“We are at the Dog River Park, which is a brand new park, a park in progress. It has these very interesting historical roots and ties into Vermont history with Tropical Storm Irene. [It’s also] a great story about the local historical society and how they helped drive the creation of this park. So, we’re going to go speak with some ladies from the Northfield Historical Society and learn about this project,” said Perkins.
Mary Comiskey explains that before it was a park, there were houses in the area.
“Some of them were boarding houses. They’re very small and they got flooded a lot. They started building them when the railroad came through, which is approximately 1848. There was a corn factory over there. It was really close to downtown and there was a lot of granite work done in the 1890s,” said Comiskey.
This was a vibrant community up until 2011.
“Irene came through and it was just devastation,” said Jeanne Weston Cook. “This was all mud and dirt and people were just wandering. They didn’t really know where to go or what to do.”
“We’ve heard this area is prone to flooding, but the neighborhood survived for 175 years. But, 2011 was something more than had ever happened before,” added Perkins.
“Right. And they had had a flood, I think it was about four months prior to Irene, and were just cleaning up from it,” said Comiskey.
“Why didn’t they rebuild?” asked Perkins.
“Most of the houses were just too far gone and they weren’t safe for them to live in. The foundations were gone and many of the places were condemned,” answered Comiskey.
Diane McKain told us how a park grew about in this devastated area.
“It took about six months or longer, simply because there was so much devastation and people were uncertain as to what they were going to do. And FEMA worked with the town to offer a buyout to all of the homeowners who wanted to leave the area or rebuild elsewhere,” explained McKain.
“At the same time that was happening, some of the residents along Water Street along with Sally Pedley who was very instrumental with the alumni class, they came together and said we have to figure out a way to remember the people and the land here.”
“Over time, the pavilion was built. The garden club here in Northfield built this beautiful pollinator garden. The walkways were put in, you know, keeping in line with the regulations of FEMA. But, also to have a place where people could come and still call home to this area,” concluded McKain.
At ‘This Place in History’!
For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.
To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic site markers, click here.