“We’re right on the side of Route 103 and I think many people have probably driven by this beautiful Victorian mansion and wondered what’s going on in there? Is it haunted? What’s the story? There’s a graveyard across the street. So we called our friends at the Shrewsbury Historical Society and Barry Griffith is going to join us inside to tell us the story about both this and the cemetery,” introduced Perkins.
“It was built by John Porter Bowman, who was born here in Vermont back in 1816. He learned the tannery trade. He moved to Stoney Creek, New York eventually and lived there for many years, but had some tragedies.”
“He had a baby daughter who died when she was four-months-old. His daughter died when she was only 23 and then within a year, his wife Jenny died. He was just heartbroken. So, he resolved to come back to Vermont and build the mausoleum across the street. And, then he had this mansion built across the way so he could come here and be near his loved ones,” explained Griffith.
“He left what’s called a testamentary trust. He left instructions in his will. He left this property, the cemetery across the way and all the grounds in a trust. He instructed servants to set the table every night in case he or his wife might want to come back. The property was so maintained for a number of years, until the 1950s, when the money started to get low. There was an auction and property was sold.”
“There were other tenants for a while. Some people lived here and there was also a bookshop in the 1980s, but it’s been vacant many years now.”
“Many people believed [Bowman believed in reincarnation]. And, there have been some tales of hauntings and people thinking that they have heard from him. The bookshop that was here was called the Haunted Mansion Bookshop,” said Griffith.
“A lot of building this house was really about building the mausoleum. So, can we go over to the cemetery and check it out?” asked Perkins.
“As we mentioned earlier, he wanted to build this place for his family, his wife and daughters, whom he loved so much. So, they set to work on this in 1880. There were 125 workers who worked on this between architects and sculptors. It took more than one year to complete. It cost about $75,000, in 1880 dollars, which is a pretty penny today. In 1881, his wife and two daughters, their caskets were placed here. John would visit them from across the way from time-to-time until he passed away and joined them here,” explained Griffith.
“Maybe about 50 yards to the south here, there’s a greenhouse that Bowman had constructed. It grew flowers for the graves of his family and others and for keeping flowers on the grounds in the mansion across the way.”
“The interior of the mansion is closed, but people can come to the mausoleum and stand where we’re standing and visit the grounds as well,” concluded Griffith.
To find our more about the Bowman family, Griffith recommends visiting the Shrewsbury Historical Society or its website.
For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.
To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic site markers, click here.