Proposed in the 1960s
The border towns of Heath, Massachusetts and Whitingham, Vermont nearly became home to a large real estate development in the late 1960s, which would have included a small ski area.
In 1951, Elizabeth Pierce gave the 500 acre Sky Farm in Whitingham to the Carthusian Foundation. The tract grew following the gift of the nearby Shippee Farm by J. Peter Grace. In 1960, the monks relocated to a 4,000 acre tract on Mt. Equinox that was donated by Joseph Davidson.
In early 1968, word of a pending sale of 2,100 acres owned by the Carthusian Foundation made waves in the small town of Whitingham. The prospective buyer hired Everett Lord Wood Associates, the same firm that had recently drafted plans for the Dorset Hollow proposal. 1,635 acres were located in Whitingham, while the balance of the tract was located in Heath, Massachusetts. The developers of the estimated 20-year, $100,000,000 project were Clifford Jarvis, president, and Richard Feron, treasurer, under the name of Whitingham Farms, a subsidiary of Vacationlands, Inc.
Plans included lakes with beaches, an 18-hole golf course, a club house, a chapel, and ski slopes with a base lodge. Not much is known about the "ski slopes" component of the development, but presumably it would have been a smaller ski area to complement the destination resorts in the region.
The development itself was to use cluster-type housing, which would consist of one-third to one-half acre lots that were to be designed so that homes were not visible from the road. The density of less than an acre per home drew the ire of locals.
By August 1968, the developers had reportedly rebuilt the Shippee farmhouse as an office building and were converting the barn into a teen center. A swimming pool was reportedly under construction, while sixteen miles of roads were laid out and plans were made to convert Shippee Pond into a 125 acre Windsor Lake. Two more lakes were planned, including a state-border-crossing Lake of the Shadows.
The sale of the bulk of the property, some 1,633 acres, was completed in September 1968, with the Carthusian Foundation granting a mortgage to the buyers for the entire $1.2 million purchase price.
Soon, Whitingham Farms was publishing advertisements in southern New England, claiming it would "offer each member of your family every conceivable kind of recreational activity whether it be sail boating, pool or lake swimming, fishing, golf, tennis, horseback riding, tobogganing, skiing or ski-dooing, and even lounging at the club house."
Though the Whitingham selectmen granted the developers a variance to allow for the sub-acre lots in October 1968, the state rejected the local ruling based upon a new state interim zoning law, telling the town that it had to do on a lot-by-lot basis from a Zoning Board of Adjustment. The developers nevertheless decided to proceed, with three homes listed as under construction later that month. Meanwhile, company president Clifford Jarvis was seriously injured in a automobile accident, resulting in an extended hospital stay.
In December, the town rejected the variance request, sending Whitingham Farms back to the drawing board for an estimated $30,000 to $50,000 more in surveying and engineering costs.
In January 1969, Whitingham Farms and local firefighters joined together to build a skating rink at the development's headquarters, making it available to local residents for free. Whitingham Farms provided supervision and babysitting services.
Whitingham Farms also pushed for more outreach in the Hartford and Boston markets that winter, hosting cocktail parties as a "public relations service to better inform you as to the wonderful vacation home possibilities available at Whitingham Farms."
Treasurer Richard Feron resigned in March 1969, as the cracks started to show. Feron sued the company that fall, demanding his investment be returned. Meanwhile, the State of Vermont threatened to revoke the corporation's license, finding Whitingham Farms, Inc. only had $7.16 of cash on hand. In late October, R.M. Bradley Real Estate placed $150,000 in escrow for the potential purchase of Whitingham Farms.
Following an investigation by Attorney General Jim Jeffords, in November the State of Vermont charged president Clifford Jarvis with six counts of land fraud and two counts of deceptive advertising. In December, Jeffords announced he would drop the charges, citing the pending sale to R.M. Bradley Real Estate. R.M. Bradley later backed out, resulting in it eventually going to a sheriff's sale, at which point former owner Robert Feron purchased it, with his lawyer commenting that he was in "the unenviable position of assuming a mortgage that it is impossible to pay."
After determining the development was subject to the Interstate Land Sales Act, the Department of Housing and Development announced it would investigate Whitingham Farms. In December, the Carthusian Foundation took possession of the Massachusetts tract at auction and soon the development was pronounced by the Bennington Banner as "defunct."
USGS map of Whitingham Farms area
There are no known remains of the Whitingham Farms ski area proposal.
Last updated: July 16, 2020