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“It’s part of our history. I think we should keep it,” Wilkins said, echoing the consensus of town’s selectmen.
If nothing else, the Jew Pond controversy has shed light on an intriguing local episode that probably would otherwise have been lost to history.
In 1927, brothers Nyman and Myer Kolodny, two young Jewish attorneys from Boston, partnered with a Jewish hotel operator in Maine to buy The Grand, a resort hotel perched on a bluff overlooking Mont Vernon and the surrounding hills. It was one of several resorts in the area that catered to city folks seeking to escape the summer heat.
Following the custom at many hotels of the era, The Grand barred Jews. “Hebrew patronage not desired,” it wrote in a brochure. David Brooks, who is a member of the Mont Vernon historical society as well as a reporter for the Nashua Telegraph newspaper, unearthed the hotel’s history.
When the Kolodnys bought the place, they may have hoped to attract a new Jewish clientele. It seems likely that locals would have looked askance at some of the changes at the resort. Not only did the new owners rename the hotel the Mont Vernon Country Club, they also dubbed a lowly reservoir on the property “Lake Serene.”
“They dredged up the pond,” said Wilkins, who was married to the grandson of the hotel’s original owner.
Whatever the Kolodnys’ intentions were, the venture did not last long. They sold the hotel back to its original owner in 1929, and a year later it burned down.
Once the place was gone, the locals apparently took license to rename the reservoir after its short-lived owners.
Nyman Kolodny’s daughter, Phyllis Brody, was born after her father owned the hotel, but she does recall him talking much about it.
“I think they had a lot fun there,” she recalled. “My father had a roadster, and he took my mother up.”
For his part, Brooks says a range of motives could be ascribed to the naming of the pond, from affection to anti-Semitism. But “Jew Pond” certainly reflects a deep-seated mistrust of outsiders.
It was about “a small New Hampshire town’s annoyance at people from the outside trying to change things,” he said.
Ted Siefer is a journalist in New Hampshire. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org