-Prudence Doherty, Archives Month Committee Member, Silver Special Collections Library, University of Vermont
For one hundred years, the Summit House welcomed day hikers and overnight visitors to the top of Mount Mansfield. The hotel closed in 1958 and the owners auctioned its furnishings before the structure burned in 1964. The Summit House business records, including boxes of correspondence, guest registers, and account books, as well as one large scrapbook, now sit on shelves in Silver Special Collections at the University of Vermont.
Scrapbooks can be challenging to preserve and use, and the Summit House scrapbook is no exception. The large book was “pasted by Mrs. Charles Jones in 1950,” according to a note on the back of the front cover. While most of the items that Mrs. Jones pasted and stapled are still firmly attached, the scrapbook pages themselves are extremely brittle and have mostly broken away from the laced binding. The simple act of turning the crumbling pages can be intimidating.
The first two items Mrs. Jones pasted into the scrapbook include a 1929 letter from Mrs. Mattie Whiting Bailey of Johnson, Vermont and a typescript of a newspaper article that Bailey wrote in 1866 about a visit to the Summit House. She sent the article to M. C. Lovejoy, manager of the Summit House, as “a contribution to your table of reading matter.” It is likely that Mrs. Jones started the scrapbook in 1950 to preserve visitor accounts, newspaper clippings, photographs, postcards, menus, pamphlets and other documents that had accumulated at the Summit House over the decades.
All of the items pasted on 81 pages provide a remarkable, if random, look at how visitors engaged with the natural scenic attractions and the comforts offered by the Summit House. Many of the visitor accounts are detailed and include commentary on the same topics: how they traveled up the mountain, trails walked and scenic attractions visited, companionship with friends and strangers, and meals eaten. One mid-day dinner included pea soup, roast beef, pork, boiled salmon, pies and rice pudding.
The scrapbook contains several first-person stories about visiting one of the mountain’s unique attractions, the Cave of the Winds, including a humorous account that involved five hotel employees in 1932. “The eventful trip,” they wrote, “is the first to be made at night as far as the record shows and will be long remembered and talked of.” They made sure to record the challenges they faced in the cave, such as descending over a 25-foot ice slide “in sitting position.”
One intriguing group of documents suggest that some visitors actively studied the mountain environment. There are lists of birds and plants of Mount Mansfield, undated and dated (1870, 1928, 1935) that include information about type of bird or plant and its location on the mountain. One handwritten list, “Plants of Mt. Washington observed on Mt. Mansfield,” suggests a scientific investigation.
“Save for record for Mt. Mansfield’s Summit House centennial celebration” is scrawled across a brown envelope holding 8 x 10 black and white photos. The Summit House hosted a centennial celebration in July 1958 attended by 1,200 people (including Mary Sweet, featured in the photo above). Perhaps the scrapbook was set out during the festivities.
Read more about scrapbook preservation: Preserving Scrapbooks
Read more about the Summit House: Historian Dona Brown analyzed data from the Summit House guest registers for her article, “Accidental Tourists: Visitors to the Mount Mansfield Summit House in the Late Nineteenth Century.”