Help Wanted ca. 1932
Guardian of the Woods & Pond: Must love detective novels and camping in the rain. Willingness to discourage "mixed bathing" a plus. Pay: $1/day . . .
It has been more than a century since William Warren Vaughan decided to allow public access to Vaughan Woods, his family’s privately owned forest preserve.
In “WW’s” time, as in our own, it was necessary to have some rules and limitations to ensure that access privileges were not abused, and to preserve the natural resources of the site, its quiet solitude and the safety of its users. WW was quick to recognize, for example, that shooting sports would not be compatible with safe and peaceful uses of woodland trails or the swimming beach that once existed at Cascade Pond.
The beach posed special problems because it was popular among both young men and young women of the community – but unchaperoned mixed-gender swimming was regarded, at least by the Vaughans, as something quite inappropriate. The problem was initially addressed with notices establishing separate swimming days for girls and boys, but that did not do the job.
So in early June of 1932, WW hired a Mr. Lovering to function as a “Guardian” of Vaughan Woods and the swimming beach, to patrol the area and issue “tickets” for swimming privileges.
In addition to his dollar-a-day wage (which was not unusually low during the depths of the “Great Depression”) Lovering enjoyed some “fringe benefits." WW’s daughter Mary reported that he would be provided with a “tent fly” to help him stay dry on rainy days, and a supply of reading material – specifically, detective novels, perhaps to bolster his law enforcement skills.
On the same day (June 4th) that Lovering issued 65 tickets to eligible boys, two girls who approached the beach were intercepted, turned away, and told that they could obtain tickets only when the beach was reserved for females. Mission accomplished!
In a June 4th letter, WW’s daughter Mary wrote:
Grey (a Hallowell policeman) recommended this Lovering not an old Hallowell-ite so he won’t play favorites, and he’s been about the world & been night watch man in the White Mts. & Augusta, Georgia, Bon Air Hotel, so being alone has no terrors, & he’ll have a little tent fly for showers & we’ll give him detective stories, & he’ll wander about & keep an eye on things & we can be sure of a quiet swim & that no riots & mixed bathing are taking place when we are taking our walks.
Today, as in the past, there are rules to promote the safe and responsible public access and enjoyment of Vaughan Woods. Although no tickets are required for entrance, and no Dudley Dooright is going to pop out from behind a tree to enforce gender-specific access days, it’s our hope that all those who use and enjoy Vaughan Woods will think of themselves as Guardians of its resources.
- VHF Curator, Ron Kley
Word on The Woods
The Kennebec Land Trust, which holds the conservation easement on the Vaughan Woods, is in the process of acquiring Howard Hill, the iconic 164-acre backdrop to the State House in Augusta. The Vaughan Woods and Howard Hill share some fascinating history. At a recent KLT event held at the Homestead, KLT president Brian Kent shared the following parallels between the two properties.
Both the Vaughan Woods and Howard Hill (once known as Ganneston Park) overlook the Kennebec River, and they're similar in size. Also, both lie on Hallowell’s city bounds and have streams that once powered an assortment of industrial pursuits. In some ways, the two men who improved the properties during the early 1900s - William Howard Gannett and William Warren Vaughan - were as similar as the features they added to their properties over more than 20 years. They were men of means who treasured their woodlands and sought to share them with the public. Both men had carriage roads, bridges and hiking trails constructed. Additionally both built ornamental tea houses that afforded views of the State House. Gannett's Tree House is pictured above, and Vaughan's Tea House (c. 1925) is below. Vaughan's was built in the early 1900s and sat atop "Tea House Hill" which was, at the time, clear of trees.
Evidence supports the idea that the Vaughans and the Gannetts knew of each other, although the extent of their relationship is unknown. Homestead curators have found several references to the Gannetts in the papers of William Warren Vaughan and his daughter Mary Vaughan Marvin. A 1915 letter reports that Mary and her uncle Benjamin Vaughan drove through Gannett Woods and saw "the beginning of his road that is coming out at Sewall St. in Hallowell." Note that the trails and bridges in the Vaughan Woods were built between 1900 and 1930. Did the two men communicate, or is it coincidence? Either way, the legacy of their efforts remains today, and hopefully well into the future.
If KLT’s funding campaign to purchase Howard Hill is successful, the Hill will, like the Vaughan Woods, be conserved forever for public enjoyment and Hallowell will be "bookended" by these two special places and their surprisingly similar stories. To learn more about the Howard Hill project and to support it's purchase, visit tklt.org.
Cast Your Vote
What movie would you like to watch under the stars on the Homestead lawn? Think romantic black and white like Casablanca or An Affair To Remember. Maybe a movie set in Maine like Cider House Rules? How about a kids movie like The Secret Garden or Fairy Tale: A True Story? Cast you vote now! Send us your suggestions for both a grown-up movie and a children's movie: Movie Vote. Movies are scheduled to be shown August 23 and September 27 (kids). Thank you for your input.