The Greenbank’s Hollow Historic Park Site Nears Completion

By Sharon Lakey

Hol­lis Prior and David Hous­ton shep­herded the project through seven years of work.

On a rainy Octo­ber day, 2011, Dave Hous­ton and Hol­lis Prior, com­mit­tee heads for the Greenbank’s Hol­low His­tor­i­cal Park, met a bus­load of Danville sec­ond graders at the cov­ered bridge. The chil­dren lined both sides under cover of the bridge, eat­ing bagged lunches, and lis­ten­ing to the con­stant rush of water rolling down Joe’s Brook. After­wards, they trekked up the hill after David and Hol­lis to the old school site where the new kiosk stands.

One of the chil­dren exclaimed, “My daddy gave the wood for this.” The impres­sive struc­ture was newly up by the efforts of the Danville road crew, the area groomed and land­scaped, sur­rounded by the foun­da­tion stones of the old school. No infor­ma­tion was on the kiosk yet, but the whole idea of group of chil­dren stand­ing in the mid­dle of the school­house site was his­toric in itself. After some con­ver­sa­tion and ques­tions about its his­tory, the group again fell in behind David and Hol­lis and moved down to the bridge. There they stood on the spot, imag­in­ing the huge five-story woolen mill that used to stand next to the lit­tle bridge.

Prob­a­bly most fun was send­ing the chil­dren in groups with an adult and a map on a scav­enger hunt, look­ing for old cel­lar holes. Using the site mark­ers, they found and read aloud which site they had located, even scram­bling up the wet foun­da­tion trail to dis­cover the site of a Greenbank’s home site. When the visit was over, Hol­lis and David were all smiles. The Park had held up well and the children’s enthu­si­asm had given them a sense of what they had accom­plished. This was an edu­ca­tional event, the kind his­to­ri­ans aim for—sharing his­tory in a way that passes through to the younger gen­er­a­tion a sense won­der about time and place.

The cov­ered bridge is one of Danville’s most trea­sured his­tor­i­cal fea­tures and has drawn vis­i­tors to the site for many years. But there is more to the story than the bridge. David War­den, who owned land and the his­tor­i­cal Low­ell house near the bridge in the 1960’s, wanted that larger story to live on. Work­ing with Mary Prior and Mar­garet Springer of the Danville His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety, they came up with an idea to cap­ture that depth of his­tory for vis­i­tors and towns­peo­ple by pre­serv­ing and devel­op­ing the site on Danville’s for­got­ten vil­lage. War­den added seri­ous weight to the idea by donat­ing the remain­ing land he owned at the site to the Soci­ety for that pur­pose. The deed was com­pleted in the spring of 2004 and included approx­i­mately six acres on which the old school­house stood as well as foun­da­tions of early homes and businesses.

In Novem­ber of that year, the Soci­ety voted to request the Danville Select Board to accept the deed to the prop­erty with the Soci­ety accept­ing the cus­to­dial role for improve­ment of it. Shortly after the ini­tial deed­ing of land, Cecil Lyon, who owned another 3.9 acres adja­cent to park site, agreed to give that land to the site as well. Now, there would be land enough to cre­ate a nature trail, adding to the attrac­tion of the park.

The ini­tial devel­op­ment com­mit­tee included David Hous­ton, Hol­lis Prior, Fred Kitchel and John Matsinger with the first order of busi­ness to con­sider what to do with the old school build­ing, tree removal, iden­ti­fy­ing bound­aries and how to tame the inva­sive knotweed. David Hous­ton, who had pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ence in trail and site devel­op­ment, knew it wasn’t going to be easy project. “Mary always wanted things to be done right now,” said Hous­ton with a smile, “but I assured her that these things take time.” After eval­u­a­tion by Sally Fish­burn as “too far gone,” the old school­house ren­o­va­tion was deemed out of the ques­tion, and it was voted to demol­ish the building.

The com­mit­tee then turned to design­ing and imple­ment­ing a long-term plan for the site by address­ing some basic ques­tions: how was it going to be used? (Pub­lic Use); how, and by whom, was it going to be main­tained? (Stew­ard­ship); how was the com­mu­nity to be encour­aged to embrace its value? (Out­reach). The answers to these ques­tions would guide them through the process of development.

Now, seven years into the project, most of the ele­ments dreamed of are in place. David and Hol­lis led the com­mit­tee with hard work, patience, fore­sight and a long list of vol­un­teers. The Danville His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety, by the care­ful record­ing of David and Hol­lis, grate­fully acknowl­edges the efforts of the following:

For the land: David War­den for donat­ing the orig­i­nal park site and related his­tor­i­cal infor­ma­tion; Cecil Lyon for donat­ing the land for the nature trail; Bruce Palmer and Kim­berly Gild­ing of Downs, Rach­lin and Mar­tin PLLC for donat­ing prepa­ra­tion of the deed for the Lyon gift; Bill Willis for donat­ing the sur­vey of the Lyon par­cel; John Deleo of Lyn­don State Col­lege for donat­ing the GPS/GIS sur­vey for map pro­duc­tion; the Danville Road Crew for remov­ing haz­ardous trees and chip­ping brush.

For Vol­un­teer Park main­te­nance and improve­ment: Fred and Rita Kitchel for rou­tinely mow­ing and trim­ming the woolen mill area; Jim and Deb­o­rah Hunt for build­ing and stew­ard­ing the nature trail; Martha Hamil­ton for con­struct­ing and main­tain­ing a flower bed; Dave and Calvin Willard for felling trees around some foun­da­tions; Aaron Balivet for clear­ing out a cel­lar foun­da­tion; Ran­som Hud­son for clear­ing the foun­da­tion trail and cel­lar foun­da­tion; Bruce Melendy for brush-hogging areas; Fred Orr for hang­ing sea­sonal wreaths on the cov­ered bridge; Amber Ben­nett for arrang­ing stu­dents from Cale­do­nia School to help mow and trim; Roger Legendre, Bill Bai­ley, Craig Vance and Anthony Rose for mow­ing areas other than the woolen mill site; Danville Woman’s Club for donat­ing and plant­ing shrubs and sev­eral benches for the Park.

For the kiosk: Alex Wright for donat­ing the cedar wood for build­ing the kiosk; Danville High School shop class for assist­ing in the con­struc­tion of the kiosk; Danville Road Crew Kevin Gadapee, Jeremy With­ers, Don­ald Lam­ont, Bill Bai­ley and Howard Hatch for prepar­ing the school site and erect­ing the kiosk.

For the brochure: San­dra Elliott for pro­duc­ing the pro­to­type as a part of her senior project.

For finan­cial sup­port: the Danville Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Town of Danville.

Spe­cial Thanks: Mary Prior and Mar­garet Springer for pro­vid­ing the ini­tial vision and sup­port, and the Danville Board of Select­men who accepted the Park from the Danville His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety and trusted that the Soci­ety would con­tinue to develop and pro­mote the Park in the best inter­est of the Town.

On Decem­ber 14, 1885, a fire destroyed the five-story woolen mill, store, sev­eral res­i­dences and cov­ered bridge in the ham­let of Greenbank’s Hol­low. On Sat­ur­day, Decem­ber 11, 2011, the Danville His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety invited the pub­lic to a Cel­e­bra­tory Burn at the Greenbank’s His­tor­i­cal Park. Ver­mon­ters are hardy creatures!

To view a photo album of the bon­fire and pic­nic, click here. All pho­tos cour­tesy of Kim Prior


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2 Responses to The Greenbank’s Hollow Historic Park Site Nears Completion

  1. Roger R. Greenbank says:

    I want to thank all who gave so gen­er­ously of their land, time, funds and sweat equity to make this project hap­pen, It was an honor to have been invited in Octo­ber, 2005 for the ded­i­ca­tion of the land acqui­si­tion and to see what the plans were for my ancestor’s prop­erty. Green­bank Hol­low will always be a spe­cial place to me and my fam­ily.
    Roger R. Greenbank

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