Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead 
July/August 2015 Newsletter
  Hallowell Summer Recreation Program 2nd graders picking wild strawberries in the Woods' old pasture, July 2015
History Mystery  
Behind Closed Doors

There are 14 doors in the back hall of the Homestead, and it is not an exaggeration to say that something interesting  lies behind each each one. This door, though, which is usually so covered in coats and hats that one might not even notice it, conceals something especially unexpected.  Installed in 1932, it is not a broom closet, bathroom, coat room or passageway. 

   Looking up, then looking down

Can you guess what it is and why it's no longer in use? 
Of Phones & Clocks
The Not-So Distant Past Captures the Interest of Young Visitors 

Some of the most charming aspects of daily life at the Homestead are talking on the rotary phones, which are all in working order, telling time by the chiming of the kitchen's grandfather clock, which is wound regularly, and having a meeting in the front parlor, where we actually sit on the antique furniture. Indeed, it was the phones and clocks that most interested many of the elementary school students who visited the Homestead this July and August with the Hallowell Summer Recreation Program. And when they were invited to take a seat in the parlor they looked at us as if we were kidding. Then they joyfully squabbled over who got to sit where. 

Most adults remember dialing rotary phones, winding mechanical clocks, or visiting a relative's house with a formal sitting room, but when you are six or nine years old these things of the not-so-distant past are ancient artifacts.

One of the most enjoyable moments of the summer was when we called the Homestead number with a cell phone and let our group of fourth grade visitors answer the old phone, adding their voices to the tender words, plans, and mundane details that have traveled the same line for 75 years. The students were delighted.

As we continue to envision the future of the Homestead as a house museum, we must remember this moment - we must remember that something does not have to be 200 years old to be an engaging piece of history, nor should history be hands-off. Thank you, Hallowell Summer Recreation students for reminding us!  
Word on the Woods
Discovering the Old Pasture

Spend a July day in Vaughan Woods' old pasture, and you will quickly realize that it is one of the most ecologically diverse areas within the 197-acre nature preserve. Both insects and a myriad of grasses and wildflowers abound. A few minutes with a good-old-fashioned butterfly net will yield skippers, fritillaries and viceroys - grasshoppers, bubblebees, and dragonflies too! In early July, wild strawberries may be found among the grasses. At the west end of the pasture closest to the dam, large milkweed patches attract a whole different group of creatures, and later in the summer, monarch caterpillars may occasionally be found on the milkweed leaves. 

So while it may be your habit to stop at the dam and play in the water, or pass through the pasture quickly to link up with the next part of the trail, we hope you will make this special place a destination. Pack a picnic lunch and some nets, and set yourselves up in the shade of the ancient maple tree that graces the east end of the pasture.

August 22-28
Last open days for Sculpture Garden

August 22 
Family Movie on the Lawn: Fairytale: A True Story

September 26
Woods History Walk

October 3
Fall Celebration

November 11
Veterans Day House Tours 
Details to Come 
May/June History and Natural History Mystery

In our last newsletter we challenged you to identify one of the oldest and most beloved trees on the Homestead grounds. 

We wrote that though not native to Maine, this species thrives along the east coast of the US, was sacred to the ancient Egyptians and is often found in Christian cemeteries. Its fruits are one-inch balls on stalks, and it is also known for its distinctive flaking bark. The tree at the Homestead, pictured here, measures 17 feet around. 

We also said that the largest living specimen of this type is in Delaware and has a girth of 26.4 feet!  Our tree poses a history mystery to us because, since it is not native to the area, we know that it was planted, but we don't know when. References in our collection indicate that it could be as old as the Homestead itself - over 225 years. Even though it is not as large as the Delaware tree, it may in fact be as old, but smaller because of our northern climate. 

We must note that the hint we gave was incorrect. We accidentally showed a picture of a sugar maple leaf. Here is a corrected hint: 

It's an American sycamore. Naturalist Fred Chichoki wrote this to us regarding our mystery: 

Although the Vaughan tree was surely planted, there are old accounts (it's hard to tell how reliable) of the Sycamore perhaps being native to (though very rare in) Maine. Finally, here's something well worth following up.  The State's official record Sycamore is a Waterville tree with a circumference of 160 inches.  If, as you say, Vaughan's tree is 17 feet in circumference, that's over 200 inches!  Perhaps you have the State Record Sycamore.

We will certainly look into that. Thank you Fred!
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