By Sharon Lakey, Danville Historical Society
Whenever we plan our Annual Meeting Program, I am always looking for Danville connections. This year, a speaker listed in the Vermont Humanities Speaker’s Bureau caught my eye: Linda Radtke performing a program entitled Vermont’s Musical Ladies. The photograph of her in her hoop skirt impressed me, because Danville had one such fine lady. I contacted Linda, and she is now our presenter on Sunday, March 26 at 1 pm. When I told her about Harriet, she began working to find a song she sang in her repertoire.
Our Danville Mezzo-Soprano (a female voice pitched between soprano and contralto) was named Harriet, but I see her named on bills as Miss Hattie Whittier. She lived in a little cape house on Route 2, on the school side of the road. We know exactly which house. There are two capes on that side, and this one is the first you see as you near the school on your way out of town. The former principal and his wife, the Manning’s, lived there when they lived in Danville.
According to our town history, Village in the Hills, Harriet Whittier was a direct descendant of General Israel Putnam and John Greenleaf Whittier. Quoting from the book, “She came to Danville as a sick child to live with her great uncle and credited Danville’s climate with her subsequent health until her death at 94. She studied voice in Europe, traveled widely, and was soloist with the Boston Symphony and many choral groups.”
We have some of the Harriet’s artifacts: the square grand piano (that needs a lot of work) that sits in the Historical Room in North Danville; a large scrapbook containing page after page of recitals and places she visited, including Europe; an advertisement for Negundo Tea House that she ran in Danville for visitors at her home; and several glass plate photographs of her and two young friends on Danville Green taken by Stephen Waterman (a relative). There is even an oil portrait of her hanging in Molly (Waterman) Newell’s former home in North Danville that we are planning to borrow for the event.
We hope you will join us for our Annual Meeting Program. It is free and open to the public. And, Ms. Radthke’s investigation has paid off. She will sing one of the songs our lovely Miss Hattie performed in Boston so many years ago!