Common Sense, the bakery and restaurant owned by the Island Pond Community Church, burned down in the 1980s. Jennifer's Restaurant (802)723-6135 and accompanying Clyde River Coffee Shop (802)723-4540, offering home baked food, have taken over Common Sense's location. The soap products once offered at the restaurant are still available at Simon the Tanner (see below).
The Buck and Doe Restaurant on Bartlett Block, once a local Brighton landmark, has now changed ownership. Writer and Island Pond resident Garret Kaizer wrote about the previous owners Ronnie and Helen Langford and their infamous gathering place, "[H]e and his wife have taken an enterprise that many said was doomed from the start, a classy restaurant' in Island Pond, and achieved some national recognition for their pain." (Kaizer, p.39) Under its new ownership, the restaurant is now called Loone's Landing Restaurant with the Sa-Loon Bar below.
Simon the Tanner is yet another infamous Brighton business. Run by the Church community, the store is located on the lake on Main and Cross Street and offers everything from sweaters to shoes for the discriminating and bargain-hunting shopper. Mahoney General Store is another well-known gathering place, run by a woman named Bridget Mahoney who kindly serves as vice president of the Chamber of Commerce on the side.
Island Pond is also home of the Stadion Pub Company whose president Thomas Kurz writes books on sports training and was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by Poland's Akademia Wychowania Fizycnega, the Institute of Physical Education. The company publishes books and tapes written by Eastern European coaches, trainers, physical education experts for distribution around the world.
Brighton has several other smaller restaurants, a health center, real estate offices, used and new car dealerships, a funeral home, several banks, a hotel, and a motel.
In terms of working statistics, those who are 16 and older and who work in their county of residence number at 236; those who work outside of the county total at 119. For those who do drive to work, the majority (99) spend less than five minutes commuting; 85 spend five to nine minutes, 50 spend from 30 to 40 minutes, and those who spend from 10 to 14 minutes commuting total at 37.
The Grand Trunk Railroad became Island Pond's early claim to notoriety. The Canadian National Railroad building from Montreal and the Atlantic and St. Lawrence building from Portland hoped to meet in Island Pond as the first truly international railroad. They chose Island Pond for the fact that its height of land separates the St. Lawrence and Connecticut Rivers and for many years had been the favorite portage route for St. Francis Indians on their regular water trips from Canada to Maine (Ruth H. Kaufman, "Island Pond", Vermont Life, 41).
The Atlantic and St. Lawrence company ran out of money with sixteen miles to go. For $438,000, the company sold the railroad to finance the completion. Over six hundred Irish workers labored to link the two lines on July 16, 1853. The line was leased to the Grand Trunk Railroad for 999 years. As many as forty trains pulled into the Island Pond station at all times of the day, generating enough weary and hungry travelers to create hotel and restaurant businesses in the town. Furniture factories and other woodworking operations appeared around the railroad station and rail yards. "A lumbering town then became a railroading town for a time..." (Kaldenbach, 1995, April:18) Nearly every family could boast of three or even four generations of service to the line (Kaufman, 41).
When the railroads slowed and then dwindled to near extinction, so did the station. Yet, revival came more than one hundred years later when, following an extensive period of renovation and a move monitored by the Essex County Sheriff's department, on Monday, December 20, 1993, the Island Pond Railroad Station was officially back in business (see "Banks" below). The railroad still employs about fifty people today.
Major Routes 105 and 114 run through Brighton, converging for a stretch as they enter the village. The "Roller Coaster Road" is the local nickname for an eight-mile stretch of Route 114 from Island Pond to Norton, so named because of the notorious dips and rises. The recent leveling of the road has ironed out much of the surprising peaks and valleys but the name still exists.
Brighton has one municipal building that houses a basketball court, town offices, and two rental spaces, in one of which is the town's library.
The Brighton Graded School includes kindergarten through the eighth grade and is housed on Pherrin Road. Brighton also has a Headstart program, separate from the elementary and junior high school.
St. Mary's Convent was a school opened in 1886 and run by the Sisters of the Presentation, a French-Canadian Order based out of Quebec. It was the town's first high school that in 1928 graduated as many as seven students, which was a lot for the town. The Sisters started it as a grammar school but it soon became a full high school as well. In 1958, the town discontinued the school and distributed the children to either the new Brighton High School or the Sacred Heart School in Newport.
Including the Northeast Kingdom Community Church, Brighton maintains six churches: First Congregational Church; the Christ Protestant Episcopal Church, established in 1872; the Saint James Roman Catholic Church, established in 1854; a Baptist Church; and a Grace Brethren Church.
The once controversial Northeast Kingdom Community Church (known also as the Island Pond Community Church, the Community at Island Pond, and The Apostolic Order) lives in Brighton. The community moved to Island Pond in 1978 from Tennessee in hopes of establishing a commune where members gave up material possessions and declared themselves self-sufficient. When they entered the commune, members agreed to work in community enterprises like the restaurant and furniture-making shops. In keeping with the Bible, the commune freely used corporal punishment for disciplining the community's children.
By 1994, the church had fourteen declared sites including five sites in Vermont, six elsewhere in the United States, and other sites in Winnipeg, France, Brazil and New Zealand. The church (at that time was known as the Messianic Communities) made its first debut in Vermont news when Stuart Lavin went to court to have his former wife, Rosemary Lavin, evaluated when she took four of their six children to the community church. Lavin testified that his children described being hit by their mother with a rod, being prohibited from watching TV, reading books, playing or imagining in the commune. (Burlington Free Press, 5/17/94, AP. p. 3B.)
The Community Church's sustained presence in the news came with the infamous 1984 raid on the local sect led by Vermont state agents and agencies. About 150 state officials, including state police troopers and social workers, raided twenty sect homes at dawn on June 22, 1984 in an attempt to investigate what the state said were seventeen allegations of child abuse. According to the papers, defectors from the Church brought forth the allegations, leading the state to believe that the Church was a cult. Already the state was disgruntled by the Church's refusal to register births and by complaints of truancy and of practicing medicine without a license.
The Governor at the time, Richard Snelling, and Attorney General at the time, John J. Easton, Jr., approved in conjunction the plan to seize all of the children, take them into custody, and check them for signs of abuse. Acting under the authority of a search warrant, troopers went to about twenty houses, knocked on doors, and rounded up 112 children. As far as reporters could see, they met no resistance.
The troopers loaded the children into buses and transported them 24 miles to the Newport District Court. The fifty social workers who were also on the scene, accompanied the children. The district judge at the time, Frank G. Mahady, was to preside over the hearings. But late in the day, he ruled that many of the children couldn't be detained and he turned down the state's request for a 72 hour detention period. He was quoted calling the raid a "massive systematic disregard for individual rights." Mahady also dismissed the state's juvenile petitions in the raid, and the state decided not to appeal. (Rutland Herald, June 19, 1994, 04:1)
When church members said they had no interest in suing the state for damages, it appeared the legal file on the raid was closed. But one of the 112 children picked up in the raid was not a member of the sect. ACLU brought suit on this girl's behalf in May 1986. The girl, Tiffany, then 13, was visiting her aunt who was a member of the church at the time of the raid. The defendants did not have probable cause to believe Tiffany was being abused; the search warrant used in the raid was invalid. The suit may force the state to open its books on the affair. The suit names five defendants, all key players in the raid: then-Deputy Attorney General Charles Bristow, then-Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) Commissioner John Burchard, then-Public Safety Commissioner Paul Philbrook, then-SRS District Director Conrad Grims, and Orleans County State's Attorney Philip White.
The Community Church has owned in the past as many as 17 buildings and land in Island Pond. Futon Vermont, Cobbler's Shop, Strictly Vermont Candle, Parchment Press (John Howly, Mgr..), Common Sense, and Simon the Tanner are all businesses either owned by the Church presently or in the past. The Church membership has diminished from around 400 to half that number, though it has also spread into fifteen communities of living Christians in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Church member Robert Chambers told the press in 1994 that the group now registers its births and deaths and maintains good relations with the Department of Education which evaluates its home-schooling programs.
According to 1994 papers, the late Judge Joseph Wolchik who issued the warrant allowing the raid allegedly told the legislative committee in 1989 that he had done so based on "bad information" (Burlington Free Press, June 19, 1994, 1B:2). The controversy no doubt lingers in residents' minds and even in the papers from time to time. Perhaps fueled by the high emotions surrounding this event, Vermont writer Archer Mayor based his 1990 Borderlines on the religious group.
Brighton built its first post office in 1849 in Brighton Village which was then the largest settlement. When Island Pond became a railroad center in 1853, the post office was moved and renamed the Island Pond Post office. A second post office in East Brighton opened in 1872. It was closed and reopened several times and then finally closed in 1905. The Island Pond Post Office now resides on Main Street.
The Island Pond Public Library occupies one of the two rental spaces in the municipal building on the ground floor of the Opera Block on railroad street. The number is: (802)723-6134.
A granite marker marks the site of the first international railroad in the United States, linked in Island Pond. To the west 1,366 feet is the railway that linked the Atlantic & St. Lawrence Railroad from Portland, Maine to the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railway from Montreal, Quebec in July, 1853. The marker was a gift erected in August of 1986 by the Island Pond Historical Society in memory of the Stafford family.
The railroad station on Main Street has been deemed a historic marker which the town bought for one. The town in 1991 decided to buy the building and give it back some life while paying tribute to the railroad days. Voters agreed to borrow $225,000 to restore the space. Contractor Ned Fauser and his wife Bobbie avoided public criticism by keeping the station door open while doing the repairs so anyone could see what work was being done. For $425,000 (according to Joel Cope, Assistant Town Administrator (Chronicle, 12/22/93:P18-9)), the town finished the project. The bank rents most of the space, using the ticket booth for banking transactions. The railroad museum shares the building and with the help of the Brighton Historical Society displays the town's old tools and railroad paraphernalia.
Just east of the Village of Island Pond along Route 105 is Brighton's one airport, the John Boylan Airport.
Local snowmobilers, especially, like to call Island Pond the "Snowmobiling Capital of New England". Residents who don't snowmobile but see a lucrative business for the snow-drenched town call it that as well and are even sponsoring a winter festival to invite all who like to travel on hard-packed trails. Cross-country skiers as well can take a trail from the lake and travel for many miles into Canada and back. The trails are groomed two to three times a week.
A pedestrian bridge was constructed about a century ago to link the higher north side of town with the south, divided by the railroad tracks. In 1904, the railroad built a carriage bridge with a 90-degree angle at the top of the ramp. It had a stop sign in the middle of the bridge to prevent accidents but it was still deemed as "one of the ten most dangerous bridges in the country". It was demolished in 1978 and replaced with a structure that curves more gently. (Kaufman, p.41-42)