A couple weeks ago, I submitted two photos to The Vermont Journal and The Shopper for “Remember when …” One was a stone house and the other a log cabin once located on Mount Ascutney. Readers were encouraged to contact me with what they knew. “Remember when…” is a great asset for those looking for information.
Mary Jane Wentworth of the West Windsor Historical Society and Barbara Rhoad of the Windsor Historical Society provided information for this article.
Barbara Rhoad mailed me a 2009 copy of the Mount Ascutney Guide, published by the Ascutney Trails Association. Mary Jane Wentworth emailed me a 1964 newspaper clipping written by Freda Atwood. Then Mary Jane emailed four additional pages of history written by Marjorie Hooker.
Below is what I learned.
The stone house
In August of 1824, General Lafayette came to the America to tour our 24 states. Lafayette was scheduled to visit Vermont in 1825. Windsor residents went all out to welcome him.
Some thought a road should be built to the summit of Mount Ascutney so Lafayette could behold our Connecticut River valley view. A group of men went to work building a road. As it turned out Lafayette arrived a day later than scheduled and didn’t have time to ascend the mountain. The road was probably not completed but it can be said that Mount Ascutney was the first mountain in this country to have a proper hiking trail.
It was 1857 when D.C. Lindley surveyed a road on the northeast side of the mountain from the base to the summit, which was built the next year. Building the stone house soon commenced. An August 7, 1858, Vermont Journal newspaper article notified in part:
“All citizens who feel an interest in the completion of the Stone House now building on the top of Ascutney for the free use of all visitors are requested to meet at Allen Dudley’s at the foot of the mountain….
“…Every man is expected to ARM himself with an axe, shovel or hoe. Signed: Luther C. Smith, J.H. Simonds, A.C. Hatch Committee. August 7, 1858”
On September 4, 1858 with 300 people in attendance the stone house was dedicated with the Windsor Cornet Band providing music. The road was named Lindley Road and the house was christened the “Ascutney Summit House.” Others called it the “Tip Top House.” The house was twenty by fourteen feet with a stone fireplace. The stone for the house was cut on the mountain.
The house was promoted as a tourist destination as a short distance from Windsor. Overnight guests were welcome and frequent. As time went by the house and road were neglected but resurrection would come.
In 1883 a major forest fire destroyed parts of the trail, scarred the mountain and left behind a terrible mess. In 1898 another trail was established from Brownsville. No mention is made of the stone house.
In 1903 the old road was resurveyed and the stone house rebuilt. A metal roof was added and a woodstove installed. On September 5, 1904 the stone house was rededicated with several hundred people in attendance.
The log cabin
In 1908 shortly after the formation of the Ascutney Mountain Association a trail was cut on the south side of the mountain and a log cabin built on the southern summit or Weathersfield Peak. In this venture members of the AMA assisted in building the cabin. The cabin was very popular with overnight guests but fell into disrepair and was gone by 1930.
According to William “Bud” Gibson the two men on the roof of the stone house are his father, Clinton Gibson and Charlie Gibson of Brownsville.
On June 1, 1980, John Arrison, as Justice of the Peace, married Terry Sprague and Cheryl Marro of Chester on Ascutney’s West Peak. After the wedding John strapped on his hang glider. As he stood on the edge of the precipice waiting for the proper winds, two people supported his wing tips. I stood on the edge and looked down. It was probably 25’ to 30’ to the treetops.
When John leapt off the cliff he fell some distance before becoming airborne. I remember thinking he wasn’t going to make it. As he gained altitude he circled high like an eagle over those in the wedding party. John landed in Brownsville.
The Chester Historical Society is asking for donations of antiques for Chester’s Annual Craft Fair in mid-September. We’ll accept antiques of all sorts and do well with them, after all antiques are my business. Please help us out with this our best fundraiser. We can provide you with a donation slip for your taxes. You can contact me using the info next to my photo to arrange pick up.