Fitch Hill, Vermont History

 

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Hyde Park

The town of Hyde Park was chartered on August 27, 1781, under the rules and regulations governing the granting of lands to soldiers of the American Revolution and to proprietors by petition. The charter was given to Capt. Jedidiah Hyde and 65 others who were probably family, personal friends, acquaintances, and army friends mostly from Norwich, Conn. Jedidiah Hyde and Capt. Jabez Fitch were the only proprietors listed in the Charter known to have settled in what is now Hyde Park. A 6 square mile tract of land, the first two divisions of the town were done in 1787, with three additional divisions in 1788, 1812, and 1813. The Town was officially organized in 1791 after Vermont became the 14th state, and in 1836 it became the Shire Town (county seat) of the newly formed Lamoille County.

Jabez Fitch, born at Norwich, Connecticut, February 15, 1737, was known to keep a detailed diary from when he was about 12 until shortly before his death in 1812. It is from this diary that we have much of the information about the early settlement of Hyde Park. Capt. Fitch came to Hyde Park in 1787 for the first time and was present during the original surveying of the town. He returned again in 1788 with three of his sons, Darius, Wilson, & Jabez, and began to clear the land during the warm months. Another year or two later the family came to settle permanently.

Fitch Farm

Darius Fitch began to build the home that is now the Fitch Hill Inn on land that his father gave to him on the occasion of his marriage to Lydia Billings of Cambridge, Vermont, in June of 1797. He brought his new bride to a 100 acre tract of land that was originally allotted to John Lamb during the First Division of the town in 1787.

The house is a classic example of Federalist-Colonial style, which was typical of homes built after the Revolutionary War. The foundation is field stone, with a dirt basement. The ground floor of the main house is heavy timber construction, and the upper stories are balloon construction, indicating that Darius and Lydia's original home was probably a single story. The exterior walls of the ground floor are of solid planks about 3 inches thick set vertically, probably pit sawn in those days before the saw mills were established.

Their son, Erastus, was born in the house in 1811, when the property was known as the Fitch Farm. The house was modified the house in the 1830s, adding the bay windows. The initials EF can be seen on the foundation stones of one of the bay windows as well as the initials CBK (or OBK) with the date 9.1.183[illegible]. It is also likely that the house was modified to a central hall style from the central chimney style that was prevalent earlier. The original chimney was completely removed, allowing access to the basement from the interior by a stairway. Erastus died in 1845, leaving his widow with young children. The farm was leased out some of the years until the children came of age.

Vernon, Erastus' son, was born in the house in 1840. It was during Vernon's lifetime that the house served as a schoolhouse and as a summer boarding house. By this time, the original house had been modified and enlarged from the basic structure with the addition at the north end, incorporating what may have been a summer kitchen and a shed into the main structure. It became formally known as "The Elms," though locals continued to refer to the place as "The Old Fitch Farm." A large elm tree survived in the front lawn for many years, and there are still surviving elms in the woods behind the inn.

Beer's Atlas of 1878 shows the location of the house labeled V. Fitch. It also shows present day Fitch Hill Road connecting to present day Vermont Route 100 and another road passing in front of the house and connecting to present day Centerville Road. This second road was the original stage coach road from Johnson to Wolcott. It can be traced through Hyde Park, leading up Fitch Hill and past the house on its way east. The front door would have faced onto that original road.

1886 Photo of Vernon Fitch Residence from the West 1886 Photo of Vernon Fitch Residence from the East

The photos above show the house in 1886. The bay windows are in evidence, but the front porch has not yet been added. Two chimneys are also evident, and brickwork found in the house during renovations indicate that they were built into the structure of the second floor in the old closets between the rooms and stove-pipes led out and down through the floors to the first floor rooms. Wood stoves on the first floor would have heated those rooms, and the warm stove-pipes passing through the bedrooms would have provided some heat for the upstairs rooms. The residual brickwork for the chimneys was removed when the bathrooms were put in.

When Vernon died in 1924, several tracts of land were sold to pay debts. One of these tracts was sold to the Beebe sisters, who built a cottage and studio. The current owners of the cottage have a Beebe painting showing the view from the cottage looking south and west. Photographs taken during the 1920s show the hill to be mostly cleared, with tremendous views in all directions.

Elizabeth Fitch, Vernon's wife, died in 1925, leaving the property to their adopted daughter, Ellen, who had married Lucius Noyes. After Ellen's death, Lucius continued to live in the large home until 1953 when the property passed out of Fitch family ownership. For the next three decades the house remained a private home, belonging first to the Page family and then the Levesque family, with an apartment at the north end of the ell.

Initials 'EF' Carved in the Stone Foundation Under the East Bay Window

Fitch Hill Inn

In 1983, Timothy and Robin Fulford-Brown purchased the house and ran Fulford House for two years. This was the final subdivision of the property attached to the house, leaving the main house with about three and a half acres of land. Fitch Hill Road no longer goes through on its way to Eden, though the remnants can be seen passing though the fields of the Lanphear Farm on the east side of Route 100. The stagecoach road in front of the house has disappeared and the Inn now is part of a quiet residential community.

Janet Eleanor Lister bought the property in 1985 and this is the first record of Fitch Hill Inn. It changed hands twice more, to the Lavoie's in 1987 and then Christa Wilkens later the same year. In 1990 it was purchased by Stan Corklin & Richard Pugliese. During the decade they ran the inn, they finished the attic space in the main house for themselves and created the two suites on the north end in what had been their apartment. They also added several bathrooms and in general upgraded the accommodations. They sold the inn to the Coquillette's in 2000.

The current owners, Julie & John Rohleder, bought the inn in 2003. They have continued to maintain and upgrade the property. They have renovated many of the guest rooms, including adding an en-suite bath to the Vermont Federal Room and enlarging the baths for both the New Hampshire Suite and the Massachusetts Room, as well as freshening the parlor and living room. The Green Mountain Suite was redone and now has a large 2-person whirlpool tub in the bath. All of the guest rooms have Julie's quilts on the beds and several pieces of John's furniture are located in the guest rooms. John also made the dining room tables and built-in bookcases in the parlor and a coffee counter with cabinetry upstairs.

Sources:

Hyde Park, Vermont, "Shire Town of Lamoille County", an Historical Story.

Town Records, Town of Hyde Park, Vermont

Fitch Family Collection, 1756-1924, Bailey/Howe Library Special Collections, University of Vermont

 

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Fitch Hill Inn
Julie & John Rohleder, Innkeepers
258 Fitch Hill Road, Hyde Park, VT 05655
www.fitchhillinn.com  Email: innkeeper@fitchhillinn.com
Phone: (802) 888-3834, Toll Free: (800) 639-2903