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Group Revives Montpelier Historical Society

Workers at the quarry in Sabin’s Pasture with the Methodist Seminary school in the background (now Vermont College of Fine Arts). Photo courtesy of the Montpelier Historical Society.
What was Montpelier like before smartphones and computers? If you only go back that far, you will find coin-operated telephone booths in front of city hall and over by what was then the Grand Union supermarket. What was it like before electricity and cars? And before that?

To ponder these and other historical questions, a group got together to revive the Montpelier Historical Society, which has been defunct since 2010, according to new re-founding member George Edson. Edson told The Bridge by phone on April 18 the re-formed society has put up a website, started going through the existing collection, and is revving up for an opening “show and tell” event on May 22 at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center.

Edson, 78, was born and raised in Montpelier, but lived most of his adult life in Cornish, New Hampshire. The historical society revival started when Edson began to look into his own family history in central Vermont. He followed family lines through Williamstown, Cabot, Berlin, Plainfield, and Marshfield as well as Montpelier. During this time, he was struck by how those towns have historical societies, but Montpelier did not … until this past fall.

“I stirred the pot,” Edson said. He soon had attracted a small band of like-minded historians in Beverly Hill, Kathryn Guare, and Mike Doyle, as well as Paul Carnahan and Jennifer Boyer. Also involved are Danny Coane, Harry Columbo, Corinne Cooper, Eric Gilbertson, and Steve Ribolini.

Boyer created the website (montpeliervthistoricalsociety.org). Carnahan, of the Vermont Historical Society, has been going through the collection with Boyer. The collection now consists of a mass of articles and papers that have been stored in the basement of the Pavilion office building since 2010, thanks to the kind generosity of Vermont State Curator David Schutz.

Why did the previous society cease to exist? Edson said it was started in 1995, but those who ran it got older, and no younger people had the interest to keep it alive. Nevertheless, the society was kept on life support in the form of the paper collection, an ongoing post office box, and a small treasury.

Edson said his personal interest in the need for a Montpelier Historical Society became activated when tracing his family lineage in Montpelier. His family owned the Cross Baking Company, which was started in 1828 by Charles Cross on the corner of School and Main streets where the Bethany Church now stands. It was then moved in 1863 to 101 Main — the current location of City Center. Edson’s grandfather bought it in 1908 and it stayed in the family for decades. He hopes to tell people about his family business at the planned kick-off public event.

For this event, the society has invited several people to do a “show and tell” on May 22 at 2 p.m. at the Senior Activity Center. About 10 to 15 people will bring articles and present information on historic Montpelier businesses. Refreshments will be served and all are welcome.

Presenters include Robert Cody, Cody’s Chevrolet; Don Bigglestone, Capitol Stationers; Pat Sykas, Lobster Pot; Fred Bashara, Capitol Plaza and Capitol Theatre; Eric Gilbertson, Lane Shops; Patrick Healy, Green Mount Cemetery; Peter Merrill, National Clothespin; Richard Canales, Joe’s Market; Manny Garcia, Harry Bertoli Granite Works, and Stephen Murphy, J. Leo Johnson.