About Us

Hartford Historical Society's Martha Knapp presenting 'The Abenaki's'   at Ottauquechee School

Martha Knapp presenting, ‘The Abenaki’s’ at the Ottauquechee Elementary School

The Hartford Historical Society is a non-profit, educational institution founded in 1987 by fourteen dedicated residents of the Town of Hartford, Vermont.

The Society’s Goals are to foster interest in local history, to serve the public as well as its members, and to encourage the preservation of the material culture of the Town of Hartford.

The society offers four educational programs a year, in September, November, April and June.  These programs are open to the public and are free of charge. In addition, the society operates the Garipay House, at 1461 Maple Street in Hartford Village. The Garipay House was bequeathed to the Hartford Historical Society in 1994 by the late Loretta Michota Garipay. An Open House is held on the second Sunday of each month (May to September) from 1:30 to 4 PM, and the first Tuesday of each month (May to October) from 6 to 8 PM.  The public is welcome to enjoy our displays of items pertaining to the history of Hartford.

 

Hartford Village was originally called White River Village.  It has a diverse commercial history, having produced at various times cotton, chairs, farm tools, flour, lumber, carriages, sleighs, and asbestos fertilizer.  It was home of the Hartford Woolen Company — with its connections to the Lyman, Morris and Cone families.  The village is the birthplace of Dr. Horace Wells, the first to discover the use of nitrous oxide — “laughing gas” — as an effective pain killer.  The Village is listed by the Vermont Division of Historic Sites as a State Historic District.

The “New” Pease Hotel, formerly located on Main (now Maple) Street in Hartford Village, on the site where the Garipay House and the Hartford Foodstop now stand.

Wilder was originally called Olcott Falls.  The name was changed in 1897, fifteen years after Charles Wilder arrived to erect a dam and to construct a paper mill and a “planned community.” In consideration for changing the name, Wilder’s estate financed the construction of an iron bridge across the Connecticut River to New Hampshire. The bridge, the dam and the paper mill were demolished in 1950 when the present Wilder Dam was erected to generate electricity.  Wilder’s status as a State Historic District is in process as of 1999.

White River Junction is located at the confluence of the White and Connecticut Rivers and was the first (1848) and the largest railroad center in the state and in New England north of Boston.  It was described in 1884 as having “…a fine large union depot, four churches… a large hotel, several stores of various kinds…” That description still holds today even though the depot burned down three times and the hotel twice. All were rebuilt without damaging the architectural integrity of the downtown area, which reflects the urban architecture of the late 1800′s and early 1900s. White River Junction is also a State Historic District.

Midway at the State Fair, formerly held in White River Jct. in the Sykes Mountain Avenue area now occupied by Vermont Transit, Gateway Motors, the Post Office, etc.

Quechee, another State Historic District, is the site of Quechee Gorge (one of Vermont’s more famous natural wonders) and of the Quechee Lakes planned community. For many years it was primarily a mill town noted for its woolen products, the most prominent being the Harris Emery Company and the A.G. Dewey Company. Of the historic sites in Quechee, the most famous is the Burtch/Udall “Theron Boyd” house. Built in 1786, the period when Vermont was an independent republic, it remains essentially unchanged since 1805. Recently saved from destruction, the house is owned by the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.

West Hartford got its start as a mill village on the White River. With the coming, in 1848, of the first railroad spur in Vermont (which ran between White River Junction and Bethel), West Hartford became primarily a stage stop connecting the more rural neighboring townships with the Central Vermont Railroad. It is also distinguished by having the only library owned by the Township (the others being trusteeships). This came about when the 1927 flood destroyed the 1922 library, and a new library was donated by the City of Hartford, Connecticut. The Appalachian Trail passes through the village as well.

Since its founding in 1761, the Town of Hartford has been comprised of many settlements. Only five survive today:  Hartford Village, Wilder, White River Junction, Quechee, and West Hartford.  Dewey’s Mill Village vanished with the flood control project in 1950.  Other hamlets have all but vanished, such as Centerville. Some have lost their community standing and remain as orphaned areas, such as Dothan/Jericho. Others have survived as historic places without shops, services or a post office, such as the Center of Town.

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The Garipay House

The Garipay House, located at 1461 Maple Street in Hartford Village, is the home of the Hartford Historical Society.  The house contains both the archives (except for some items stored at the Hartford Municipal Building in White River Jct.) and museum of the society. This historic home was bequeathed to the Hartford Historical Society in 1994 by the late Loretta Michota Garipay. The building had been the Garipay family home for many years.

The museum is open to the public, free of charge, Monday-Friday 9:00am-1:00pm, on the first Tuesday of each month (May to October) from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, and the second Sunday of each month (May to September) from 2:00 to 4:00 PM.  Other hours are available by appointment.