Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Treasures of Cambridge # 38 Treasures of Cambridge # 38

Christine Hoffer pictured in front of the vault in the former Bean Head’s Coffee House, has lived in the Village of Cambridge for the past nine years.

Christine moved to the area from Spokane, Washington when her husband took a job in Hoosick Falls at Oak Mitsui Inc. After a headhunter hooked him up with this new firm, Christine came out and found the region unlike what they was used to out west. “Just looking at the area, it was different, it was interesting, but the job for Geoff was the most interesting and we lucked out with our community. Finding Cambridge was truly by accident.”

When they first moved here they house hunted everyday for 45 days; they went everywhere, from Bennington to Shaftsbury and almost all the way to Brunswick. They chose Cambridge because Geoff’s boss lived here and the trainmaster’s house was up for sale, but it had been divided into a two family house. With a touch of her husband’s engineering skill and a few “hammers to the wall, we really did luck out finding Cambridge,” she says.

When asked what impressed her most about moving to Cambridge after she had lived here for a short while, she responded, “Truly, the people. When you move to a rural community there is always the fear of not being accepted. I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska and if you are not from there you are not an Alaskan, period, end of story.” She moved from a larger community where she worked in the corporate realm managing a team running a hotel. And this all was just ten months before she had just had her first child, Matthew. “At the time I was transitioning personally from “Miss Corporate America,” to being a Mom, and a first time Mom, so there was a fear factor with that. But truthfully the Greenwich and Cambridge libraries introduced me to some really stellar people who are now best friends.”

Christine believes most of the events that transpired since her moving here are intrinsically connected to her destiny; from buying the trainmaster’s house adjacent to the Cambridge Hotel in 1998, to falling into working with the fledgling Hotel management team doing bookings, marketing and promotion for the first year. “That is sort of what threw me back into the workforce and the community at large and to a great extent how, I believe, we became accepted by the community.” She helped with a very courageous grassroots effort to make the Hotel all it could be at the time.

That effort grew into many others, with her work on the beginnings of the Balloon Festival, which is now an annual event, her work on the board of our local arts organization, Hubbard Hall, and ultimately the purchase of the Cambridge Inn Bed and Breakfast from the Darlings. Christine and Geoff now run The Rice Mansion Inn as a full time bed and breakfast. It has become an iconic destination for people to enjoy the wonders of our areas history and pastoral beauty, as well as a fine facility for staging corporate retreats or realizing special occasions such as family reunions and weddings (I know I spent my wedding night there!)

Christine’s prop is a portrait of Jerome Rice, the builder of the Rice seed company, which became a major economic force in this community and to a large part gave our town the unique and architecturally interesting look and feel we enjoy today. Christine has become quite versed in the history of our town and specifically Mr. Rice’s part in that history. She likes to believe that the Rice seed company (now Varak Industrial Park), built on what was once a swampy area, helped to unify two town centers- that of White Creek and Cambridge (formally Cambridge Corners)- the East and West sides of town.

Christine talks about Mr. Rice with much adulation, “He was a remarkable man. He did everything he did from a wheelchair because he had rheumatoid arthritis and was a prisoner of war (during the Civil War) and the two things combined crippled him for most of this adult life. Today I hear people say, “I cannot do this or I cannot do that, and here is a man, one hundred years ago, that built the countries second largest seed company from his wheelchair.” Christine feels honored by the special opportunity she and her husband have to rebuild his home, educate people about him and continue his legacy by helping to maintain Cambridge as the special place that it has become.

When asked about her legacy she replied, “I would like to be remembered as someone who always tried to do the right thing, and… embodied Mr. Rice.”


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