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Queen City Park Association Records

 Collection
Identifier: mss-139

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes correspondence, treasurer's reports, legal documents (including deeds and estate records), lot assessments, meeting minutes, stock certificates, constitutions and bylaws, and an aerial photograph.

Dates

  • 1881-1950

Access

Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.

Historical Note

The Queen City Park Association was formed in 1881 under the name of "The Forest City Park Association." The stated purpose of the association was to maintain a private park at Burlington, Vermont which was used for spiritualist camp meetings, picnic parties, and as a summer resort. The association was formed with a capital stock of $5000 divided into shares of $100 each. The park was fifty-acres in size and situated on the eastern shore of Shelburne Bay, two miles south of Burlington on the Rutland Railroad. According to an 1882 advertisement, the land was "covered with a fine forest, nearly level and dry, well watered by a fine spring of water, on a bluff, about thirty feet above the lake, giving a splendid view of lake scenery." Improvements included a hotel, cottages built on the one-acre lots, and water service.

Dr. Ezra A. Smith (1839-1905) was the first president of the Queen City Park Association from 1882 to 1899. He is noted as its secretary in 1902. Dr. Smith was a graduate of Dartmouth College and a Free Mason. He was president of the Vermont State Spiritualist Society from 1898 to 1908 and appears to have been one of the strongest advocates of keeping a strong relationship between these two associations. Dr. Smith a visible investor of the Queen City Park Association since its founding.

The group was administered in committees including committees for "Sanitary Police and Lights," for "Grounds and Tents and renting," and for "Speakers, Music, Dancing, Reception and Entertainment," but the only remaining detail is lists of committee members.

The religious component of Queen City Park Association was clearly articulated in article 2 of its constitution, when it stated that the goal "to establish a free platform for the discussion and elucidation of truth, the support of the gospel, and the maintenance of free worship. Also to establish and encourage true religion and education by developing the social, intellectual, moral and spiritual nature of man." Speakers played a major role in attracting visitors to the summer camp. A January 4, 1882 advertisement describes the park as "a place in Vermont where thousands can gather to listen to some of the ablest speakers in our land." Speakers and persons in charge of the séances include Mrs. A. W. Crossett, H. P. Russegue, Lilly Reynolds, Mrs. Nettie Hunt, and Bruce Clark. Vermont: Guide to the Green Mountain State (1937) states that "Queen City Park was also the outstanding Spiritualist Camp Ground in this section of the country. Mediums and lecturers from all over the world appeared on the stage of the modest little Temple, and séances were held in a dozen of nearby cottages. In recent years [i.e., by 1937] the movement has waned, and, although the Spiritualist Association still owns most of the land and much of the property, a short series of August meetings in the Temple is all that is left of the old atmosphere." In its heyday, a trolley car line extended from Burlington, enabling city dwellers to enjoy the recreation opportunities including swimming, picnicking, boating and entertainments such as dances and musical performances.

Spiritualists, year-long residents and vacationing lot owners coexisted for decades in this property. Participants in the summer camps had the choice of renting a tent, a hotel room, or a room in a local cottage. Unfortunately, the property suffered from several damaging fires. The first large-scale one occurred in 1890. It destroyed the park’s hotel, which was later rebuilt. In 1939, a second major fire destroyed most of the park’s structures, including the most recent hotel, 13 buildings, a barn and nine cottages. In 1939, the Spiritualists held their last official camp in the park.

Throughout its existence, the Queen City Park Association and its shareholders continued to hold their yearly meetings every month of August. In 1944 it appears that some 27 families live there all year, and others only during the summer. Over time, the presence and role of the Spiritualist community within the Association declined. By 1944, there was a motion at the yearly August meeting to invite the State Spiritualist Association to hold meetings for the length of one week at the park’s chapel. However, almost immediately this invitation was extended by the Association’s president to all religious organizations in the area of the park. His motion passed.

Queen City Park shareholders dispersed with the years, their lots were sold, and in some cases, several times resold. Progressively, the town of South Burlington started sharing the Association responsibilities (road access, school, water distribution, etc.). In 1946, in their yearly August meeting, shareholders voted to dissolve the association. This involved some complicated legal arrangements. Nonetheless, documents in the collection show Queen City Park Association’s official "Certificate of Dissolution" was signed on August 21st, 1946 by its last president, Dr. J.S. Hoyt, and his last secretary, Mr. Horace Eldred. Proceedings were completed when the certificate was filed on March 19, 1951. A settlement with the Vermont State Spiritualist Association explains some of the delay. The land was turned over the Fire District Number One, Town of South Burlington.

The contributions of women may also be of interest to researchers. Many women speakers were invited to the park as mediums and others regularly attend Spiritualist events. As early as 1902, Queen City Park held a "Ladies Fair," organized at least once again in 1910. A group called "Ladies Aide" contributed financial support and organized programs sucha as a vacation school" for the park’s children, which was very well attended. In addition, meeting minutes show a 1919 vote, proposed by one of the association's seven directors, L. L. McAllister, to reconsider a previously failed motion to give women the right to elect other women to the Board of Directors. This motion succeeded and by 1921, his wife Cora, also a shareholder, was one of the Association’s vice-directors; she later became one of its directors.

Extent

1 Linear feet (1 carton)

Overview

The Queen City Park Association was formed in 1881 with the stated purpose of maintaining a private park at Burlington to be used for spiritualist camp meetings, picnic parties, and as a summer resort.

Physical Location

Library Research Annex; contact uvmsc@uvm.edu for access.

Acquisition Note

Gift of Horace Eldred, South Burlington, Vermont, July 1968.

Related Materials

The papers of Horace B. Eldred, who served as Secretary of the Queen City Park Association from 1942 to 1951, are also held by UVM Special Collections.

Several promotional programs from Queen City Park events may be found in the Vermont Reference Files. Some accounts of attending the camp may be found in the Vermont Manuscripts Collection and Small Bound Manuscripts Collection. Additional photographs may be found in the Vermont Photographs Collection and the L. L. McAllister Photographs collection. All materials referenced here are held by UVM Special Collections.
Title
Guide to the Queen City Park Association Records
Status
Completed
Author
M.M. McGarry
Date
1971
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)