One of the largest gifts VLT received in 2018 came from a group of folks whose love of Vermont was born at Quimby Country, a historic and rustic retreat within walking distance of Canada.
For Alan Cattier, one of those donors, a 45-year-old memory of Northern Lights pulsing overhead and reflecting in Great Averill Pond “led me to really believe there was magic in the natural world.”
Alan’s recollection is as vivid today as the night he, fellow vacationers, and camp counselors enjoyed a sleepout at the distinctive lakeside ledge known as The Rock. For many who’ve visited the camp over the past 126 years, The Rock figures prominently in memories.
Such remembrances abound, thanks to Hortense Quimby. Upon her father’s death in 1919—a year before women could vote—Hortense assumed operation of what was then Cold Spring Fishing Camp. She built cabins on Forest Lake that continue to draw generations of Northeastern families. In the Vermont Historical Society’s book, The Vermont Story: A History of the People of the Green Mountain State, 1749-1949, Hortense was described as “an ardent conservationist and one of the state’s best businesswomen.”
As Hortense aged and her health deteriorated, campers bought the property from her in 1965. These shareholders renamed it Quimby Country, hired a manager, and sold more shares.
In 1996, the shareholders worked with VLT to conserve 680 acres around the main camp. The proceeds from the sale of a conservation easement helped with the camp’s finances, which were growing uneven as vacation habits were changing.
But difficult times persisted and shareholders faced the prospect of shuttering Quimby. The camp failed to open in 2016 and barely broke even in 2017. Longtime guest and shareholder Dick Martin recalled what happened next: “a small group of us thought, ‘We have to try one more time’ … to find buyers who would run it as a resort. Our feeling was the place would only be successful if the people running it had a substantial stake in it.”
They found Lilly and Gene Devlin, who had returned to Vermont after running an Adirondack camp for a few years. “[Gene and Lilly] respected the rich history and many of the traditions that were [at Quimby] and yet they’re imagining and reimagining the place in ways that will, in fact, entice a new generation,” Alan observed.
The Devlins acquired 51 percent ownership and shareholders retained 49 percent, resulting in payments to existing shareholders. “One thing in particular that drew us to Quimby was the passionate dedication to preserving not just the buildings and history, but also its natural landscape,” Gene Devlin explained.
In a gesture that’s part gratitude, part tribute, and part “paying it forward,” a third of Quimby Country’s 220 shareholders donated their payments from the sale to VLT, totaling over $17,500. “I consider that a direct inheritance of the spirit of the place.” Alan said. “[Hortense Quimby’s] legacy was this incredible place where families and friends came together to relax, to play, to adventure—all in an incredible setting.”
“I think the power of the place yielded that inclination to make a legacy gesture to Vermont Land Trust. That’s how, at least in my mind, Hortense was remembered so significantly by so many people,” Alan added.
We at VLT are certainly honored and grateful to share in this legacy.
Story by Lynn Adamo. Photos courtesy of Quimby Country.