top of page

The Andrews Inn

"The Cultural Cross Between Mayberry and Fire Island"

andrews inn.jpg

Founder Photo Exhibit at the
Exner Gallery Canal Street
Opening: Thursday June 8th from 4 - 6 pm
Additional hours: Jun 9 - 11th
Noon - 5 pm

Relocation of the Windham Hotel/Andrews Inn State Historic Marker 
June 21 - 5 pm at the
Windham Hotel on the Square

Andrews Inn Founders Exhibit June 8-11 @ Exner Gallery in Bellows Falls

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

5 June 2023 

Contact: Susan MacNeil, 603-313-0052 – susan@svidol.com 

(Bellows Falls VT) Throughout the month of June, Bellows Falls will once more become a destination for the LGBTQ+ community in New England and beyond. Echoing the days of the historic Andrews Inn, which was in business from 1973-1984 and located in the downtown Windham Hotel building, the gay community sought out the town as a place of safety and security. Patrons would travel by train to the only LGBTQ+ friendly destination in the state for a weekend of dancing and house parties. Described in 1979 as a “cultural cross between Mayberry and Fire Island,” the Andrews Inn had 56 rooms to rent, a bar, jukebox disco and coffee shop. It was owned by the locally revered Moisis family, whose son, John, had the initial vision which would go on to save the family business. 

As part of Andrews Inn Oral History Project (https://www.weareoutintheopen.org/aiohp), photographs of the six founders – John Moisis, Jeremy Youst, Thom Herman, Fletcher Proctor, Eva Mondon, Michael Gigante – were memorialized. They will be exhibited in the Exner Gallery, located in the Exner Building on Canal Street in Bellows Falls, Vermont from June 8-11. The opening will be held on Thursday, June 8 from 4-6pm and refreshments will be available. 

Gail Golec, producer of the podcast The Secret Life of Death (www.thesecretlifeofdeath.com) will be available to speak with guests at the opening about her recent accomplishment, a six-part series featuring the Andrews Inn which chronicles what it was like for residents and visitors alike to experience this important decade. 

From the Out in the Open Website: 

“The Andrews Inn Oral History Project emerged from a rich collaboration between Out in the Open (formerly Green Mountain Crossroads), Marlboro College and Vermont Performance Lab that was hatched in the spring of 2015. HB Lozito of Out in the Open had been wanting to undertake a rural LGBTQ+ oral history project for some time and this collaboration provided the spark; Sara Coffey of Vermont Performance Lab was working with writer/director/ performer Ain Gordon on his next project and was seeking ways to connect his creative research into the radical movements of the 70s and 80s and the emergence of gay culture with our local LGBTQ+ communities; and Kate Ratcliff and Brenda Foley on the American Studies and Theater faculty at Marlboro College had a shared interest in the history of social movements and project based learning. The shared research fed the creation of Gordon’s new work Radicals in Miniature; yielded student projects that were grounded in oral histories collected from local radicals who were involved in various movements and projects; and Out in the Open’s Andrews Inn Oral History Project. In the winter of 2017, Evie Lovett joined this collaboration to create present-day portraits of the interviewees featured in the project.” 

For more information about the oral history project, contact Out in the Open: info@weareoutintheopen.org. For all other questions, contact bellowsfallspride@gmail.com 

Andrews Inn in Historical and Cultural Context

Kate Ratcliff

Professor of American and Gender StudiesMarlboro College

Andrews Inn, with its bars, discos and lodging, offered a gathering place for rural and urban LGBT people in the heart of downtown Bellows Falls, Vermont. In operation from 1973 to 1984, its history brings to light the complex cross-currents of the 70s and early 80s and the power of shared social space in defining personal and collective identities.

The Inn flourished during a time of social, cultural and political ferment. Gay Liberation, the Women’s Movement and Lesbian Separatism fostered the emergence of new subcultures and challenged the norms and practices of a hetero-normative society. While hostility persisted, signs of change were underway: in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of disorders; in 1975 the federal Civil Service commission eliminated its ban on the employment of gays and lesbians; by 1976, seventeen states had repealed their sodomy laws and thirty-six cities passed legislation banning discrimination. In the wake of Stonewall and in the context of a more tolerant police response to gay public life, commercialized gay spaces, from discos, to bars to bathhouses, were proliferating. Because many of those places were in metropolitan areas, we tend to have an urban-centric understanding of this historical moment. Andrews Inn stands out as a landmark of gay public life in a rural environment. Stories about the Inn remind us of the importance of rural LGBT people in gay history and revise in crucial ways our understanding of Vermont history and identity.

Many rural LGBT people identified as feminists, as gay activists, and as part of a wider counter-culture. The back-to-the-land movement included a gay and lesbian rural migration that affirmed widely shared counter-cultural values of rural idealism, egalitarianism, community and environmentalism, but also critiqued the heteronormativity of the dominant society, as well as the heterosexism of the broader male counterculture and what historian Scott Herring calls the “homonormativity” of gay male subculture. This critique takes clear form in the The Radical Faeries, a nation-wide grass-roots movement initially of gay men that started in the mid-70s as a direct challenge to the limitations of gay masculine identity and garnered a robust following in the Connecticut Valley. Rural LGBT people carved out new spaces for critiquing and transforming society. The rural lesbian-separatist publication Country Women, first published in 1973, followed by the RFD (Rural Fairy Digest) in 1974, articulated and disseminated the anti-heteronormative, anti-urban, pro-rural orientation of this new “movement within the movement.” The social movements of the time were part of the oxygen that defined and sustained gay public life, yet not everyone who was part of the scene at Andrews Inn was an activist.

At the same time, social interaction can create the context for later political mobilization, as is apparent in the way the Southern Vermont chapter of ACT-UP grew from relationships forged at Andrews Inn.

Andrews Inn provided a space where rural LGBT people could find one another and interact with guests who came from as far away as Boston and New York. The story of gay tourists arriving in Bellows Falls via rail to escape the city re-writes an historic pattern of Vermont railroad tourism in a post 1960s context. Just as the Inn brought rural and urban folk together, so too it created a nexus for gay men and lesbians to share space, and fostered integration with the wider community of Bellows Falls. According to a newspaper report of the time, 35 to 40% of the clientele were women and the Inn offered “womyn only” activities. The Yellow Rose café, attached to the Inn, was a popular community space in Bellows Falls, and both the original owner, John Moisis and later owners Thom Herman and Jeremy Youst were gay members of the Chamber of Commerce. This integrative aspect of Andrews Inn speaks to the particular character of rural institutions and adds important context to our understanding of gay subcultures.

Andrews Inn gives form to a spirit of gay pride that was very much in the air in the 70s and early 80s. The culture, sexuality and sociability of the Inn changed the way rural LGBT people thought about their lives and identities. Like other public venues, however, Andrews Inn was a space of both visibility and vulnerability. A subset of citizens in Bellows Falls in 1979 mounted an anti-gay backlash focused on the Inn. Their efforts to re-claim what they considered to be the “real” Bellows Falls and the “real” Vermont remind us that history is always contested and never complete without the subjective voices of those who have been marginalized. Oral history makes new subjects and new forms of agency visible.
 

bottom of page