Category Archives: community

Greenwoods Canadian Brass Band

A short-lived band, it almost certainly died when the Greenwoods Company left town in 1907. The article is from the New Hartford Tribune, an undated clipping in a series about local businesses.

Note the names, there is a good reason it was the Canadian band. New Hartford had, and still does have, a number of families who came down from Quebec and the Maritimes; a common migration throughout the Champlain and Berkshire regions.

“New Hartford is well favored in the musical line by the Greenwoods Canadian Brass Band. This band was organized in December, 1899, with Anthony Bedore as manager and Alfred Dechamplain was leader and musical instructor. The members of the band with their respective pieces follow: Alfred Dechamplain, cornet; Remi Pauquet, cornet; David Russett, cornet; Felix Guilbeault, piccalo; Barney Moran, alto; Arthur Christian, alto; Arthur Parren, alto; Regis Gagnon, trombone; Peter Gelina, trombone; Arthur Cote, baritone; Isaac Moran, bass; Lawrence H. Hotchkiss, snare drum; Peter Dechamplain, bass drum and symbols.”

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Greenwoods Factory District

2000.182.5.61 Factory District of Greenwoods Company

This is a rare view, most photographs were taken looking up at the dam and the factory. The main building, including the section still existing (Hurley Manufacturing) is located mid-center/left of the photograph. Holcomb Hill rises up to the left of the photograph. The main section of town is out of the picture, center-right. Lower Dublin, so called because of the many Irish immigrants who lived there is visible stretched on along the left bank of Greenwoods Pond. Only two of these row houses still exist.



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Taking a Walk?

If you are out and enjoying this summer weather, consider exploring New Hartford on foot.  The center with its late Georgian and Federal, Italianate, Queen Anne, and many other styles of architecture stretches across the river to Holcomb Hill where a few late 1800’s factory-built row houses stand.  On the other side Steele Road and High Street back up against Jones Mountain, where a good climb takes one up an old road that is a classic bit of landscape architecture.

Just downstream lies Pine Meadow and its historic district, nearly unchanged in a century.  A classic village green, an icon of New England.

Elsewhere a walk along Maple Hollow from Bakerville, the natural beauty of the Nepaug floodplain and the remnant of old industry: the blacksmith shop and the grist mill, both listed buildings, both visible from the road.

There is the top of Town Hill, where the foundation remains of the Town’s first church and where its bell still speaks somberly on special occasions. Not far from there lies the Town Hill Cemetery, still in use but dating back to the 1750’s.

Perhaps a walk through Satan’s Kingdom, looking for traces of the old railroads. Or maybe up by West Hill or Cotton Hill, where old fields turn slowly to woods.  Here and there a barn is still standing, some still in use, great dairy barns and small general purpose barns, chicken coops and ornate carriage houses.

How many stories there are beneath each mile of road here!

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Theater groups in New Hartford

The performing arts in New Hartford have a long and proud history supported not only by the various professional artists who have called the town home, but an enthusiastic group of volunteer amateurs, the people without whom no community theater can survive.

The groups have been varied in name and usually seem to have no clearly defined start or end date.

Among them:

The Home Dramatic Club: circa 1900

The New Hartford Chorus: circa WWI through the mid 1920’s at least

The New Hartford Community Club: 1930’s, late 1940’s-1960?

The Village Players: circa WWII

The Pleasant Valley Players (Barkhamsted): circa 1966-1979

The Village Theatre Workshop: 1979-1995?

Other groups, such as the English literature club, the Women’s Club, various churches (in particular North Congregational), and schools sponsored various public concerts, plays, and recitals as well.

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Crying, ‘Cockles and Mussles, alive, alive, oh!’

Where was Dublin town anyway?

Like many New England/Mid Atlantic towns that had industrial centers, New Hartford had a steady number of immigrants moving through it in successive waves.  One of the largest, and earliest, groups were the Irish, who found ready employment at the textile mills of Greenwoods and D.B. Smith, along with the Chapin company’s tool manufacturing.  Upper and Lower Dublin were the names given to the side streets on Holcomb Hill.  This area was, literally, on the other side of the tracks.  Greenwoods company built several blocks of company mill houses in the area.  Two of these wooden row-houses still stand on the dead end street just above the old factory.

Successive waves of other immigrants and the collapse of industry has almost eradicated the memory of these families, but that they were a real, vibrant presence is not in doubt; recorded in the maps, the stories, and even a few local ballads.

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Early houses on Town Hill

Although the Town Hill Church, and the original town center, was located on the very top of the hill*; the settlement extended partially down both sides almost immediately.

Two of the most important houses sat on the plateau just below the crest that marked the first break on the long hill up from the valley.  These two houses had a commanding view of the Farmington River.  One was Israel Loomis’ house, the site of the first Town meeting in New Hartford, which took place before the Town Hill Church was built.  The other was the home of the first reverend in New Hartford, Reverend Jonathan Marsh.  When Rev. Marsh built his house he told the men to cut down all of the white birches between his house and Loomis so that he could see his neighbours; a far cry from today’s preference for privacy screening.  He apparently turned it into something of a race, promising more rum as payment for faster work.  Rum was a standard form of barter currency at the time.

Today, Marsh’s house no longer stands, though part of the foundation is still visible.  The current house, an imposing and distinctive house with three massive center chimneys, is called Hillandale, a suitable name for a house that watches over both.

*It isn’t quite, the hill is ten feet taller a quarter mile to the north (back towards the Farmington) and a hundred feet taller a mile to the south on Yellow Mountain.  But they were close.  And the high point of Yellow Mountain has never been easily accessed.

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Excerpt from ‘Sketches’ by Sarah L. Jones

Sarah Lucia Jones description of New Hartford, written in 1883, paid particular attention to the North Village.  Here we find a description of the New Hartford Hotel, the landmark building that stands at the intersection of Route 44 and Church/Bridge/Center Streets.

“the most respectable citizens of the town were among Mr. Cowles’ (the hotel owner) customers for liquor, there being no drugstores in those days, when the decanters on the sideboards needed replenishing….Among the customers who drank at the bar we find occasional mention of Dr. Thomas Brinsmade, Phineas Merrill, Co. Israel Jones, and Peletiah (sic) Allyn, who, when chilled with a long ride, found cheer and comfort in such stomach warmers as a ‘mug of flip’, or a more moderate ‘nip’ of the same, a glass of sing, brandy, or punch, which Mr. Cowles seems to have understood the art of mixing to perfection. The charges for board and lodging seem to vary in accordance with the quality of the guest, and probably also the quality of refreshment. ‘Breakfast’ is charged in one instance as 1 s. 3 d., while another boarder gets ‘3 meals victuals’ for 1 s. 6 d.; ‘to supper, flip, and bate’, ‘to lodging and bitters’, to bate cattle and horses,’ ‘to trouble in weighing hogs’ are among the registered charges.”

What exactly ‘bate’ means is unclear; however, given its usual usage (‘to restrain’) and the second mention of it; my best guess is that it was a charge for stabling cattle or horses, probably overnight.  The hotel was on the main drove road, so cattle and hogs would have been passing by frequently.  Hotels (or taverns and inns) would have had stock yards as a matter of course, much as modern hotels have parking lots.  Presumably, the hotel had a decently large set of scales as well and, for a charge, these could be used for weighing hogs and probably other goods as well.

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Barn Raising

We don’t tend to associate communal barn raising with New Hartford, not ‘rural’ enough…or something.  Yet, such events did happe, as evidenced by this description of a barn raising which occurred in North End village, the most industrial of the town’s sections (as described by Sarah Jones). The barn in question was raised circa 1820, on Main Street, well north of the Town Hall on the river side.  It is long gone.

“One day while this kiln-dry was being tended by Timothy Wadsworth, a brother of Tertius, it took fire, and its contents, as well as the barn was entirely destroyed. The neighbors from far and near turned out, drew timber and lumber, and rebuilt the barn. In one week from the fire, another frame was up, occupying he ground upon which the former barn stood.

The raising of this barn was mare a great occasion…..A good supper was spread in the log cabin, which was heartily enjoyed by the raisers, when the frame was up and the ridge pole made fast to the rafters. This was the only form of insurance in ‘Old Times’. Neighbor helped neighbor in a time of need, and a community was a closely allied brotherhood.”

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Pageantry at West Hill Pond

From a 1947 newspaper clipping comes this report of activities on West Hill Lake (or Pond) in the early twentieth century:

“Cottage dances, too, were often held, the orchestral instruments consisting of mandolin, harmonica, paper and combs, jews harps, and a ‘real tin kettle’ drum. Later on a small portable ‘pianner’ that could be taken by hand or boat from cottage to cottage was procured and the acme of perfection was reached in all things musical. Water pageants also were frequently held with gayly (sic) decorated boats moving silently and gracefully over the lake waters, with the improvised orchestra and double quartet of ‘mixed’ voices serenading various shore groups.”

The catch, of course, was that many of the people in these theatricals and musical performances were involved, some of them professionally, in the performing arts; so, despite the dubious orchestral instruments, the quality of both the music and the singing was probably quite good. Lit by bonfires and kerosene lamps in the cabins, these nights have a story-book sense, almost too strong to be real.

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The English Literature Club

For at least a few years during World War One, New Hartford had an English Literature Club. Although the name would suggest that they concentrated on literature; the programs indicate  the members interests were far more wide ranging.

“Australia: The Original Inhabitants”

“Knowing One’s Community”

“Electricity: Talking by Wire and Wireless”

Robert Louis Stevenson: Life and Works”

“Reading: the Suppression of Important News from “Changing America”

“Evolution of Home-Making and Home-Keeping”

and so forth, every week between October and April.

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