So there was this story that I, um, was in my first book which is how Vermont's leaders in 1890 decided that they wanted to reverse Vermont's decline, and not only was the population going down but the quality of the people, they thought, was going down as well. There were too many French-Canadiens and Irish people.
So they had a program to recruit Swedes and they brought over 55 Swedes, and then everyone agreed immediately that this was a really stupid idea and they agreed to never talk about it again. I always wondered 'what happened to the Swedes?'
But then I found that really what the book is about, is about Landgrove because what happened was in Landgrove, this guy from New Jersey names Samuel Ogden moved there in 1929 and he bought an old house. And then when he began to do was buy other houses.
Landgrove at that point had about 50 people living in it, it was a dying town. There was just a couple Swedes.
And Ogden in the '30s and '40s began to buy up all the houses in town and fix them up and then sell to people he knew as vacation homes. And gradually, and then he opened up a children's camp and he's actually the founder of the Vermont Natural Resources Council, he was the head of the Vermont Development Commission, he had a forge, he used to be down there banging on metal with this, right, he was a really interesting guy. But what happened was that there was a way of life that Landgrove represented that he wanted a piece of and he wanted other people to share in this.
And what happened was he bought up all the houses and chased away all the poor people and if you go to Landgrove now, there's no middle class, much less working class. It's huge houses with swimming pools, it's like an artists community. Which is fine, but this is really a model for what's happening in Vermont. You look across the state, you know the towns; Woodstock, Stowe, Craftsbury, Peacham, Manchester, you go town after town after town, the normal people can't afford to live there anymore.
And that's the great challenge that Vermonters face, is, you know, the human landscape needs to remain intact for the way of life here to remain valuable, you know? Community isn't, as has been said many times by historians, community is not physical, it's not rocks and trees and buildings. Community is shared experiences. And when you chase away all the people who constitute that long-term, you know, community accrues over time like a coral reef. When you chase away all the people who constitute all these shared experiences, you lose the community. There's people living here but it's not a community.
But its, you know, it's tricky if you have no, you know, regulations, no cap on development, then Vermont will become destroyed. It will become like New Jersey. But if you have an enormous amount of restraint on growth and development, then Vermont will become a plaything for rich people and normal people won't be able to live here anymore.
And so that's the bind that Vermont's caught in. And it's a thread that runs all the way through the 20th century into the 21st century.