Old Benson's landmark

Brownies step up for Old Woman in a Shoe

Union Leader Correspondent |
September 06. 2013 9:34PM

In May, Matt Erickson, owner of Erickson Construction, lent his time and knowledge to members of Hudson Brownie Troop 12360, who restored the interior of the Old Woman in a Shoe at the former Benson's Park. In August, vandals undid all the Brownies' hard work. But they have pledged to build again. (COURTESY)

A holdover from the Benson Park’s glory days, the Old Woman’s Shoe has sat in the same spot for decades as part of the now-defunct Benson’s Wild Animal Farm. Over the years the structure has seen its share of vandalism. On August 10, unidentified vandals broke into the building with a sledge hammer, smashing the windows and destroying most of the interior contents. Members of Hudson Brownie Troop 12360 are seeking the community’s help in repairing and refurnishing the famous red shoe. APRIL GUILMET 

HUDSON — Members of two Hudson Brownie troops are hoping for a happily ever after for Benson Park's Old Woman in a Shoe.

About a year ago, local troop leader Beth Baker was on a field trip to the Hudson park with the Brownies when the girls lingered at the oversized red boot, racing up the steps and peering into a dusty window.

A holdover from the public park's former incarnation, Benson's Wild Animal Farm, the shoe has been on the grounds since the defunct zoo and amusement park's heyday decades ago.

"We looked inside and saw that it wasn't looking so great in there," Baker recalled. "One of the little girls looked over at me and said, 'Why can't we fix it?'"

It took several weeks, but with a little help from some local businesses, members of Hudson Brownie Troops 10954 and 12360 did exactly that, holding bake sales and yard sales to raise funds.

This past fall, staff from Erickson Construction helped the 15 Brownies by cutting boards and guiding little hands to mix plaster.

The girls emptied and cleaned the interior, sanded and patched up damaged walls, applied fresh coats of plaster and paint, and even installed a new interior loft.

With donated items, the Brownies then furnished the remodeled room, complete with an antique "old woman" doll.

But on Aug. 10, a vandal smashed in the building's door and windows. Most of the shoe's interior was destroyed.

Hudson police continue to investigate the incident, though so far no suspects have been found.

"Whoever did this wreaked havoc in there," Baker said. "They broke everything. They took out the lady's rocking chair and smashed it."

"When I told the Scouts what had happened, they were so, so sad," she added. "At 8 years old, it's hard to understand why someone would want to break in and ruin your hard work."

Still, the Brownies haven't stopped believing in happy endings.

"They want to fix it again. They said, 'Let's shut the door for good!'" Baker said.

So once again, the young volunteers are drawing up plans to replace the shoe's door and its window, though this time they're not taking any chances.

"We want to permanently seal it from inside, but we're hoping there might be a contractor out there that might help us out," Baker said.

Baker said any donations of small picture frames, throw rugs or doll-sized furnishings could be used to recreate the interior scene.

"It's time to move forward and not worry about the why," she said.

For more information, contact Baker at bethbaker3@mac.com.

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