Local History by Ron Patch: Eat here and get gas

Here’s an interesting photo. It’s the brick house on Route 103 south of Chester that sits close to the road. The photo would date to the 1940s. The house probably dates to the 1820s.

When I was a boy, my older sister Norma lived in Bellows Falls. Most every Sunday my family went to Norma’s for dinner. We drove by this property many times. I bought this place about 1978.

Harry Damon's place circa 1940s. Photo provided
Harry Damon’s place circa 1940s. Photo provided

  The photo

In the left foreground can be seen two gas pumps. Both pumps have glass globes on top advertising Tydol gas. There’s an iron pole between the pumps that displays the Tydol sign.

Next is a small building. You can see a Coca-Cola sign on the end. This little building was a hot dog stand. A very simple fare was offered to tourists. You could eat here and get gas.

Next is the addition of the house. When I owned the property, I used it for storing firewood. Boy was that house cold. It took a lot of wood to maintain bearable, might have been warmer to sleep in the refrigerator.

In the photo a large chimney from a fireplace can be seen on the Chester end. On the Bellows Falls end on the left is a narrow chimney that was used as the summer kitchen. As you walk in from the porch, on the left there is a large fireplace with a beehive oven. The large chimney for this fireplace had been removed to below the roofline by the time I bought the property. I had this chimney rebuilt as you see it today.

Looking beyond the house on the left is a barn with gable end facing the road. I don’t remember this barn. There is a small barn that sits back from the road.

Harry Damon

When I was a boy, the property was owned and farmed by Harry Damon. I remember Harry having a vegetable stand here when I was a boy. He grew vegetables in gardens behind the house. I remember my folks stopping to buy vegetables.

It was in the early 1960s, maybe 1962 or 1963, when Route 103 was straightened and widened between Bellows Falls and Chester. The old road wound over hill and dale through Upper Bartonsville down over the hill by Marvie Campbell’s in Lower Bartonsville.

I bought the property from Clinton Damon Osterhout. Clinton was a close relative of Harry. Clinton told me a rather sad story about Harry. Harry had a brother in Claremont. When the state widened the road in front of the brick house, the state told Harry they wouldn’t disturb much of his property.

That last winter Harry went to stay with his brother in Claremont feeling pretty good about his property. When Harry returned home in the spring, he found the superhighway closer to his house and much of his farmland had been bulldozed over. I seem to remember Clinton telling me the barn north of the house was destroyed at this time.

Harry was getting on in years. He felt his life was over. Harry ended his misery by hanging himself on the property.

The house sat empty for a number of years. I think it was Bob Farnsworth of Springfield who had the auction after Harry died.  This would have been about 1968. I went to the auction with little money to spend. I bought one of the Tydol globes for three dollars.

In the early 1970s Bill Lindsay ran an antiques shop here. Bill had a large potbelly stove in the great room. Of course, the fire went out after Bill left for the day. It was bitter cold when Bill opened his shop the next morning.

Many will remember Neil “Red” Mackenzie. Neil ran a of heavy equipment business in Chester. I had Neil come down to look at the possibility of moving the brick house away from the road to the back of the property. He said he could move it for $10,000 and I could remain in the house during the process – using steel I-beams through the length and width under the floor joists. Where the I-beams intersected, they would be welded together. The ends of the I-beams would extend out from the house a few feet. Hydraulic jacks under the ends regulated by a single compressor would lift the house in unity off its foundation. Weld wheels on the ends of the I-beams, build a track, and roll it back to a new foundation.

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