for my story to be told


Leaving Wilmington Vermont at 2:37 p.m., my ride took me through sleepy hamlets and through beautiful valleys, with fields of corn swaying in the slight breeze.  The mountains also continued to frame my ride and the rolling hills allowed me to see beautiful country vistas.  The signs on Massachusetts Route 112 proclaimed that this road was a “scenic byway” and indeed it was.

At 3:26 p.m., after driving 29.4 miles, I pulled into downtown Greenfield to see my last hotel of the day.  I wasn’t sure what to expect after being in beautiful Wilmington.  From my Grandfather’s letter, he surely did not have a good time in Greenfield.  But what would my 2019 experience be like compared to his 1929 experience?  I would soon find out.

I knew from my research that the Mansion House had burnt down in a huge fire in January 1959. This hotel was located on the north side of Main Street in Greenfield, just west of where the public library is currently located.  Prior to its burning down, this spot had always had some sort of inn/tavern/hotel on it, much like Pittsfield and North Adams. Originally, there was a tavern on the spot that was built around 1720.  Then, a brick building was built in 1828. This served as both a stagecoach stop and a hotel. When railroads became more popular, the stage coach stop ceased being used, but the hotel still remained popular.  The building was demolished after the fire. From pictures of the hotel, it was a large brick structure on a corner.  There appeared to be shops on the bottom floor and about three floors above the ground floor.  Initially, I wasn’t sure where the hotel was actually located until I found this wonderful brochure on a walking tour of downtown historic Greenfield (http://www.greenfieldsfuture.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Greenfield-Historic-District-Walking-Tour.pdf)  By looking at IMG_0972this information, it was clear to me that Greenfield seemed to be a city that treasures its history.  While we often flock to cities and towns that are perceived to being important historically, it is equally important to note that every town and city has its own history and stories to tell.  So, judging by this historical information, Greenfield want the stories of its history told.  (and this sign was seen outside the Unitarian Universalist Church on Main Street in Greenfield). Using the information in this brochure about the Mansion House, I set east on Main Street to find the location of where the Mansion House had been located.IMG_0965

It was in the 90s as I walked up the road about a 1/4 from the public parking lot.  There were people out and about, eating ice cream at an outside shop and just strolling along leisurely on this hot afternoon.  Quickly, I was at the Greenfield Savings Bank, which now occupies where the Mansion House once was.  As I sat on the wall outside the bank, I could look across the street to a movie theater, named the Garden.  In my Grandfather’s letter, he wrote “This evening Frank suggested right after dinner that we go to the theater to see Thomas Michigan in the Argyle Case and that there would be a half-hour of organ music before the show. All that organist played was lonely and blue music, which made me feel worse and I somehow hoped that he would stop playing. The picture was very good, so that amused me for awhile, but after the show, I am worse than I have been all day long.”


What was great about Greenfield’s celebrating their history was that there was also a historical plaque on the sides of buildings.  To me, this shows pride in telling their story and for people to realize that each building or each spot does have a story to tell.

greenfield pic


And here’s a little more about the history of the Mansion House:

Before heading back on the road, I wanted to explore a little more of this town as well as, yes, get one more ice tea.  The town had a lot of interesting buildings, architectural wise.  What was also interesting was the town’s commitment to social justice as there were murals on sides of buildings and on other items throughout the town.

With just 20 minutes to spare before it closed, I found Greenfield Coffee.  This little cafe, located at the intersection of Route 2A and Routes 5/10.  As this was my 5th ice tea for the day, I was wondering what I might find at the end of their day.  And I ended up finding the best one of the day – a refreshing Hibiscus-Ginger ice tea.  I sat outside on one of the greenfield teasmall tables and took in the good vibes that Greenfield was giving off.  My eye was drawn to what looked to be a farmer’s market across the street, so after finishing my tea, I set off across the road.

I learned this was called Court Square and not only was there tents set up with many great vegetables, but there were a lot of folding tables set up, complete with pretty vases and flowers.  I was wondering what was going on there, so I went over to a small music events place, where there was a sign in the window to what was happening at this location very shortly.  There was a community dinner, called the Harvest Supper, where everyone would share local fresh farm food, and family entertainment.  The only thing you needed to bring was your own plate!  I loved the diversity of people who were showing up to enjoy community.  Even more impressive was this was the 15th annual event. And then, it really struck me that Greenfield was a place that treasured community, social justice, and history.

From looking at some of my Grandfather’s letters in other years, he traveled to mainly large cities.  I have also been to some larger cities during these sets of journeys, but I have really come to appreciate the small towns, that value community and their histories.



“I am in a place, which I never expected to be on this trip, mainly Wilmington Vermont. One day you hear from me in Pittsfield, the next in North Adams, and now from Vermont.”

After the unexpected finding of the cemetery that my Grandfather had written about in his letter, I got back into Sage and continued on our journey to Wilmington, Vermont.  After Route 8 ended, I turned east onto Route 9, which was an incredibly beautiful ride. There were steep uphills and equally steep downhills, complete with several runaway truck ramps.  Following alongside this road was a gorgeous river and several lakes. As I rounded a big bend in the road, I saw a beautiful bridge that spanned over the river that appeared to be for pedestrians.  Suddenly, the traffic was stopped which provided me a moment to take Wilmington in. The streets were full of beautiful old colorful buildings and people walking on the narrow sidewalks. Excitedly, after a 47 minute, 24.7 mile ride, I pulled into the public parking lot and set out to find what was called the Childs Tavern, when my Grandfather stayed there, but what was now known as the Crafts Inn.  I knew from my research that, first, the building was still standing, and second, it still functioned as a place where people could stay, which was the first hotel that I had seen in this journey that still served as a hotel. So, after the high of finding the cemetery, there was this high of actually stepping into a building where my Grandfather stayed, and where I could stay as well (at some other point).  

IMG_0885Quickly, I walked up the street and there it was – the Craftsman style inn, with three floors, a sweeping front porch and beautiful flowers adorning the front of the building.  To the right of the fire-engine red front door, was one placard that labeled the building a historical landmark, and underneath that was a bronze plaque saying it was on the National Register of Historic Places.  From my research, I found out that Wilmington Vermont has the distinction of having two buildings designed by the famous architectural team of McKim, Mead and White, who also designed the Boston Public Library, Symphony Hall in Boston, Parts of Columbia University, and also did a redesign of the White House’s interior.  These two buildings are what is now known as Craft’s Inn and Memorial Hall. Major F.W. Childs, a Civil War hero and Wilmington’s richest citizen decided that the town needed a place for tourists to stay and also needed a place for both tourists and town citizens to go for entertainment. Memorial Hall was opened in time for the holidays in December 1902, and Child’s Tavern was opened on February 10, 1903.  

As described on the Inn’s website, “The hotel was built more as a resort for visitors who would be staying for an extended period, as opposed to other accommodations in the area, designed largely for travelers passing through. A lot of people would come up from the city. The men would send their families up for a long-term stay, maybe for a month during the summer. It was a very popular place back then.”  This is interesting as my Grandfather was definitely only up there for a very short time, so that seems to go against the original intent of this Inn.

IMG_0895One of the founding families of Wilmington was the Craft family.  They were the owners of the Vermont House, which was across the street from the Child’s Tavern.  This area was becoming more popular with tourists and Major Childs and Floyd Crafts negotiated a deal where the Child’s Tavern was deeded over to the Craft family.  The Craft family expanded it several times, including adding baths so that every two rooms would share one bathroom, complete with hot and cold running water. The lobby was also enlarged during these renovations.

In the 1950s, the Inn’s ownership changed several times and they decided to change the name from Child’s Tavern to Craft’s Tavern.  It in now run as a time -share property, but it also looks like people who don’t own a share could also rent it out.  

The covered front porch was spectacular – there were many wicker chairs, benches and a swing.  An American and Vermont flag waved gently in the breeze. When looking at the building, the open porch was to the right of the front door and to the left was a room, that looked to be a game and reading room. After doing my filming, I entered through the front door to find a woman folding linens at the front desk.  I told her what I was doing and she was excited to hear that the Crafts Inn was the only still functioning hotel that I had found in my 1929 journey. She told me to look around. I am not sure if this was just part of the original lobby as the room was not that big. There were several interesting displays in the lobby.  The first was a several old postcards and a picture of Mr. and Mrs. Craft. The second one was a display of old plates, mugs, keys and other information to do with the Crafts Inn. After thanking the woman, I went back outside to explore. The huge porch wrapped around the other side for a little while and there was an open door, so I looked in to see what was there.  There was wood wainscotting, leading upstairs. To the right of this side was Memorial Hall. It is a smaller sized building that is adorned by beautiful flowers and benches. There are still shows at this location. On the other side of the inn, was a large statue of Molly Stark, the wife of a Revolutionary War hero. This statue was surrounded by a small brick patio, more lovely gardens, and a gazebo that sits near the banks of the Deerfield River.  It is a simply lovely location and I would love to come back and stay at this Inn sometime in the near future.

IMG_0907After a tasty Black Bean Burger and Ice Tea at the Village Roost, I did venture down to that beautiful footbridge.  Gorgeous containers of flowers adorned the green railings. On the other side of the bridge, were more walking paths that paralleled the river.  I walked back up past the Crafts Inn to find another beautiful adorned bridge. All of the buildings in this “downtown” area seemed to be older and were in great shape.  There were many restaurants, shops as well as the town building, churches, and a library all within walking distance of the Inn.


I spent a little over an hour in this magical little town before heading back to Sage.  I wondered how my Grandfather ended up here as it was clear from his letter that he thought he was originally going right from North Adams to Greenfield, but somehow ended up in Wilmington, at an inn, that supposedly didn’t cater to business travelers.  I am sure that many of the buildings that I saw today were in fact there when he stayed there. From my research, I learned that this area was originally a big lumber area before transitioning to a more tourist area. I am wondering if that transition had started to occur when he was there.  I look forward to coming back up here and stay in the same exact building that my Grandfather did sometime in the near future.

“Tomorrow I’ll write to you from Greenfield”.  I wonder if he was sad to leave behind this exquisite Vermont town?



Tina dear, again I am going to try to describe the wonderful scenery that confronted me on my way to Vermont. 

October 1929: Upon leaving North Adams, you drive towards the Green Mountains and say dear, you can not possibly imagine the sight that confronts one’s eyes – why it is beyond words. To start with, this morning it was quite snappy and also cloudy, it seemed that it were going to snow.

August 2019: On this humid but bright blue sky August day, I got back into my car, put my Grandfather and Grandmother back in the bag on the front seat and headed north on Route 8 towards Vermont. I quickly found myself on a curving road, where old brick mill buildings sat guard on the windy road, framed by full green trees and a bright blue sky.

October 1929: George Scronberg and I are together, for today so that makes it much more pleasant now to get back to the scenery.

August 2019:  I am alone in Sage, my Mini Cooper Countryman.  While it would be nice to share this scenery with someone else, I am also quite content by myself.

IMG_0882October 1929:  I had the leading car with George right behind me, as we left the town limits, a large mountain climb confronted us, while climbing this mountain, you look to either side and see a valley with the most gorgeous coloring imaginable and as one climbs to the top, you see another mountain, with the peak covered with snow and it seems directly below the peak, the coloring of the different trees are trying to appear more beautiful than the other.  It is just too beautiful of a sight to pass by! Farther along you strike a valley and all along side of the road are these overhanging trees with another set of colors and on your right there flows a stony brook, swift in some spots and slow in others, then again you begin to climb a mountain, approaching the top, you again look at either side and see colors with the sun coming out of the clouds for an instant and lighting up a certain spot which for an instant reminds you of a rainbow.  

August 2019:  My trip was a bit different as it occurred in August, where all the colors were still pretty uniform, and from afar, I spy a large peak not covered with snow, but with wind turbines.  There indeed is a stony brook, but this brook is not flowing swiftly, but rather, it seems to take its time, meandering along slowly, with reflections of the white puffy clouds interspersed with irregular shaped brown stones on this hot summer early afternoon.  The brilliant blue sky is simply gorgeous as I keep climbing to the top on this glorious late summer day.

IMG_0878October 1929: Further along it is a climb again, but this time when you reach the top, you see a beautiful sleepy hollow, and right in the center, it appears, there are small white slabs, with a clump of young evergreen trees surrounding it and as you get into the valley you notice that the mountains are surrounding it, with the same array of magnificent coloring, well I stopped near this cemetery for about ten minutes and thought what a quiet and dreamy, but lonely spot, if not for the brilliant colors, if would appear totally barren and would give you the shudders.  The name that I gave this place was “Sleepy Hollow” and it sure was a long sleep for those that had been buried there. All of the slabs were of the same height and that sort of was striking.


August 2019:  From reading my Grandfather’s letter from Wilmington, Vermont, I knew he spoke about finding a small cemetery.  With that in mind, I was wondering if I would find this cemetery. Could it be completely overgrown? Would it be obvious from the road?  It’s hard to both drive and look for a pretty obscure location at the same time. I knew that I would be on Route 8 for not that much longer and I hadn’t seen any cemetery yet.  And then, perched on a hill on the right side of Route 8/100 North, there it was. I quickly stopped the car, backed up into a little side road, grabbed my Grandparents, my phone, and the letter and sprinted up the steep hill to the cemetery.  I was beyond thrilled to be able to go to the same place that he found, and that I was able to find it through his wonderful description. While the mountains are still surrounding this burying ground, there were some changes. In addition to the white slabs that my Grandfather described, there were larger granite stones, and stones that had small flags, signifying that person was a veteran.  The mountains still surrounded the cemetery, but on top of those mountains were the wind turbines that I had seen from a distance. I too, spent about ten minutes there and thought about my Grandfather. This set of letters for this Western Massachusetts/Vermont trips contained vivid information about the scenery that I had not seen in other letters. It was sitting on top of that 830 foot hill in a light summer breeze, that I realized for my Grandfather, who lived in Cambridge, that this scenery was probably really foreign, and along with fall foliage, it must had been so stunningly beautiful that he needed to pen what he saw to my Grandmother.  

October 1929: All along it is just scenery that is a tonic for sore eyes and a burden for a lonely heart, that fills you with longing for the thing you hold, the greatest living thing on earth and that is namely you Tina dear.


August 2019:  As I headed back down the hill to the car, I felt that this experience was incredibly moving.  To sit in the same location and admire the same scenery as the Grandfather I never knew, filled me with a sense of connection with this man who loved my Grandmother so very much.  

Post note:  I really had no idea where this cemetery was actually located.  From the GPS on my photos, it said Searsfield, but I wasn’t able to find any information on cemeteries there.  I get sleuthing on Google and came up with a list of cemeteries. Finally, I found the name: Fairington Cemetery in Readsboro, Vermont.   And the name of the dirt road that I pulled off on:  Sleepy Hollow Road.  


As described in the Massachusetts book from the American Guide Series books (1937), “To the visitor arriving from points east, whether by automobile on the famous Mohawk Trail or by train through the equally famous Hoosac Tunnel, this little mill city bursts suddenly into view in a setting of striking mountainous beauty.  On the west is Mt. Greylock, 3503 feet high, and on the east is Hoosac Mountain” (p.459)

I didn’t come from the east (in fact, I was coming from the south, driving north on part of Tour 21, From Vermont Line (Stamford) to Connecticut Line (Winsted), 68.6 m, State 8.  The roads are described as Macdam road, frequently hilly and therefore slippery in winter.  The altitude also can reach 2000 feet.  This was a quick trip, taking 38 minutes to travel the 21.1 miles; passing through Lanesborough, Cheshire, and Adams before landing in North Adams.  But I had the same jaw-dropping feeling as described earlier when I entered town and saw these absolutely gorgeous mountains framing this little town.

The now-Holiday Inn, old Hotel Richmond was immediately on the intersection of Route 8 and Main Street.  There was metered parking (free on Sunday) right outside the the Richmond Grille.  There was a lovely porch outside the restaurant where I quickly decided it was the place to film and set up my Grandparents’ pictures. IMG_0849


When I began researching this hotel, I wasn’t finding much online except for an oral history site, done by Williams College students.  One of the participants mentioned the hotel but not a lot about its history at all.  I was surmising that the Richmond Grille was named after the Hotel Richmond.  I found the North Adams Museum of History and Science on Facebook and reached out to them.  Similar to the responses that I received when I reached out to the groups in Houlton, Presque Isle and Fort Kent, I had a pretty immediate response from this group.  This is what they said about the history of this hotel:

“ I don’t have the exact dates the hotel was built at the moment.  It was really built in stages, opening in the mid-1800’s as the Richmond House.  By 1895 a large addition was added. Sometime between 1895 and 1906, the old Richmond House was torn down and a larger brick structure was built.  I can’t remember if the Richmond was closed in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. At that point it became the Phoenix Hotel. Then in the early 1970’s the entire south side of Main Street was torn down, including that hotel.  Since then The Sheraton Inn built a hotel on that spot, The name has changed several times along with new owners. Now it’s the Holiday Inn. I’ve sent along photos of the Richmond House, the expanded Richmond Hotel, and finally the Richmond Hotel that most people remember.”

North Adams gave me the same feeling as I had in Houlton Maine.  There was something special about this spot, the people that I had spoken to had pride in their town and a willingness to share their knowledge.  I went into the lobby of the hotel and on one of the walls there was more information about the hotel, which was really interesting.  It also appears that the Museum of History and Science will be moving into the building shortly.

After leaving the lobby, I walked up Main Street.  Despite the humidity, it was a gorgeous day to be out walking.  There was a mixture of both older and new buildings on the Main Street.  I ended up at the Empire Cafe, which was next to a really large antique/collectible store.  I was hoping to find some type of relic of the Hotel Richmond but did not find anything.  The Empire Cafe was next to the shop and I decided to mix it up and get a Green Tea soft serve ice cream, which was really tasty.

My Grandfather’s letter revealed a bit about his ride up as well as his relationship with his colleagues and his boss.

Thursday evening

Tena Dear: – 

This evening I thought that I probably would feel better by going to a theater.  I saw a wonderful show named “The Gold Diggers of Broadway”. You remember seeing Broadway Babies, well I believe this show has it all over that one.  Beautiful settings, wonderful cast, and anything that you could think of to make it a perfect show. During the show, one of the scenes is of an artist and of course, you came into my mind, I wished that you were with me for it would make it much more pleasant.

Today, I went over the Mohawk Trail, as you probably know, it has been closed all year long, due to repairs and last Saturday, they opened it up, well now it is a cement road, cutting through the Berkshire Hills and today it sort of had one of these dreamy appearances, the clouds were low and as they approached the hills, they seemed to hesitate for awhile and then float on until the next row can along and they would repeat the previous act.  It sure made me think that nature turns to accord with human life.  

Today, I was so low in spirits and these clouds were, and as they floated along in a lazy manner, then hesitate along the hills, well that is the way I worked, I did things because they were essential, and then stopped to concentrate and think of you.

Dear, this weekend, it is impossible for me to get back and I guess that, is final as far as seeing you is concerned because I am about one hundred and eighty-five miles from you.  That is to say that not because it is to long of a drive, but for the simple fact that we got orders to stay in Greenfield over the weekend.  

I must tell you that Mr. Hall has found out that we were in Boston over this weekend and I believe that he is quite peeved about it and wants an explanation.  Of course we will tell him the truth about it, that Frank got a scare from a doctor in Springfield and hurried to his own doctor and that we thought we would try to keep it away from him if matters came to worse.  You can simply not put anything over on him. There is nothing to worry about that for it will be alright after we tell him our story.

The boys are in my room playing poker and I’m in Frank’s room writing you of course.  They seem to like my room, because it is quite large and they piled in with cards and are sill at it. You know that I do not play poker for I have a better way of spending my time than that.  As soon as I am through here I am going in to my room and tell them to scat, which I hope they will do. If they don’t, well I’ll just get in bed and fall off to sleep and let them put my lights out, but I do not think that I will do it on second thought, for they might get some foolish stunt in their heads and play a trick on me.  My address until next Tuesday morning will be Mansion House, Greenfield, Mass.  

Just Blue,


At 12:48 p.m,  Sage and I continued our journey northward towards Vermont. I would love to come back and further explore the striking mountainous beauty and what else this little mill town offers the 2019 visitor.

IMG_1032After being disappointed with my Springfield stop, I was looking forward to my next stop in Pittsfield to see where the Hotel Wendell had once been.  I was able to find ample information about this once grand hotel and I was excited to see the former location as well as explore Pittsfield.  I knew from my Grandfather’s letter that the scenery would be glorious, and I also knew from my research that Pittsfield is 1038 feet above sea level, so I was hoping that fog had burnt off!

“Oh Tina dear, how I wish you were with me this morning as I started for Pittsfield over the Berkshire Trail.  The scenery is beyond description, I believe that it is paradise and this morning it made me feel so darn blue, because you were so far away from me and not being able to enjoy it with me.”

“You see as you drive along a hill covered with the most beautiful arrangement of colors by nature and as you climb this hill and reach the top, you are overlooking a valley surrounded by hills and the colors are first too beautiful to describe.”


While the leaves during my drive were still mainly green, the scenery is really stunning.  I am finding out that it is hard to be both the driver, taking notes in my head about what I am seeing, and wanting to write down some notes in my actual notebook.  Once I got off Route 20, my GPS had me taking some beautiful roads where there were steep climbs, stunning vistas of both mountains and valleys.  I was relieved to be leaving the urban feeling of Springfield and literally heading for the hills.  Passing through little towns, such as Blandford, Chester, Washington Becket, and Dalton, made me realize how many towns there are in our state that I had never heard of before starting these journeys.  At 10:34 a.m., after traveling 52.8 miles from Springfield, I found a public parking lot in Pittsfield and jumped out of Sage to start exploring this town, called Power Source and Playground by the guide book

Pittsfield has a lot of old buildings up and down two intersecting “main streets”.  I was curious if the Beacon Cinema was an older movie theater, as my Grandfather talked a lot about going to see a movie in many of the locations where he stayed.  It was a quiet Sunday morning in Pittsfield, but there were people heading to church as well as people sitting both inside and outside the The Marketplace Cafe.  I kept continuing down South Street towards the intersection of West Street, where the hotel was once located.

Through my research, I had found out the following information about the Hotel Wendell. What is interesting about this location is that there has been some sort of hotel on it since the 1820s. The Renaissance-revival styled hotel opened up in 1898.  At this time, Pittsfield was a thriving urban setting, as well as a place where New York City residents would come to vacation. At this time, the hotel had 110 guest rooms and a 250-seat dining room.  The hotel put on two large additions, that were just about finished when my Grandfather stayed there, which made the hotel the largest in Pittsfield as it now had 323 rooms.  

However, the Great Depression, World War II and then the building of the Mass Turnpike, started the decline of the Hotel Wendell as people were no longer visiting Pittsfield as much.  The hotel was closed in 1965 and demolished. Currently, there is a 14 story Crowne Plaza hotel, set back a little from where the original hotel was located and a three story commercial building in front of that.

On both the letterhead and on the envelope is the name of the President/Managing Director – N.A. Campbell.  His full name was Napoleon Campbell and he was responsible for doing the additions as well as making the era when he managed, 1924 – 1944, the most successful ones for the hotel.  He sold it to Sheraton in 1944, and it became the chain’s 18th hotel.  

old locationSo, with this history in mind, I kept heading north towards the intersection of where this grand hotel once sat.  And across a pretty big thoroughfare, there it was – now a pretty nondescript, three-story office type building.   There were benches outside with pretty flower pots.  Across the street, was a small park, surrounded by more brick buildings.  There was no historical marker on the building that told once sat here.  Behind the building, you could see the quite tall Holiday Inn and Suites of the Berkshires.  Even though the Grand Ole Wendell was no longer there, this block still remained a hotel where people could stay when they visited the area.  What was interesting about Pittsfield is that while the population is actually 5000 people less than it was in 1930, it did not give the appearance of being like a Fitchburg.  I liked sitting on that bench and observing the Pittsfield of 2019.


After observing for a bit, I went into the Marketplace Cafe.  While you could either get a breakfast or lunch there, I elected for, yes, an iced tea and an oat and strawberry bar and sat outside at tables outside the cafe.  My ice tea was served in a glass, with a paper straw – both nice touches.   I wrote up some notes about my ride from Springfield to Pittsfield and at 11:27 a.m., set off to Route 8 for the trip to North Adams.  I enjoyed my time in this little city, envisioning what it once was like as a playground for the rich New Yorkers.

Excerpts from letters in Pittsfield reveal more about the life of traveling salesman as well as more information about my Grandfather’s job

Monday evening

Tina Dear:-

Arrived safely last night at quarter of eleven.  The going was pretty had as it rained quite hard and the “knoeps” were just crawling.  We could not pass them as there were cars coming the other way.

All the boys are stopping over at this hotel, this was the last minute arrangement, and it won’t be so bad after all.  Frank, Bill Madden, Joe Barrie and I went down to see “The Street Girl” and it sure was a fine show! Have you seen it?

A crew of salesmen are down the hall and they sure are raising merry hell for the bellhop tells me that they have two cases of gin!  They are now singing at the top of their lungs. There must be at least ten of them, so you can imagine the racket they are making, but let them be happy, we only live once.

I am quite tired this evening as I have driven seventy-six miles besides doing a days work. I still have my reports to make out beside writing a few lines home.  



Tuesday evening, 12 M

Tena Dear: –

This evening, I thought I would drop down to see Mary, as she has written me and asked me down.  But when I started I thought I got on the Albany Road, but drove for miles and pretty soon I began to recognise the hated New York City, well, you could have knocked me over with a feather as I was just the opposite direction from where I wanted to be, well let me tell you, I started back for Pittsfield and got here at quarter to twelve, I covered one hundred and thirty-six miles.  Now I will have to postpone the trip to Mary as we are checking out of this hotel Thursday morning and are going to No. Adams for the rest of the week.

Lots of love,


Wensday evening

Tina Dear:-

Today has been an awful day.  You know, one that is quite cold, very dark, with showers every ten minutes, goodness, but it is dreary.  

All the boys are out this evening on dates, I believe they told me, and I am here alone.  

Today, anything irritated me, even Frank got me angry without meaning to.  Why this morning, we went down in my car to the Railway Station, in order to get some supplies that were sent from the office and when we got there, there was to much material for my car to take down and as Frank’s car was in for repairs, it seemed that I would have to try to take care of it somehow.

Frank opened up a case containing dummies and began tossing them to me, some he threw wild and that burned me up. I finally got all the material on but there was hardly room for a hair pin to spring in anywhere.

Frank worked with me today and it was after lunch before we even got started as we were ready to start, Ed Hoffman came along and gave me six windows that had to be done today.  I got peeved and asked him how we were going to complete them, when we only had one car.  

Anyway we finally had the six displays in and Frank began thinking of that girl in Greenwooed, the one who gave him a rotten deal, and he got blue as the devil, so we were a great pair.

Tomorrow, I will write to you from No. Adams and I hope that you are feeling well and are thinking of me the same as I of you.

Just blue,



letterhead and envelopeAs you can see on the letterhead, the only initial clue I had about this hotel was that it was located opposite the “New Union Station” in Springfield.  The New Union Station, was opened up in 1926 and still is open as a train station.  I thought that would be easier enough to track it down as it seemed to have a prime location for travelers.  However, after googling information, reaching out to a Springfield Historical Group to have the email bounce back, going through the Lost New England blog and reaching out to another group on Facebook (and hearing nothing), I was heading to Springfield with this one and only clue.

I followed Tour 4 – From Boston to the New York State Line, 144.3 miles on US 20.  In the Massachusetts Guide Book, the description of Route 20 is as follows: “the road is hard-surfaced throughout, but narrow and in poor condition in some of the rural sections, open at all seasons.” Sage and I pulled out of the garage at 6:11 a.m. on a muggy Sunday morning. I picked up Route 20 in Northborough, which is mile 31.7 miles of section A of this tour, which goes to the intersection with State 9.  After intersecting with State 9, this is section B of Tour 4.  From this junction to Springfield is 57.3 miles. This route goes on the outside of Worcester, through Charlton, Sturbridge, Brimfield, Palmer, North Wilbraham, before heading into Springfield.  US 20 will go into downtown Springfield.  The road through Worcester, Milbury and Charlton was rough in spots.  It was a two-lane each direction road until I hit Brimfield, where it narrowed down into one land each direction.  There were foggy sections on my Sunday ride, on the higher elevation areas, and I hoped it would burn off for when I entered the higher parts of the journey later on.  In Brimfield, I could see evidence of where the tornado hit several years back.  Palmer had a cute little downtown area, and around 8:00 a.m., my GPS instructed me to leave Route 20 to head for the Union Station area.  I passed through a lot of industrial areas during this ride and soon, the station was right in front of me.  Across from it sat parking lots and more industrial buildings, but not one sign of an old hotel.

I parked the car in an empty lot at and went to the front of the station.  The mileage was 75.5 and I parked at 8:27 a.m.  The area felt a little dicey to me, so I went really quickly to take a quick peek around, do my pictures, and take a video.


This was probably the shortest of trips as I got back into Sage at 8:36 a.m. and headed a quick 0.3 miles to the Mocha Emporium at 1623 Main Street.  This was a really cute little shop on a pretty deserted Main Street.  I ordered a Black Currant Ice Tea, which was refreshing and sat and did some trip notes, before leaving Springfield at 8:56 a.m. for my next destination.  To date, this was probably my most disappointing stop since I knew nothing about the hotel and its history.  But, I was at least able to at least pinpoint somewhat where it was located.  I was hoping this would be the down point for the rest of the day’s journey.

While my Grandfather was in Springfield, he received an interesting business proposition that you can read about below.  This letter also provided a glimpse into some of what he did during a day.

Tuesday evening

Tina Dear: – I have just got back from the Clinton Hotel, where the boys are staying.  We have been singing and talking, kidding Leo Gatreau alive and what not. Leo thinks he is quite a musician, so we kid him along and I believe he thinks that we are serious about it when we tell him that he is good, but actually is terrible.  This morning, I got my car out of the Ford shop and it is running along like a lilly, so I have no kick coming my way. I have worked Holyoke today and was through with my work quite early, so I went along with Bill Madden and helped him with his sales.  I sold six cartons of ciggarettes, four dozen luxury and three and a half dozens Edgeworth. About four p.m. we met a fellow that represents the American Tissue Mills and he invited me down to the mills to see the crepe manufactured. It is quite interesting the way they make it, he also showed the way they stretch paper by machine.

He asked me whether I had trimmed the Edgeworth windows in town and I said that I was the one, well what do you know, he offered me a job with his concern and all I had to do was travel all over the country  advertising their crepe, by putting in displays. The salary was to be thirty five for a start with a good drawing account, of course you know what that meant, being away from you for a period of six months or so and of course that is out of the question, so far as I am concerned for being away from you for that length of tie, why I would not even give it a second thought, of course if I had never met you, it would be different.

To top things off, I could get you a position with them also, drawing designs for their advertising crepe and tissues, but I thought that if you were in Springfield and I am in Boston, how would that feel, so I thought that it would not be the best thing for the both of us, being separated for that length of time.  You would probably be in Springfield for a few months before you got back for a weekend and then I sure would be lonesome.

You must thing that I am selfish, but Tina dear, would you want to stay away for that length of time.  I know that I would not for any amount of money.  

There is no kidding about your position, or mine either.  I could hop right to work for them tomorrow, but nothing doing.  I am content to stay with Larus, for in the long run, I’ll probably be ahead that much more.  I am always thinking of you dear, With love, Joe


So, this is a little summary of today’s journey.

  • 279.1 miles for this journey.
  • 12 hours 2 minutes from leaving my garage to arriving back in my garage.
  • 48 towns/cities traveled through. (may be more as I might not have recorded all the little towns correctly)
  • Route numbers traveled:  117, 62, 20, 8, 9, 100, 112, 2, 2A, 70
  • Prettiest road(s):  MA and VT Route 8, Vermont 9, Vermont 100, MA 112
  • 6 tea drinks (or ice cream) (forgot to take a picture of my DD ice tea!)
  • 5 hotels visited:  1 not found, 2 were knocked down, 1 burnt down and 1 is still a functioning hotel!
  • 1 cemetery:  Was so thrilled to find this on Vermont 8 as my Grandfather had written about it in his letter from Wilmington Vermont:  “Further along it is a climb again, but this time when you reach the top, you see a beautiful sleepy hollow, and right in the center, it appears, there are small white slabs, with a clump of young evergreen trees surrounding it and as you get into the valley you notice that the mountains are surrounding it, with the same array of magnificent coloring, well I stopped near this cemetery for about ten minutes and thought what a quiet and dreamy, but lonely spot, if not for the brilliant colors, if would appear totally barren and would give you the shudders.  The name that I gave this place was “Sleepy Hollow” and it sure was a long sleep for those that had been buried there. All of the slabs were of the same height and that sort of was striking.”


The trip I did today was in the same direction that my Grandfather had done.  On the way back, I went through Gardner and Fitchburg, but did not stop there today.  But his trip was almost 3 weeks in length.

Oh darling, it seems like ages and ages since I have last seen you, really and truly it is just as bad as it was up in Maine.”

What a wonderful day – such pretty scenery, cool places to explore, and another connection to my Grandfather.  This indeed has been a great journey.


Date of Original Trip:  October 8, 1929

Date of Recreated Trip:  August 12, 2019

Hotel and Address:  The Colonial, Gardner Mass.  American Hotels Corporation, N.Y.


Tuesday evening, Tina Dear: – Here I am stopping in a place where I had no idea of doing so.  Ed Hoffman told us to clean up around here and tomorrow to go to Fitchburg for the rest of the time left.  I could not feel any worse if I had been alone in some dense woods all day long. What is the use, I’ll have to wait for Friday and then, you can cheer me, and I’ll try to cheer you dear.  Always thinking of you sweetheart, Loads of love, Joe

We left Fitchburg at 12:29 p.m., and headed west on Route 2A, which is part of Tour 2B.  After a short trip through Westminster, we arrived in Gardner at 12:58 p.m. and parked at a meter across from an imposing brick building.  This building was actually the building that housed the Colonial Hotel!   How did I come to find this location?  Was it as easy as it seemed?

What is interesting about this location is that there is a Colonial Hotel in Gardner currently, and when I first read the letter head, I was really excited about the fact that it was still operating as a hotel, as I know people who have stayed there.  But after a little sleuthing, I found out that this Colonial Hotel is not the Colonial Hotel in Gardner that my Grandfather visited in 1929. So, the million dollar question is, where was the original Colonial Hotel and was it still around?  

Luckily, I found my answer pretty quickly in the February 9, 2019 edition of the Gardner News.  There seemed to be a series of special articles, done on headlines of the past in Gardner history.  This headline read: February 6, 1924: Colonial Hotel opens its doors in downtown Gardner. The Colonial Hotel formally opened its doors to guests on February 7, 1924.  Back then, Gardner was a bustling furniture manufacturing city and if you wanted to hang out in the “hippest” place in town, you would want to stay at the Colonial (you did have four other choices on where to stay in Gardner).  In addition to business travelers, Gardner was ideally situated in the middle between Boston and North Adams on the Mohawk Trail (aka Route 2). This is a distance of 131 miles, which would take us a little under three hours to do.  But, back when cars did not travel as fast, Gardner would be a great stopping place for the night.  

The Colonial was actually a “chain” hotel.  The Gardner Chamber of Commerce lobbied to bring one of 20 Colonial hotels nationwide to Gardner.  It was sited in the center of the town, on a new road called CIty Hall Avenue. Eventually CIty Hall, the Police Station, the Courthouse, and the Post Office would all be located right near the hotel.  For the opening night of the hotel, there was an extravagant evening of dinner and dancing.

This was a very modern hotel.  It was fully fireproof, 60 guest rooms had private baths and toilets and the other 40 guest rooms had private toilets.  There was a beautiful lobby, a large lounge and dining room, and a colonial fireplace on the first floor. Also on the first floor was a beauty shop, a barber shop, a coffee shop, and a small shop.  The guest rooms were found on the next four floors. After Prohibition ended, The Can Can Room, one of Gardner’s most popular taverns, opened in the basement of the Colonial Hotel.

The hotel hosted both Senator John F. Kennedy and Robert Frost for lunch.  It’s other claim to fame was when “The Human Fly”, George Polley climbed the five stories of the outer wall.  

During 50 years of operation, the hotel underwent many management changes.  In 1974, Gardner’s hotel business was declining. The hotel closed and was turned into housing for the elderly.  The Colonial Hotel building does still stand and today is known as the Colonial Apartments.

On the side of the building, a barbershop and small restaurant still existed, much like it did when it opened.

IMG_0678It was really exciting to see the building as it existed back when my Grandfather visited in 1929.  There were several residents sitting out on the front porch, enjoying an iced coffee and we shared with them what we were doing.  As I have found throughout this journey, everyone that I tell what I am doing finds it really amusing.  These two residents were no exception.  As we took some video and more pictures, I started to wonder if we could perhaps get inside to see if the beautiful lobby still existed.  I always say if you ask someone, what is the worst thing they will say – “no”, so I went back and asked if perhaps we could get inside.  One of the women, Jean, happily agreed to take us in.  She said that there were several pictures of the hotel hanging in the lobby.  With that, we followed her through the set of double doors and into the lobby of the building.  She pointed out the two pictures and how the roof line had changed.

There were other residents hanging out in the lobby and she told them what we were doing.  The lobby was not as open as I would had thought it was back in the day, but it still had remnants of beautiful moldings, marble steps and large doors as it probably did back then,

Screen Shot 2019-08-13 at 7.45.53 AMOn our way out, we met another resident whose uncle had played at the Can Can Room as a member of the Overtones.  This resident shared stories about being there and hearing his uncle play in the actual room.  He talked about his childhood, which seemed like it fluctuated between New Brunswick and Gardner.  He was also so excited to share his stories.

We said goodbye and walked back out to take several more looks at the building before walking to find someplace to eat.  Gardner was full of older buildings, including a J.C. Penney building, many older banks, and some vacant storefronts.  We found the Gardner Ale House and elected to sit on the back deck, which was filled with customers.  This looks like another fun place, that has live music at night, Sunday Brunch and a great menu.  If you are out in this area, I would highly recommend this restaurant.


On the way home, we took Route 140 south.  There was a detour that had us end up on Mountain Road in Princeton, which provided us with incredible vistas!  From there, we were on parts of Route 12 & Route 62 through Sterling, some backroads where we ended up on Route 110, and then onto Route 117.  It was a little bit longer of a ride as we left Gardner at 3:08 p.m. and arrived back in Maynard at 4:27 p.m.  It was a roundtrip of 83 miles for the day.

As I later reflected on the day,  I was so thrilled for many different reasons.  First, the entire building still existed, which was a first for my journeys.  But I think the most important reason, was the ability to learn about a human connection to the building.  To meet people who lived there and who were excited to tell their stories really made this one special trip.  This is the intent of this blog – Waiting for Stories to be told, and today, not only my Grandfather’s story was told, but stories of connections to this hotel made it one fabulous trip.




Date of Original Trip:  October 9, 1929

Date of Recreated Trip: August 12, 2019

Hotel and Address: American House, on May Street from Blossom Street to Day Street, Fitchburg, Mass, Wm. Berger, Proprietor

letterOctober 9, 1929.  Tina Dear: – I am in the writing room and in the lobby, I can hear the radio broadcasting from New York, just at the present they are playing the Indian Love Call, well I’m not an Indian, but I certainly am calling for a little dear, not so very far off from here, and I wish that I were in Saugus, fifty miles away from here.  Tina dear, I guess we both were blue Monday, for it seems like ages and ages since last I have seen you. I wrote Hall, asking him for at least three weeks around home, and I guess that my wish shall be granted. The worse of my travelling is over with now Tina dear. I am not sorry for it either. Today has been the first time this week that I had any sort of a break, for I made five calls and put in a window at every five of the calls I made, it was after one P.M that I got through but it was a great relief to have the afternoon off to myself but what good did it do me, other than I had more of time uninterrupted for thought of you, and got blue.  I watched Cushing Academy scrimmage for awhile and before I knew it, I was in there throwing forward passes to the fellows. It seemed like old times, but the only regret I had was that I did not don on a suit and had a little fun with the rest of them, the coach asked me whether or not I wanted a suit, so that I could join in with the boys, but I thought ,what would be the use, I would be so stiff from this exercise that I probably would not be able to move, so naturally, I declined the invitation. This shall be my last letter as I’ll be leaving this hotel Friday morning and be home the same night. With the greatest of expectations, Loads of love, Joe

On Monday morning, August 12th, I set out to do the Worcester County version of the 1929 road trips.  Again, the order was reversed – Fitchburg was actually my Grandfather’s last stop of a Western Massachusetts – Vermont Road Trip that took place in October 1929.  But for this trip, I had two special friends who wanted to accompany me on one of the trips.  This one wasn’t going to be long like last week’s journey, so they were excited to join in,

The Fitchburg of 1929 and the Fitchburg of 2019 don’t differ much in terms of population.  In 1930, the population was 40,692.  In 2018, the population was 40,882.  The Fitchburg that existed in the 1840s, when the American Hotel was built is vastly different than the Fitchburg that exists today.  When the American Hotel was built in 1846, Fitchburg was a booming city.  The Boston-Fitchburg train line had just opened, bringing more people to to Fitchburg.  The same train line today also brings the people who are looking for more affordable homes into Boston for work. In the 1840s, there was an increase in businesses, such as textiles, paper mills and machinery manufacturers, which drew even more people to visiting Fitchburg.  These people needed a place to stay, so in 1846, the first American House was built on the corner of Main Street and Blossom Streets. In the 2015 edition of the Fitchburg Historical Society, there is a detailed description of the American House.  This was a rather large structure, being five stories in height. The first floor was home to a dining room, lobby, kitchen and several shops. The upper four floors were guest rooms and bathrooms. In 1854, the hotel was sold.  The new owner added on an addition that brought it down to the corner of Day Street. This new hotel had rooms for salesmen to show their goods, a grand ballroom, more rooms for guests and a new tavern. The hotel became the center of the downtown area.  Many famous people, such as Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Edison, Henry David Thoreau, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Ralph Waldo Emerson stayed there after giving talks at Fitchburg City Hall. In the late 1800s, the Cummings Theater was built next door to the American House, thereby offering even more entertainment for hotel guests.  According to the information from the Fitchburg Historical Society, the hotel did survive both fires and multiple changes of ownership until 1952 when it was closed. It was torn down several years later and the clothing store, Roger’s, was built there. This store no longer exists.  The Cummings Theater also isn’t there any longer.  With this knowledge, I was interested to see how downtown Fitchburg compared to a more prosperous time in the past.

After having used the Maine and New Hampshire American Guide Series from the Federal Writers Project, I was now switching to the Massachusetts guide.  Their description of tours was rather amusing.

“The tours which follow cover every city, town, and village in the State.  If laid end to end, they would stretch from Boston to San Francisco, but no traveler, it is hoped, will attempt to lay them end to end, or even to follow them in their entirety.  Accordingly, the tours have been so arranged that you may choose the most direct route, if you are in a hurry. If you have more time, a plenitude of more devious routes and side trips awaits you.  Tours with a number only (as Tour 1) in general follow express highways. Tours with a number followed by a letter (as Tour 1A) are alternate routes, beginning or ending at an express highway. Although less direct, they are often more interesting.  Why follow a tour anyway? Be your own gypsy, running along a main tour until you get tired of it, then branching off on a side trip, and instead of returning to the main route, doubling back on another road. The Tour Map on pages 408, 409 will help you to abandon all rules and directions and to make up your own tours.  To assist you, addresses have been given for points of interest whenever possible. If you get lost, consult the State Map in the pocket at the back. If you are still lost, never mind. It’s fun being lost in Massachusetts.” (p. 406).

With this introduction in mind, Tour 2: From Boston to New York Line (Troy), 148 m., State 2 (The Mohawk Trail), seemed to be the tour to take.  Similar to my trip to New Hampshire, where Route 3 was a suitable route, but I didn’t take it until I hit Manchester because I thought the route was not true to what my Grandfather traveled on, I didn’t plan on taking Route 2 to Fitchburg and Gardner.  I asked Google to create me a no highway option map and it put me on Route 2A. Then I went back and read the Tour 2. What was curious is at first, it definitely sounded like the Route 2 that I currently travel – it passed Pleasant Street in Arlington, Waltham Street in Lexington and then Route 62 in Concord (which includes a nice side trip to Maynard).  But after it has you passing the Concord Reformatory, it then discusses the junction with Brook Street. I could not visualize this on Route 2. After that, it says, it “follows the shore of Lake Nagog at 25.6 m.” (p.447). I stopped at this point, because what we call Nagog Pond is now on what we call Route 2A. Shaker Lane (named for a “Hill that Shakes”) , Littleton Center and Ayer are all on Route 2A, as is the Bull Run Tavern in Shirley.  At this point, “State 2 becomes more winding and passes through alternate woods and open meadows” before heading into Lunenberg. Near the intersection of Route 13, we should be able to view both the city of Fitchburg and Mount Wachusett. This should bring us right into Main Street in Fitchburg, and we will be looking for 25 Blossom Street (or around there) to see where the American House is located.  So, that is the ride we did.  At 10:25 a.m., drivingKate, Pam and I climbed into Sage, headed north on Route 27 until the intersection of Route 2A/119.  We turned left at this intersection, heading west on Route 2A, past Nagog Pond, Shaker Lane, before entering Littleton, where we turned left at the common, onto King Street, and continued to follow Route 2A.  This led us through the pretty Ayer downtown, past the Bull Run in Shirley and onto that really pretty overview of Mount Wachusett and Fitchburg in Lunenberg.  It was an easy drive into Fitchburg Center where we quickly found Day Street, and hopped out of the car at 11:29 a.m.  This portion of the trip was 29.1 miles.

Fitchburg of the present looks different than what I am assuming Fitchburg of the past looks like.  The American Hotel is has been gone for 65 years and the building that took its place is also gone.  Now there is a nondescript building, that is manly vacant. block opf buildingstina and joe pic

There appears to be a campaign to bring more business back to Fitchburg https://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/2016/11/29/this-is-fitchburg-campaign-starts-with-colorful-downtown-windows-video/ .  However, when I went to explore the website, it had been retired.  There is lots of evidence of many grand old buildings that were built during the later part of the 19th century that are still standing.  Unfortunately, many of these also are vacant.



Kate’s Field Notes

We ventured down to Strong Style Coffee, which was at the intersection of Cushing Street and Boulder Street.  Immediately after walking in the door, we knew we had found a gem.  With a very unique menu and an even more unique cafe, it offered a great contrast to the emptiness of the many buildings we had seen.  They have a great drink menu, including espresso, coffee drinks (including French Press coffee), and “Drinking Vinegars”.  I tried the Blueberry and Honey, and Pam tried the Ginger and Honey, which were both refreshing.  (And we think in the olden days, these were called “Shrubs”).  The cafe also served food, beer and wine, and hosts both musical events and trivia nights.  Outside on Boulder Street, there is outdoor seating.  I would strongly recommend if you are in the area to check this out!

Outside of the cafe, was an area that looked like a music venue, a parking garage and a cooly painted alley way.  There was lots of neat artwork as well.  It was encouraging to see a little pocket of revitalization in this once prosperous city.

With all of the older buildings still around the Main Street, it was easy to visualize what this section of Fitchburg once looked like.  There are efforts, such as partnerships between Fitchburg State University and a group called NewVue to help small businesses in the area. ( https://www.telegram.com/news/20190421/newvue-communities-ready-to-help-drive-fitchburg-revitalization).  The Fitchburg Art Museum is also very highly regarded.  It will be interesting to see Fitchburg transform once again into a city where the modern day equivalents of Grant, Edison, Thoreau, and my Grandfather come to stay once again.




letterpic up close

From the information on the envelope, dated August 12, 1929, it just said The Phenix Hotel, Concord New Hampshire.  It is curious that many of them do not contain a street address. This was also well before the time before zip codes were used – they weren’t formally introduced until 1963. 

Monday evening – Tina Dear!  Here I am safe and sound in Concord, without any mishaps, Thank God, but ask me I am tired! Say Tina dear I could hardly keep my eyes open all day for it has been terribly hot in this town all day and which is warranted that when I am tired, it gets me sloppy.  

I got in at seven A/M/ and just as I was going out of the garage, Hale called up and wanted to know whether I had left.  The garage man replied that I was just about ready to leave, so he wanted to see me before I left. I went over and he bawled me out for starting so late and also for not putting on any tin signs on my car.  I felt like telling him what was the matter with Frank, for I noticed that his car was still in the garage and he had a much longer drive than I, but I guess that I used my head and kept quiet.

I will write to you tomorrow evening from Manchester.  My car has gone 505 miles to date, not so bad?

phenix hall2When trying to find out about the Phenix Hotel, Phenix Hall first appeared on my Google Search.  Phenix Hall was next to the Phenix Hotel. The hall was used for a gathering spot, where Abraham Lincoln (1860) and Teddy Roosevelt spoke there.  Lincoln spoke in the “old” Phenix Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1893 and rebuilt. Roosevelt spoke at the “new” Phenix Hall in 1912. Phenix Hall had a 500 person theater, that was used for events such as political speeches as well as boxing and wrestling matches.  Currently, there is work being done on the second floor of the building, to restore it to a venue.

Phenix Hotel

The Phenix Hotel was constructed in 1857, replacing a previous building which was destroyed by fire in December 1856.  On this building, there was originally a mansard roof on top of the fifth floor. This rook was replaced in 1947 with a flat roof.  This hotel was destroyed by a fire in 1950 and in 1954 the upper stories of the building were removed, leaving the present single-story structure.  This single story building now houses a CVS Pharmacy, which was the first floor of the Phenix Hotel. If you look at the front of the building, it looks like a CVS and there are no clues that it was once one of three very important hotels located on Concord’s Main Street.  However, from the National Park’s Register of Historic Places site, I found out that from the Phenix Avenue side of the building, there would still be evidence of the original hotel. On the south wall, there would be the original “rusticated” wood siding that would have a series of applied pilasters.  A pilaster can be described as a rectangular column that is built into a wall for either structural or decorative purposes. On the same wall, there would be five windows that are blocked, but would still have the wood moldings over and under the windows. The windows are also three different sizes. On the east side (back side) of the building, it will still appear to be two-storied, constructed from both granite and concrete blocks and bricks.  There will also be evidence of the arched windows, although those too will be filled in with bricks. 

From the American Guide Series, written by the workers of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of New Hampshire in 1938, I found out that when this book was published, the population of Concord was 25,228 and that there were seven hotels in the city.  In 1936, the Merrimack River’s flooding caused a third of the city to be totally flooded. Another interesting fact that I found out that connected Lowell to Concord New Hampshire was that a series of canals were also created to connect Concord New Hampshire to the Middlesex Canal, which went to Boston.  This enabled people to be able to trade goods easier. However, when the steam railroad connected Concord to Boston in 1842, people no longer used the canals for transportation.

I did the trip in reverse order from what my grandfather did.  The first stop was in Manchester NH and from there, I traveled onto Concord.

This part of the trip is listed in the New Hampshire American Guide Series as Tour 3: From Lowell to Second Connecticut Lake. From Manchester (mile 22.6)  to Concord in 1938, you would go US3.  Eight miles into this ride, you would enter Hooksett.  4.5 miles further, you would then enter Pembroke. At mile 41.9, you would enter Concord.  

After visiting Concord, I will be taking Tour 15: From Concord to Fitchburg and returning back to Maynard via Rt 119  

At 9:33 a.m., I did a U-turn on Merrimack Street and turned right onto Elm Street, going north.  (Note – I still had a little time left on my meter – the meter prices were really reasonable!). IN a couple of miles, Route 3 turned to the northwest, and I continued to follow it through multiple towns.  The road wasn’t particularly scenic – there were many strip malls on both sides of the road. Route 3 took a turn to the right, and I stayed on Main Street, heading towards Route 3A. This road runs parallel to Route 93 and did also cross over Route 89, both major interstate highways.  With a little help from my “local” guide, aka my friend Jane, I found the parking area behind the Main Street and arrived in Concord at 10:20 a.m .The odometer now read 68.2 miles, so the trip took me 47 minutes (included a wrong turn to find the parking area) and it was 18.5 miles in total.

I met up with Jane and we took a quick walk across Storrs Street to Depot Street and then to what was almost an alley, but was known as Phenix Avenue.  And there it was – the phenix backback of what was the Phenix Hotel. It was really exciting to see what was actually part of the building as I imagine that most of the places I will be seeing no longer exist.  The building was just as the Register of Historic Places described for the most part. The elevation of the back of the building appeared to be closer to two stories in height. This long wall was completely constructed of bricks and there were a combination of longer rectangular windows, shorter rectangular windows and partially arched windows.  There was eleven bricked up windows on the higher level and about ten windows on the lower level. Additionally, there was a back entrance for CVS employees and parking alongside the building.

On the southside of the building, that ran along a small alley out to Main Street, the building had a foundation of concrete blocks, and then the wood siding, although very weathered, was a combination of white and gray paint, that also showed some evidence of blue paint existing once.  This was especially evident on some of the pilasters as well as some of the siding towards the lower end of the building. On this side of the building, there was also a large mural, which was part of the Haley Rae Martin Mural Project, which provides teenagers the opportunity to create art that hangs on public buildings. This particular mural is based on the theme of Nature and Community.  

Jane and I ventured inside the CVS as I imagine that once upon a time, it served as a lobby area for the Phenix Hotel. The floor was extremely creaky and slanted in spots, a reminder that perhaps under the carpet lay the original flooring for the Phenix Hotel.  The developer who is working on the Phenix Hall also has plans to renovate this building once the CVS’s lease runs out. If that happens, I will certainly be back to explore this building more!


In front of Phenix Hall, Jane and I enjoyed a really leisurely lunch at The Works Cafe.  There was a large variety of items on the menu, and I opted for the Vegan Roll-up – hummus and vegetables, wrapped in a sweet potato wrap, along with an ice tea.  We sat outside at a table, that luckily had an umbrella (which was needed to dodge the raindrops!). The sandwich was outstanding. The iced tea was what one would normally find at a restaurant – it was good, but not anything special.  The Lowell iced teas have set the bar pretty high! It was great to be able to eat outside and observe both people and buildings. After our very leisurely lunch (and with several small showers and more ominous clouds on the western sky, I departed Concord at 1:07 p.m. While sitting outside at lunch, I noted that there are still many older buildings in downtown Concord area.   Passing through several streets, there were many interesting looking shops that would also be great to come back and explore in the future. I followed Jane out to 202 West. Unfortunately, quickly after getting onto Route 202, I encountered heavy rain, which didn’t allow me to really take a good look around.  Like Route 101 earlier in the day, this was also a one lane (each way) 55 mile per hour road. Initially it was Route 202/Route 9, but then, Route 9 went west while Route 202 merged with Route 147 to go southwest. There was a fair amount of trucks on the route as they were not allowed to stay on Route 9. During breaks in the rain, the town of Antrim, seemed like a neat old mill town. 

I decided also to stop in Peterborough, one of my favorite towns. This ride took one hour from Concord, probably due to the heavy rains.  On my stop-over in Petersborough, I stopped at Aesop’s Table, which is part of the Toadstool Bookshop, one of my favorite places.  Feeling a little iced tea out, I decided to try a “Butterfly Lemonade” which was freshly squeezed lemonade with blue pea powder. It was a tad too tart for my liking.  An interesting note was that this cafe only uses paper straws! After a 21 minute break, I departed again in heavy rain on Route 202, turning east/southeast onto Routes 123/124. These rolling hilled road also was pretty high speed and I pulled over several times to allow a truck and a dump truck pass by me. After a nine minute break in Acton to pick up an ingredient for supper, Sage and I pulled into the garage at 4:00 p.m., and at 156.2 miles for the day.  The Tour 15 part of the trip was 88 miles in length and it rained a good majority of that leg.

It was really rewarding to actually step foot into one of the places that my Grandfather had visited.  I could picture a wooden lobby, with the desk clerk’s area, and probably an ornate staircase as I walked around the creaky CVS.  Following in the footsteps of my Grandfather in 1929 has allowed me to both experience the places he went to and to learn more about the man I never knew.