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  • Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup

    Mont Vernon resident Katelyn Ann Dobbs researched and produced a documentary about the history of Jew Pond, which, along with its adjacent Carleton Park, is currently covered in snow.
  • Staff photo by Dean Shalhoup

    Mont Vernon resident Katelyn Ann Dobbs researched and produced a documentary about the history of Jew Pond, which, along with its adjacent Carleton Park, is currently covered in snow.
  • The United State Geological Survey map shows "Jew Pond" in the center of Mont Vernon. As of September 2012, the name has been changed to Carleton Pond.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Student does documentary on Jew Pond

MONT VERNON – As a child, Katelyn Ann Dobbs visited Carleton Park and its pond frequently, either fishing with friends or just enjoying nature at the small recreation area at the foot of Grand Hill.

Only recently did the UNH-Manchester student who lives in Mont Vernon discover that the tiny pond in the park, though 5 or 6 feet deep at most and barely a quarter-acre in size, boasts a rich, if controversial, history simply because of its name: Jew Pond.

As part of her classes, Dobbs has produced a documentary that traces the history of Mont Vernon’s Jew Pond and examines, through several interviews, the current controversy over the name and whether the name should be changed.

Jew Pond was part of a stately compound known as The Grand, a four-story hotel/resort that once sat atop nearby Grand Hill as part of Mont Vernon’s golden era as a weekend or summer-long vacation destination for monied, big-city folks.

The attention now being showered on Jew Pond began a year and a half ago, when town public health officer Rich Masters temporarily closed the pond because of an algae bloom.

Telling Dobbs “a lot of people in town cringed” upon seeing the name Jew Pond in news reports, Masters began investigating ways to have it officially changed.

The issue now is going to appear on the March town warrant, as an article asking voters if they prefer a name change. A decision about the name as it will appear on official sources such as the U.S. Geological Survey map will be made by a federal naming panel, but the town’s wishes will carry great weight.

If changed, the pond will most likely become Carleton Pond, in tribute to the late George O. Carleton, who donated much of the land to the town some 40 years ago.

As for The Grand, that hotel was around for many decades near the turn of the 20th century.

For 25 or so years, it was owned and managed by George E. Bates, who, history tells us, made it clear he didn’t accept as patrons members of the Jewish faith. “Hebrew patronage not desired” was one variation of the theme that he affixed to advertisements, posters and special-event cards over the years.

In early 1927, Bates sold The Grand to Boston brothers Nymen H. and Myer Z. Kolodny and Maine hotelier J.M. Levenson, all Jewish men who, around Memorial Day 1927, reopened the hotel as the Mont Vernon Country Club Inn. Of course, Bates’ ban on Jewish patrons disappeared, but it’s not clear whether the new owners intended it to be exclusively Jewish or if the large number of Jewish visitors that year was a coincidence.

What is clear, though, is the trio couldn’t make a go of it and sold the place back to Bates in the fall of 1929. Less than a year later, on Labor Day weekend 1930, the hotel was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

In her documentary, Dobbs explores early-20th-century anti-Semitism, partly through the eyes of K. Jeff Fladen, executive director of the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire. Most offensive, Fladen said in the interview, is the fact “Jew” is used as an adjective in “Jew Pond,” which he likens to obviously derogatory inferences like “Jew lawyer” or “Jew politician.”

“If the name was “Jewish Pond,” we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” Fladen said. He also said he received a call several months ago from a reporter in Israel, asking about Jew Pond, apparently after seeing local stories on the Internet.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 303, or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.