Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Long Trail Lodge

The Long Trail Lodge was built in Sherburne Pass in 1923 and served as a grand hotel on Vermont's Long Trail until it burned in 1968. By all accounts it was spectacular. The Long Trail Lodge also served as the headquarters of the Green Mountain Club, which built and maintains the Long Trail, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States.

Today US-4 passes through Sherburne Pass in the town of Killington. The Inn at Long Trail sits on the north side of US-4 directly under Deer Leap Mountain and continues the hospitality tradition of the former Long Trail Lodge, which had been just across the road. See my earlier post about The Inn at Long Trail, where Nancy and I stayed last month after a long day-hike on the Long Trail. Nancy is finishing hiking the Long Trail this year, and all of the posts on this blog since July have been related to that project.

The Long Trail Lodge was built and donated to the Green Mountain Club by the Proctor family. I have become interested this summer in some of the history of this prominent Vermont family, especially Minnie Robinson from Cloverdale who married into the family in 1886. See my earlier post about The Proctor Family for background and who's who in the Proctor family.

Three generations of the Proctor family led the Vermont Marble Company and provided four Vermont governors. For this post, we are particularly interested in Minnie Robinson Proctor (1865-1928) who married Fletcher Proctor (1860-1911), and their son Mortimer Proctor (1889-1968). Both Fletcher and Mortimer were governors of Vermont, as were two other members of the Proctor family.

The idea of Vermont's Long Trail was conceived by James Taylor in 1909. The Green Mountain Club (GMC) was formed in 1910 to build the trail, completing the task in 1930.

Mortimer Proctor played a significant role in the early years of the GMC. The first four presidents of the GMC were:
  1. James P. Taylor 1910-1916
  2. Mortimer R. Proctor 1916-1917
  3. Charles P. Cooper 1917-1925
  4. Mortimer R. Proctor 1926-1933
Thus Mortimer Proctor was president when the Long Trail was completed in 1930, and he was the only person in the history of the GMC to have been its president twice.

The Proctor family was "the GMC's wealthiest patrons" in the early years of the club (source: On the Trail: A History of American Hiking by Silas Chamberlin (Yale University Press, 2016), page 119). When the growing GMC expressed the need for a clubhouse, Mortimer Proctor and his mother, Minnie Robinson Proctor, provided it:

In 1922 came the exciting news that a clubhouse was assured and would be built the next year at Sherburne Pass where the trail crossed the highway. President Mortimer Proctor telegraphed from Los Angeles to Acting-President Cooper, "I wish to donate complete the new Green Mountain Club House to be built near Deer Leap on Sherburne Pass." With his mother, Mrs. F. P. Proctor, he generously gave the land and money to build what was long considered to be the home of the Green Mountain Club.

(Source: Green Mountain Adventure, Vermont's LONG TRAIL, An Illustrated History, by Jane and Will Curtis and Frank Lieberman (The Green Mountain Club, 1985), page 39. Mortimer's father, Fletcher Proctor, had died in 1911.)

The Long Trail Lodge, built in 1923, was no ordinary back-country lodge:

The most agreeable example of rustic architecture on the trail is the Long Trail Lodge opposite Deer Leap in Sherburne Pass, the lodge being the gift of Mortimer R. Proctor and the furnishings the gift of [his mother] Mrs. Fletcher D. Proctor. These two lovers of Vermont, with the aid of Architect [Paul] Thayer, have done something exceptional not only in the appointment of the lodge itself but in the surroundings, and as it is at a junction of the Trail and a main automobile road, it can be more readily reached and seen than it can be described.

(Source: Footpath in the Wilderness edited by W. Storrs Lee (Middlebury College Press, 1941), pages 31-32.)

Visitors never forgot their amazement when they entered the lobby whose walls weren't wood and plaster but a huge fern-covered rock ledge down which trickled a miniature waterfall. The club was particularly pleased with the effect of the dining room. The architect had left bark on the yellow birch beams and had designed a great chandelier of ten lights made of white birchlimbs with shades of birch bark. ... The most astonishing feature of the Lodge was that the Long Trail went right through the building!

(Source: Green Mountain Adventure, pages 39-41.)

On September 12, 1931, a grand celebration was held at the Long Trail Lodge in recognition of the completion of the Long Trail the year before and the "coming of age" (21st birthday) of the GMC:

James Taylor called the lodge – the gift of club president and future governor Mortimer R. Proctor and his mother – the "finest mountain camp in the world." The festivity began with speeches by Governor Stanley C. Wilson, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Will Monroe, Taylor, and others.

(Source: A Century in the Mountains: Celebrating Vermont's Long Trail edited by Tom Slayton (The Green Mountain Club, 2009), page 47.)

The Long Trail Lodge served as headquarters for the GMC for more than 30 years. It was also a grand hotel, but the GMC ultimately tired of the hospitality business and owning a property that was expensive to maintain. The GMC sold the lodge in 1955. Sadly, it burned during a blizzard on November 8, 1968. Mortimer Proctor did not live to see that. He died at age 78 in April 1968.

I wish to thank the Green Mountain Club, especially President John Page and Executive Director Michael DeBonis, for the references in this post – for suggesting books in print that I could purchase, and for lending me books that are out of print. I recommend the following books for anyone wishing to do further research:

Green Mountain Adventure, Vermont's LONG TRAIL, An Illustrated History, by Jane and Will Curtis and Frank Lieberman (The Green Mountain Club, 1985). See pages 39-41, 60-61, 66, 72-73. There are photos on many of these pages. This book was written in recognition of the GMC's 75th anniversary.

A Century in the Mountains: Celebrating Vermont's Long Trail, edited by Tom Slayton (The Green Mountain Club, 2009). See pages 47, 52. There is a photo of the interior of the Long Trail Lodge on page 47 as well as considerable information about the lodge, especially the grand celebration on September 12, 1931. This book was written in recognition of the GMC's 100th anniversary.

So Clear, So Cool, So Grand: A 1931 Hike on Vermont's Long Trail, by James Gordon Hindes (The Green Mountain Club, 2008). See pages 2, 33-37. This is one of the first accounts of a Long Trail end-to-end hike, undertaken by James Gordon Hindes (1909-1973) in the summer of 1931, between his junior and senior years at Dartmouth College, together with his fraternity brother John Eames. The Long Trail had been completed just the year before. The young men arrived at the Long Trail Lodge on July 18 and left on July 20. They were enchanted by it. Their visit was two months before the grand celebration noted above. The photo at the top of this post is from page 2 of this book, an undated view of Pico Peak and the Long Trail Lodge from Deer Leap Mountain, courtesy of the Vermont Historical Society.

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