VHF Newsletter 
May 2014

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Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead

Nature's first green is gold. Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf, so Eden sank to grief, so dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.
                                                                                                                                                                - Robert Frost
A Natural History Mystery

For a week this spring we watched a woodpecker pair feeding in the Homestead lawn. Can you guess which species they were? 

Hint: Only one type of Maine woodpecker feeds on the ground.  

Curatorial News


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

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.

Upcoming Programs

June 3: 
Vaughan Collections WWII "Red Cross Clubmobile" Exhibit Opens at the Hubbard 


June 14:
Interpretive Walk & Talk: Amazing Milkweed

July 7-11
Nature & Art Day Camp for 6-9 Year Olds 
Details & Registration 

July 24 :
Boneheads Picnic Concert
Ticket Sales & Information 

July 26:
Mr. Harley & the Strollers Children's Picnic Concert
Ticket Sales & Information 

August 21:
Ken Labrecque Picnic Concert
Ticket Sales & Information 

August 23: 
Movie on the Lawn
Details to come

September 25:
Ed DesJardins
Ticket Sales & Information

September 27: 
Garden Potluck & Children's Movie
Details to come

April History Mystery

"Where in the Woods?" 

Last month we asked you to identify where and when this photograph was taken. Consider the photo below, taken in May of 2014 from the same perspective: 

Pictured in color is the top of the stone arch Driving Bridge that sits just below the dam at the bottom of the Corniche Trail. Vaughan family records show that it replaced the wooden Currier's Bridge (seen in the old photo) in 1908. Next, note the size of the trees on the hillside in the modern picture and the lack thereof in the old picture. The pines you see today, named the Kelso Pines, were planted between 1901 and 1903 to prevent erosion. Finally, just downstream in both pictures, you may note the small footbridge, known today as Uncle Sam's Bridge. In Mary Vaughan Marvin's (1884 - 1982) memoirs, she writes that her brother Sam (1887 - 1950) built this bridge in 1900 with their father when he was 13 years old. Upon first inspection, we missed the footbridge, which is just barely visible behind the shrubs on the right bank. Now we think the picture was taken looking downstream from below the dam before the building of the Driving Bridge in 1908 and the planting of the Kelso Pines in 1901, but after the building of Uncle Sam's Bridge in 1900. And because of the snow, we place it in November or December of 1900 or January, February, or March of 1901. 


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