BENJAMIN MOORE BELCHER
Transcript of a taped interview.
Narrator: Benjamin M. Belcher,
Tape: # 36 A&B,
Date: October 9, 1987.
Place of interview: Mr. Belcher’s home. Town Hill Farm. in Lakeville, CT.
Interviewer: Jodie Stone.
Mr. Belcher is a long-time resident of Lakeville. He speaks of his family which has lived in the area for many years. He has been a benefactor. who has worked with and supported the efforts of the Salisbury Association to improve and develope the facUities of the town. Many things have become a reality with his help and encouragement, but two examples are the Town Grove, the housing project at Cobble Rd and Rte 41. His one interest, as can be read in the interview, has been the betterment of the Town of Salisbury.
Property of the Oral History Project.
Salisbury Association at ScoVille Memorial Library.
Salisbury, CT 06068.
B. M. Belcher
Interview by Jodie Stone
J. S. This is Jodie Stone on the 9th of October 1987, interviewing B. M. Belcher at his home, called Town Hill Farm on Town Hill Road in Lakeville. Mr. Belcher was born on the 30th of June 1912. Ben, were you born here in Lakeville?
B.B. No, I was born in Montclair, New Jersey, where my father was working, in New York and New Jersey. We had a home there, but very soon came up here to Lakeville where we started as a summer family, but before long my family made t heir principal home here. Their home, which is now a part of the Hotchkiss School was built in, I believe, around 1913 or 1914, the early part of the first world war. And there, my father and mother lived until they died. And we spent our childhood, certainly in the summers here, except when we were away at school.
J.S. Who’s “we”, did you have lots of brothers and sisters?
B.B. I had a sister, just the two of us. And, so we have always considered Lakeville to be our home.
J.S. Who was your sister, what was her name?
B.B. Well, her first husband was Virginia, uh, ha ha, get this right now, she married a Wack, Damon Wack, whose father lived in the white house down the road, remember he was an artist and what not and then she married Larry Campbell. Remember Larry, he was a teacher at Hotchkiss, and then finally, she married John Toulmin, who was a banker in Boston.
J.S. She was Virginia Belcher.
B.B. Virginia: that’s right. It goes back quite a ways now to the Belcher family originally came, my group of Belchers, came from Ancram, New York. There are a great many Belchers in this world, and particularly in New England, and at one time there was another family of Belchers here in Salisbury who to my knowledge bore no relationship to the group in Ancram. My grandfather Belcher was raised in Ancram where his parents had a farm, and he taught school there, after he got out of the high school, or whatever it was he went to in that area. And then he went into the ministry, the Methodist Seminary over in Kingston, New York and he graduated from that seminary and then went into the active ministry, and his first church was in Hillsdale and his second church was over in Falls Village, and that’s how they got over into this particular area.” When he was in Falls Village, and I think he must have been there for four ~ or five years, I don’t have the exact—they moved him around, and still do, you know, usually about four years. He brought some of his family over this way. His youngest sister married a Hornbeck, Isaac Hornbeck from Falls Village. She was our Aunt Annie. And then another brother, who was buried in Lime Rock, was John, who I’m told was the station agent, at the station in Lime Rock, when they used to have a milk plant down there, and my Aunt Jane, who also came over here after she got out of college, she came over to teach in the Taconic School for Girls, and as you know that went up the flue back in, I think, around 1913. And her brothers got together, they were then working, making a decent living, and they bought the old Inn for her, and she ran it as the Wake Robin Inn. She started it and ran it as the Wake Robin Inn for, uh, until she died, actually, and my grandmother Belcher lived with her. After she died, I was one of the executors, we sold the Inn and I was absolutely shocked to see the amount that was paid for the place, here just a few weeks ago. But, uh it was a good place, in those days they were summer inns, people came and stayed for two or three weeks or a month, or whatever, which was typical of the whole area – it was quite a summer resort, something else we can talk about. But, uh, that’s how the Belchers got over here.
And then when my father and mother decided that they were going to make a permanent home here, in the Lakeville house that is part of the Hotchkiss School.
J.S. Did you tell me that you were a baby in the house at Hotchkiss?
B.B. What I think I told you was that I was told that I spent my first summer in the old Cleveland cottage, that was undoubtedly due to Aunt Jane being here and the house for rent, and one thing and another, the way it worked. We had very few relatives, amazingly around here, except our own family, and because they either died or moved away or what have you.
And some of them didn’t have any children. The Hornbecks didn’t have any children. They were interesting.
J.S. Well you’ve got one child living here.
B.B. Yes, we have Sara O’Connor, who’s the librarian in Salisbury, and lives right across the street.
Well anyway; that’s how the Belchers got over here, they came over from Ancram. I think originally, I’ve been told, and I’ve never been able to check this out, my grandfather Belcher was supposedly born in Ore Hill in 1850, but, in any basis, what they were doing was coming where they all had a farm, they had farms over in Ancram, and they came over here to work in the iron industry in the winter time. That’s how I think they really originally got across the mountain as it were. But, that is a quick run down on how the Belchers got here.
There are likely to be a continuing number of them, because we’ve got five children and a whole bunch of grandchildren. They all love to come back to the farm, fortunately and we’ll undoubtedly be seeing more of them as time goes on. Now, let’s see -I don’t really think we have to get further into the…..
J.S. No, I think we’d like to know about your father.
B.B. My father worked in the paint business. My maternal grandfather had started a company called Benjamin Moore & Company and it grew and my father went to work for him, met his daughter and married her. And that’s how they arrived here together. And he continued to work in that company till he died.
J.S Did he have something to do with the town grove?
B.B. No, he didn’t. I think that our entry into the town grove was largely – I was involved, I’ll say, and my mother was interested and involved. We felt quite strongly, and still do, that this is a remarkable town. I consider Salisbury to be an unusual and remarkable place and I think it has been very good for the Belchers, and over the years, in fact, and I think that both my mother and I felt that we ought to make some attempt to do something to issue or give our thanks to the town. So, I talked one day with Bill Barnett who was a man I had great admiration for, and still do, and in talking with him, I suggested to him that maybe there ought to be something around this town that needed being done and that we could provide some help in connection with getting it going. And what did he have in mind, and he immediately, almost immediately came up with the suggestion that the town should try to obtain ownership of the grove, which was owned by Cantyne(?) family.
J.S. When was this? That you and your mother …..
B.B. Oh, this was about, I could look it up, it must be thirty years ago now.
J.S. Because we moved here in 49, and it seems to me that grove was always there.
B.B. Before the town ever obtained ownership of the grove it was owned by Francis Cantyne, the Cantyne family, and it was run by a gentleman whose name escapes me – Timmins, his name was Timmins, and he had boats for rent and swimming facilities and whatnot but it was distinctly not owned by the town, and Bill’s idea, Barnett’s idea was that the town would benefit tremendously from having it’s own facilities. At any rate, we got together, I think Bill deserves credit for contacting the Cantynes and got them to agree to sell the grove, the then grove, or the part of the grove we wanted at that time to the town at a, what I always considered to be a, very moderate price considering, even in those days, the cost of lake frontage. We went ahead, after we did get the purchase worked out. My family contributed a substantial amount and the town put in some money. We got myoid buddy Nort Miner out of the hills over in the east side of town, and he laid out the grove. He designed the buildings. At first it was just the little store building that’s down by the water and also he designed the places where you lay the beach areas. And the shorefront and whatnot. And incidentally, he did this and subsequent work at the grove for nothing. It was always his participation in and gift to that phase of the town activities. I’m not at all sure whether Nort has ever been given the credit which he deserves for all the things he’s done in connection with this town. He’s one of my oldest buddies around here, so I’m quite enthusiastic about the things which he has done. But, the grove was immediately used and got going, then we decided that we needed some kind of a building where people could have dances or card games or luncheons, or whatever, and so then we went ahead made possible financially to put in the activities building, which is up on the hill. Then subsequent to that, the Cantynes decided that the piece of land which they had retained, which has about, I’m guessing now, about 400 to 500 feet of shorefront and is separated from the active part of the grove by a fence should be obtained, if that was possible, and the Cantynes again made that possible, and we bought that additional land which we are holding, I use the word “we”, I really shouldn’t, cause I finally got off the grove committee. But, it’s being held, let’s put it that way, for future expansion, and it won’t be long before that is coming along. It’s really, I think we would open up that part of the grove now if it wasn’t for economics and that is something that is going to have to be faced, because we’re awful lucky in this town, you know, our tax rates are pretty low still, and at some point, if they want, if the people are coming into town and the people that are already in town want expanded facilities, why they are going to have to recognize that they’re going to have to have more lifeguards and more everything is needed to accommodate, uh. Incidentally, I don’t know if you are aware, Jodie, that down on Long Pond, remember the old Cedars?
J.S. Oh, I do, I hear those microphones today, calling people!
B.B. And the bells go at night. That’s right. You know that the town now owns that property and very little has been done with it, and the thought has been, whether a new administration, if we’re going to have one, will have different ideas, the thought has been that that should be kept in decent shape and reserved for future use, as the town grows. There are some other thoughts, one of which is not bad, which is to take part of thJlst property, there are around 28 acres down there, take part of the property which is to the ~st up the hill and make that available for some special type of housing where young people can get in and rent land, you’ve heard about these possibilities, and build a house themselves under certain restrictions. That’s one possibility. The other possibility is that if we can ever figure out a way to scoop out a lot of the mud in long pond, to put in good bathing facilities down there, and I’m sure that if we need it badly enough, we’ll be able to figure out a way to do it, in the near future. But that’ll be another generation probably.
J.S. Is Long Pond, eutrophication, is that the word?
B. B. Yes, that’s right. It’s not as bad as surprisingly, I would venture, that it’s really not in as bad a shape as our lake, the big lake. From the eutrophication standpoint. That’s because Long Pond has what they call a good flushing rate, there’s a big stream that comes into it, and when you get a big storm the water comes down Sucker Brook at a great rate and flows into the pond and flushes it out rather quickly. We think generally that it’s in better shape than it has been, that It’s full of mud and really it would be wonderful if we could somehow or other get that dredged out. That mud in Long Pond is caused by the fact that the dam, you know there’s a dam at the foot of the pond. That dam has been filled up by years and years of flushing mud down from Hotchkiss and from all the other areas. And we have to figure some way of digging out all that mud and really flushing the lake completely, take a lot of that unattractive aspect out of the pond. But it certainly should be and will be tried I think by another twenty years be necessary to do something like that.
J.S. You know, you and I were talking briefly the last time I was here about your feelings about how the town has changed and that it’s still a very, very fine place to live.
B.B. Oh yes, Jodie, I was thinking about this just yesterday. The town has changed, and yet in many ways is hasn’t changed to me. You know that most of our new friends who are moving into town will not believe, or haven’t ever heard, really that Lakeville used to be the business village and Salisbury was where one lived in style. Now Salisbury is the business village and Lakeville is a pretty nice little place to live on its own, and that’s only been within twenty years maybe, twenty-five years at the most, that change has taken place. Maybe that will reverse itself one of these days. Of course, as you and I have talked about there, what’s our population, I think permanent population , is about 4200, is it. And it used to what, 7000 when the mines were going. Lime Rock, I think, and I may get in trouble with this statement, Lime Rock I think has fallen on hard times. We used to call it the deserted village. I can remember, I don’t think you can, when the iron industry, all the big smelters and what not were down there along the brook, they ran down almost a mile down that brook, and they all burned in subsequent years, but that’s where they built the car wheels for the railroads and the engine brakes for the railroads. It wasn’t until the ore gave out, in Ore Hill that those forges, they had the fires, and the whole thing just closed up. Then for years they called it the deserted village because there were some awfully nice little houses and gradually, they had a nice little movie house over there, and I can show you where that is sometime. It later became a nice little restaurant, sort of opposite the big building on the right, that was an Inn in years gone by. It was a lovely place to visit, quiet.. ..
J.S. Lime Rock Lodge
B. B. Lime Rock Lodge, of course. Remember the nice restaurant they had along the brook?
J.S. Do I, um.
B.B. There’s so many nice things down there, you know. But, uh, I’m afraid that the Track has permanently hurt the little village, and I don’t see any opportunity to turn the situation around . You and I both know friends who live down there and they’re all very active in trying to get something done but it’s tough going.
J.S. You can’t bulldoze it away, I’m afraid.
B.B. No. We can even hear the noise when the wind is from the East here, and you can’t bulldoze it away. And the investments are pretty big in that track area down there. But that was a great little place in the old days. It is a big change, of course, but still we’re so lucky, my goodness, I’ve have not yet seen, the Salisbury Association has a lot of new maps that they just produced and Mary Alice White is primarily responsible for a lot of this work that the Land Trust Committee has been doing and it would be interesting to look at those maps and charts and see just how much of our land is still in forest and woods, how much of it is left in farms, about which we have a pretty good record and how much is left in villages, as it were. I don’t think the changes would be much from way back, really. Now whether this influx of new homes is going to continue, I doubt. I doubt. We have, in our own business, Jody, we’ve seen some rather dramatic changes. For example, we had tremendous growth in Texas, and all along the so-called sunbelt from Florida right on across, but Texas, Louisiana and a few of those states, our business is off about 16 to 17 percent this last year, and a little more than that the year before. It’s all due to the fact that new construction is just stopped, and they’ve really got some problems. Of course, people are coming back to good old Lakeville from Texas, that went down there, you know, to work and get jobs. So I don’t know, I think that this, that we will see the end of this tremendous development in a fairly short period of time. Then what? Maybe we’re going to have some problems liquidating these newly built great big homes that have been ….. That’s another interesting aspect, you know the …. when I was a young kid around here some of the great, wonderful old fashioned huge stone homes, you know that were built up in Taconic for example, that was over – that period we’d gone through, and it wasn’t too many years after that that we started getting into a depression and that phase was done, and it’s taken, what, 1938 – 36 till now to get the reversal, and another big influx of homes, and so forth, and that will probably resolve. That’s my guess, that …….. you see the thing creeping in all directions. Well, an interesting aspect of that – you want me to continue?
J.S. Go ahead.
B.B. Well, I was going to say that as you know, we have a housing committee here in town and we spent three and a half years, over that, three years and nine months trying to get this housing project up in Salisbury off the ground and one of our problems was that the Farmers Home Administration, FMHA we call it, seemed to be at that point the only logical source of funds, because they give you the money that you need to start a project of this kind on a fifty year loan basis at 1 % a year and it’s pretty hard to beat that! So we stuck with this particular aspect and after the present administration really got tough about …. Well, when the present administration started to clamp down on expenditures for civilian purposes, shall we say, as opposed to military purposes and what not, organizations such as this FMHA group were cut way back in their funding ability and Connecticut was cut back, oh I think five or six hundred percent, was just chopped way down, and there we were with plans pretty well drawn, with no funds, and so we had to wait, wait, wait until finally our little program got up high enough to warrant the funds that we needed. And that’s why it’s been delayed, primarily, and understandably, I mean I understand. Well, I’m reallym we all are excited about this in a way because, it’s all aimed at young people, you know. This is not going to be an old persons home, it’s going to be a place for young mothers, not married, or married, or whatever, and young people w’ho are trying to establish homes and so forth and I hope that we will be able to expand, because I ~now doggone well that the sixteen units they’re going to have over there, twenty aren’t there, four fours are sixteen, are not enough. We’re going to have to have some more. However, the funds are becoming available, and that’s my point, the whole situation is loosening up and we have all of a sudden, we have a terrible time getting contractors that will want to do this kind of thing. They want to build these big fancy new homes, you know, for which they make a great deal more money of course. However now we’re getting noises, we’re hearing noises about architects too. You know, if anybody else is doing any work up there like this, let us know, we’d like to get involved and so forth. So there is a gradual slow easing up of the very tight housing situation. which is the basic reason why you’re seeing people coming in who want to do this sort of thing. At any rate I’m glad that that’s out of the way, and it’s been a tremendous interest to me. I think I may have told you that Bill Barnett and I and Sid Cowles and a couple of others, I can’t remember who they were- this was a long time ago when we were down at the other place, had a meeting,. several meetings at least twenty years ago, maybe twenty-five years ago, talking about what we could do to get some housing started around here. And, I don’t know what happened, it never came to anything, the funds weren’t available, we couldn’t borrow that kind of money from the bank and still have low rents and so forth. Nothing to do with the bank, but that was the slide(?} for you, and it simply wasn’t , we couldn’t get it going. But I cite that as an example of how long some people have been thinking about the need for housing around here. I get a little angry when some of our local political friends are trying to be highly critical of this particular issue, you know. But that’s under way and that’s going, and I think that’s a good example of the kind of thing people like to do around this town.
Everybody’s gotten involved in all kinds of other activities. The Salisbury Association is indeed a good means. I see it primarily-it’s a little bit of a “do-gooder” organization on the one hand, and an actual funding organization for certain purposes on the other. And we have been able in recent years to help the Selectmen when they didn’t want to have a special town meeting, for example, to get two thousand dollars to pay Ted Davis to work on the lake in the summertime. The Salisbury Association would move in, in some cases, in the case of Twin Lakes as an example, Salisbury Association paid half of the cost of having studies made on Twin Lakes and, I beg your pardon, a third of the cost, and the Town paid a third of the cost, and the Twin Lakes Association paid a third of the cost up there. And these organizations that can work with the Town were very useful in order to get things done. Now the greatest thing that I think we have been able to do is to protect the farmland through conservation easements. I shouldn’t really say the greatest thing, but it is certainly something that needed impetus and the Land Trust Committee of the Salisbury Association which personally was organized by Bill Marrlee .and now is under the wonderful direction of Mary Alice White and she’s quite a woman, incidentally, has been able to do all the, they bring out maps, they’ve done all kinds of things to get a real handle on that which we have, and therefore a means of trying to make recommendations as to that which we should do in the future. Of course there are all kinds of other activities in the Salisbury Association too. One of the things, Jodie, that we’ve gotten started again, which I am very happy about, is the historic end of it. That slipped for a while. The old, old ladies that were active in that field twenty, twenty-five years ago did a great job, but then some of the younger people got into the act, and we got into these more needful type of immediate situations and I think slipped away a little bit from our historic aspects. But, we’ve got some good people in that field now have you heard that we have completed all the eighteen hundred photographs, yeah, and that cost us about twenty thousand dollars.
J.S. I can believe it.
B.B. But the job is done, and it’s been paid for. And we have the pictures, and I understand that there aren’t too many other towns that have something of that nature. They’re getting also into looking at a lot of the old books that have been written about the town. A lot of them have inaccuracies and need revising and updating, and that’s being done now. They got all of the, the historic end I’m talking about, remember Mr. Knickerbocker, the surveyor? Well, together with the town we bought all of his old maps, we had everyone that he ever put out and they’re being analyzed and looked over to see which ones may have historic value. And that we will keep them. Where we’re going to put all this stuff .
J.S. I was just going to say to you, now where are we going to put all of this?
B.B. Well, you know that in the library, the original historic books, upon which the library was founded, are still there, but any old historic anything: maps, letters, books, or what have you really require careful storage and one of the aspects that’s needed is some kind of constant temperature, constant humidity protection. There is today a vault of sorts in the library and our hope is that when the town hall is finished that we will, we believe we can, will be able to get that vault, the temporary vault, and we’ll fix it up a bit, and put some constant temperature, constant humidity equipment in it and store all or our memorabilia in there, particularly those old books, that we want to really protect for the future. There’s a tremendous amount of stuff ……
Regarding the lakes – – Honestly, I don’t know – I’ve gotten to the point where having listened to these various consultants that we listen to, and pay, incidentally, on occasion, and having been involved just a bit with the lake Waramag situation, I honestly consider this to be, consider that the improvement of our lakes to be an art as opposed to a science at this stage of the game. I have yet to hear of any real successes that lasted. On the big lake it’s a terrible problem Jodie, cause there’s no flushing -rate. One tiny little, Sucker Brook, one ti ny little inlet really, another little bitty one over on the other side, and the big rush of water in our lake comes from the wells, over there, yeah, springs. That’s why it’s so cold in spots. From springs. But the springs don’t have any flushing rate of the kind that we’re talking about and that’s why it’s so hard to get results with these different approaches that have been tried and used. We’ve got to get back at it and we may have to change the fishery as it’s conceived right now. The state thinks it’s the best lake in the state, you know, for general fishing purposes, particularly for trout because it’s so deep. But the trouble is those big deep holes down in the lake don’t have any oxygen in them any longer. So there’s been some ta~k, this one meeting in which the lake people, I mean the state people amazed me by saying well, look, you know, instead of putting speckled trout in there, we’ll put brown trout in there, or some different type of game fish. Well, I was amazed, I was amazed and I, in fact, I could hardly speak, because I’d been listening for so long to all the things that we ought to be doing that we couldn’t do or shouldn’t do.
But, we’re going to have to try something else, but just what it’s going to be is, is, I hope some young people will come along that will be interested in this sort of thing, it takes more time, th is fishery thing, it takes more time than anybody that’s working , and is still working can give to it , you know. The people who are willing to give it a whack are so hard to get together . But, the lake is certainly one of the Salisbury Association’s biggest gambits , as it were.
The Association, you know you of course are aware of our Appalachian trail donation, and that’s worked out very nicely. Did I mentioned to you before that L. L. Bean, you know the purveyor of sporting goods , a wonderful company incidentally . L. L. Bean, any time that any local organization such as the Salisbury Association wants to give to the Appalachian Trail its money, let’s say $50,000, they will add 1/3 to that, as a gift. They do this for anyone who will help the Appalachian Trail, with capital gifts.
J.S. They ought to announce that in their catalog , that’s a wonderful thing to do.
B.B. I’ve seen it a couple of times, yeah. Salisbury Association gave the Appalachian trail $72,000 and then another 5 thousand, I guess, about $80,000 all told. And L. L. Bean gave them a third, so our gift was immediately over $100,000!
J.S. Does the Salisbury Association maintain, or help maintain, what you people call II the walking path II , in other words the old railroad track ?
B.B. Well, this last year, you know those ponds in behind the walking path, well, they, some of these people were looking for land, decided to break down those old dams in there and a flush out that swamp which is really a wildlife refuge as you know. And put some houses in there! And so, we got into the act as a vehicle , which the Salisbury Association’s been on many occasions. We got a whole group together and quite a few local people helped out in connection with that. Particularly people whose land was threatened by this type of thing, and the Association donated a certain amount of money, I’ve forgotten how much, seven or $8,000, and then the other people all got together and gave money to the Salisbury Association will and development to improve so tax exemption could be achieved. You got enough money together to buy the swamp and put an end to it. And that’s why we’ve really been involved there this last year.
J.S. Yes I’ve noticed there is a new road going in behind the old Warner House, or it’s in there must be a new house back in there .
B.B. Back in there , that’s not in those grants. But those of the kind of things you can do right away, you see.
J.S. Stop it before it starts
B.B. That’s right. The town might be very willing or able to help out in some of these situations, but it takes forever. It’s a government agency and you have so many darn things you have to do . Did you know that over there in that property where we’re putting up the housing for the young people.
J.S. Charlie Ashman?
B.B. Ashman’s house, exactly . We found out that we could not go ahead because of a state regulation that said that that any land of that particular type which was going to be used for public purposes had to be examined to make sure there were no ancient artifacts or what have you in the grounds surrounding the property or where the old house was and so forth. And it cost us, I think about $2,400 to have this group over in Litchfield , or some place or other, that are so involved in Indian artifacts .
J.S. That’s a Hotchkiss graduate . The Indian Museum in Washington
B.B. That’s right. In Washington Connecticut , you’re right. Well, they came over …
J.S. Yes, what did they do ? How do they examine?
B.B. You’re asking a very good question. I’m going to keep my Irish at some decent sort of level, all right, because we agreed to pay the $3,400. What they did was to dig around the old house a little bit , but in order for them to give us a clean bill of health they had have trenches all across the property. Well they had no method or equipment to do the trenches, so we simply sent a three bottom plow we had over here with a tractor , and dug the whole property , and they had boys running around looking in these ditches.
J.S. Did they find anything?
B.B. Not a thing. Somebody claimed that over near the house they found some, I’ve forgotten the term , when they make the arrow heads, they grind them a little bit , you know with another arrowhead or something, and the dust comes off , and they claim they found some of that, but they got the people in Hartford, who were fairly broad minded, to say II forget it “. But that delayed us a couple or three months , having that job done .
J.S. How did that law get into being? Is it a state law?
B.B. It’s a state law. And you have to have this work done by a registered archaeologist .
J.S. Well, how aid they say which land has to be examined. I mean, for instance , suppose you want to put a house where the pasture is now.
B.B. I think for just a house, there would be no problem . This is for public purposes , you see. You know we had advertise in all the papers all around us here to make sure no farmer wanted f” to farm that land, because if a farmer wanted to farm it, we couldn’t get it for this purpose . It’s fabulous !
J.S. How do you remain calm?
B.B. Well you don’t , I mean, obviously-n particularly when you’ve got all little Irish in you , you know. Anyway, it’s all done now. Hopefully it’s all done. What happens next is a good question in this housing, just like what happens next on the lake. I think we have about come to our limits in connection with obtaining land under conservation easements .
J.S. You think you have?
B.B. I think we’ve about come to about the end on conservation easements . I mean you can talk about the Salisbury Association all week, you know because there are so many different aspects that are going on now. We’re trying to , we’re going to have to put out a better brochure or else put out a couple a year , because it’s hard to get people to read the darn things . They come to a meeting and they say a II we’re amazed at what the Association does II
J.S. Could you perhaps have a report once in a while in the Journal?
B.B. Yeah, I think we would probably have to pay for it now, I don’t know because of the present owner, maybe is cut out of a different stamp than Bob Estabrook , but that might be a very good approach, even if we did have to pay for it , to some extent.
J.S. I don’t think enough people are aware of the Salisbury Association, other than in a vague, I know when I call people about doing these interviews, I start out with that , they say II Oh yeah, I guess so, I guess I’ve heard of that,” and I don’t think they have any idea of the good things that it does.
B.B. Well that’s correct they don’t, and we send out about seven or 800 appeals every year and they do.n’t read them you know. At any rate, were going have to do something more about that.
The Holley Williams’ house is another problem
J.S. I wish it were in Salisbury.
B.B. Yes. I tell you what we’re going to do I think though. Bill Olsen has been heading up a committee to tey to see if we had some possibilities in connection with the old house. And I think the committee’s view, a correct one, is that the Holley Williams’ house indeed is of great value to the Salisbury Association, even though we don’t use it. Because it represents an asset that is worth $200,000 at least, today, with the land up above it and so forth, so we’re going to keep it going until we can think of some really brilliant use for it in the future. And one of the things we’re going to do is starting to use it for a lot of our memorabilia just to store and for people to look at there. But, it’s a controversial issue.
J.S. I’m well aware of that. We were talking earlier during th~ interview about the Inns, you know we were talking about the Wake Robin , when you used to come. When you were a boy, was it quite a different scene in the summer?
B.B. Yes, well, I say yes and no. The biggest difference were the summer hotels. There was the Interlaken, and the Gateway. Remember the Gateway?
J.S. Yes, I do .
B.B. And the Wake Robin and the two in Salisbury, at least. The Wake Robin, you know they had five or six holes of golf up there.
B.B. The Wake Robin
J.S. They did?
B.B. They did indeed . I have forgotten the exact number, but I can sure remember them They went back up in the woods . Do you know where the old Jerome house was?
J.S. I do indeed . That was related to Winston Churchill’s mother , that Jerome family .
B.B. Well, we used to walk up through those woods and well up toward the Jerome house was still Aunt Jane’s property and there’s a little house, if you drive up to Wake Robin today you look up to the right just before you get to the end, there’s a house up on top of the little knob there and that was the clubhouse. Now, of course, as you and I know, this was back during Prohibition and they had a bar in there. And they went out and played a few holes of golf, and go into the bar. A little fascinating! That nice white house as you go past coming up this way, you go past ‘the Wake Robin’s entrance, that nice white house on the left that was called the little Wake Robin and it was an annex for the Wake Robin, and I remember staying there. But that was a typical old summer hotel. People came with their big steamer trunks and would stay a month, or whatever.
J.S. So that golf course didn’t go near what used to be Petie Robinson’s, Debbie Robinson’s family, which is now owned by John Burdon, who’s at Hotchkiss , right on Wells Hill Road, so that golf course went behind that, and back. Does the Wake Robin still own that land?
B.B. I think they sold almost all of that off .
J.S. What’s in there, I think they’re just woods now.
B.B. I was just down there the other day to see, we had a mob for Thanksgiving, whether or not they had their restaurant open , because it would be sort of fun, but they haven’t got it open yet. But they do have rooms available. And we got talking, and I think they said they were down to about 12 a., something like that. And that would take it back into the woods about 200 ft., or a little bit more. But they sold off that Lake property .
J.S. They didn’t!
B.B. And that was the worst thing, I mean I can’t imagine.
J.S. They what! They sold it!
B.B. Yeah, they sold it . Not the present owner, the previous owner.
J.S. To whom ?
B.B. I don’t know. We used to go down swimming, all the time. It was good swimming. It’s terrible.
B.B. Money, money, money . Well, we have little place in Maine, this is on a Willow Bay, which
got about 7 acres of land there and 300 ft. on the water on a nice cove, and we paid nothing for it, you know. I think we paid about a thousand dollars or something like that for the seven acres and now of course, and just a small cottage, two bed rooms and a living room and a kitchen, really ? and then a little guesthouse we put in a couple of years ago for our grandchildren along the shore. I don’t think we’ve got possibly over $100,000 in the whole thing . It’s ridiculous to even think about it . It’s just plain crazy. The stock in the paint company is not worth anything like that . We have a formula that’s tied to the market, other house paints, and we change the price in keeping with the formula every month . Jodie, I tell you it’s simply not worth half of what which it follows the market. It’s crazy, just crazy. I was working during the Depression, 35 cents an hour ….
J.S. Is there anything else you want to talk about, about this area?
B.B. What you think? Do you think of anything . We talked briefly about the iron industry , but there been all kinds of books written about the iron industry.
J.S. What I wantee from you was who you are, the Salisbury Association and the Grove and what you just talked about , I think it’s wonderful.
B.B. Well, these are the kinds of things, I think ….. basic fact is that the town hasn’t changed too much is to me a very important aspect.