Welcome to the June edition of History & Heritage. Our purpose is to acquaint you with our mission to preserve the town’s rich history, highlight the legacy of those who have gone before and show how our past has shaped our present. We are a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status.
We are located in our new permanent home at 421 Summer Street as of August. We officially opened our doors to the public on November 1st. We are still a work in progress but it was time for us to show you what your volunteer efforts or monetary gifts have accomplished. June 1st we expanded our hours, Monday through Saturday from 10:a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The main part of the Carriage Barn is open displaying our horse drawn vehicles, ice cutting and numerous other attractions. This is your establishment and we encourage your support in making this historic home a wonderful place for exhibiting, preserving and collecting St. Johnsbury’s history. Our current goals for 2016 are the moving of the collections from the Museum; reception area exhibits; and the installation of a permanent platform wagon scale. Please join us August 6th at 7:00p.m.the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery for a Ghost Walk. Check out our web site at www.stjhistory.org and our Facebook page. Our mailing address is 421 Summer Street, St. Johnsbury, Vt., 05819 and phone number is 802 – 424 – 1090.
History of the Albert & Noella Dussault’s Higgins Hill home – Guest Post by Andrew Dussault
In St. Johnsbury, the first half of 1947 continued to be barren of buildings from the Gordon & Shirley Boardman home (1023 Concord Avenue) to the Leslie & Rose Daniell home (94 Higgins Hill Road). But, that is the year that the residential area of the upper and top portions of Concord Avenue/Higgins Hill started.
On August 30th, 1943 Gordon and Abbie Allen purchased a portion of the Albert Higgins estate as recorded in the St. Johnsbury Land Records at page 129 of Book 75. The beginning of the creation of the Higgins Farm took place on March 12th, 1830, when John Higgins was conveyed two parcels of land, a) from Daniel Whipple, Book 7, Page 97, b) from Elisha Whipple, book 7, Page 99. The 1875 Beers Atlas and the 1858 Wallings wall map show that area belonging to one J. Higgins ( John Higgins ).
On September 30th, 1946, the Allens sold (Book 92, Page 356) “the site of the Higgins house that was burned, leaving the walls and foundations” to Calvin and Irene Carpenter.
The beginning of the development of the former Higgins farm was inaugurated when Gordon and Abbie Allen sold two building lots to Albert Dussault west of the former Higgins house site. The first lot, 99 feet x 117 feet, was conveyed (Book 93, Page 120) on July 14th 1947 and the second lot, 99 feet x 117 feet, was conveyed (Book 91, Page 402) on August 18th, 1947.
Shortly thereafter, my dad, Albert and my grandfather, Emile Dussault, began the construction of a two story house on the easterly parcel. The concrete blocks for the foundation were “trucked” from Burlington in a homemade trailer towed by our 1937 Lincoln Zephyr which was powered by a 1941 Ford V-8 engine without a fan. The original engine was a V-12 but, during the “big one”, World War II, everyone had to make do with what was available.
During the process of laying the concrete blocks, Albert and Emile completely filled all of the cavities of the blocks on the front portion of the foundation with concrete, which created a solid wall. The area between the road and the foundation was filled with cinders from the gas plant on South Main Street. This idea made for good drainage. We moved into the new home on December 17th, 1947, our brother, Paul’s (Pinky to his schoolmates) first birthday.
During our nearly three years in the new house, we raised chickens, turkeys and hogs. It was a most memorable time for Bobby, Denise and me. During the first two winters, we would go sliding across the road (now Ridgewood Drive) on bread box cardboard. Sleds were extravagant. Our closes neighbors – the first year – were the Boardmans – down the hill – and the Daniells – toward the former Lambert Packard farm and east of the “Y” in the road.
The year 1948 was a significant one for us. Our brother, Clement, was born on July 14th, one year to the day since the purchase of our first lot. And, on September 14th, the Allens sold two parcels of land to Twins State Broadcasters, Inc. Sounds like E. Dean Finney and WTWN to me – ask Don Mullaly. In Book 93, Page 388 of the St. Johnsbury Land Records the deed tells us a “part of the site of the foundation of the barn and of the former Albert Higgins farm” was included in Parcel I.
As children Bobby, Denise and I would play in the former Higgins house foundation and in the barn foundation where the radio station was built in 1949. During July of ’49 , we watched as a steeple jack ascended to the top of the station’s antenna to install the initial light beacon.
We always enjoyed participating in the radio program “Uncle Dave and His Bag of Tricks”. The bag of tricks was a waste basket full of noise making debris that a lucky kid would have the pleasure of dumping onto the floor at the beginning of the show.
On September 19, 1950, our parents, Albert and Noella Dussault sold the house and the extra building lot to George and Marjorie Hall (Book 95, Page 280). Currently, the initial lot purchased and the house built in 1947 at 1249 Concord Avenue is the home of Celine Adams.
Our family left for a three year adventure in California on October1st, 1950. We returned to St. Johnsbury in August of 1953 with our two year old brother, Eugene.
The 1943 aerial photo of the Higgins Hill area of St. Johnsbury depicts wide open fields from Boardman’s property to the Daniell’s property. The current tax map depicts at least 24 houses and the radio station built in the above described area since Albert and Emile Dussault built the first house in 1947.