Naulakha on Kipling Road in Dummerston.  (submitted photo)
Naulakha on Kipling Road in Dummerston. (submitted photo)
Thursday March 28, 2013

DUMMERSTON -- Next week, hundreds of local students will converge on Rudyard Kipling's onetime Vermont home for performances of the famed author's "Just So Stories."

"It's offered for free to the schools," said Kelly Carlin of The Landmark Trust USA, which owns the Dummerston home dubbed Naulakha. "It's certainly not free to us."

For that reason, organizers are asking for participation in an April 4 fundraiser that benefits the school program. For $35 admission, adults will get a full tour of Naulakha and see the same performance offered to students.

"This is really our big open house," Carlin said.

Reservations are required for the 7 p.m. event and can be obtained by calling 802-254-6868. Along with the tour, the event includes deserts and coffee.

Proceeds benefit the school program that, over the past 13 years, has treated more than 6,000 kids to performances of "Just So Stories."

Kipling began writing that book at Naulakha after the home was constructed in 1893. He had been drawn to the area because his new bride, Carrie, had family here.

In the short time Kipling resided in Vermont, he penned "The Jungle Book," "Captains Courageous," "The Seven Seas" and "The Day's Work."

The 3,900-square-foot home later was occupied by other families but had fallen into disuse when The Landmark Trust USA -- which also owns the nearby Scott Farm -- bought the Kipling Road property in May 1992.


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Painstaking restoration followed, and Naulakha has been declared a National Historic Landmark.

The four-bedroom, three-bath home now is available for rent to vacationers. That's a source of revenue for the Landmark Trust, and the property's stewards also believe the arrangement helps to keep Naulakha vital.

"If you give people an intimate experience with history, hopefully they will embrace it and support it," Carlin said. "Because there really is no state or federal funding."

But she maintains that many still don't know much about Kipling's connection to Vermont.

"It's still not widely known," she said. "People are still surprised."

The "Just So Stories" program gives local kids an up-close and personal look at the historic home. It features Jackson Gillman -- a performer and Putney School graduate who describes himself as a "stand-up chameleon" -- bringing the stories to life in the same room where Kipling first told them to his daughter, Josephine.

About 275 kids from nine schools are signed up to see Gillman's performances next week. Afterward, they'll be encouraged to return to their classrooms and write their own "Just So Stories."

"This educational piece of our mission is really important," Carlin said, adding that the trust has a binder full of students' takes on Kipling's stories.

Carlin said the Kiplings were known for being private people.

"But children were always welcome at Naulakha," she said. "And we think they would be happy to know that children are still welcome there."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.