Florence Stol: The Last Residential Owner of the Governor Hunt House
Florence Louchheim Stol was the last residential owner of the Governor Hunt House before its acquisition by the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant Corporation. Until 1967 when Stol died and the Governor Hunt House was sold, it had always been a home—sometimes for full time residents, sometimes only as a weekend or summer retreat, sometimes as a working farm, sometimes the center of lively weekend getaways for eclectic guests—but always a place for living and not a business establishment.
As Florence Stol was a rather fascinating woman, a discussion of her life is appropriate to an understanding of the Governor Hunt House history. While Stol has been described in many ways, one thing is certain; Florence Stol was an independent woman whose life would be celebrated by women's rights advocates everywhere today.
The Brattleboro Reformer reported that, in July 1947, Mrs. Stol of Brattleboro and New York City purchased the Governor Hunt House. The report stated that extensive repairs and remodeling would take place over the summer and Mrs. Stol who was, at the time, in Europe, would take occupancy part time when she returned to the United States in October of that year.
Born Florence Louchheim, she went to college at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After college she traveled in Europe. While exploring Spain in the 1920s she met and had an affair with Jose Moreno Villa who later became a well-known Spanish poet. Florence brought Moreno Villa to New York to meet her parents, but they promptly vetoed a possible marriage and attempted to end the relationship. But Florence had made a significant impact on Moreno Villa. He wrote a book of essays about his time with Florence in New York and a book of poems about his love for her.
It is through a Spanish account of the relationship that one learns of Moreno Villa's deep feelings for Florence as well as the problems she had with her own family. When Moreno Villa first met Florence's parents, they took an immediate dislike to him. They were clear that they had no intention of allowing their daughter to marry him.
Moreno Villa was struck by Mr. Louchheim's preoccupation with money and material possessions. In his book of essays, Pruebas de Nueva York (translated as Trials of New York), Moreno Villa expresses his disdain for Mr. Louchheim, a man who, Moreno Villa says, put material wealth above all else. Moreno Villa is not deluded by the Louchheims' scheme to separate the couple. He explains that the Louchheims resorted to the ruse of imposing a three-month separation on the couple in an attempt to force Moreno Villa to return to Spain. He describes the treatment he got from the Louchheims as "humiliating."
But his feelings for Florence were strong. In his book of poems Moreno Villa calls Florence "Jacinta" which is a Spanish girl's name meaning "hyacinth" and describes Jacinta as "…a whirlwind in my life." The book was published as Jacinta la Pelirroja which translates to Jacinta the Redhead and is clearly about red-haired Florence.
In the 1930s, Louchheim married Paul Osborn, an American playwright. The couple settled, or at least summered, in Brattleboro, where they established a short-lived summer stock theater. Osborn is known for his plays The Vinegar Tree, Oliver Oliver, and Morning's at Seven, and he wrote the screenplays for films including East of Eden and South Pacific. At some point, however, Osborn fell for one of the female leads in the Brattleboro theater company, which resulted in the end of his marriage to Florence in 1937.
Florence then became Florence Stol when she wed Sebastian Stol in 1938. Sebastian was born in Amsterdam in 1897 and came to the United States in 1904. When he met Florence, he had already been married and divorced so this union was a second marriage for both of them.
Sebastian Stol clearly lacked the qualities associated with being a good husband. Barely two years after the marriage, in September 1940, Florence filed for divorce. The divorce was granted in 1942 on the grounds of "intolerable severity." Little is known of Sebastian's life after the divorce but he ended his days in 1986 in Mexico, where he had worked in Mexico as a regional manager for Philco.
Meanwhile, it appears that Florence’s feelings for Moreno Villa had not yet ended. It took ten years after Moreno Villa returned, alone, to Spain for him to see Florence again but eventually he did meet with her, this time in Mexico. But that is a story for the next chapter in this saga.