Home News and Features The First Four Years of The Bridge

The First Four Years of The Bridge

This illustration by Barbara Carter ran in one of the early editions of The Bridge, and is now framed and hangs in The Bridge offices.
Over the past several weeks, readers and friends of Montpelier’s community newspaper, The Bridge, have been celebrating the 30th anniversary of the first publication of The Bridge. 

As we celebrate, we look at what motivated a committed group of volunteers  in 1993 to start a community paper in the first place. In a word, what drove us forward in the beginning was the idea of creating a Montpelier paper that could tell us much, much more than we already knew about the city and community that is our home.

We wanted to know more about our children and schools, our city and state government, our extraordinary downtown, the air we breathe and the food we eat and the water we drink, the rivers and parks and open spaces and farms and countryside so close to us here; and our libraries and churches and history and traditions and sports and rivalries. And, inevitably the politics of getting things done is part of all that; plus protecting the vulnerable, taking care of people in need, and coming to know the people who live and work here. We wanted to know and we wanted a paper that could tell us.

Nat Frothingham, a founder and former editor and publisher of The Bridge. Photo by John Lazenby.
When we started out in 1993, we had no money, no office, no paid staff, no place to receive and store newspapers, and no history of publication. So we did all sorts of things: we wrote and edited, we sold ads and designed the paper, we kept records and accounts. With the money we earned from selling ads, we paid our first printing bill and a Montpelier community paper was born.

We invite readers to take a close look at some of players and some of the writing that filled the pages of The Bridge in the first four years — four years when we produced 16 issues in all — one issue in December 1993, five issues in 1994, four issues in 1995, and six issues in 1996. 

Nat Frothingham was one of the founding members of The Bridge, and served as The Bridge’s editor and publisher for nearly 15 years before his retirement in 2018.

December 1993 Editor: Bernie Folta

Notions of Who We Are

The corner of State and Main, it seems, is where all types of Montpelierites gather. The contractor, the insurance agent, the state senator, the retail store manager, the mail carrier. … Who are these people who live in this city? Why are they here? What is their education? How many are single, divorced, married? Where do they work?… Conversations around town shed … light on who we are. People say Montpelier is changing …

“It’s a town that used to be somewhat conservative and has become at the very least moderate even leaning to the liberal side.”

— by Jake Brown

February 1994 Editor: Bernie Folta

Council Candidates on Property Taxes

“The last time I looked, Montpelier had the third highest property tax rate in the state. My taxes are over $250 per month. We must look for a way to, if not reduce the rate, at least stop hemorrhaging.” — Chuck Karparis, District 1 candidate for City Council

“In my view, Montpelier’s property taxes are too high, and they are growing at a faster rate than the ability to pay them. Property taxes have grown 25 percent since 1991.” — Tom Carey, District 3 candidate for City Council

May 1994 Editors: Jake Brown and Phil Dodd

Profile of New Fire Chief, Norm Lewis

He was with the first ambulance rescue operation in Daytona Beach which clocked up to 14,000 calls a year. He served as a paramedic. He’s dealt with cardiac arrest, accident, trauma. He’s fought fires in houses, businesses, hotels, motels, amusement centers. He went with a crew who fought a forest fire that burned for seven days, destroyed 131 homes, and when finally put out was 32 miles from where it started.

—Nat Frothingham

July 1994Editors: Nat Frothingham with Bernie Folta and Jake Brown

My Birding on Berlin Pond

At the far end of the pond, Brian had spotted a bird that neither of us had any trouble identifying, and that instantly filled both of us with awe and delight. It rose slowly and majestically above the water and the wooded ridges surrounding it: enormous, broad, flat wings flashed in the sun, a pure white tail, and the pure white head — another new sighting for Berlin Pond — yards from the Interstate — a bald eagle.

— Tom Slayton

September/October 1994 Editor: Jake Brown

VCIL to Move Into Former A&P Building

Renovations should be completed at the old A&P building at 11 East State Street by October 1 clearing the way for the Vermont Center for Independent Living.

Susan Arnowitt Reid, Associate Director of VCIL said she is eagerly anticipating the move. “We’re planning to make the place a model for accessibility, a demonstration site,” Arnowitt-Reid said. The type of filing systems, special windows, and a “roll-in shower” for people in wheelchairs are all part of the design. …

November/December 1994Editor: Glenn Gershaneck; Assistant Editor: Kate Mueller

About Steve Larose

Steve Larose has carried perhaps the heaviest burden — Bernie Folta may be the chief competition. Over the past 12 months, Steve has served as advertising coordinator, reporter, business manager, and most important, one-person production crew with his handy “Mac.” Although I’ve known him professionally, this stint as editor of “Issue 6” gave me a much shared appreciation of Steve’s abilities and commitment. Believe me, this would not have gotten finished without him.

— Glenn Gershaneck

March/April 1995Editor: Kate Mueller

What’s New at The Bridge

The Bridge held its first annual meeting in November 1994. … Readers and friends were invited to join the not-for-profit Montpelier Community Newspaper Association for $10/year.

We’ve published six papers, one in December 1993 and five in 1994. In 1995, we’re committed to publishing four papers with a fifth paper a possibility.” At a “Retreat” on April 8, 1995, it was noted: “One (discussion) issue is whether or not to hire an editor who could give some continuity to The Bridge from one paper to the next.

Summer 1995Editors: Greg Gerdel and Jake Brown

NECI Opens on Main Street

NECI [New England Culinary Institute] has come a long way since it opened out of modest, third-floor offices above Thrush Tavern with seven students in 1980. Both Dranow and co-founder Fran Voight had worked at Goddard College, which was struggling for survival in the late 1970s. Voight was instrumental in founding the social ecology and summer writing adult degree programs as well as special programs concerned with learning disabilities and art therapy. Voight and Dranow had both worked at restaurants in menial jobs during their 20s, but neither was a trained chef nor predisposed to becoming a restaurateur. What they did want to do was to start a new educational institution.

—Nat Winthrop

Fall 1995 • Editor: Kate Mueller; Assistant Editor: Jim Wallace

Farmers Market Harvests Crops, Crafts and Crowds

According to Jenny Humphries, president of the Capital City Farmers Market, the market, though bustling in the 90s with activity and promise, was not a new idea. Montpelier had a farmers market behind City Hall around the turn of the century. But it petered out sometime later. In 1977 it rose from the ashes when the federally funded (CETA) Comprehensive Employment & Training Act program sponsored someone to start and manage a market to provide for vendors to sell their products and produce.

—Hilary Slater

March/April 1996 Editor: Chuck Satterfield

A Few Changes

Mason Singer and staff of The Laughing Bear Associates contributed their time and energy to create the new look and we’re grateful for their efforts. Modifications in layout and type are intended to make the paper more accessible and attractive … Recently the Board of Directors approved the recommendation by an internal search committee and hired Nat Frothingham as Business Manager and Jake Brown as Managing Editor.

—Nancy Schulz, board president of The Bridge

May/June 1996Issue Editor: Steve Larose; Managing Editor: Jake Brown

A Century of Reading

Any way you look at it, Montpelier is the “readingest” city in Vermont. Library figures for 10 cities serving more than 5,000 patrons show those using Kellogg-Hubbard Library on average read more than 20 books per year. Last year Montpelier area readers took home some 208,000 books, putting it ahead of Rutland (195,000), Burlington (160,000), and Brattleboro (158,700). All this was accomplished with a low per capita tax support of $3.3 per resident, compared to a high for Essex Junction of $43.05 tax support per capita.

 —Don Lyons

July/August 1996 Issue Editor: Erica Zimmerman; Managing Editor: Jake Brown

Office Space Search Continues

First, we’d like to welcome (and thank) Erica Zimmerman, who helped edit this issue of The Bridge. Erika moved to the area last spring with her husband, Kevin McCollister, after they served in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan. Since then, she has taught English at Vermont Technical College, coached varsity field hockey at U-32 and lacrosse at MHS, volunteered as a grant writer and newsletter editor, tutored at Union Elementary School, and enjoyed getting to know the Montpelier community…

—Nancy Schulz, board president for The Bridge, from “BridgeWorks” – a note to readers from Schulz

[Schulz also reported that The Bridge was seeking 300 square feet of office space in downtown Montpelier.]

September/October 1996Issue Editor: Kate Mueller

Montpelier on Fire

[In his center spread piece with historic photographs, Paul Gillies described five fires that took a severe toll on Montpelier. Both text and photographs tell the stories of downtown fires in 1924, 1934, 1939, and 1980 — with attention to the two fires of 1875.]

Montpelier was devastated. The two great fires of 1875 caused more damage to this place than any other tragedy including the floods. They wiped away many of the earliest buildings of the village and many businesses as well, some of which survived the first fire only to be destroyed by the second.

—Paul Gillies

October/November 1996 • Issue Editor: Chuck Satterfield

An Office, Greater Frequency on the Horizon

The Bridge continues to move forward on a variety of fronts, and a large part of our progress is due to our supporters. We thank all of you.

[Brown mentioned an office search and invited donations of furniture and equipment. He then proceeded to discuss editorial matters.]

In another important development, the Board of Directors decided in September that the paper should be published more often — 10 times a year in 1997.

—Jake Brown

December 1996 Managing Editor: Jake Brown

Defining Moments for The Bridge 

The profile on Fredd Lee (in the October/November 1996 issue of The Bridge) raised many eyebrows (and some voices) around town. Readers have questioned our rationale for running a piece on a figure as controversial as Lee. The discussion has been an important one, and has forced us to articulate our purpose for the “Profile” pieces we try to include in each issue.

Our mission statement says in part that The Bridge is meant “to reflect the life and diversity” of Montpelier. Reflecting the life and diversity of Montpelier, we think, includes doing profiles on controversial figures. It also means we’ll profile not-so-controversial figures. But what we hope the “Profile” section can do is introduce readers to the wide variety of people who live in and are active in this community. We seek to profile people who, in our judgment, simply would be interesting for our readers to know about. Lee, we judged, is one of those people.

—Jake Brown