When William Warren Vaughan dreamed of restoring the woods adjacent to his family’s 1794 historic home after they had been ravaged by industry, he envisioned a magical and wild place to be enjoyed by future generations. Thus, between 1890 and 1930 he and his brother Benjamin worked tirelessly to purchase the land and, utilizing local labor, deconstruct the mills and create a nature preserve featuring three miles of trails and the stone bridges that today not only provide a way across the stream but also necessary structure to the preserve’s main trail, which hugs a steep hillside.
For over 100 years the family maintained the trails and bridges and allowed public access. Today Vaughan Woods attracts hundreds of visitors each day and is frequented by both painters and photographers. Known locally as “Hobbitland” the Woods have provided magical childhood memories for many generations of area residents, some of whom fondly remember playing there as early as the 1940s.
In 2002 William Vaughan’s granddaughter, Diana Vaughan Gibson (pictured playing as a child above), transferred ownership of the Woods and Homestead to the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization now known as Vaughan Woods & Historic Homestead. VWHH’s goal is to maintain the Homestead and Woods as a public resource. In 2014 stonemasons Jon Jennings and Dan Ucci identified critical needs for structural repairs to the bridges, which have been seriously weakened by stream erosion, embankment instability, shifting abutments and/or disintegration of masonry. Visitor safety has required deconstructing one bridge and closing another. The entire project is projected to cost upwards of $500,000.
The bridges were recently chosen for the Maine’s Most Endangered Historic Places list, and the organization has undertaken a multi-year process to restore them. The highest priority has been placed on crucial repairs to the High Arch Bridge, and VWHH is working to raise the necessary funds.
In 2017, VWHH was awarded $5,000 toward the first phase of repairs to the 1930 Arch Bridge, and the community has contributed over $25,000. Many thanks to all those who have already given to the Bridges Fund, which is growing at a slow, but steady pace!