Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Madame Sherri's Chateau

Last weekend the iSquangle crew headed off for an out-of-state adventure in nearby New Hampshire. Madame Sherri’s "castle," as these chateau ruins are called, is a well-known, and supposedly haunted, local landmark located in Madame Sherri Forest in Chesterfield, NH. (Directions below)

Gulf Road. A cool diversion on the way to the chateau

The arched stairway, which once led to main floor of the chateau, is the most prominent feature of the ruins.

The chateau was built by Madame Antoinette Berandi Maculuso (Madame Sherri), a costume designer for the Zeigfeld Follies in the 1920s. Madame Sherri spent her summers at her chateau in Chesterfield for more than 30 years.

Madame Sherri was famous around town for her outrageous behavior. She is said to have enjoyed being chauffeured around Keene and Brattleboro during the summer wearing nothing but a fur coat; and rumors circulated around town about her raucous parties and the out-of-town guests that showed up for them.

Another rumor suggests that Madame Sherri ran a brothel out of the chateau. The rumor is probably nothing more than that; the backwoods of New Hampshire isn’t a likely location for a house of ill-repute. Perhaps locals simply confused her old world title with her occupation.

The chateau, which had been long abandoned, burned in 1962. Madame Sherri died three years later at the age of 84.

If you’re interested in exploring the ruins of Mdme Sherri’s chateau, or hiking the loop through Mdme Sherri’s forest, the site is easy to find. From the traffic circle on Putney road, take the Keene/Route 9 East exit. After you cross the green bridge into New Hampshire, take your next right – right by the little market that’s just across the bridge. Take your next left, onto Gulf Road. Mdme Sherri’s Forest is on the right, a couple miles up the road. The sign and parking area are very visible from the main road. The chateau ruins are a across the footbridge and a up a short path.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

More fire photos

Fully involved.
This photo courtesy of Wilmington firefighter Jake White

The bank building, before renovations sometime between 1885 and 1905.

Photo courtesy Peter Morris

Photo showing the brick wall at the back of the building, and the jewelry store, unscathed. Notice the snow on the roof.

A burned-out skeleton.

The vault alarm box that once topped the front facade lies in the rubble on the sidewalk.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Before the fire

This photo of the bank building was sent in by Mary Towne.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

More fire photos

These were sent in by downtown resident Jennifer Betit. She says she woke to the sound of a tractor trailer sounding its horn. When she went outside she saw the fire.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Fire at Wilmington's Bank Building

The burned out building, still standing
Wilmington lost one of its historic buildings in an early morning fire Sunday. According to witnesses at the scene, the fire at the former Vermont National Bank building was reported by passing truck driver at about 4:30 am. Fire was already showing, and the building was quickly consumed.

View from the front of the building

Power was out throughout the valley from 4:30 am until 9:30 and later in some areas. Power, phone, and cable crews worked throughout the morning to restore services. Traffic was halted on Route 9 east and west, and Route 100 north for about 12 hours.

From the east side of the building - Dot's Diner is just visible through the charred studs.

The building was in such precarious condition, local officials called in an excavator to take down the remainder of the building as a safety precaution.

View from the bridge. Note the melted vinyl hanging off the home center wall.

Although fire damaged the vinyl siding on the Wilmington Home Center, peripheral damage was minimal. Fire department officials said a strong northerly wind kept the fire from spreading to a jewelry store and the Village Pub to the south. In addition, the south wall of the old bank building was brick, perhaps protecting the former bank's vault, also located along the south wall.

An excavator begins pulling the structure down
Curiously, the jewelry store building just to the south of the burning building, located a mere foot or two away, suffered almost no damage. Even the snow on the roof wasn't melted.
On the downwind side, however, it was a different story. The plastic housing of the traffic lights at the intersection was melted, and crosswalk signs by the Parmelee & Howe building and the Wilmington Home Center were both melted.

Fire investigators search the debris. The bank vault is still standing. A vault that had been on the second floor is visible to the left of the main vault.

Fire investigators worked closely with demolition teams to examine the ruins as the debris was being pulled away.

A fire investigator emerges from the building's basement

View from the bridge before nightfall

By about 5 pm, much of the building had been removed. Crews remained into the evening, replacing utility lines and working to restore service.