Seeing Between the Lines

birdseye view north wantastiquet postcard after 1909

A vintage postcard, from sometime shortly after 1909.

The river central to the vista is the Wantastekw, now known as the West River, just west of its confluence with the Kwanitekw (today’s Anglicized Connecticut River), in the northeast corner of Brattleboro, Vermont.  The postcard’s legend could more accurately be described as northwest from the northern end of Mount Wantastiquet’s ridgeline. As far as dating this scene, the wide expanse of blue in the foreground indicates that the river’s water level is higher as pictured than its natural state of repose, due to the impoundment of the Connecticut by the construction of the Vernon hydroelectric dam eight miles downriver in 1909, by a business consortium which became known as New England Power. But the area known as the Retreat Meadows – the medium brown swathe just left of the broad watery area – had not yet been subsumed by the impoundment, as it is has been today – flooded permanently. An effort to maintain the Meadows as agricultural land, using a dike and a pumping station paid for by the hydropower developer, was successful for a few years but subsequently abandoned. Also worth pointing out is the fact that color cues in a hand-colored photograph such as this are not always reliable: studio artists often worked from a photographer’s notes remote from the site, and mistakes of interpretation were made. In this case, the thin band of blue at the lower left is mistakenly tinted as water; it is actually open land, perhaps that of the Richards Bradley farm, west of Putney Road and just south of the West River bridges.

north-view-wantastekw-wantastiquet

The same view today (Niben – Summer 2016).

 

 

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richholschuh

The world is a big place. This is how it appears to me. Your results may differ.

2 thoughts on “Seeing Between the Lines”

  1. Rich, Great essay and photo comparison. What is striking is the cleared land in 1909 vs. the forest cover now. Actually, in 1909 is is amazing to see some forest land. My understanding is that for sheep most of VT was cut over in the 1800s. IT would be interesting to go to those forested areas shown in 1909 to see if there is prime forest there. Have a nice day, Kris

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Quite true. The peak of Vermont’s deforestation was in 1870, due to farming (already past its prime at that point) and then logging. The land was about 70 % cleared; today the state is 75% forested. Precious little is old-growth, but there are some nice mature stands here and there, as conservation efforts have taken hold.

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