Quarry Hill Creative Center

Quarry Hill Creative Center

Quarry Hill Creative Center, in Rochester, Vermont, is Vermont's oldest alternative living group or community.


On April 10, 1946, Irving Fiske (born Irving Fishman in Brooklyn, New York, on March 5, 1908), a playwright, inventor, freelance writer, and speaker, and his wife, Barbara Hall Fiske, (born Isabelle Daniel Hall in Tucson, Arizona on September 9, 1919), an artist, bought 140 acres (0.6 km²) of mountain, meadow, and brook land in Rochester, Vermont. They had been married on January 8, 1946.

Irving, a 1928 graduate of Cornell University, worked for the Federal Writer's Project of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) during the 1930s. Fiske also wrote for H. L. Mencken's American Mercury [vol. 48 (December 1939), pp. 403-7] , [http://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/] had corresponded with George Bernard Shaw, had written an article praised by critic Colin Wilson, among others, "Bernard Shaw’s Debt to William Blake" [] , and had translated Shakespeare's Hamlet into modern English [] . This was considered a controversial literary action at the time. John Ciardi, who did not approve, reprinted excerpts in the Saturday Review. Most readers wrote in favor of the translation.Barbara was one of the few female comic book artists in the United States during the World War II era. [http://www.time.com/time/columnist/arnold/article/0,9565,187936,00.html] She drew "Girl Commandos" and other strips for Harvey Comics, signing herself B. Hall because female cartoonists were not held in high esteem. [http://www.lambiek.net/hall_barbara.htm]

Creation of Quarry Hill

At Quarry Hill, the Fiskes' intention was to create an artists’ and writers’ retreat, a gathering place for creative and freethinking people. They had two children, Isabella (also called Ladybelle) and William. During the Fifties and early Sixties, the family traveled to keep their children out of the strict public schools of the day, which the Fiskes regarded as "Dark Satanic Mills That Grind Men's Souls to Dust,” in the words of William Blake. They did so on the advice of A.S. Neill of Summerhill School in England. The Fiskes were opposed to spanking [http://www.nospank.net/toc.htm] or corporal punishment of children, indeed, punishment of any kind; and most schools of the time used corporal punishment. William later earned two Masters' Degrees, in computer science and in history, from the University of Vermont. At the time of his death on July 18, 2008 he was in the process of seeking a Ph.D in computer science.Isabella became a writer and children's rights activist. She also took on the task of maintaining Quarry Hill. In the Sixties, Isabella became friends with many well-known Underground Cartoonists, R. Crumb, Trina Robbins, Kim Deitch, Spain Rodriguez, and others. Isabella and Art Spiegelman, later author of "Maus",met in 1966, through a group of Spiegelman's fellow-students at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Later Spiegelman and some Quarry Hill residents created Top-Drawer Rubber Stamp Company featuring art by R. Crumb, Spiegelman and other cartoonists and artists including Barbara Fiske. This art rubber stamp company provided employment for many Quarry Hill residents.

In the mid-Sixties, Barbara opened a storefront, The Gallery Gwen, in New York's East Village. There Barbara showed her paintings, along with those of others, and Irving began to give public talks on Tantra, Zen, Sufism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and atheism, among many other things. He soon spoke to many standing-room-only audiences. In time he would also speak in colleges and churches on the East Coast, such as Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont and in many other locations.

He spoke out in favor of people finding their own creative path in life, enjoying themselves, being free of guilt and shame, and children’s rights. He wrote letters for young men who were conscientious objectors to the Vietnam War. He was called “The Forest Wizard,” and in Florida, where he had a cabin on a lake, “The Socrates of the Ocala National Forest.” Irving was a controversial figure. In the 1970s, when his cabin in the Ocala Forest was burnt by arsonists, and the authorities did not give him a permit to rebuild, he launched a legal and media battle, claiming that the authorities were prejudiced against the young people he brought there as his friends, most of whom had long hair. He eventually got the permit and rebuilt the cabin.


When the countercultural movement of the Sixties and Seventies began, hundreds of people, from all over the world, began to pour through Quarry Hill. Many people wanted to build houses at Quarry Hill, and they did. The place was known for its international population and for its ideals about child care. Many children grew up at Quarry Hill and attended its school, The North Hollow School. Many graduates of the school have gone on to college and graduate school. In 1976, Irving and Barbara divorced. The land is now managed by a rental corporation owned by the family, and residents with houses have lengthy easements. Many changes have occurred over the years at Quarry Hill. it has had its own private K-12 school based on the principles of the Fiske family and of Summerhill School in England, and ran Free The Kids! Program, which offers educational material on the deleterious effect on children of spanking and other violence. The one central principle at Quarry Hill is that no violence towards children is permitted. Quarry Hill’s land is under a covenant that outlaws spanking, slapping, and the denigration or neglect of children. Quarry Hill also permits no hunting, fishing, or animal slaughter. But there are few other rules. One rule remains, however: no roosters allowed. This is a strange idiosyncrasy of those who enjoy sleeping.

Irving, became well-known in the counterculture both in the United States and elsewhere. He died of a stroke in Ocala,Florida, on April 25, 1990.

Barbara remarried Dr. Donald Calhoun (born June 14, 1917), a writer [cite book | id=ISBN 0-87047-101-5 | title=Spirituality and Community: An Autobiographical Memoir] , sociology professor and a Quaker like herself. Barbara Fiske Calhoun lives and teaches art at Quarry Hill (as of 2005). William Fiske died in his sleep on July 18,2008, in Burlington,Vermont.

The Fiske family does not consider Quarry Hill a "commune," as property is not communally owned; rentals or fees are charged for residence at Quarry Hill, and the land continues to belong to the Fiskes.



* Braunstein, Peter and Michael W. Doyle, eds. "Imagine Nation: The American Counterculture of the 1960s and 70s". New York: Routledge, 2002. P. 330.
* Hartmann, Thom. The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. Revised and updated. New York: Three Rivers Press (Random House), 2004. P. 309-11, 315. Calls QH "The oldest "intentional community in Vermont."
* McFarlin, Isabella Fiske, et al., "Free The Kids! and Quarry Hill Community." The Journal of Psychohistory, 21/1, 21-28.
* Miller, Timothy. The 60s Communes: Hippies and Beyond. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1999. P. 8
* Sherman, Michael, Gene Sessions, and P. Jeffrey Potash. Freedom and Unity: A History of Vermont. Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 2003. Michael Sherman, a respected historian and teacher at Vermont College, credits Quarry Hill and The North Hollow School with being a model for the many alternative schools that sprang up in Vermont in the Seventies and onward.
* Trausch, V. "Where Have All the Flower Children Gone?" Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, August 2, 1987 *http://www.uvm.edu/~jmoore/sixtiesonline/vtrausch.html
*http://developmentheaven.com/?sec=dangerousthinking (Article on Hollywood Screenwriter J. Kitchen, who studied playwriting with Irving Fiske)
* (See Chapter on Wall Street for an example of Irving Fiske's style)
*http://www.google.com/searchq=cache:SU1ghPGrQ2oJ:www.ina.fr/produits/publications/da/112/sommaire.fr.html+%22Irving+Fiske%22+%2B+Television&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=7( Online Journal, La Boutique: reference, in French, to I. Fiske's article, "Where Does Television Belong?"
*FISKE, IRVING. Where Does Television Belong?, (ar) Harper’s Feb 1940 (mentioned in)Fifties Television: The Industry and Its Criticsby William Boddy University of Illinois Press

* George Bernard Shaw archives at the University of Texas, including communication between Fiske and Shaw. http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:UOv6hCqUrxwJ:www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/uthrc/00121/hrc-00121.html+Irving+Fiske+and+George+Bernard+Shaw&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=4

Irving Fiske, Obituaries:

* "The New York Times", May 1, 1990: “Irving L. Fiske, 82: Created Community for Workers in Arts”
* "The Boston Sunday Globe", April 29,1990: “Irving Fiske, noted for essays, modern version of Hamlet; at 82.” by Kevin Dotson, Contributing Reporter
* "The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press", April 30, 1990: “Communal Living Pioneer Irving Fiske dead at 82”
* "The Rutland (Vt.) Herald", April 29, 1990. by Monica Allen, Sunday Staff Writer.
* "The Herald of Randolph" (Vt.) May 3, 1990: “Quarry Hill Founder Dead at 82”
* "The Gainesville (Florida) Sun", April, 1990: “Author Irving Fiske, “Socrates of Ocala Forest,” dies at 82. By Mitch Stacy, Sun Staff Writer.
* "The International Herald Tribune", May, 1990.

Quarry Hill in the media, a selection:

* [http://www.rherald.com/News/2002/0221/People/p04.html Story on Fiske family women in "The Herald of Randolph"]
* The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press, October 14, 1987. “Quarry Hill Players stage play written by Vermonters.” --"Brighter than the Sun" by Irving Fiske and Allen Sherman.
* Vermont Life Magazine Spring, 1998: “Rochester Renaissance” by M. Dickey Drysdale.
* "Vermont Life", Winter, 1978. Vermont craftsman Alan Stirt: “Al Stirt, Bowlmaker,” article by Ladybelle Fiske, photography by William Fiske.
* Walter Winchell: Broadway Newsstand column on G. B. Shaw and Irving Fiske—late 1940s or early 1950s.
* “Total Freedom” by Timothy Miller, University of Kansas. From the 2002 CESNUR International Conference: “Minority Religions, Social Change, and Freedom of Conscience” (Salt Lake City and Provo (Utah), June 20-23, 2002) http://www.cesnur.org/2002/slc/miller.htm
* “Not a commune—just Fiske and all his friends” by Debbie Ibert.
* "Ocala Star-Banner", Ocala, Florida, May 25, 1971. Letters to the Editor. “Not a “Hippy,” by Irving Fiske.
* "The Burlington (Vt.) Free Press", May 6, 1990: “Leaderless Commune Seeks Peace.” by Sam Hemingway, Columnist
*"The Herald of Randolph (Vt.)", July 31,2008. Obituary of William Fiske by Isabella Fiske McFarlin and Steve Ellman. C:Documents and SettingsOwnerDesktopWilliam J_ Fiske www_rherald_com Randolph Herald.htm
* Vermont Magazine, May-June 2008, article on Rochester's art culture and Quarry Hill's influence on the art scene in Rochester. Photo of Barbara Hall Fiske Calhoun and Isabella Fiske McFarlin.
* Herald of Randolph(VT). Obituary of William Fiske, July 31, 2008. http://www.rherald.com/News/2008/0731/Obituaries/o01.html

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