A MAN AND HIS MOUNTAIN

So much of the Green Mountain State of Vermont is best seen from the Top of the World or from one of the many summits. 3,848 feet above sea level the Mount Equinox summit is the highest peak in the Taconic Mountain Range. The panoramic view encompasses five mountain ranges: The Green Mountains and Taconic of Vermont, White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Adirondack Mountains of New York and the Birkshire Mountains of Massachusetts.

Even more spectacular than standing on the Summit gazing out across the mountain ranges and down into the green Valley of Vermont, is the 5.2 mile Skyline Drive from the Toll House located on Route 7A between Manchester and Arlington, Vermont and goes vertically another 3200 feet to the Summit. There are turnouts along the way to the top where you can take pictures of the breathtaking views and let your engine cool down.

TOLL HOUSE

Construction began on Skyline Drive in 1941 and after suspending construction during World War II it was completed in 1947. Skyline Drive is the longest, privately owned toll road in the country. It is also said to be one of the “safest, best engineered and well-constructed toll roads in the country”. Skyline Drive is also known for its annual bicycle and sports car events.

As you wind your way up to the summit you will see spectacular views of lakes, rivers, farms and communities below. There are also Vistas along the way where you can stop for a picnic. Don’t miss the breathtaking view of the Carthusian Monastery.

At the top of the mountain you will find the Saint Bruno Scenic Viewing Center. This is a beautiful building that houses the history of the Carthusian Monastery and Equinox Mountain.

ST BRUNO VIEWING CENTER

ST BRUNO SCENIC VIEWING CENTER

 

INSIDE THE CENTER

INSIDE THE CENTER

 

While the mountain has a rich history dating back to 1823 when Captain Partridge first ascended the mountain, I found the more recent history of the mountain and the man who owned the mountain most interesting and worth sharing.

Joseph George Davidson, PhD, was an inventor. chemist, and former President and Chairman of Union Carbide and the owner of Equinox Mountain. Davidson has been described as being a sensitive listener as well as a hard-driving leader. It’s said that “in today’s terms he might be regarded as an environmentalist who sought to resolve imbalances between the worlds of business and nature.” But Davidson was instrumental in developing two of the most potentially destructive activities in human history.  During World War I, Davidson, a first lieutenant in the Army worked on the development of mustard gas. World War II found him heading up Union Carbide’s secret gaseous-diffusion project at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This refined the uranium that was used in the fission of the first atomic bomb.

It was in the late 1950s that Brother Paul, a Carthusian Monk, visited Davidson concerning a small stream on the property that he hoped to use to generate electricity. Brother Paul had a degree in civil engineering and Davidson had a talent for developing Hydroelectric power. During the course of their meetings a friendship formed and the Davidsons met several other fathers and brothers of the Carthusian community. At that time  their charterhouse was located near a busy highway in Whitingham and defeated the monks’ purpose to remain “far removed from contact with the exterior world.” Davidson answered the call and remodeled the building on the mountain that had been intended to be a ski lodge.  When the remodeling was finished they moved in.  That was the beginning of the Carthusian Monastery. Davidson began transferring land to the Carthusian Order in 50 acre parcels and construction commenced on a massive charterhouse designed by architect Victor Christ-Janer & Associates of New Canaan, Connecticut

MONASTERY 2

CARTHUSIAN MONASTERY

 

It’s said that the parcels of land eventually totaling 7,000 acres was given for tax purposes, but perhaps it was expiation and he was seeking forgiveness for his role in developing devastating chemicals.

The monastery was mostly completed in 1969, and Joseph George Davidson, PhD, passed away on October 9, 1969, leaving his Mountain to the Carthusian Order of the Roman Catholic Church.

Father Diamond visited Davidson during his last illness and left him with the thought that in 500 years he would probably not be remembered for his work at Union Carbide or his role in the development of the atomic bomb, but he would still be known as the founder of the first Carthusian monastery in the United States.

 

You will find a wonderful blog on Mount Equinox at http://beanandbantam.com/2015/02/15/equinox-mountain-vantage-point-and-boundaries/  by a writer/hiker who really knows the Mountain.

8 Comments on “A MAN AND HIS MOUNTAIN

  1. I wonder how many people (in Vermont) know about this? Really, Really interesting! Thanks. Coppy

    • Probably not many. Sadly most of us don’t know what lies within our back yards so to speak. What piqued my interest initially was that someone actually owned a mountain. I never imagined that the person who owned it would have played such a huge part in US history.

  2. Pingback: Equinox Mountain: Vantage Point and Boundaries | Bean & Bantam

  3. Lovely photos of the beautiful Mount Equinox vista and a compelling history of the former owner. Thank you for the link share, much appreciated!

  4. My Dad was a head carpenter and helped build the Monastery. They took the granite out of the mountain and all 7 of us kids got to go inside and tour the Monastery before it formally opened for the monks and closed to the outside world. I loved Father Diamond the Prior of the Monastery. We stayed at the lodge halfway up the toll house road and enjoyed visiting with the Monks. The cross just outside the gate to the Monastery is dedicated to my Mom. My father spent many winters with the Monks and though he wasn’t religious he was a intellectual like many of the Monks that lived there. He enjoyed fishing, hunting and loved Equinox Mountain.

    • Mary, thank you so much for sharing your story. What a wonderful experience for your family and how special that your father was able to spend so much time with the monks and that they dedicated the cross to your mother. Equinox Mountain is amazing and its history is equally amazing. You are blessed to be part of that history. Do you still live in the area?

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