, Mr. Churchill represented Cornish in the State legislature, and the political insight he gained is reflected in “Coniston,” published in 1906. It was “Coniston” that brought him the Progressive nomination for Governor as candidate of the Lincoln Club.
The theme of “Coniston” is as broad as American life of the middle nineteenth century, but the scenes are laid in the region round about here. “Coniston” is said to be Croydon, and the whole locale still appears in the Green, the store with its horse block, and the tannery shed. “Tumble-down Brook” is probably Blow-me-down, which flows not into “Coniston Water,” but into the Connecticut; and “Coniston Water” is perhaps the Sugar river, along which “Mr. Worthington” wandered looking for suitable waterpower. “Brampton” represents Newport, and one of the mills there today, in honor of the book, is called “Brampton Mills.” “Clovelly” is Cornish, and “Harwich” is Claremont. The characters, too, are supposed to be drawn from life. “Jethro Bass” is identified with the old State boss, Ruel Durkee. From his remote hamlet of Croydon, his sway extended over the whole State. “Bije Bixby,” his chief lieutenant, is supposed to be ‘Vene’ Bryant (christened S. W. Bryant), who may still be seen contentedly shelling beans any sunny day on the porch of his little brick wool-house at Cornish Flat.
A mile beyond, where the Plainfield road turns to the right, Winston Churchill has made himself a temporary habitation from an oldtime farmhouse formerly the roadside tavern. To gain a little dooryard he has diverted the old highway and erected a high wooden fence encroaching upon the new road, which he hopes may eventually be made beautiful by vines.
Note. The Plainfield road turns off at right angles and runs directly east. To the left in a pasture upland, shaded by gigantic oaks, with stone terraces in front, is the home of Maxfield Parrish, the artist.
To the right, a branching road crosses Blow-me-down Brook at the site of a sawmill, on the right of which are the house and studio of Kenyon Cox, the painter. The same road then continues east past Wilder’s Corner, before mentioned, up the hill, passing on the right, high up on the hillside, the house and studio of Stephen Parrish, the etcher and landscape painter, father of Maxfield Parrish, and thus continues northeast past the entrance to the large and well equipped estate of Albion Lang, beyond which it runs north to the entrance to Hilltop, the home of Percy MacKaye, poet and dramatist, the red roofs of which may be seen nestled below the top of the pasture hill. Here Mr. MacKaye wrote ” Sanctuary” and planned his “Masque of Saint Louis,” which, produced in May, 1914, with 7500 citizens of St. Louis as performers, was witnessed by half a million spectators in its four performances, initiating a permanent movement for civic progress through pageantry.
Continuing on the Plainfield road, just before reaching the village, on the left, is the Italian villa of the painter Henry B. Fuller, with a swimming-pool in the courtyard.
The little village of PLAINFIELD (4.0) is rather flat and uninteresting, though the hills about it are beautiful. An old Colonial house with a charming garden on the east side of the main street is the residence of Mrs. Davidge, now Mrs. Taylor, a daughter of Bishop Potter. North of the village is Prospect Hill, on the eastern slope of which, approached by a quiet lane, is the residence of Herbert Adams, one of America’s leading sculptors. The view from here is particularly lovely, framed by two huge maples. Behind the house there is a formal garden, and adjoining, another beautiful garden, owned by William Howard Hart, a landscape painter. A quarter of a mile beyond this point, at the very end of the lane, is the new home where in the future Ernest Harold Baynes will entertain his “Wild Bird Guests.” In his recent fascinating book with that title Mr. Baynes tells intimately, with all the charm of his winning personality, the secrets of his success with the birds. Just beyond Herbert Adams’ house, on the left, is Brook Place, the home of Louis Evan Shipman, the dramatist. Mrs. Shipman is a landscape architect of growing reputation. The road running directly east from Plainfield leads to Meriden. A mile from the village a steep grassy road climbs the hill to the north of the house, in a natural setting on the hilltop, of Everett Shinn, the illustrator.
The road continues on along the valley of Blow-me-down Brook to MERMEN (12.0), a secluded little town on a green hilltop almost under the shadow of Croydon Mountain. Here Kimball Union Academy has for a century been turning out worthy citizens from the grist the old New England stock brought to its mill. In the last five years, however, Meriden has become wellknown as the `Bird Village.’
It was Ernest Harold Baynes who put it on the map. Baynes was born in India and came very near being an Englishman. He is just one bundle of verve and enthusiasm, and when he goes out to protect the birds just ordinary humans have got to watch out. He settled down in Meriden to study the wild (fenced in) animals in Corbin Park, and it was not long before he was driving a team of buffalo in harness, had a timber wolf as a traveling companion, and kept a wild boar (a German one, too) in the parlor. Then he turned his hand to the citizens of the village who had lived on these hills for two centuries wholly unobservant of birds except when they went gunning. It took him less than a year to tame them so that he had them tramping out in hard winter weather to feed some tomtit in a remote corner of their pasture. In five years the birds of Meriden have become so pauperized that not one of them would now think of working for a living. They expect to be bathed and fed by the citizens. Free tenements, with all modern improvements have been provided for them. Flat houses of four and five stories seem to be popular. One sees them perched on top of poles in every front yard of the village. In Meriden the birds even have a thirty-acre park of their own, which has a name long enough to scare them away if they could read it. It is called `The Helen Woodruff Smith Bird Sanctuary.’ In the park are most luxurious bath tubs such as not even a sybaritic millionaire would venture to require. One of them, Baynes boasts, in his modest way, is a monolith weighing five tons, and another of bronze was especially sculptured by Mrs. Louis Saint-Gaudens in commemoration of the bird masque “Sanctuary,” first performed here in 1913. It was written by Percy MacKaye, and the cast included Miss Eleanor Wilson and Miss Margaret Wilson, Juliet Barrett Rublee, Joseph Lindon Smith, Witter Bynner, and MacKaye and Baynes themselves.
East of Meriden is Croydon Mountain. Austin Corbin, of Long Island Railway fame, bought all the land round about,some 25,000 acres,and in 1899 put a meshed and barbed wire fence nine feet high around it, installed keepers’ lodges connected by telephone, and stocked the park with American bison, moose, elk, Virginia deer, and German wild boar from the Black Forest. The herd of buffalo here was at one time the largest in the country and inspired Ernest Harold Baynes to found the American Bison Society, which during the past ten years has saved the American buffalo from extinction. The Corbin herd has of late been depleted by sale and gift, and the need of revenue has resulted in the cutting off of much of the timber. The park is at present leased to an association of wealthy men who have an ambition to be big game hunters, and membership entitles them to kill a specified number of animals each year.
The road from Plainfield leads northward over the hills direct to the Lebanon boundary line, but the best road follows the course of the river, avoiding the hills. It crosses Mascoma River to West Lebanon (21.5). This village lies directly opposite White River, the longest affluent of the Connecticut, at the mouth of which is White River Junction (p 345).
From Cornish bridge the direct route leads up the east bank beside the Connecticut through Plainfield township to WEST LEBANON (34.0; p 360). At White River Junction, across the river, connections can be made with the West Bank Route for St. Johnsbury and Colebrook, Route 44 for Woodstock, Rutland, and Lake George, and Route 45 for Montpelier via the Williamstown Gulf.