Monadnock Moments No. 89: The Dream of Sinbone Shack
Shortly before 1920 a New York woman discovered a remote valley alongside a small stream in the southwest corner of Stoddard, New Hampshire. She fell in love with the site and dreamed of building a woodland estate in the area. Florence Brooks-Aten, a very wealthy woman, had the means to make this dream come true. She purchased two acres beside the stream and had a log cabin built there. During the excavation for the cabin, her son found the shinbone of a moose. The bone was hung over the fireplace, and the cabin became known as “shinbone shack.”
Mrs. Brooks-Aten moved into her cabin and began to carry out the plans for her woodland estate. She soon purchased 900 acres surrounding her two acre lot. She built a new road two miles long into her valley, rebuilt an old dam on the stream, constructed a stone power house, a boathouse on her pond, and a Japanese garden protected by high stone walls. She planted exotic plants and accented the estate with Italian statuary. The most ambitious project was her lodge, the mansion where she planned to spend the rest of her days. As the plans for her valley began to come true, Florence Brooks-Aten must have been very happy.
The story, however, does not have a happy ending. The stock market crash of 1929 suddenly took away all that she had, and more. The woodland estate and the 900 acres around it, valued at more than $200,000, sold at auction in 1934 for $9,800. Florence Brooks-Aten left her beloved valley and lived into her eighties in a small home in Swanzey.