[The following is an excerpt from the Summer 2023 edition of The Hardwick Historical Society Journal, reprinted with permission to provide historical perspective on recent events.]
by Elizabeth H. Dow, Hardwick Historical Society
HARDWICK — In 1968 Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program, and, led by insurance agent Dan O’Connor working with local officials, Hardwick had received approval for the program in March 1973, making subsidized flood insurance available to Hardwick home and business owners, government entities, and nonprofits.1
On June 30, 1973, the Lamoille River, already swollen after a rainy spring, received a 24-hour downpour. Everyone knew that Wolcott Street would flood. By evening, the state police advised people on Wolcott, Granite, and Cottage streets to leave their homes. Most did.2
The storm covered the state and caused what many regarded at the time as the worst storm since 1927. Ludlow, Cavendish, and Plymouth received the most damage. Three people died.3
Roads washed out. Railroad tracks and ties stayed in place, but the road bed under them washed away. Bridges stood firm, but their approaches washed out.4 Farms along the river lost crops too late in the season to replant. Even worse, they lost a lot of top soil, the nutrient-rich soil needed for future crops.5
Compared to other parts of Vermont, the storm hit the Northeast Kingdom lightly. In Hardwick the flood crested about 1 p.m. The river had undermined the Village Motel, beside Route 15, at its eastern end. Although not ordered to evacuate their motel, the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Spencer, recognizing the danger, at 11 a.m. asked their guests to leave. All did, but some did not take their belongings.6 The motel started to slide into the river about 2 p.m. While suitcases and furniture went downstream, the building stayed anchored to the land. The Spencers and co-owner Avon Atkins had not taken advantage of the flood insurance option.
The river weakened granite retaining walls all through the village. The wall upstream of the Main Street Bridge in front of the Jeudevine Mansion became visibly weakened. The foundation wall under the Village Restaurant and “a large part of the parking lot was carried off by the flood.” On Monday, Governor Salmon and an entourage spent more than an hour flying over Hardwick in a helicopter and then on the ground with local officials discussing state assistance that his declaration of an emergency made possible.7
1 Roger LeCours. “We Owe Thanks to Dan O’Connor,” Green Mountain Gazette (Hardwick), July 11, 1973, 4.
2 Roger LeCours. “The Great Flood,” Green Mountain Gazette (Hardwick), July 11, 1973, 4.
3 “State Mops Up after Devastating Floods,” Burlington Free Press, July 2, 1973.
4 “Personal Tragedies of Flood,” Green Mountain Gazette (Hardwick), July 11, 1973, 5.
5 “Area Towns Suffer Heavy Flood Losses,” Green Mountain Gazette (Hardwick), July 11, 1973,
6 “Vermonters Begin Mopping Up,” Burlington Free Press, July 2, 1973.
7 “Personal Tragedies of Flood,” Green Mountain Gazette (Hardwick), July 11, 1973, 5.
[The Hardwick Historical Society Journal goes to the mailbox of every member quarterly. To join, go to hardwickvthistory.org]