‘Shantytown’ site marks 30th year
Around a 25-minute walk from the Green stand three houses owned by David Vincelette ’84, located within the bounds of Hanover but seemingly a world away. Surrounded by trees, shrubs, mounds of plywood and metal beams, Vincelette’s hand-built home is made from recycled materials found at dumps and local construction sites.

Even though the main house, a duplex, seems secluded and is made of a hodgepodge of building materials, its interior contains smooth wood floors, Wi-Fi, plumbing, heating, furniture and electricity. Dartmouth students named Vincelette’s property “shantytown” in the late 1980s after Vincelette helped students build shanties on the Green to protest the College’s investment in South African companies during apartheid. Vincelette, who brought discarded building materials to help build the shanties on the Green, used similar recycled materials to construct the main house on his property, where he resides today. After he graduated, Vincelette purchased the property on Mink Brook. He had originally planned to build a house in a more conventional way but did not have the money to both build a house and connect it to the Hanover sewage system, which the Town of Hanover required, he said. Vincelette then learned to recycle, collecting old beams and boards from dumps. Vincelette majored in English at the College but said he spent more time in the wood shop than the library. Upon graduating, he said, he realized that his real passion lay in woodworking. “I wanted to go into the forest and I hoped to build a house, a woodworking shop and do some writing at some point in the future,” Vincelette said. “As time went on, in order to make ends meet, I held onto the property by renting out rooms.” About 100 tenants and 1,000 visitors, Vincelette said. have stayed in “shantytown” over its 30-year history. Over half of the visitors are Dartmouth professors, students, faculty, staff and alumni. The site is also popular among Appalachian Trail hikers, who camp outside of Vincelette’s main house and bathe in Mink Brook. Swimming and bonfires are popular site activities, he said. Five years ago, Vincelette married one of his tenants, a woman named Anna who had just moved to the U.S. from the Ukraine. Anna Vincelette said that living in “shantytown” is how she imagined America — full of freedom. Today, she makes small ceramic objects, which she hopes to start selling soon, and grows herbs and mushrooms in the woods. Duncan McDougall Tu’87, who lived on Vincelette’s property for more than two years while working as a freelance writer after he graduated from Tuck, described “shantytown” as a “magical place.” “You felt miles and miles away from civilization,” he said. “But you could still walk 15 minutes and find yourself in downtown Hanover.” Five tenants, he said, currently reside in “shantytown”: three current Dartmouth students, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center employee and a member of the National Guard. He aimed to build a place where people could come to live without bringing too many belongings, Vincelette said, adding that he hoped to educate residents about the utility of recycling materials. “Bicycles, radios, everything that they would need would be here,” Vincelette said. “You can do a lot with things other people have thrown away.” Vincelette currently works as a self-employed carpenter, and says he tries to use recycled building materials in his projects. Many of the materials, like metal beams and plywood, scattered around his property are set aside for this purpose. Vincelette’s environmental concerns extend beyond reusing construction materials. Two weeks ago, he was arrested by Hanover Police after entering the reception area of College President Phil Hanlon’s office. Vincelette said he had hoped to schedule a meeting with Hanlon to discuss “all things affecting the water quality of Mink Brook.” Vincelette was charged with disorderly conduct and simple assault for allegedly shoving Safety and Security director Harry Kinne, though Vincelette contests this charge and is filing a complaint, he said. Hanover Police held Vincelette for two to three hours before releasing him on $5,000 bail. Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin said Vincelette objected to the town’s policy on asphalt waste. The town reprocesses asphalt from roadways, parking lots and other places at a Dartmouth-owned storage facility located on Gile Hill, she said. Asphalt is crushed at this facility and then reused to improve gravel roads around Hanover, Griffin said. Vincelette has expressed concern that some of the broken-down asphalt leaks into drainage ditches surrounding the facility and ultimately pollutes Mink Brook, Griffin said. “Dartmouth has carefully reviewed Mr. Vincelette’s claim of asphalt pollution of the water supply and determined that it does not have any basis,” College spokesperson Amy Olson said in an emailed statement. He took this issue to court in 2012, where the Supreme Court of New Hampshire ultimately deemed the policy appropriate. As part of the court case, Griffin said that water quality tests were conducted and the state department of environmental services authorized the policy.
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