Hanover — Holly Fullington Forward watched on Tuesday as a backhoe clawed into the roof of the Lyme Road farmhouse she grew up in, its white clapboards tumbling to the ground.
In another age, Dartmouth Dairy — a farm, processing and bottling plant run by her father, Haslett Fullington, and his brother, Wilson — was the biggest milk operation in town, passed down from her great-grandfather, Forward said.
Forty-four years after Dartmouth College purchased the home and surrounding land, the college was tearing it down. A spokeswoman said the building had fallen into disrepair.
“I’m shaking,” Forward, 68, said in the driveway, her voice catching. “I am so upset about this.”
Forward, who lives down the road, said she was upset that she found out about the demolition only after she started asking questions when she noticed the windows were boarded up last week.
Forward also mourned a piece of personal history — her father was born in the house, she said — that she said should have had significance to the town.
“When this was sold, it was in the town books, the pictures of my uncle and dad crossing the cows from the pasture,” she said. “It’s awful.”
A trio of strangers had gathered near her, including Jean Kelly, who watched the demolition from her car.
“Somebody should have stopped this,” said Kelly, a Woodstock resident.
She said it conjured up memories of the Rockefellers buying up historic buildings in her town in the 1950s, 60s and 70s and tearing them down.
“There’s no excuse for throwing this all away into a landfill,” Kelly said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Another, Susanne Holubar, a parent at the Hampshire Cooperative Nursery School which rents a building from Dartmouth next door, also consoled Forward.
Although she said it was “gracious of Dartmouth to allow (the nursery school) to stay here,” she said it was “short-sighted to not invest in your history.”
Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said in an email that the college notified neighbors who abutted the property as part of the demolition permitting process.
“Although he was not an immediate neighbor, we did notify a close member of the Fullington family as a courtesy,” Lawrence said.
There are no specific plans for the property, Lawrence said, noting the building “had not been occupied for well over a decade.”
“Demolition opens up space on the property and affords the Hampshire Cooperative Nursery School ... an opportunity to improve their space,” she said.
After learning of Forward’s father’s connection to the home, the college set aside granite steps and an old tool from the attic to give to her, Lawrence said.
Town records say the building dates back to at least 1900, but Forward said it was built in the early 1800s. Architect and historian Jay Barrett, who grew up in Hanover and wrote about the farm in a book on town history, estimated the structure was built sometime between the 1820s to 1840s based on its outer appearance.
Dartmouth renovated it into apartments after buying the property in 1972, Forward said. According to a 1991 study report from Dartmouth’s Environmental Studies Program, the lot south of the farmhouse was the preferred site for the development of the Dartmouth Organic Farm, which stands there today. (Other options for the organic farm included Rennie Farm, where radioactive medical waste was dumped decades ago.)
Barrett, a longtime Selectboard member in Fairlee, recalled the Fullingtons as a “really hard-working family” and “real entrepeneurial farmers” whose fleet of trucks delivered milk to the college and beyond. They were proud Guernsey breeders who ran the last dairy farm of any real significance in Hanover, he said.
“At one point it was very large,” he said.
Barrett, 63, said he didn’t blame the college for taking down the house, calling it a “nostalgic passing.”
“For those of us who were old enough to remember the Fullington farms with Dartmouth Dairy, it was a good slice of Hanover history,” he said.
Maggie Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3220.