History of the historic Hartness House Inn and James Hartness

nto this home there came and went an unbroken stream of friends, and all found here hospitality, simplicity, singular kindness, and pleasant unforgettable memories."

This is the reminiscence of life at the turn of the century in the home of James Hartness, by his biographer Joseph Wickham Roe, depicts well the mansion's incarnation as Hartness House, an inviting full-service inn that sits on a hilltop in Springfield, Vermont.

Hartness House, circa 1910

An Early Rendering of the House

The Hartness Mansion

The story of one man's life, James Hartness (biography), provides insight into the history of Hartness House, one of America's most unique country inns and a Vermont historical landmark.   Its worldwide reputation is due in part to the reputation of its namesake.  Its architectural style and its historic background have caused it to be included in the National Register of Historic Places.

The early part of this century saw Springfield emerge as a machine tool center due largely to the visionary daring and inventiveness of James Hartness.

In l888 Jones and Lamson a company which had produced everything from wrenches to rifles was moved by oxcart from Windsor to Springfield. Hartness joined J&L in April 1889 as superintendent. Two years later, Hartness invented the flat turret lathe, one of the most important machine tools ever made Hartness never stopped producing ideas. From 1886 to 1933 he patented 120 different machines. They ranged from the flat turret lathe and optical comparator to a safety razor and a telescope Hartness was also an influence over the lives and work of men associated with him. Ed R. Fellows developed a gear shaper, William Bryant conceived the internal chucking grinder, Fred Lovejoy developed inexpensive cutting tools for high speeds, and George Gridley invented the single- spindle automatic lathe and others - Russell Printer, John Lovely, George Perry and Ralph Flanders.  

Springfield became such a major manufacturing center that it was listed as number seven on Hitler's list of cities to bomb during World War II. The town itself is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.   

Hartness' avocations were interesting and illuminating.   His business career followed the general lines of other successful executives. His excursion into aviation throws a side light on the range of his interests. As a public servant and as Governor of Vermont from 1921 to 1923, he always met the challenge and he earned a place in history books. His life represents the Spirit of the New Age at its best. It has been said that "his success was honorably earned and the best of it all was that it neither softened him nor hardened him, nor cost him a friendship."

The Hartness Telescope and Observatory

Hartness 10 inch Equatorial Tracking telescope at the Hartness Museum

The Hartness Equatorial Turret Telescope

James Hartness' interest in astronomy and flight adds another dimension to a colorful personality. On the front lawn to the left of our entrance can be seen the Hartness Equatorial Turret Telescope, built in 1910. It was one of the first tracking telescopes in America. In 1908, Hartness began designing his telescope. Hartness designed what is known as a coude (elbow) telescope. In this system, the light is bent 90 degrees to the eyepiece by a prism at the base of the telescope tube. It is this design which allows the observer the comfort of a heated room and puts the telescope tube outside and away from the warm air. John A. Brashear supplied Hartness with the optics for his telescope. The object lens is 10-inches in diameter, magnifies images 600 times and has a 150-inch focal length. To build a tracking telescope, Hartness pointed the middle of his turret (dome) at the North Star, creating a polar axis. The turret rotates along the same angle as the plane of the equator. This east- to-west movement of the turret counteracts the west-to-east rotation of the earth and gives the telescope the illusion of tracking a star; actually, it is the earth which is moving not the star.

Inside the observatory, a one-half horsepower electric motor activates the drive shaft. The drive shaft turns the gears which move the three and one-half ton turret along the equatorial plane. Movement along this plane is called right ascension and is measured in hours of time on a sidereal click. A sidereal day is the length of time it takes a star to return to the same position in the sky from the viewer's vantage point.

The telescope tube points, or declinates, north and south of the equator. This enable the observer to focus on any celestial object that can be seen in full on a clear night.

The Hartness Workshop and Underground Tunnel

A fter the completion of the observatory, Hartness decided to dig a tunnel to the telescope from the house, as he didn't want to go outdoors when using the telescope. In digging the tunnel, he found the sand suitable for concrete. It is this revelation that sets the stage for the next story.

Hartness was an intense worker easily irritated by interruptions. Even the normal activity about his home disturbed him. Although he had a study in the house, he soon established a "den" in the woods behind the house and beside a brook. But even there the surrounding noises disturbed him. He built a series of rooms under the lawn in front of the house and beyond the observatory, where he could work uninterrupted and in absolute quiet. The rooms consisted of a library, workshop, lavatory, study and lounge room, connected end to end, all of them underground and supplied with electric, heat and fresh air. The whole apartment was sound-proof, wonderfully ventilated (the tunnel was an aid in ventilation, for it drops some 10 feet before it reaches the rooms), cool in summer and warm in winter. Here Hartness found his much coveted quiet.

It was in these rooms that Hartness designed many of his machine tools.   A guest was fortunate if Hartness, after dinner, would ask if he would not like to go down below. With a mysterious air he would take one downstairs and unlock a door into the tunnel.  He would call attention to the remarkable echo and then lead his guest into another world, the world of astronomy.

Today these rooms comprise a museum for Stellafane (formerly the Springfield Telescope Makers, (STM) a group of amateur telescope makers) founded by Russell Porter, a Hartness friend and fellow telescope aficionado. It was Porter and other Springfield men with the encouragement of Hartness, who initiated the creation and construction of the Hale 200-inch telescope on Mt. Palomar. The underground museum is a fitting place to view the 200-inch telescope's conceptual drawings and other mementos of these special men.


Historic country inn - Charles Lindbergh is a guest of Hartness
James Hartness with Charles Lindbergh in Springfield, 1927

James Hartness and Charles Lindbergh

Guests will see artifacts throughout the Inn related to James Hartness' many activities. In 1914 Hartness was awarded a pilot's license - in a Wright Biplane. He was one of the first 100 pilots in America. As an aviator he became acquainted with Charles Lindbergh and was instrumental in having Lindbergh land at Springfield's airport (now Hartness Airport) in 1927 after his trans-Atlantic flight. Lindbergh was Hartness' house guest and stayed in the room now bearing his name.

The house contains not only the memorabilia of a prominent man, a renaissance man and a former Governor, but the memoirs of the family's daily life written by granddaughter Mary Fenn, a copy of which is placed in each guest room. Her imagery makes the past come alive - "The atmosphere exuded a friendly, hospitable warmth - a reflection of the lady of the house."

Lindbergh as guest of Hartness at his historic Vermont country inn

James Hartness on the Lindbergh Day Receiving Stand with Charles Lindbergh
in Springfield, Vermont on July 26, 1927


The James Hartness Russell Porter Astronomy Museum

Hartness 10 inch Equatorial Tracking telescope at the Hartness Museum
James Hartness and Russell Porter

The Stellafane organization, together with the Hartness House, host the Hartness Russell Porter Amateur Astronomy Museum in James Hartness' former underground work area. The museum occupies 3 rooms in the Hartness underground work area and contains hundreds of exhibits related to amateur astronomy; telescope making; Russell Porter artwork, drawing, and schematics; telescopes from the early-1900's; astronomical lens and mirror making; and photographs of the early 1900's of Springfield and the Hartness House.


Hartness 10 inch Equatorial Tracking telescope at the Hartness Museum
Russell Porter shown with a telescope that he made in the 1920's

Russell Porter is featured throughout the museum for his achievements as founder of the Springfield Telescope Makers Association; his expeditions to Mt. McKinley and the North Pole; his artwork and paintings and drawings; his inventions like the Porter Garden Telescope, on display in the museum; and his work on the Hale Observatory on Mount Palomar in California.

The museum also features the Russell Porter drawings he made of the Hale Observatory. Porter's drawings show the cut-away views of the observatory's construction which clearly show its operation.




Historical Telescope - Oscar Fullam
Oscar Fullam and his 8"Reflector Telescope

The museum contains several excellent examples of amateur telescope making with exhibits of telescopes from 1900's to 1950's. Several of the notable exhibits are shown here.

Oscar Fullam, shown here circa 1917 - 1920, a member of the Springfield Telescope Making Association, the forerunner of the Stellafane Organization, with an 8" reflector telescope that he constructed almost entirely of wood. The telescope is an excellent example of hand workmanship and is on display in the museum.



Hartness 10 inch Equatorial Tracking telescope at the Hartness Museum
Oscar Marshall and his Reflector Telescope

Oscar Marshall is shown here, circa 1921, with his 6" reflector telescope that was constructed out of sheet metal. This telescope is on display is the Museum. Oscar was an early member of the Springfield Telescope Making Association, the forerunner of the Stellafane.





Hartness 10 inch Equatorial Tracking telescope at the Hartness Museum
Frank Whitney and his Reflector Telescope

Frank Whitney , is shown here ,circa 1927, with his 6" reflector telescope that he built with sheet metal. This telescope is on display is the Museum.

Frank was one of the early members of the Springfield Telescope Making Association, the forerunner of the Stellafane Organization.

The museum contains several of Frank's telescopes and telescope making kits and equipment.



The Hartness Chronology

1861 James Hartness is born outside Schenectady , NY

1874 Finished Grammar School and went to work in a machine shop

1882 Foreman at Thompson, Stacker Bolt Company in Winsted , CT

1885 Married Lena Sanford of Winsted , CT.

1889 Joined Jones and Lamson as superintendent

1891 Basic patent on the Hartness Flat Turret Lathe granted

1900 Hartness became president at Jones & Lamson

1903 Contracted for and began construction of Hartness mansion

1904 Hartness mansion complete and family moves in

1910 Hartness finished the Turret Equatorial Telescope you see on the front lawn; underground tunnel built

1912 Underground apartment completed

1914 Hartness awarded a pilot's license - in a Wright biplane. He was one of the first 100 pilots in America

1916 Patent on sun dials

1919 Hartness built the first airport in Vermont here in Springfield , now called the Hartness State Airport

1920 Springfield Telescope Makers organized: later renamed Stellafane Society

1921 Hartness and Russell Porter patent optical comparator

1921 Hartness Governor of Vermont for 2 year term

1927 Charles Lindbergh landed in Springfield when he visited Vermont on his tour of the country after his trans-Atlantic flight. Lindbergh was the guest of Hartness and stayed in Room 6.

1928 Porter joins the Hale 200-inch telescope project in California at Hartness' urging

1933 Mrs. Hartness dies

1934 James Hartness dies

1948 The Hale Telescope of the Mt. Palomar Observatory completed

1954 The first hotel section, Victorian Wing, and dining room are added to the original mansion

1971 Second hotel section, Carriage Wing, is completed

1979 The Hartness House is included in the National Register of Historic Places

1995 Hartness House is featured on the cover of Country Inns Magazine

1996 Hartness House is featured on Country Inns list "Top 24 Inn buys in America "

2004 Hartness House celebrates its Centennial Anniversary.











Vermont Historical Museum - Hartness-Porter Astronomy Museum at the Hartness House


The Hartness House is home to the James Hartness-Russell Porter Amateur Astronomy Museum in cooperation with Stellafane featuring important amateur astronomy works and telescopes, and the antique 1910 Hartness Equatorial Tracking Telescope and Observatory. Stellafane's Virtual Museum of the James Hartness-Russell Porter Amateur Astronomy Museum collection at the Hartness House can be viewed here. Many historic astronomy exhibits and works of arts are housed here.

In addition, the Hartness House offers a unique underground museum and an antique 1910 Brashear telescope and observatory.   Museum tours can be arranged by appointment.  The museum collection offers interesting exhibits including Hale Observatory in Mount Palomar drawings, Porter Garden Telescope, Hartness sundial, 1917 Fullam 10" reflector telescope, and photographs of the early Hartness House.