Historic Wilton cabin burned down
Thursday, November 11, 2010
WILTON – Phil Heald’s cabin was built as a place for the family to get warm while deer hunting or to just hang out. It was a neat brown-shingled camp with a second floor loft and a wide screened front that faced Castor Pond.
The Wilton-Wanderers Snowmobile Club kept an eye on it for years, making repairs in exchange for its use.
In 1974, six members of Lyndeborough Cadette Girl Scout Troop 97 spent a training weekend at Phil’s cabin, a pleasant isolated place beside a pond. One of those Scouts recalled the weekend as “a lot of fun” and the cabin as nice.
Last weekend the cabin burned. It was so isolated, so far from any roads, no one saw the fire. The remains were discovered by a caretaker on Monday morning.
“We are trying to determine what happened,” Wilton Police Chief Brent Hautanen said. “There is evidence of alcohol consumption on the site. It was a very unfortunate incident.”
The incident is under investigation, Hautanen said, so he could not make any further comment.
Bart Hunter is one of those who oversees the Heald Tract, which is owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.
The Forest Society doesn’t want buildings on their properties but an exception was made for Heald’s camp because of its long history of use and care by the snowmobilers, Hunter said.
“We’re not really sure how old it was,” he said. “It was Phil’s family’s camp.”
He estimated that it might have been built in the 1930s or earlier because the sills were made of chestnut.
“Who ever built it put three flues in the chimney, so you could have a wood stove in the loft. It was very well constructed.”
Over the last few months, signs of use had been found frequently.
“About a month ago, somebody began having parties up there. We kept finding it trashed,” Hunter said.
These things were found as a restoration was under way.
“We had just put shingles on the outside, and replaced a section of sill. On Saturday we cut back some hemlock that porcupines had damaged,” Hunter explained.
He said the fire had spread 20 or 30 feet from the cabin, but since it was a rainy night, it had gone out.
“It’s really sad,” Hunter said, noting that he had camped there with Scouts when he was a leader. “There always seems to be someone who spoils things for everyone else.”