“Right now, (the building in Island Pond seen in this story is) the Brighton Garage, but it is an amazing survivor of history,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “It was a lumber mill, and then it was a dance hall, and then it became a car dealership and a garage, but the main structure is still there. Everything that that building’s seen — I can only imagine. James O’Gorman from the Island Pond Historical Society is going to join us.”

“So, James, this building started off life as the Fitzgerald Land & Lumber Company,” Perkins said to O’Gorman. “What does that mean? Who were these folks?”

“(George) Fitzgerald was a lumber baron of this area,” O’Gorman said. “In the late 1870s or so, he built a major mill here in this area behind this building, and this building behind us was part of that process. It stayed in business until about 1903, 1906, and owned over 40,000 acres. He also made bobbins here for woolen mills and things like that. At one point, he had over 400 workers here. He built a fancy Victorian mansion not too far from here, up on the hill, which he rented out over time. Lt. Gov. (George) Dale, from this town, bought it at one point. It’s still in existence, and someone has purchased it in the past couple of years and started renovating it.”

“And it wasn’t just the Fitzgerald Company,” Perkins noted. “There were a lot of lumber companies; that was a big industry here in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.”

“Correct,” O’Gorman answered. “At one time in the 1800s, there were over 88 mills in this area, so lumber was king around here. Mr. Fitzgerald passed away in 1903 in Boston; he is buried in one of the cemeteries here in town. Other activities took over the place of the mill. We had a blueberry factory here; we also had a furniture factory here at one time, too.”

Perkins interjected, “And I heard it was a dance hall at one point!”

“It was a dance hall at one point! The balcony on this end of the building (was) where the band used to play,” O’Gorman said. “It was a Chevrolet dealership for almost 75 years with the Goulet family, and now it’s a used car dealership.”

Perkins asked, “Now, if people want to learn more about the Fitzgerald Lumber Company, or lumbering in the Northeast Kingdom and here in Island Pond, how can they learn more about that?”

“They can certainly contact the Island Pond Historical Society,” O’Gorman said. “We do have a website and you can visit our museum. For the 2022 season, we’ll be open on Saturdays from 11:00 to 1:00.”