Throughout the last century, the place we today call Chestnut Hill, was the beloved home of the Rice family, whose creative, community-minded lives and spirits helped shape the identity of Brattleboro as the special place it is today. Brattleboro carpenter and musician Isaac Hines acquired the property in the early 1800s to build a reservoir to store water from an aqueduct fed by those springs on the hill. Hines later sold the property to George Crowell, who in 1865 gained fame publishing the popular “The Household” magazine. Crowell completed the aqueduct and reservoir and it became Brattleboro’s main water supply. Crowell set the property aside as a public park and named it Chestnut Hill because of its abundance of chestnut trees, which the citizens of Brattleboro enjoyed for 28 years. By 1912, Crowell had turned the waterworks over to his son, Christie B. Crowell, who had no interest in continuing the park and sold off the land but retained the waterworks, which the town later purchased.
Howard Crosby Rice
A young newspaper publisher Howard C. Rice and his wife Amy were among the first families to buy land in the former park. Their house at 105 Chestnut Hill still stands today. They resided there for 53 years, raising three children and countless animals, until their deaths in 1965, just nine days apart. Howard Rice was the first editor/publisher of The Brattleboro Daily Reformer, which printed its first edition in 1913 under the ownership of the Brattleboro Publishing Company, of which Rice was a shareholder. The newspaper was founded as the weekly Windham County Reformer in 1876 by Charles N. Davenport. Davenport’s son, Charles H. expanded the paper to five weekly editions including a state-wide Brattleboro Reformer, county and local editions of The Windham County Reformer; and separate Bennington, Vt. and Greenfield, Mass. editions. A long-time business partner of Rice’s, Ephraim Crane, bought the Reformer and its printing plant in 1903. That same year, Crane started Vermont Printing Company, which printed the newspaper until 1913 and then moved into book publishing.. In a memoir written for his family, Rice said the decision to publish a daily newspaper was bold for the time. “Despite the belief of many local residents that we were crazy in our view that Brattleboro would support a daily newspaper, plus our own ignorance of the technique of daily publishing, The Reformer did well from the outset.” Interestingly, another long-time editor and publisher of the Reformer, John S. Hooper married the Rice’s eldest daughter Marion in 1931 in the rose garden behind the house at 105 Chestnut Hill. John and Marion Hooper were co-publishers of the Stephen Daye Press, named after the first printer in the English colonies. The Hoopers worked together to build Stephen Daye Press into one of the best regional book publishers in New England.
Marion McCune Rice
Howard’s sister Marion McCune Rice was a World War I American Red Cross nurse for four years and wrote many letters home describing the war and took hundreds of photographs. A documentary film “An American Nurse at War” focuses on Marion Rice’s wartime experience. The film was produced by her grandnephew Stephen L. Hooper, a Brattleboro native who currently lives in Keene, N.H. Stephen Hooper narrates a separate podcast about Marion McCune Rice, who lived at 90 Chestnut Hill.
Howard C. Rice, Jr.
Howard and Amy’s son Howard C. Rice, Jr. and his wife France Chalufour Rice lived at 160 Chestnut Hill in a house closer to the Retreat Tower. Howard Rice, Jr. was appointed to the staff of Princeton University Library in 1948 and served as assistant librarian for rare books and special collections, with rank of associate professor, until his retirement in 1970. He also was a Rudyard Kipling scholar, dedicating much of his life to researching and collecting materials on the four years Kipling and his family lived in Vermont (1892-1896). Howard Rice, Jr. wrote several books on Kipling including “Rudyard Kipling in New England.” His research papers, originally housed at Marlboro College, are now at the University of Vermont library.
Audio Producer & Editor: Donna Blackney
Research/Script/Narration: Jacqueline Hooper
Recordings/Script Assistance: Lissa Weinmann
Voice of Amy Jones Rice: Shannon Ward
Voice of Howard C. Rice : Riley Goodemote
‘Old Strange’ by Black Twig Pickers and Steve Gunn (freemusicarchive.org)
‘Wild Horse of Stony Point’ by Black Twig Pickers and Steve Gunn (freemusicarchive.org)
‘Fisher’s Hornpipe’ (traditional by James A. Fishar) Performed by Adam Boyce and Harold Luce. Archive recording courtesy of Vermont Folk Life Center
‘Not Drunk’ by The Joy Drops (freemusicarchive.org)
‘Dill Pickles’ by Heftone Banjo Orchestra (freemusicarchive.org)
‘Patriotic Songs of America’ by New York Military Band and the American Quartet (freemusicarchive.org)
‘Parisian’ by Kevin MacLeod (freemusicarchive.org)
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