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Welcome to Quarry Hill's Blog!

Quarry Hill Creative Center in Rochester, VT, founded 1946 by Barbara and Irving Fiske, is Vermont's oldest alternative community and at one time was probably also its largest. In the 60s -80s, as many as 90 people lived here.
It was and is visited each year, often in summer (but in every season, really) by visitors from all over the world.
We welcome interesting and creative people who are peaceful, bring no weapons, don't believe in hitting children or killing animals, and enjoy the beauty of Vermont and of themselves.

Most of us do not adhere to any particular dogma or religion, though many do find Eastern philosophy closest to our own thought (some of us are also members of the Quakers/Society of Friends).
We value the individual, particularly people who are energetic and have a sense of humor.
Visitors are welcome-- and prospective residents, too. There are some places for rent, others for sale. If interested, get in touch!
And, please follow the Blog and comment whenever you like!

"The symbol is the enemy of the reality, and the reality is ever one's true guide, true friend, true companion, and true self." Irving Fiske, 1908-1990

Monday, April 28, 2014

Barbara Fiske (Isabelle Hall Fiske Calhoun) dies at age 94

Isabelle Hall Fiske Calhoun (“Barbara”)

Isabelle “Barbara” Fiske Calhoun, 94, painter, cartoonist, and, with her former husband, Irving Fiske, co-creator of Vermont’s oldest alternative community and artist’s retreat, Quarry Hill Creative Center in Rochester, died April 28, 2014 at Brookside Nursing Home in White River Junction.
            She was born in Tucson, Arizona, on September 9, 1919, the daughter of John Hall, Jr., and Isabelle (Daniel Jones) Hall. She came from an old Southern family. As her grandmother’s obituary states, “their names were written in the history of Virginia and the Carolinas.” The family fought for independence during the Revolutionary War.           
            Her mother and uncle moved to Tucson in around 1915 to try to cure her uncle’s tuberculosis, without success. They homesteaded a ranch there, “The “Double J.”  Her mother rode horseback to town and back, nine miles each way, to her work as a newspaper reporter. There she met John Hall, Jr., from Mobile, Alabama, whom she married on Mar. 20, 1918. When Barbara (then called “Babs”) was six months old, John died of Spanish influenza in Phoenix, Az where he was editor of a local newspaper.
            Her mother, who never remarried, was eventually elected as Clerk of Pima County Superior Court.
            Barbara was educated in Tucson schools. As she had an unusually vivid talent for drawing and painting, she later attended art school in Los Angeles, and then moved to New York in around 1940.
            She met Irving Fiske, playwright and freelance writer, in Greenwich Village, where he was living in around 1943, and they fell in love. During WWII she was drawing “Girl Commandoes” and other strips for Harvey Comics. She had to draw under the name “B. Hall” as cartooning was “a man’s profession” at the time. However, all the male cartoonists were in the Armed Forces.
            She also painted in egg tempera and pastel. She was a figurative painter, who loved landscapes and the human form, in opposition to the Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock who were also painting in the Village at that time.
            On January 8, 1946, she and Irving Fiske married and on April 10, 1946, bought an old hill farm (the Loren Spencer farm) in the hills behind Rochester. They opened it as an artists and writers retreat for friends from New York, and eventually for anyone with an open mind and a freethinking attitude. There were (and are) few rules for life at Quarry Hill. No spanking, “putting down,” or verbal abuse of children is permitted, and no hunting, fishing, or harming of animals is allowed, though no one is compelled to be a vegetarian.
            For years Barbara taught art to children from town. Many have fond memories of these lessons. In 1950 she had a daughter, Isabella, and in 1954, a son, William, who died in 2008.
            In 1964, Barbara opened a storefront, The Gallery Gwen, in New York’s East Village, where she exhibited her paintings and those of friends. Irving began to give talks on philosophy and religion there, and as a result, many began to come to Quarry Hill.  During the “hip era” of the 60s, Quarry Hill was flooded with young people, many with artistic aspirations.  A number of these built houses and stayed for years or decades, many bearing children. Quarry Hill created its own school, The North Hollow School, several of whom became valedictorians at Rochester High School. Quarry Hill, in the 1990s, had a population of 90 people. It is still visited each year by many people from all over the world, who consider it their second home.
            In the 1970s, Barbara divorced Irving Fiske, created Lyman Hall, Inc., which now runs Quarry Hill, and opened a gallery in Randolph, where she displayed her artwork and that of others. She spent time in the 1980s as a caregiver to the elderly, and also attended Vermont College, where she obtained an MFA in Art History and met Dr. Donald W. Calhoun, a Quaker who was a sociologist at the University of Miami. Barbara also became a Quaker and they were married in a Friends’ wedding in Miami, FL in 1989.
The two remained happily married till his death in 2009, living at Quarry Hill in the summer and Florida in the winter, though Don eventually had to go into a nursing home in Berlin, VT, as he was disabled from an automobile accident some years before.  A friendship grew between the Calhouns and Irving Fiske.             Barbara spent the last years of her life at Quarry Hill Creative Center, looked after by a group of caring helpers and her daughter Isabella and son-in-law Brion McFarlin.  She was an inspiration to all who knew her in energy and artistic ability. Her cartoon work appears in The Great Women Cartoonists by Trina Robbins (Watson-Guptill, 2001), and she has a place in the online cartoonists’ museum Lambiek Comicopedia, based in the Netherlands. Her paintings appeared in many shows over the years.  Most of her paintings are in the Fiske Family Archives at Quarry Hill.
            Barbara is survived by Isabella and Brion McFarlin, grandchildren Joya Lonsdale and her husband Brem Hyde, Andrew McFarlin and Eva and Jason Us; their mother Stefani Us, by William’s former wife Anne Fitzgerald, and by two great-grandchildren. She also leaves many friends and admirers of her art.

 -- Isabella Fiske McFarlin


  1. Barbara lived an exceptionally interesting & eventful life. May her memory live on in Quarry Hill & in your hearts <3

  2. George Bernard Shaw was fascinated by Quarry Hill, or the idea of the thing, since he never came here. But he enjoyed communicating with Irving and considered hm a worthy mind with which to carry on a debate.