Ice-skating was a favorite sport in Lyndonville. There was a cove on Center Street where the Passumpsic River backed up on Darling field. The snow was shoveled off the ice so that young and old alike could enjoy the natural rink. There were other places to skate in town including the Charland Rink, at the Institute, and in Bandstand Park.
As early as 1860 there is reference to a band in Lyndonville. There was the Railroad Band, the Lyndon Cornet Band, a Lyndon Brass Band and a Military Band. In 1938 women were able to join the band. There are still concerts on summer Wednesday nights in the Bandstand. (1991).
From 1915 to 1933 the Redpath Chautaugua came to the Darling meadow in Lyndonville to bring affordable, cultural entertainment to the town.
During the 1930s the Sunset Ballroom was a popular place in Lyndonville. The ballroom was upstairs over Grapes garage, which was built after the 1924 fire. The room was 65 by 85 feet with hardwood flooring. Admission for men was 75 cents and for women 25 cents.
In 1930 the Gem Movie Theater was built. It could seat 500 and the 15' stage could be used for live performances.
The Lyndon Trotting Park Association was formed in 1877 and leased 20 acres in the Charles Folsom farm. The first event took place in 1878 with a July 4th. celebration and horse races. Crowds ran from 2,000 to 6,000 until 1888 when the association disbanded. A new organization, the Northern Caledonia Fair Association leased the same space until 1902.
For more than 40 years there was winter horse racing on Main Street in Lyndonville, sponsored by the Lyndonville Driving Club.
Radio station WWLR-FM broadcasts from the Vermont State College in Lyndon Center. In 1997 the Station won an award for the best college news station in Vermont.
In 1865, Charles Chase purchased the plant of the "Newport News" and moved it to Lyndon Corner. It started as a four page weekly and had its most prosperous period in 1870-90 printing 3,000 copies per issue. After Charles died in 1902, his son John took over. In 1905, John purchased the "Lyndonville Journal", which had been his chief competitor. He combined the two papers and called it the "Vermont Union-Journal". The paper was sold to the Caledonia Record in St. Johnsbury in 1941. The present newspaper for the town is the "Lyndon Independent".
Lyndonville is the site of the Caledonia County Fair, held in August every year.
General William Cahoon built the first two story house in town, 1800-1805. This sturdy clapboard house is said to be the oldest house in the community. Old Daniel's ghost is reputed to have made its presence known over the years. Until 1995, members of the Cahoon family occupied the house; it is now for sale (4/97).
At the triangle in Lyndon Center there is a wild boar statue that was originally part of a fountain copied from a piazza in Florence, Italy. The Lyndon Center cemetery contains many provocative inscriptions, in the Ethan Allen tradition, carved by G. P. Spencer (1825-1908). He was an atheist stone cutter; some of his inscriptions were so strongly blasphemous that churchly citizens had many obliterated.
Company C of the National Guard was organized in Lyndonville. The Company met in the Music Hall that was then called the Armory. On February 24, 1941 the Company was called up and after December 7, 1941 a State Guard was organized. There were three Aircraft Warning Observation Posts manned by Lyndon residents 24 hours a day during WWII. A radar station was built in 1955 on East Mountain in East Haven. It was first named the North Concord Air force Station, but in 1962 was changed to the Lyndonville Air Force Station after a new road was built to the facility. There were twenty-seven houses for employees and their families. The Station was de-activated in 1963.
Schools Graded Schools
Each area of Lyndon operated its own school; usually the schools included grades 1-8. A teacher was hired and boarded with different families. Each family paid in cash or kind (wood, books etc.) according to the number of children the family had enrolled in the school. A typical school was the Hog Street School, just outside of Lyndonville. The school's name was changed to Shonyo and then the Fletcher School. The name of the street was eventually changed to Lily Pond Road. The school, which had one room and included all eight grades, operated so long as there were children to attend, from at least 1835 to 1950. The children were all from farm families. One former student, born in 1918, who attended all eight grades, claims that the students from the Fletcher School were prepared for Lyndon Institute (High School) as well as anyone from the larger village schools.
In 1991, Lyndon built and occupied a Consolidated Graded School. The rural schoolhouses were sold for private use. The old Lyndonville Village Graded School is used for Municipal Offices. The Lyndon Corner Schoolhouse, built in 1872, was turned over to Drs. John Elliot and Tim Thompson for conversion into a medical center. The Town of Lyndon is part of the Caledonia North Supervisory Union School District. Lyndon's enrollment for the 95/96 school year is 740 elementary and 278 secondary students.
In 1840 the Vermont Freewill Baptists, at their annual conference, decided to establish a seminary. Corinth was considered as a site, but Lyndon was chosen. A special meeting in 1858 changed the site to Barton, but finally in 1867 a charter was granted to the Lyndon Literary and Biblical Institution. The charter required that at least two thirds of the corporators were to be Freewill Baptists. In fact, the first board was one hundred per cent Baptist. The Town was required to raise $20,000, an additional $5,000 had to be raised from elsewhere. It took two years to raise the necessary funds, and then a site was chosen in Lyndon Center, on the hill behind the S. S. Thompson residence. The plans of Thompson Hall called for a 50' by 50' main building with ells, annex and finished basement. The main section was the only part completed.
The school opened in 1870 and closed in 1881 due to financial difficulties. In 1883 the school reopened as non-sectarian, with the Baptists holding one third of the Board. Theodore N. Vail and others contributed funds to reopen the school and add a boarding program for forty students.
In 1890, Sanborn Hall was added. When the State of Vermont required all communities of 2,500 or more to provide a high school, Lyndon decided to send their students to the Institute rather than build a new school. In 1899 Vail and others poured more money into the school; in 1903 major renovations were done on Thompson Hall, including the addition of electricity.
In 1912, Vail entered into a contract with the school to assume full responsibility for the school's operation. Additional modifications of the buildings during Vail's management (1883-1920) changed the face of Lyndon Center Village. On April 23, 1921, the name was changed to Lyndon Institute Incorporated. After a fire destroyed Thompson Hall in 1922, another benefactor came forward, Elmer A. Darling. Thompson Hall was rebuilt along with other new buildings and the acquisition of old structures. Lyndon Institute has a fine academic reputation and has become a leader in athletic programs in the state. Even though the School is not governed by an elected school board, it is approved by the State for secondary education.
Lyndon State College
In 1910 the Vermont Legislature authorized one-year teacher training in some of Vermont high schools. Lyndon Institute was one of the sites. Seniors and high school graduates were eligible. One room on the third floor of Thompson Hall was used. Nine women were accepted for the first year, which included eight weeks of practice teaching. In 1922, the Vermont State Board of Education approved one and two year courses in teacher training in Burlington, Castleton and Lyndon. Sanborn House became the exclusive site of the Normal School, and, in 1933, the legislature added a third year to the program and limited the enrollment to 100 students. In 1938, a library was established for the teacher training program; by 1942, there were 10 instructors and 29 graduates and, by 1944, a fourth year was added to offer the first bachelor's degree. The school was designated a teachers college in 1947. There was tension between the College and the Institute over space and in 1951 the State leased and then purchased (1957) the Vail mansion. In 1961, a Liberal Arts department was added. The middle sixties saw the construction of a library, dining hall, dormitories, science hall, theater and gym. Full accreditation was granted for all the College programs in 1973. Also in that year, the Vail mansion was declared unsafe and torn down. A new building was completed in 1974. The enrollment at the college in 1989/90 was 999.
Vail Agricultural School
In 1910, Theodore N. Vail organized a private school for training in farming and allied industries, which was open to all Vermont boys. Vail said: "This is a school to teach boys the lessons of life that industry, application and intelligence combined are necessary to success and that some sacrifice of our natural inclination to take things easy is necessary if we are to accomplish anything. Those who wish to take things easy do not need any education to do it" (Shore, page 250). The program consisted of two nine-month years with the theoretical courses taught by the Lyndon Institute faculty. The first class had 31 students. Vail was also concerned about the education of young women. In conjunction with community groups, classes for many ages were held in gardening, sewing, canning etc. These programs anticipated the 4-H programs that came later. In 1915, Vail gave his estate to Vermont and it became officially recognized as the Theodore N. Vail Agricultural School and Farms. A Board of Directors was appointed by the Governor. In 1917, the Vermont Legislature placed the school under the control of the State Board of Education. In 1918, the Vermont Extension Service asked young people to plant and preserve food to help the world wide food shortage. The Vermont Department of Agriculture set up Camp Vail at the Agricultural College as a training camp for 150 boys. The boys were taught new methods of haying, woodcutting, and gardening. They worked hard for patriotic reasons and for rewards. If they did well, they were promised farm jobs for $14 a week. The School was not self-sustaining and after Vail's death in 1920, the State closed the Agricultural School. The school at Randolph filled the void left by the closing of the Lyndon school. The property then went to Lyndon Institute and later sold to the State for the use of the College. In 1974 the alumni of the Agricultural School erected a granite shaft on the common.
Churches in Lyndon include: St. Elizabeth's Roman Catholic, Congregational Church of Lyndonville, St. Peters Episcopal, Jehovah Witness, Lyndonville United Methodist, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Lyndon Center Baptist. The First Congregational Church in Lyndonville burned down in 1967 and was replaced on the same foundation. After the fire, the bell was damaged while it was being removed. It was placed in a covered support on the lawn of the new building. Also in Lyndonville, in 1893, money was raised for a town clock. There was some disagreement about putting a town clock in a church, but the Seth Thomas clock was installed in the tower of St. Elizabeth's church in 1894. The clock needs winding every week. The metal weight beside the clock winds down 60' to the basement.
The Town's first Post Office was established in 1811 in Lyndon Village, then in 1829 another in Lyndon Center. On April 13, 1868, George Walker, the proprietor of the Walker Hotel was appointed the postmaster of Lyndonville. The Post Office was located in the Hotel on the corner of Depot and Main Streets, the current site of the Cobleigh Library. All three are still in service. (1977) The location of the present Lyndonville library is on Broad Street, the site of the Music Hall that burned in 1954.
The Cobleigh Public Library, on Depot Street in Lyndonville, is a red brick structure with collections of New England birds, Mexican curios, American and foreign coins and bills, and a valuable collection of art books contributed by Theodore Vail. Also there is an antique grandfather clock, brought to Lyndon by Jude Kimball in 1798, that clock is still working! (5/97) In 1995, a two-story addition was built on the back of the library making the library handicapped accessible and adding needed room. The library is a busy place and valued community resource. The Town contributes 66% of the annual budget.
On the campus of Lyndon State College: THEODORE N. VAIL, pioneer in creating the telephone industry bought a farmhouse on this site in 1883. Continually enlarged by Vail, it became his permanent residence and office. Conferences held here culminated in the creation of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company with Vail its president, who proceeded to develop the world's first mass communication system
Lyndon is the home of the Lyndonville Savings Bank and has branches of the Citizens Savings Bank & Trust and the Passumpsic Savings Bank.
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