The Old Patch Place, situated at the park's entrance, has played a large role in the history of Rhododendron State Park. Built by Samuel Patch sometime between 1790 and 1816, the house and land stayed in his family until about 1841. The property was bought and sold several times before it was purchased by Stephen Follansbee in 1885. The Follansbees were the first to use the property commercially for profit. They would sell rhododendron blooms at 5 cents a bunch, 10 cents a tub, or 25 cents for a buggyful. Also included in their venture was bottled mineral water and silica, for sale both at the house and by mail order.
In 1901 owner Levi Fuller made plans to lumber off the property, but luckily Mary Lee Ware of Boston and Rindge, NH intervened. She purchased the land in 1902 and gave it to the Appalachian Mountain Club in 1903, with the understanding that the grove and forest "...be held as a reservation properly protected and open to the public...forever." Also included was a clause that no rhododendron ever be picked and no ax ever be used. Only once has it ever been necessary to breach this contract: for the clearing of paths and downed trees following the 1938 hurricane.
While owned by the AMC, the Old Patch Place became a hostel for hikers, who could take the train up from Boston and be let off on Rhododendron Road, a mile from the Park. In 1947, when operating the hostel was no longer a viable option, ownership was transferred to the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation. In 1980 the house was accepted into the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1982 the 16 acre rhododendron lot was named a National Natural Landmark by the Naitonal Park Service.
The Herb Garden
At the Old Patch Place there is a Colonial Herb Garden inspired by Warian Hawkins, a late member of the Fitzwilliam Garden Club, and maintained by the Fitzwilliam Garden Club.
For a Colonial housewife the family needs (medicinal, culinary and household) dictated the selection of plants for the herb garden. For convenience of the housewife, the garden was required to be near the house.
All the herbs in the garden are only those which you might find in a Colonial Garden. All herbs are labeled and a chart gives the common name of the herb, the Latin name, and the part of the herb (leaf, root, stem) used with its usage. (Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic or Household).
Some of the herbs in the Garden are the following: Angelica, Betony, Caraway, Comfrey, Costmary, Elecampane, Rue, Horehound, Thyme, Penny Royal, Wormwood, Lavender, Sage, Tarragon, Rosemary, Lady's Mantle, Coltsfoot, Bee Balm, Hops, Tansy, Blood Root, Curly Mint, Feverfew, Winter Savory, Hyssop, Lovage, Chives, Oregano, Valerian, Apothecary Rose, Artemisia, Geranium, Ginger, Coneflower, and Foxglove.