Letter to the editor: Seeking info on Colgate Mansion

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Seeking info on Colgate Mansion

As an avid lover of history, and former resident of Bennington, I've begun work on a book about the Colgate family, who summered in Bennington, between 1890-1944.

I'd like to know more about "the old Colgate mansion" owned by the James Colby Colgate family. Officially, it was named "Ben Venue" and was built by Mr. Colgate's father-in-law (Daniel Hubbell Conkling) in 1865, long before James and Hope Hubbell (Conkling) were married there in 1890. It sat, majestically, on Mt. Anthony in the Old Bennington area of town; until a fire razed most of it in 1898. Mr. Colgate had it re-built in 1900.

Hope Colgate's aunt, Emma West (Conkling) Yale and her husband, General Edwin R. Yale had a neighboring manse built shortly after Ben Venue. Named "Underwood" it still holds court on Mt. Anthony. Sadly, Ben Venue was demolished in 1955, leaving Underwood standing alone.

I'd so appreciate any stories or photos from Ben Venue's heydays (as well as those of Underwood), on or before 1955. Anything about James' or Hope's deaths, a decade apart. (James passed in New York 1944; Hope, in Georgia 1955.) The youngest Colgate daughter, Mary Evelyn b.1906 d. 1928, sadly died of pneumonia, just days after what would have been her wedding day on May 19th, at Ben Venue.

In 2010, I enjoyed working part-time as a housekeeper/cook at Underwood, hired by the current owners. (Ben Venue had 55 rooms unsure how many were bedrooms. Underwood has seven bathrooms and 11 bedrooms – just a small 'cottage' in comparison.) I'm very interested in floor plans of Ben Venue, and how the two mansions were laid-out on the mountain site. From aerial photos I have seen of the property and road leading to it, and from what I know of Underwood's directional orientation, I'm still unclear as to how the two fit together as a home site. Does anyone know who the architect/builder was for either mansion? Or how I may find out?

How was travel conducted between New York City and Bennington? Was there a train directly into Bennington?

The current owners of Underwood are generously providing me with whatever pieces of information they have, including some black/white photos. While employed there, I heard a number ghost stories (and encountered one personally), and suspect there may have been at least one at Ben Venue during her early years, concerning the accidental death of a small child.

I learned of Charles Cresson Jones (farm manager for Mr. Colgate) and his being lost with the Titanic in 1912. I would like to know more about the names and lives of the other Colgate employees, including the farm workers. The latter were pallbearers during Mr. Colgate's funeral. Such loyalty.

I'm using vintage newspaper articles, death certificates, and census records; but even using those portals of information, mysteries remain. If you have any information, please contact me via email, postal mail, or phone. 209 Eisenhower Drive, #7, Bloomington, IL, 61701, Alongthewayj316@yahoo.com, 309-706-4695

Thank you.

— Cindy Butler Bloomington, Ill.


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