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Travelers through the itinerary will learn about such fascinating places as the State Capitol, in the Montpelier Historic District, constructed of local granite hauled by ox driven teams. Lumber, Vermont's first major industry, is highlighted by the Old Red Mill and Twing Gristmill. Transportation improvements shaped Central Vermont's history as stagecoach lines and later railroads opened Vermont's products to wider markets. The influence of the 19th-century railroad lines can be viewed at the Central Vermont Rail Depot and Barre's Downtown Historic District, where European immigrants labored in the quarries after the rail lines came to the small town in 1875 and 1888. Vermont's agricultural and farming communities, which saw a historic shift from sheep and grain to dairy cattle and small diversified farming, are explored in the Mad River Valley Historic District and the McLaughlin Farm.
Central Vermont: Explore History in the Heart of the Green Mountains offers numerous ways to discover the historic properties that played important roles in both the settlement and development of Washington County and the State of Vermont. Each property features a brief description of the site's significance, color and historic photographs, and public accessibility information. At the bottom of each page, the visitor will also find a navigation bar containing links to essays concerning Washington County's role in Vermont History, Agriculture and Industry, Vermont Landscapes, and Transportation. These essays provide historical background, or "contexts," for many of the sites included in the itinerary. The itinerary can be viewed online, or printed out for use by visitors to Central Vermont.
Created through a partnership between the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places, the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce, the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, the Vermont Historical Society, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO), and the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC), Central Vermont: Explore History in the Heart of the Green Mountains is the second example of a new and exciting cooperative project. As part of the Department of the Interior's strategy to revitalize communities by promoting public awareness of history and encouraging tourists to visit historic places throughout the nation, the National Register of Historic Places is cooperating with communities, regions, and Heritage Areas throughout the United States to create online travel itineraries. Using places listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the itineraries help potential visitors plan their next trip by highlighting the amazing diversity of this country's historic places and supplying accessibility information for each featured site. In the Learn More section, the itineraries link to regional and local web sites that provide visitors with further information regarding cultural events, special activities, and lodging and dining possibilities.
Central Vermont is the second of more than 30 communities and regions working directly with the National Register of Historic Places to create travel itineraries. Additional itineraries will debut online in the future. The National Register of Historic Places and the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce hope you enjoy this virtual travel itinerary of Washington County's historic resources. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on the provided e-mail address, "comments or questions" located at the bottom of each page.
Welcome to historic Washington County, located in the heart of the Green Mountains of Vermont. It is the home of Vermont's capital city of Montpelier, the granite capital of the world in Barre, and eighteen other towns of architectural and historic distinction.
When you visit us, you can walk along the streets of Vermont's largest National Register historic district in Montpelier, with over 500 historic buildings. The Vermont State House, a National Historic Landmark, is beautifully restored and visitors are welcomed on tours of the building. The Vermont Historical Society is next door and is a great place to learn about Vermont history.
With the information from this itinerary, take a driving tour along our scenic roads and discover our rich collection of covered bridges (in Warren, Waitsfield, East Montpelier, and Northfield), historic churches, and the well-preserved National Register villages of Waterbury, Waitsfield, Warren, Plainfield, and Barre that richly illustrate local history from the late 1700s to today.
Enjoy our working agricultural landscape, historic farmsteads, and the beautiful Mad River Valley rural historic district in Moretown and Waitsfield that provides a wonderful setting for some of our famous ski resorts. Tour the state's oldest state-operated fish hatchery, in Roxbury, in continuous operation since 1891.
Visit our historic downtowns and village centers. Experience small town America and enjoy the many small shops, restaurants, and markets that make each community unique. Thriving downtowns composed of well preserved historic buildings, many of which are listed on the National Register, will entice you to explore each community and discover its many treasures.
After your virtual tour of historic Washington County on the Internet, plan to see us in person. On your trip there are many wonderful places to stay, delicious food to eat, and great places to shop. We'd love to have you visit.
James H. Douglas
The Mad River, its tributaries, and the mountains they drain from form the natural boundaries of the Warren Historic District. A lumber and grain milling center throughout the 19th century, not surprisingly most buildings of Warren were built of wood frame construction. While there is a commonality of materials among the buildings in the district, there is a variety of building types and architectural styles. This variety of architectural styles is typical in small Vermont villages, having developed slowly over the course of the 19th century. Like other villages in the valley, Warren was bypassed by the railroad, and did not experience the rapid transformation that characterizes central Vermont railroad towns to the east. The diversity of building types represents the relatively isolated, and therefore independent, small towns that characterize much of Vermont in the 19th century.
Over 75 buildings and sites contribute to the Warren Historic District. The focus of the town is a civic complex comprised of the United Church (1838), Village Cemetery (1826), Town Hall (1872), and the Municipal Building and Library (a schoolhouse from 1867). The Warren House Hotel, built around 1840, is today the town's general store and social hub, but functioned well into the 20th century as a stagecoach inn and boarding house. This building also served at times as the town library and post office, and dances were held intermittently on the second floor. The circa 1850 Pitcher Inn, Warren's historic inn, was recently restored and furnished with elegant accommodations. Remnants of foundations are all that remains of the town's mills which were active from 1820 until 1940 when all had closed, burned, or been carried away by flood waters. Warren mills produced a great variety of objects--pail handles, butter tubs, wooden bowls and hoe handles for the farmers; downspouts, clapboards and shingles for use locally and for export to southern New England; and wagons, ox shoes and mill picks for the lumber trade. An important symbol of the town is the Warren Covered Bridge, the only one in the town and located at its heart. The quiet economic climate of Warren in the first half of the 20th century resulted in the preservation of the village.
The Warren Historic District is bounded by the Mad River, West Hill Rd., Main St. and Brook St. Residences are private and not open to the public, but many of the businesses and public institutions are accessible. Further information can be obtained from the Visitors Center, Sugarbush Chamber of Commerce, and Waitsfield Historical Society, all located in The General Wait House, Rt. 100, Waitsfield, open 9:00am to 5:00pm, Monday-Friday, 802-496-3409.
The covered bridges of Vermont are among its most cherished and symbolic historic resources. The Warren Covered Bridge is the only bridge to remain in the town of Warren. Combined with other surviving bridges in the area, the Warren bridge reflects the widespread construction of covered bridges on Vermont's public highways from around 1820 to 1904, one of the highlights in Vermont's transportation history. Covered bridges were roofed and enclosed to protect the wooden structural elements from the weather, which in Vermont can be quite harsh. Little more than 100 covered bridges remain in the State, the result of expanding highway systems, intensive commercial development, and physical neglect. Still, Vermont has the greatest concentration of covered bridges in the country, and in the recent past has become dedicated to their preservation. Vermont law now protects all covered bridges and none can be torn down without the permission of the Governor and the Board of Historic Sites.
The Warren Bridge is a short and simple structure. Built by Walter Bagley from 1879-80, it features a single span supported by queenpost trusses. To date, it has not required reinforcement devices, as have many other bridges. Unique features of this structure are the differing portal openings at either end of the bridge, the result of an overhanging gable roof on the west side of the bridge. The bridge will remain unaltered in the future unless, according to the stipulation of a town ordinance, two-thirds of the legal voters approve any proposed change. The Warren Covered Bridge is today an important symbol of the town.
The Warren Covered Bridge, still open to vehicular and pedestrian traffic, is located on Town Hwy. 4 as that road crosses the Mad River, just east of the intersection of Town Hwy. 4 and Rt. 100. Be cautious of automobiles if you cross the bridge by foot.
Situated on the east side of Bragg Hill in the Town of Fayston, McLaughlin Farm, or Knoll Farm as it known today, is a well-preserved farmstead comprised of pastures, hay fields, gardens, sugar maples and forest lands. Contributing buildings include a vernacular 1904 farmhouse, a late 1800s bank barn, an 1880 high-drive bank barn that was reconstructed on its present site in 1923, and several sheds and pump houses. The land around the farmstead, fertile and productive, has resulted in continual farming for almost 200 years. Fayston proved to be particularly good for farming because the slope of the land to the south resulted in an early spring melt of the snow, allowing for the planting of three, or sometimes four, crops a year.
The farm was typical of larger farms in Fayston, producing in 1850 large quantities of wool, butter, cheese, and maple sugar, as well as wheat, corn, oats, potatoes and hay for personal use. In 1860 the farm was reputed to have the best sugar woods in the county. The McLaughlins, Irish immigrants, were the sixth owners of the farm. Three generations of the family worked the land from 1874 to 1935. They continued to farm the same products as their predecessors, particularly butter and maple syrup in large quantities, but introduced eggs, apples, wheat, beans and Irish potatoes to the crop variation. In 1923 a barn was bought by the McLaughlins, moved to their farm and reassembled with a high-drive that allowed easy access to all three levels. Until the late 1930s a spring, which continues to flow through a open pipe to the kitchen, was the only water source for the house.
McLaughlin Farmstead has served as a farm/inn since 1937, coinciding with the growth of automobile tourism to the mountain states of New England. The economic viability of the inn was a significant factor in the preservation of the farmstead as an agricultural entity. The farm's current owners, who raise and sell Scottish Highland cattle, have ensured this land will remain in its present condition by granting a conservation easement to the Vermont Land Trust.
The McLaughlin Farm, more commonly known as Knoll Farm, is on Bragg Hill Rd. (Town Hwy. 17) in Fayston less than a mile north west of Irasville. The farm is accessible to guests of the Knoll Farm Inn only. For reservations call 802-496-3939.
The village of Waitsfield was established early in the 19th century as the commercial center for the rural farming communities of the Mad River Valley. The nucleus of this small village is the intersection of Route 100 and Bridge Street, the later of which is aptly named for the Great Eddy Covered Bridge spanning the Mad River just east of the intersection. Confined by the topography of the land, Waitsfield developed narrowly in the low lying valley bottom along the river. The Great Eddy Bridge is a major landmark of the district. As the oldest operating covered bridge in the State, the Great Eddy reflects the period of mass covered bridge construction in Vermont's transportation history. Unlike other towns in central Vermont, Waitsfield was bypassed by the railroad. As a result, the Waitsfield Historic District is reflective of the type of development experienced by small Vermont villages in the 19th century, without the prosperity, rapid expansion, and population growth of towns along railroad lines. In addition to supporting the local farming industry, Waitsfield was home to prosperous manufacturing, for which the Mad River supplied water power.
Today the Waitsfield Historic District is a combination of a small commercial core and broad tree-lined thoroughfares. Architecturally, Waitsfield contains examples of all the major 19th-century architectural styles and the Bridge Street/Route 100 intersection is bordered by some of the best of these. On the northwest corner stands the best example of an early Greek Revival commercial block in Vermont. The Bridge Street Market Place, the former village hotel and tavern built in 1840, stands on the southeast corner. The owners of this building recently took advantage of federal historic preservation tax credits in its renovation. The Neo-Classical Joslin Memorial Library, built in 1913 and donated by the son of early settler, Joseph Joslin, stands across the street. Today it houses not only the library but the Town Offices as well. Next to the library rises the spire of the Federated Church, the finest example of a Romanesque Revival church in the State. Farther away from this core stands the General Wait House, the oldest frame house in the village, portions of which date to 1793. Built by the town's founder, the house was moved to its present location in 1832 and was renovated in 1997. The building is now used as the Mad River Valley tourist center and Waitsfield municipal offices.
The heart of the Waitsfield Village Historic District is the intersection of Vermont Rt. 100 and Bridge St. The district is bordered on the west by a steep escarpment, on the east by the Mad River, and extends .4 mile north and 1/4 mile south on Vermont Rt. 100. Many of the buildings are private and not open to the public. Further information can be obtained from the Visitors Center, Sugarbush Chamber of Commerce and the Waitsfield Historical Society, all located in The General Wait House, Rt. 100, Waitsfield, open 9:00am to 5:00pm, Monday-Friday, 802- 496-3409.
The fertile lands of the Mad River Valley have historically been home to one of Vermont's most important industries--farming. The Joslin Round Barn Farm and its rural setting, are reminiscent of that period in Vermont's history, and provide a fine example of a dairy farm and the agricultural innovation that contributed to its success. The collection of well-preserved farms buildings includes an 1860 farmhouse, a late 19th-century ice house, a 1910 polygonal barn, and a circa 1930 vegetable stand and field barn.
The oldest building, the farmhouse, was built by Cyrus Joslin, as a vernacular structure, with local interpretations of Greek Revival details. Cyrus purchased the farmland in 1831, and lived there, with his wife and ten children, until his death in 1866. A unique feature of the 84-acre farm is a polygonal barn with 12 sides, commonly referred to as a "round" barn. It is the only survivor of five "round" barns that once stood in Waitsfield, and according to a 1986 survey, one of 15 remaining in the State. The fad for round buildings was largely the result of 1850s literature that reported octagonal structures were an inexpensive, more efficient alternative to traditional forms. The Joslin round barn was built by Clem Joslin, Cyrus's grandson, in 1910 for his Guernsey cows. The middle level of the barn was home to the herd, who were easily lead out of the barn in a circle. Trap doors in that floor enabled farmhands to shovel manure directly into waiting trucks at the lower level, to haul the fertilizer into the fields. Designed by his cousin James Joslin, who had already designed one other local polygonal barn, the exact reasons for the round barn's unusual design are unknown. The period of round barn construction in Vermont during the first quarter of the 20th century was an interesting experiment in agricultural innovation.
The barn was actively used until 1969, after which it fell into disrepair. A major restoration project was undertaken from 1988-90, for which the owners received a federal historic preservationtax credit. The barn now houses the Green Mountain Cultural Center, sponsoring a variety of performances there, the Cross Country Ski Touring Center, and the Sunday Services of the St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church. The farmhouse is now a county inn.
The Joslin Round Barn Farm is located southeast of the Village of Waitsfield, at 1661 East Warren Rd./Bridge St., 2 miles south east of Waitsfield. The Green Mountain Cultural Center, at 802-496-7722, can provide information on performances and activities. To make reservations at The Inn at the Round Barn Farm call 802-496-2276.
The covered bridges of Vermont are among its most cherished and symbolic historic resources. Two remain in the Village of Waitsfield, the Great Eddy and the Pine Brook. Both reflect the widespread construction of covered bridges on Vermont's public highways from around 1820 to 1904, one of the highlights in Vermont's transportation history. Covered bridges were roofed and enclosed to protect the wooden structural elements from the weather, which in Vermont can be quite harsh. Little more than 100 covered bridges remain in the state, the result of expanding highway systems, intensive commercial development, and physical neglect. Still, Vermont has the greatest concentration of covered bridges in the country, and in the recent past has become dedicated to their preservation. Vermont law now protects all covered bridges and none can be torn down without the permission of the Governor and the Board of Historic Sites.
The Great Eddy Bridge, built in 1833, is a major historical and visual landmark of the Waitsfield Historic District. The oldest operating covered bridge in the State, the Great Eddy is also distinguished as the covered bridge with the longest clear span of any Burr truss bridge in Vermont. The Great Eddy is only surpassed in age by the Pulp Mill Covered Bridge in Middlebury, which is no longer operating. Burr truss construction was used on both these early bridges, although the Pulp Mill required reinforcements. The basic structure of the Great Eddy remains intact, but much of the flooring and braces were replaced in the 1970s. A pedestrian walkway, part of the original design that had been removed, was also rebuilt at that time. The bridge continues to provide a vital function in transporting citizens and visitors to Waitsfield over the Mad River.
The Pine Brook, the only other covered bridge to stand in Waitsfield, remains structurally unaltered and fully operational. Built in 1855, the strength and endurance of this bridge's original design are remarkable, as many other covered bridges throughout the State require reinforcing devices. Half the size of the Great Eddy, the Pine Brook is representative of the more abundant small and simply executed bridges built across Vermont's numerous smaller rivers and streams.
Both the Great Eddy and Pine Brook Covered Bridges are on public highways and accessible to the public. The Great Eddy is located on Bridge St. where it crosses the Mad River. The Pine Brook bridge is 1.2 miles north of Waitsfield Common where Town Rd. 3 crosses Pine Brook.
The Mad River Valley Rural Historic District is a gently-sloped stretch of fertile land lying along both sides of the river between Moretown and Waitsfield Villages. The heart of the district is the Mad River, which snakes through the length of the valley, and is paralleled by Vermont Routes 100 and 100B. The landscape and buildings of the district still retain the character of a rural farming community, reflecting over two centuries of cultivation of the flat farmland along the river, contrasting with the heavily wooded hills bordering the valley.
Historic buildings in the district are found in farmstead clusters. Most are vernacular, wooden, gable-roofed barns and farm structures from the late 1700s to the early 1900s, some with features from the Greek and Gothic Revival styles. There are examples within the district of the typical New England building practices, such as the process of additive architecture in which a small structure is expanded through more stylish additions. Another New England tradition found in the valley is the continuous architecture of connected barns and living spaces, a building type accurately termed Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn.
When the area was first farmed by white settlers in the 1790s, grains and meats were the staples, until the opening of the Erie Canal caused their market price to plumet. Sheep farming replaced these, bolstered by a wool-import tariff in 1828. When the tariff was eliminated in 1846, wool prices fell, and sheep were subsequently raised for mutton. After 1846, a majority of Vermonters shifted to diversified farming, the chief products being butter, cheese, maple sugar, livestock and market gardening. These were stable products on which Vermont farmers could depend because of their advantageous proximity to local markets. The heavily wooden hills, primarily maple and spruce trees, provided wood for the secondary lumber industry as well as firewood and sap for maple syrup. Today most residents of the Mad River Valley commute to jobs in Montpelier, Barre or Burlington, or are employed by the local recreation industry. In 1980, just eight percent of Waitsfield's population and one percent of Fayston's were employed in agriculture. Despite this, the well-preserved landscape and farmsteads continue to provide a vital historical record of Vermont's agricultural past.
The Mad River Valley Rural Historic District is comprised of the rural farmlands surrounding the Mad River as it winds from Moretown to Waitsfield. Most of the buildings within the district, especially the farmsteads, are privately owned and not open to the public. Further information can be obtained from the Visitors Center, Sugarbush Chamber of Commerce and the Waitsfield Historical Society, all located in The General Wait House, Rt. 100, Waitsfield, open 9:00am to 5:00pm, Monday-Friday, 802-496-3409.
Waterbury Village, a community ringed by rivers and streams, illustrates the ways in which 19th-century transportation affected the development of small Vermont towns. In the first half of the century the commercial district was located at the north end of the village, close to residents and the industrial sites where they worked. With the coming of the railroad in 1849, the center of the village was pushed southward, near the railroad depot. Mid-19th century commercial, industrial, and residential areas developed around this new steam powered nucleus. By the end of the century Waterbury's prosperous industries, generated by the improved method of transportation offered by the railroad, resulted in even further expansion of the commercial and residential areas.
Waterbury Village is comprised of more than 200 buildings with the variety of functions required for self-sufficient 19th-century communities. Most architectural styles from that time are represented in the architectural landmarks of the district as well as the vernacular buildings. Many of those landmarks illustrate Waterbury's history. A Federal style building with Queen Anne alterations, the Old Stagecoach Inn, is reminiscent of early forms of transportation, and the type of quarters available for early Vermont travelers, especially those visitors to late 19th-century Vermont ski resorts. The United Church of Christ was first built in 1824, but additions were made in 1860 and 1880 concurrent with Waterbury's periods of prosperity. The Waterbury Public Library and Museum now occupies the Queen Anne home of Henry Janes, a local doctor and Civil War veteran. Waterbury's late 19th-century prosperity attracted the establishment there in 1896 of a division of the Vermont State Hospital, for the treatment of mental disorders. A Victorian Italianate train depot reflects the railroad's influence in Waterbury. The Knights of Columbus block, a large frame commercial building built in 1875, stands on Stowe Street. A focal point of the district, this building was recently renovated for retail and housing space, for which it received a federal historic preservation tax credit .
The Waterbury Village Historic District is roughly bounded by Thatcher Brook to the north, High and Railroad Sts. to the east, and Randall St. to the south and west. Residences are private, and not open to the public, but many of the businesses and institutions welcome visitors. Further information can be obtained from the Tourist House on Rt. 100 in Waterbury. A walking tour is available.
The Mill Village Historic District is a small cluster of vernacular houses and one mill representative of the life ways of mill workers and the mill industry in Vermont and beyond. Most buildings within the district date to the late 19th century, when Mill Village was at its peak as an industrial area. Thatcher's Brook, a major water source for Waterbury, is an important natural feature of the historic district. Three damns within the district provided water power for the industrial complexes. Mill workers produced grain, bricks, implement handles, wooden butter boxes and carded wool.
The one mill that remains, the Waterbury Feed Company Mill, was built around 1835. This mill was used for grist and feed from 1835 to 1870. The mill recently underwent major alterations as it was converted into commercial space. Its associated dam and penstock remain behind the mill. The rest of the district is still comprised of well-preserved small, vernacular houses, void of much architectural detail and typical for 19th-century workers' housing. They are most significant when viewed as a collection rather than individually. Their architecture is reflective of the working class residents who lived in them, especially in contrast to the more elaborate examples of domestic architecture seen in the nearby Waterbury Village Historic District.
The Mill Village Historic District is roughly bounded by Rt. 100 to the north, Stowe St. to the east, East St. to the south and Interstate 89 to the west. The store within the adapted mill is open to the public, but all the houses are private residences.
When the Colby Mansion was constructed around 1870 it was described as possibly the finest in the State outside Montpelier. It was designed and built by local Waterbury industrialist George J. Colby. The mansion was the execution of Colby's ideas on proper house construction. Although Colby had no known architectural training, he was a self-educated innovator, attempting to improve upon healthy ways of living through architecture and modern conveniences. The house is not only a well-designed, well-preserved upper class home from the Victorian era, but it also reflects the philosophy of a local, influential individual whose ideas were shared by many Americans at the turn of the century, and eventually found widespread application throughout the country.
Colby was well-known locally for his financial empire, which included a print shop, machine shop, the manufacture of willow ware and wringers, and the invention of a bark-peeling machine. He also wrote political pamphlets and helped organize the local library and cemetery association. In 1871 he published his ideas on domestic architecture in a series of eight articles in The Household, entitled "Household Architecture." The Colby Mansion was the embodiment of these ideas. It was symmetrically designed (promoting circulation), with forced hot air heat, a well-lit and ventilated basement, natural-finished interior woodwork, shallow hipped roof, and indoor plumbing. The marble sinks originally installed in each bedroom are still in place. In addition to these basic features, to promote healthful living, Colby also accentuated his home with features typical of the Victorian era, including a lavish degree of decorative detail, a projecting entrance bay, porch, and two bay windows.
The Colby Mansion is located north of Waterbury on Vermont Rt. 100. It is currently the Colby Mansion Home for the Aged, and not open to the public.
The Waterbury Center Methodist Church is the primary visual, spiritual and historical landmark of Waterbury Center, a community northeast of Waterbury Village. It is a fine example of rural Federal architecture, one of the most pervasive styles of the early 19th century.
The date 1833 is prominently displayed in a wooden fan adorning the gable end high above the entrance. In addition to this date mark, the church offers many other architectural clues confirming that the building was constructed at the end of the Federal period. Some of the features that distinguish it as such are the church's symmetry, low pitched roof, simple ornamentation, smooth facade, central entry and brick construction. The pinkish bricks were locally manufactured, likely from a brickyard near the Mill Village Historic District. The bell, located in the two-tiered wooden tower, was cast in Troy, New York, in 1836. In 1858, the interior was remodeled, at which time the present pews were installed and a second floor was built, now the sanctuary. Stained-glass windows from 1894 decorate each side of the second floor.
The local Methodist congregation, who historically worshiped at the church, was joined in 1919 by the Baptists. In 1929 the church was sold to the Grange, but in 1963 was finally incorporated as the Waterbury Center Community Church. Up until 1970 the church was heated by wood-burning box stoves. Today the church and its pleasant green continue to provide an important focus for this Vermont village.
The Waterbury Center Methodist (Community) Church is located on Rt. 100 in the heart of Waterbury Center. For further information, visit the Waterbury Center Community Church Website or call 802-244-6286.
Extremely well-preserved, Green Mountain Seminary is an excellent example of an educational facility from the mid-1800s. An important landmark of rural Waterbury Center, the Seminary building has provided that community with various types of educational institutions. Like nearby College Hall in Montpelier, the building was originally built as a seminary. The Free Will Baptists of Vermont required a place for religious instruction, specifically for pastors who wished to be ministers. Completed in 1869, the building was constructed of wooden clapboards on a high stone foundation. The school's first catalog referred to the "elegant" Italianate style building as "one of the finest structures in the state...removed from the bustle and distraction of large commercial villages; it is free from the haunts of vice and dissipation or temptation to idleness; and is surrounded by natural scenery unsurpassed in its magnificence and grandeur." The first class was comprised of 106 gentlemen and 104 ladies. The first two floors were used as educational rooms. The chapel was also on the second floor while the third and fourth floors were for "gentlemen's rooming." A separate three-story lodging building, demolished in 1938, was used for summer boarding of students, and was possibly the ladies' rooming quarters during the school year.
In 1878, just ten years after it was constructed, the Seminary became the property of the principal, Miss Elizabeth Colley, who continued to operate the building as a school. A few years later, in 1881, the Minard Commercial School began to share the educational space with her. In 1885, the building was deeded to the town by the "Green Mountain Seminary Association" for use as a graded school. Except for the notable removal in 1941 of the original belfry tower and walkway, the Seminary has experienced very little alteration during these changes in ownership, primarily because of its continued use as an educational facility. Most recently, the interior of the first floor has been altered for adaptive reuse as a library and day-care center.
The Green Mountain Seminary is located off Vermont Rt. 100 in Waterbury Center. It is now used as the Hunger Mountain Day Care Center and the Waterbury Center Library.
The Middlesex-Winooski River Bridge has carried U.S. Route 2 across the Winooski River at Middlesex since its construction by the American Bridge Company in 1928. This crossing historically served as a portion of the primary travel route between the state Capital, Montpelier, and Vermont's largest city, Burlington, prior to the construction of Interstate 89. It replaced an earlier structure that was lost in the flood of November 1927, the worst natural disaster in Vermont's history, which damaged approximately 1,200 Vermont bridges. The Middlesex-Winooski River Bridge is an example of the remarkable reconstruction efforts undertaken after the disastrous flood, which necessitated the reconstruction or replacement of almost all of the transportation infrastructure in the valleys of the White and Winooski Rivers and their tributaries.
The town of Middlesex, a short distance up-river from the bridge, was a commercial and agricultural center prior to the flood and sustained heavy damages to its buildings and farms. The village was isolated by the ravages of the flood and rapid replacement of all means of through-transport was vital. The bridge was constructed with funds primarily provided by the State, which, as a result of the widespread need for rebuilding, created a wholly new approach to comprehensive infrastructure planning. The American Bridge Company, a subsidiary of U.S. Steel, constructed the bridge. The company was established by steel and railroad financier J.P. Morgan in 1900 to absorb competing steel fabricating companies, several of which were local Vermont manufacturers. American Bridge dominated bridge construction in Vermont, and after the flood erected numerous bridges similar to the Middlesex-Winooski.
The bridge is a Pratt through-truss bridge, patented in 1844, which became a common standard for this type of bridge. It used pre-fabricated parts assembled on-site, which were particularly well-suited for these replacement bridges where it was difficult to manufacture the materials at the site. The bridge has changed little since it was first erected and still retains its original materials, design and is the principal feature of its rural environment.
The Middlesex-Winooski Bridge carries U.S. Route 2 as it crosses the Winooski River northwest of the village of Middlesex. It is on a public highway and access is unrestricted.
The covered bridges of Vermont are among its most cherished and symbolic historic resources. Five remain in the Village of Northfield, the second highest concentration in the State. All reflect the widespread construction of covered bridges on Vermont's public highways from around 1820 to 1904, one of the highlights in Vermont's transportation history. Covered bridges were roofed and enclosed to protect the wooden structural elements from the weather, which in Vermont can be quite harsh. Little more than 100 covered bridges remain in the State, the result of expanding highway systems, intensive commercial development, and physical neglect. Still, Vermont has the greatest concentration of covered bridges in the country, and in the recent past has become dedicated to their preservation. Vermont law now protects all covered bridges and none can be torn down without the permission of the Governor and the Board of Historic Sites.
Three of Northfield's covered bridges stand within a quarter mile of one another. The Upper Cox, Lower Cox, and Northfield Falls Covered Bridges are closely located on Cox Brook Road, as that road passes over the winding Cox Brook, a tributary of the Dog River. The first of these, the Northfield Falls bridge, was built in 1872 of Town lattice truss construction, a type widely used on many early timber bridges and later in building construction. Additionally, it is the longest bridge in Northfield by far, 137 feet long, more than twice as long as any of the others. The Upper and Lower Cox bridges were built soon after the Northfield Falls, both of queenpost truss construction. This group of bridges is further distinguished as the only place in Vermont where one covered bridge can be seen from the portal of another, as is possible from the Lower Cox and Northfield Fall bridges.
Slightly below the Cox Brook bridges stands the Slaughterhouse Bridge. This particular covered bridge, also of queenpost truss construction, is the only one in Northfield that has not been structurally altered. It carries only an occasional vehicle across the Dog River to the abandoned industrial site of a local slaughterhouse, after which it is named. The fifth Northfield bridge, the Stony Brook Covered Bridge, is representative of the end of the era of covered bridge construction in Vermont. Built in 1899, is was the last kingpost truss covered bridge built on a Vermont public highway.
The three covered bridges crossing Cox Brook are located on Cox Brook Rd., which leads west from the village of Northfield Falls. From there, the Slaughterhouse Covered Bridge is due south on Slaughterhouse Rd. just east of Rt. 12. The Stony Brook Covered Bridge is southwest of Northfield Center on the south fork of Stoney Brook Rd. east of Rt. 12A. All are accessible to the public. Be cautious of automobiles if you cross the bridges by foot.
At the west end of Northfield's Village Square is the oldest railroad station in Vermont, representative of the first generation of railroad passenger facilities built by the Vermont Central. Constructed in 1852, the current depot was originally the main section of the Vermont Central's first headquarters. The decision to locate the headquarters in Northfield brought with it increased prosperity. Today the Central Vermont Rail Depot (now owned by the Canadian National Railway) is one of the last extant structures of a great railroad complex, comprised of the depot, roundhouses, shops, offices and housing.
An earlier depot was built in 1848, very likely designed by Montpelier resident Ammi B. Young, one of 19th century America's leading architects, and an architect of the Vermont State House. The first train arrived in Northfield in October 1848 amid great ceremony. Three years later that depot burned, and the current depot was built quickly to replace it. Vermont Central president Charles Paine, occupied an office on the second floor, while the first floor provided waiting rooms for passengers and a station agent's office. In 1860, the Vermont Central headquarters were moved to St. Albans, and Northfield's economy suffered until prosperity returned at the end of the century with the growth of the granite industry. Queen Anne and Stick Style details were applied to the depot in 1899, concurrent with this renewed prosperity. It was also at this time that extensive north and south wings, once flanking the depot, were removed.
While at one time the nucleus of a railroad complex, today the lone depot symbolizes the village's former importance as a railroad center. The Central Vermont Railway Depot continues to serve as the visual focus for Northfield's downtown business district. Today, a bank occupies the first floor, the latest in a series of banks that have occupied this space since 1866.
The ground floor of the Central Vermont Railway Depot, currently a bank lobby, is open to the public during bank hours. The building is located at the west end of Depot Sq.
Directly across Depot Square from the Central Vermont Rail Depot, stands the Mayo Building. This early 20th-century structure ranks among the finest examples in Vermont of classically influenced commercial architecture of this period. Erected in 1902, the building was financed by local developer Dr. William B. Mayo, and designed by the Burlington, Vermont architectural firm of Lane and Son. It was the largest commercial block ever erected in Northfield, and is especially significant because it has undergone very little alteration.
Mayo was a successful doctor and state legislature who settled in Northfield in 1878. In addition to his medical and political careers, Mayo became interested in redeveloping Northfield's business district at the close of the 19th century. The Mayo building is the culmination of his efforts to renovate or build modern commercial buildings symbolic of the prosperity of Northfield. The Mayo Building was the third and largest of his development projects. After its completion a contemporary writer lauded the building as "probably the finest block in the state outside the cities, a credit to the town and a lasting monument to the enterprise and public sprit of Dr. Mayo."
The Mayo Building is also a monument to the Northfield granite industry. Erected during that local industry's boom, granite decorative details were liberally applied to the four story masonry building. The interior of the building was designed to accommodate several different businesses. The village Post Office occupied the central section of the first story, flanked by storefronts with plate glass display windows. The second floor contained professional office space, including the offices of Dr. Mayo. Apartment space occupied the third floor, while the fourth was designed specifically for meeting rooms for Dr. Mayo's Masonic Lodge.
A century old, the Mayo Building is still owned by the doctor's descendants. In the 1980s it underwent a renovation sympathetic to the buildings historic character. Today it houses the same mix of commericial and residential functions as the building did originally.
The Mayo Building is located at 2 S. Main St. on the east side of Depot Sq. in Northfield. Several of the businesses are open to the public during normal office hours.
South Northfield, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was a thriving center of water-powered industry. Remarkably, the Old Red Mill is the only building to remain from that period of Northfield's history. It is an unusually intact example of a metal turbine-powered steel roller gristmill and its machinery. When the building was constructed in 1898, it functioned as a gristmill and feed store. The simple one and a half story clapboard structure featured a cupola-like tower projecting from the south gable end. This tower, necessary to accommodate the milling machinery, is an example of a building's function influencing its design, a characteristic of many industrial buildings.
The mill was advantageously located at the site of the northernmost falls in the village. Able to draw on the power of the Dog River's Sunny Brook branch, the site had been used since the early 1800s for small manufacturing. Before the gristmill, a chair factory occupied the site (which burned in 1896) and an even earlier mill produced wood and slate saws and shingles. In the 1930s a water-powered cider press was added to the mill's operations. The Kempton family purchased the Old Red Mill at auction in 1944. They continued to grind grain and make shingles until the mid-1940s, when the market for these products declined largely because of changes in agricultural and transportation patterns. However, they did continue to produce their popular Kempton's cider for several years.
The Old Red Mill is located on Rt. 12 in South Northfield at the intersection of Lover's Ln. It is private, and not open to the public.
The Roxbury Fish Hatchery was the first fish culture station in Vermont. Built in 1891, the fish hatchery was a response to Vermont's decreasing population of native fish. Deforestation, erosion, chemical and agricultural waste, and indiscriminate fishing practices had resulted in smaller and ever decreasing numbers of fish during the 19th century. When the State Legislature appropriated funding for the erection of a hatchery to repopulate Vermont's lakes and streams, the Roxbury site was chosen for its abundant spring water, proximity to the Central Vermont Railroad line, and the donation of land by a local individual, Hon. E. H. Spaulding.
The historic buildings of the fish hatchery are arranged in a park-like setting around a series of five ponds. The ponds are fed by a spring and water diverted to the site from Flint Brook. In 1891 fish culture meant procuring, incubating and hatching eggs, rearing the resultant fish, and introducing the matured fish to lakes and streams. Several structures were needed for this process, and those that remain from the 19th century are the 1891 hatchery, an 1894 ice house for fish food storage, and an 1897 carriage barn. The hatchery still houses the initial stages of the process, where fertilized eggs are placed in plastic hatching trays and incubated with a continuous flow of fresh water to provide adequate oxygen. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, tall glass hatching jars were used for this process. Today, hatched fish are kept in rearing troughs. When the fish reach 3 to 4 inches they are transferred to one of the ponds. In the spring fish are distributed to the State's waterways. When this was done by train and wagon, fish were transported in "fish cans" with perforated inserts for ice that provided oxygen to the fish as it melted. Today, they are distributed by trucks in large installed tanks.
The fish hatchery site also includes a 1935 storage barn, two circa 1937 stone barbeques, a 1960 biology lab, and a recent barn and residential trailer. The 1930s structures were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the barbeques indicate the popularity of the site with tourists throughout its history.
The Roxbury Fish Hatchery is on Rt. 12A, 2 miles south of Roxbury Village, on a narrow, ten-acre strip of land stretching between the highway and the Central Vermont Railroad line. The hatchery welcomes visitors to view the stocked fish, feed them, and picnic.
Montpelier was a small isolated village nestled in the valley formed by the Winooski and North Branch rivers until 1805, when the city was chosen as Vermont's capital. Like many capital cities, Montpelier was selected for its central location and accessability to roads and waterways, the only methods of transportation available at the time. By the mid-19th century Montpelier's status as a government center attracted other institutions to the slowly growing town. The most significant of these was the National Life Insurance Company, which located its headquarters in Montpelier in 1848. Transportation methods were much improved when the Vermont Central Railroad connected a spur route to the city in 1849, and again in 1873 when the Montpelier and Well River Railroad connected the town to the Connecticut River Valley. These two institutions, the railroad and National Life Insurance, stimulated the greatest period of growth and construction in Montpelier's history, the last half of the 19th century. Despite this, Montpelier's slow growth over the past two centuries has resulted in the city's distinction as the smallest capital city of all the states.
Today, the 450 buildings that comprise the Montpelier Historic District reflect the town's prosperous past, during which time many high style and vernacular examples of various 19th century architectural styles were constructed. Such variety of styles, and the mix of domestic, commercial, religious, and institutional buildings, speak to the slow but continuous growth of the town. While the Vermont State House is the focus of the district, other significant buildings include the Pavilion Building, State Street's Federal style residences, the Italian Renaissance Revival Kellogg Hubbard Library (a free private library since it opened in 1895), the 1891 headquarters of the National Life Insurance Company (constructed of Vermont brick and now occupied by the Vermont Department of Agriculture) and the 1880 depot for the Montpelier and Well River Railroad (now a bank, beauty salon and offices). The 1820s Federal style Vogue Shop, at the district's main intersection of State and Main Streets, was damaged by fire, but successfully restored in 1998 with the assistance of a federal historic preservation tax credit. As a whole the historic district is a well preserved collection of the essential buildings comprising any 19th century New England town, as well as a reflection of the major architectural styles of the century.
The Montpelier Historic District, in Montpelier, Vermont is roughly bounded by Memorial Dr., Bailey Ave., Hubbard Park, Vine St., and Hubbard St. Residences are private and not open to the public, but many of the businesses, institutions and government buildings welcome visitors. A walking tour is available. Further information can be obtained from the State of Vermont's Central Region Visitors Center, at 134 State St., open 8:00am to 8:00pm every day.
Against its backdrop of wooded hills, the Vermont State House is one of the most picturesque statehouses in the county. Designed in 1857, the Vermont State House is an exquisite example of Greek Revival architecture, particularly as this style was applied to important institutional buildings. This well-preserved capitol building is a reflection of the nationwide construction of state capitols throughout the first half of the 19th century. Their designs were a conscious reflection of the nation's Capitol. It was hoped that the allusion to this familiar architectural image would foster the same trust and loyalty for State governments that citizens already had for the nation's.
Today the State House is the focus of the Montpelier Historic District. The current state house was preceeded by several others at the site. The most significant was that designed by Montpelier resident, Ammi B. Young, and built from 1833-38. Young was the Supervising Architect of the U. S. Treasury Building, and one of 19th century America's leading architects. Young designed a two story building with cruciform plan, low saucer dome, and portico, using locally quarried Barre granite for much of the building's exterior. In January of 1857, most of the building was destroyed by fire, including the timber interior and dome. Young's Doric portico survived as did some of the granite walls. These elements were incorporated into the current Vermont State House, which followed the plans of architect Thomas Silloway. Silloway's design called for the enlargement of the previous building by one bay at either end of the facade. His more elaborate high dome is sheathed with copper and covered with gold leaf. A statue of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, stands atop the dome, symbolizing the importance of that industry to the state. Today, the statehouse stands virtually as completed in 1859 and includes many of the original furnishings, such as the Senate Chamber's 30 black walnut desks and chairs first used by the 30 members of the 1859 Vermont Senate. The building underwent a major restoration in the 1990s and continues to function as it was originally intended.
The Vermont State House, located at 115 State St., is the seat of Vermont government. It is open to the public Monday-Friday, 8:00am to 4:00pm. Free tours are available July to mid-October, on the half hour.
On the side of a rocky hill rising above the city of Montpelier stand two cottage buildings known as Athenwood and the Thomas W. Wood studio. Built during the last half of the 19th century, both are typical cottage dwellings whose designs were a composite of popular pattern book illustrations, published by well known designers such as A. J. Davis and A. J. Downing. The buildings are also associated with Thomas Waterman Wood, one of the most popular painters of the 19th century, and a Montpelier native.
Wood designed the buildings himself, Athenwood first in 1850, and his art studio in the 1880s. Athenwood was built as a summer home, evidence of Montpelier's role at that time as a summer resort. The name of the house is derived from the mythological figure Athena. Wood chose this name as a tribute to his wife Minerva. Minerva was the Greek goddess of wisdom, as Athena was to the Romans. Several small marble statutes of Athena's head grace the main interior room of the home. Besides being a summer retreat, Athenwood also served as Wood's artist studio, until he built the separate cottage more than 30 years later. Against the backdrop of the woods behind them, Athenwood and the studio are good examples of typical rural Gothic cottages. Both consist of characteristically vertical and angular elements, using natural wood as their primary building material, and decorative motifs inspired by the rural setting of which it is apart. The decorative tulip leaf patterns, as well as grape leaf and vine motifs, are some of these buildings most distinctive features. Wood, who was trained as a cabinet maker, may have carved these himself.
In addition to being one of the most popular painters of his time, Wood was also President of the American Water Color Society and the National Academy. He was a great benefactor of Montpelier, and his home and studio are an important part of the city's visual and historic fabric. The two buildings standing along the gorge provide a visually coherent and dramatic gateway to the city.
Affording a spectacular panoramic view of the Winooski River Valley, College Hall is located at the top of Seminary Hill overlooking the city of Montpelier. This building is an excellent example of the Second Empire style, known for its multi-story symmetrical buildings with projecting center pavilions and mansard roofs. It is also one of Montpelier's most significant landmarks.
Now the center and visual focus of Vermont College, College Hall has continually been used as an educational facility. It was first erected as a seminary for the Vermont Methodist Conference in 1872. Looking for a new centralized location for its seminary, the Conference decided on Montpelier because of its proximity to the capitol and the railroad. The hill-top property chosen for the site of the seminary in 1866 already contained a race track, fairgrounds and the buildings of a Civil War hospital for chronically ill soldiers, which had closed the year prior. College Hall replaced some of the hospital buildings, cleared to create the college green. The college green, bordered by instructional and residential buildings, created for the seminary was a typical site plan for American college campuses at the time. The Vermont Junior College (reorganized in 1958 as Vermont College) began to use College Hall in 1936, sharing with the seminary until that institution withdrew in 1947.
When completed in 1872, College Hall provided offices, classrooms, a gymnasium and chapel. The chapel comprises the entire second and third floors of the central pavilion, a full two stories high. Still in place is a double manual pipe organ from 1884.
College Hall is located at off College St. Today it is used as classroom space for Vermont College and houses the Thomas W. Wood Art Gallery, which is open Tuesday-Sunday noon to 4:00pm. There is an admission charge. Call 802-828-8743.
The form of the small one and a half story wooden cottage is typical of the vernacular Greek Revival style. However, most of its applied details--diagonal clapboards in the gable peaks, shinglework, a three-panel door, and the three decorative porches--are typical Queen Anne features which were added around 1900. The manual door bell from this period, detailed with a raised scroll pattern, is still working, as are early 20th-century electrified ceiling fixtures. Typical for Vermont and New England, continuous additions were made to the house over time, an ell and horse barn after 1875, and a garage in 1910. The nearly half acre of property is bounded to the west by a large pond which formerly provided water power for the numerous mills and factories located along its banks.
The builders of the house are unknown. Its ownership passed through several different hands before Chauncey B. Leonard purchased it in 1868. Leonard was a blacksmith whose shop was located directly across the road from the house. In addition to his year round blacksmith business, Leonard also operated a small scale diversified farm and dairy. Leonard's farm included a small number of cattle, swine, sheep and chickens; and his 35 acres yielded Indian corn, oats, maple sugar and Irish potatoes. Leonard owned the house until his death in 1889. Mary Perkins, who owned the house from 1892 until the early 1930s, was probably responsible for the Queen Anne additions, but little else is known about her time there. The Dickey family, from Cleveland, Ohio, purchased the home in 1934 as a summer home. The Dickeys were part of a broad based trend, beginning in the late 19th century, of city dwellers retreating to the cool, uncrowded and quiet hillsides of Vermont in the summer months, a trend which continues today.
The Chauncey B. Leonard House is located in Berlin at the northwest corner of the intersection of Paine Trnpk. (Town Hwy. 14) and Shed Rd. (Town Hwy. 67). It is a private building and not open to the public.
Designed by regionally prominent millwright and mechanic, Joshua Twing, the Twing Gristmill was originally part of an industrial mill and iron castings complex. Twing developed his industrial complex over several decades as his base of operations, where he experimented with the latest mechanical technology. The brick gristmill, the only building to remain of the large complex, is representative of Barre's pre-railroad industries. Built in 1844, when Twing was sixty, the gristmill was based on the latest technological innovations and developments. For a utilitarian building, Twing's gristmill was unusually ornamented, especially the interior, possessing a double spiral staircase, paneled walls, marbleized columns, and wallpaper. These features, common in high style Greek Revival domestic interiors, were applied to the mill to enrich its industrial function. Decorative granite trim was liberally applied to the exterior.
After Twing's death in 1865, the mill complex continued to operate, with the addition of water wheel technology, for more than 20 years. Subsequently, by 1910 the building became a storage house for most of the 20th century. The site is currently the base of operations for Hill-Martin Corporation, which sells heavy equipment. In the late 1970s, with virtually nothing remaining of the interior mechanical systems, the company undertook the rehabilitation of the mill for their offices. Many of the original interior details exist and were adapted into the office space.
The Twing Gristmill is located at 450 North Main St. It currently contains the business offices of the Hill-Martin Corporation, and is not open to the public.
The Italian Baptist Church is a unique example of Vermont's vernacular architecture. Designed by the church's first minister, A. B. Bellondi, the church was built from 1906-1908 by a largely volunteer labor force of Barre's immigrant Italians. The result was a vernacular adaptation of Northern Italian Renaissance style churches that Bellondi was familiar with. Local granite and lumber were used in the construction. Brick side walls masked the building's balloon frame, constructed from local lumber. The monumental front on the building, almost entirely comprised of local granite, received the greatest amount of detail. While the polished granite Doric columns are perhaps the dominant feature, other granite elements include rusticated granite blocks, smooth granite panels for the walls, and decorative pilasters and frieze.
Not only representing the Italian community's contribution to Barre's architecture, the Italian Baptist Church also directly illustrates the role religion played in the assimilation of American cultural patterns and values. The Baptist Association of Vermont established the church in the midst of Barre's Italian neighborhood, providing a meeting place and consistent evangelism. Many church organizations purposely erected new houses of worship in immigrant neighborhoods to attract new members, but also to assimilate their foreign cultures and values with those of American society. By World War I many of Barre's Italians became Baptist churchgoers. However, their association with the church was brief, attendance dwindled by the 1930s, and the building became the meeting hall for the Fraternal Order of the Redmen and the Pocohantas. Vacant through much of the 1940s, the Seventh Day Adventists began using the building in 1950. After 1966 the structure became a commercial building. Most recently it has been purchased by the Church of God Prophecy.
The Italian Baptist Church, currently the Church of God Prophecy, is located at 10 North Brook St. It is not open to the public.
Located in the former Italian section of Barre, the Socialist Labor Party Hall is a two story flat-roofed brick structure with a gambrel-roofed single story rear hall. It is associated with Barre's rich ethnic heritage, specifically the vital Italian community that immigrated to Barre at the end of the 19th century. The building was constructed in 1900 by volunteers of the Italian community as a meeting hall for the Socialist Labor Party, a political group dedicated to social and labor reform. Its design reflects no particular architectural style, but its form does illustrate the building's function as an assembly hall. The exterior is simply ornamented with Barre granite details. The most important of these is a carved medallion depicting an arm bearing a hammer, the symbol of the Socialist Labor Party, and the initials SLP.
The direct association of this property with the labor movement, community, and the immigration of Italians makes it one of Barre's most important buildings. The Hall provided the community with a place to meet, organize, and socialize. Dances, boxing and wrestling matches were held here. In 1901, the Co-Operative store was started in the basement to provide necessities for the community. When the Hall opened in 1900, more than 90 percent of Barre's workers belonged to one of 15 local unions, many of them probably attended union meetings and political rallies held here. From 1900 to 1936 the building held the offices and meetings of the Granite Cutters International Association, at the time the largest local union of granite workers in the country. Labors leaders such as Eugene Debs and Samuel Gompers are known to have visited Barre and, although unconfirmed, likely spoke at the Hall. During textile strikes taking place in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the Italian community in Barre sheltered 35 children of those striking workers, all of whom were received at the Hall. During one political gathering, illustrating the sometimes volatile nature of political groups at this time, an argument broke out between socialists and anarchists, ending in the fatal shooting of Elia Corti, a prominent Italian stone carver responsible for the panels on the Robert Burns Memorial statue in Barre. In 1936, the Hall was sold and converted to a warehouse for The Washington Fruit Company and later the Vermont Pak Tomato company. In 1995 the Hall was purchased by the Barre Historical Society, with much support, to restore it as a library, community meeting hall, and social club.
The Socialist Labor Party Hall is located at 46 Granite St. It underwent restoration in 1994 and now serves as headquarters for the Barre Historical Society and as a venue for events. Visitors can call 802-479-5600 for hours and information, and the Society maintains a website at http://www.oldlaborhall.com/.
The Wheelock Law Office, erected in 1871, is a good example of domestically scaled Second Empire commercial architecture. Many of the building's original elements remain which characterize the Second Empire architectural style, including a slate mansard roof, projecting entrance tower, deep moldings, and arched and pedimented windows and doors.
The building was constructed for Langdon Chieves Wheelock, a renowned Barre lawyer, for use as his law office and a local courtroom. A Vermont native, born in Calais in 1822, Wheelock migrated to Barre as a teacher in the village school. Studying the law under Newell Kinsman, another prominent Barre lawyer, Wheelock took over Kinsman's practice in 1850 after he was admitted to the Vermont Bar. At that time, Wheelock also purchased Kinsman's 1825 Federal brick home. Late in life Wheelock built his law office on property adjacent to his home. The Law Office design was complimentary to the domestic architecture of the residential neighborhood and differs greatly from the commercial buildings constructed along Main Street later in the century. It had been complete for only two years when Wheelock died of diphtheria in 1873. The Granite Savings Bank and Trust Company occupied the building in the 1880s, at a time when the nature and character of the neighborhood were rapidly changing.
The Wheelock Law Office today stands wedged between massive commercial buildings in the downtown business district. It is the only domestically-scaled building to remain on its end of N. Main Street and continues to reflect the street's 19th-century character--a wide tree-lined thoroughfare flanked by imposing residences. Many small retail businesses have occupied the building throughout its history. Since 1975, it has housed the Barre Senior Citizen Center. Although the building has undergone some significant alterations on the first floor, the second floor is still intact.
The Wheelock Law Office is located at 135 N. Main St. and is currently occupied by a local senior citizens group. It is not open to the public.
Completed in 1899, the Barre City Hall and Opera House contains one of the best preserved late 19th century small theater interiors in northern New England. Facing the town common, the building is one of Barre's most important landmarks. The imposing Neoclassical building was designed by George G. Adams, a well-known Massachusetts architect who was responsible for many public buildings throughout New England. The building represents an era when citizens had great public pride in their civic buildings, as well as the economic prosperity and growth Barre experienced at the end of the 19th century.
One hundred years later, the building still functions as it did originally. Offices for City Hall occupy the first floor, while the Opera House encompasses the upper floors. When it opened in August 1899 the Opera House was considered the finest theater in the State. Leading New York, Boston, and Chicago theater companies graced the stage, while John Philip Sousa, Helen Keller, James O'Neill, and Tom Mix (who appeared with his horse) were a few of the many individuals who entertained Barre audiences. Opera was quite popular with Barre's Italian population, several of whom formed their own company and performed Italian operas on the Barre stage. Unfortunately, the Opera House experienced a decline in use after World War I, after which it was mainly used to show motion pictures, and eventually closed in 1940 for a period of more than 40 years.
The Opera House reopened in 1982, although in need of much repair. It was renovated over the next decade, and in 1993 a grand reopening took place showcasing the theater and three nights of local talent. Many of the original interior details remain including the original balcony and ornamented boxes, proscenium arch, art glass fanlight and pressed metal ceiling. The exterior of the yellow and red brick structure, like so many in Barre, features ornamental granite.
The Barre City Hall and Opera House is located at 12 North Main St. in Barre, 802-476-8188. It is open from 8:30am to 5:00pm. Ticket prices for performances vary.
The commercial and public buildings that form the Barre Downtown Historic District reflect the city's rapid transformation in the 1880s from a rural farming community to an urban, industrialized environment. The area was rich in granite, and quarries were established by the early 19th century. Granite for an early Vermont State House was provided from Barre quarries, transported by teams of horses and oxen. Until the railroad arrived, the community remained small and isolated, and the downtown area was comprised of a collection of widely spaced houses and a few businesses. The first line opened in 1875, in the center of Barre, and a second quarry line was connected in 1888. With this new ability to import and export goods, the granite industry soared, and by 1902 the city had 68 granite quarries. Consequently, Barre and its residents experienced a great period of prosperity and growth, reflected in the buildings erected during that time.
Downtown was rapidly transformed from a small domestic village to a streetscape of tall and massive commercial, institutional, and industrial blocks. As a result, most buildings within the district reflect architectural styles popular at the end of the 19th century. Many new buildings, supporting the growing city, were erected in the 1890s, including numerous commercial buildings in styles ranging from Italianate to Neo-Classical, the Spaulding School (a Richardsonian Romanesque high school) and adjacent 1899 memorial statue to Scottish poet Robert Burns, churches with Gothic and Romanesque motifs, the Queen Anne Montpelier and Well River railroad station, and the Barre City Hall and Opera House which stands across from the focus of the district--the triangular town green.
The need for accomplished stone workers resulted in a wave of immigrants. English, Swedish and French Canadians came to work in the quarries, while skilled immigrants from Scotland and Italy came to work in the granite sheds where the stone was shaped. In contrast to other Vermont communities, Barre was uniquely shaped by the variety of cultures, political ideas and traditions these immigrants brought with them. Their craftsmanship, as well as those of local artisans, is reflected in the quality and character of the historic district. Furthermore, the variety and degree of granite concentrated in the downtown area is indicative of the community's pride in this local resource.
Today, the downtown district is a vital part of the community of Barre, still the "Granite Capital of the World." Many of the buildings have undergone renovations fostered by federal historic preservation tax credits and strong local support for downtown revitalization. Most recently True Value Hardware received just such a tax credit for the successful renovation of 180-190 North Main Street.
The Barre Downtown Historic District is generally those buildings bordering Depot Square, Main and Washington Sts., and bordered to the west by the Montpelier and Barre Railroad right of way. It is a mixture of public and private buildings. A walking tour is available. Further information can be obtained from an Information Booth on Main St., open seasonally 8:00am to 5:00pm.
The Currier Park Historic District lies northeast of Barre's Downtown Historic District. It is a well preserved planned residential development dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Currier Park reflects the expansion of the local granite industry, made possible by the arrival of the railroad in Barre, and illustrates the town's greatest period of prosperity.
Steadman C. Chubb was largely responsible for the development of the neighborhood. The land which now comprises the Currier Park Historic District was the last large farm adjacent to the central business district, known as Currier Farm and purchased by Chubb in 1881. After briefly raising cattle, Chubb began developing his land in 1883 as a new residential neighborhood. He laid out streets and building lots, and donated to the city a two acre plot now known as Currier Park--the focus of the district, and the city's only neighborhood park. Between 1870-1890, Barre's population grew by almost 5,000 people. The large residences surrounding the park were constructed for the wealthiest of these citizens who prospered from Barre's economic growth. Currier Park Historic District is characterized by elm and maple tree lined streets and large lots with one to two and a half story frame homes with uniform setbacks. The houses are representative of architectural styles popular at the turn of the 20th century, and include many fine vernacular and high style examples of Queen Anne, Second Empire, and the Italianate, Colonial and Greek Revival styles. Of particular interest are the remaining outbuildings, primarily barn/garages. The adaptive use of the original barns as garages reflects transition in transportation from horse drawn carriage to the automobile during the early 20th century.
Currier Park Historic District is comprised of numerous private homes which are not open to the public. It is roughly bounded by Park St., Potash Brook, East St. and Academy St. Currier Park, the center of the district is a public park.
The Nichols House is a small frame house situated off a dirt road in rural East Barre. Built by early settlers to the area, it is an excellent example of the classic Cape Cod house type. The Cape Cod, a small rectangular one and a half story building, only one and a half rooms deep with a high pitched gable roof, symmetrical openings and simple details, was an early and extremely popular house type throughout Vermont, and all of New England. Especially popular during the first half of the 19th century, the Cape Cod type was brought to Vermont by settlers from other New England States, and adapted well to Vermont's severe and confining winters. The Nichols house is a very early example of this building type in Vermont, and remains as one of a few dwellings in the area built by a family in the first wave of settlement.
The Thomas Nichols family, among the first settlers of Barre, migrated to the area from Worchester, Massachusetts in 1799. Upon arrival they erected this homestead, and soon after welcomed the birth of their second son. The simple floor plan of the house consisted of two front rooms flanking a small central hall, a large and small room at the rear of the house, and two large rooms on the second floor. A large beehive oven was built in one of the rooms at the rear of the house. Typical of early Cape houses in Vermont, the wooden trim was simple, void of stylistic influence. Thomas Nichols died just a year after the family migrated to Barre. His older son, John, was seventeen and became head of the family. The house remained in the Nichols family until about 1900. Grandson Thomas B. Nichols, maintained the family's farm in the 1880s, which at that time consisted of 130 acres, 18 heads of cattle and 1000 maple trees.
The house has experienced very little alteration over the past two centuries. The addition of a side ell increased the living space for the Nichols family, but the main house still reflects the essential features and materials of its original construction.
The Nichols House is on Rural Rt. 2 off of Vermont Rt. 100 in East Barre. It is a private residence and not open to the public.
The Parley Davis House, located in the center of East Montpelier, is an excellent example of an early Federal style residence. It is one of only a few remaining examples in the region of early Vermont architecture. Parley Davis, one of Montpelier's founders, built the house in stages, similar to most settlers in the region, from 1795 to 1805. In addition to serving as his residence for 54 years, the house was the location of Montpelier's town meetings from 1791 until 1828, after which they were held in the newly constructed Union Meeting House.
Davis arrived in Montpelier in 1787 to help start the first settlement there. He was living in a small log cabin in 1794 when he married Rebecca Peabody, a healer who had come to Montpelier to minister to a sick man. Davis subsequently constructed a frame cabin in 1795, which he expanded in 1799, into a more substantial Cape-type house, the main portion of the current house's rear ell. The main block of the current building, facing Center Street, was finally erected in 1805. Minimally altered over the past two centuries, that portion of the house maintains its classically symmetrical exterior features, although the original clapboards and part of the eave moldings are currently covered with aluminum siding. The interior also features elegant Federal details, including an unusual curving parlor wall, a very sophisticated Federal feature rarely seen in Vermont.
Davis's activities in the early history of Montpelier lend further significance to the house. Accompanying his uncle, Colonel Jacob Davis, Parley Davis was one of the first permanent white settlers of Montpelier. Initially he helped survey the town, built a sawmill, and was elected constable and tax collector in 1791 at the first town meeting. After this meeting, all others were held at Davis's home until 1828. Throughout his lifetime Davis contributed to the town in a variety of ways; he established the first library in his house, participated actively in the local militia and War of 1812, held seats in the Vermont legislature, and was chairman of the Vermont Railroad Association 18 years before Vermont's first railroad was built. Currently the Davis home is a private residence and rental property. Much needed repairs to the home were made when the current owners took advantage of federal historic preservation tax credits.
The Parley Davis House is located in East Montpelier Center on Center Rd. (Town Hwy. 3) near its intersection with Brazier Rd. (Town Hwy. 50). It is a private residence and not accessible to the public.
Built about a decade before the East Village Meeting House, the Union Meeting House in the village of East Montpelier is an outstanding example of Federal meeting house architecture. The meeting house, serving both religious and secular functions, had no precedent in England, and was an early American building type. Union Meeting House, or Old Meeting House as it is now known, is typical of New England meeting houses because of its frame construction with white clapboards, rectangular form, gable roof, and steeple symbolizing its importance to the community. It is especially significant because of the architectural integrity of both its exterior and interior. Electricity was installed only as recently as 1970.
Union Meeting House stands on land that was originally designated as the town common of Montpelier, by Parley Davis, the first surveyor of that town. However, by 1822, a group of Methodists leased the site with payment of money, cattle, pork and butter. Pews were sold to members of the congregation for 20 to 50 dollars, usually paid for in services or in kind. The interior of the church is little changed. The front doors lead into a small room containing stairs to the overhead singer's gallery and two doors to the main meeting room. The pine pews face the doors and the elevated pulpit is placed in between. Oral tradition relates that the design and construction of the church were the work of all members of the community, rather than any one individual. Upon completion the meeting house not only served the Methodists but was the site for Montpelier town meetings, and for East Montpelier town meetings after it became a separate town in 1849. In 1954 a mid-19th century bell was salvaged from a demolished church and the open shelter next to the meeting house now houses this bell.
Union Meeting House, now known as the Old Meeting House, is located in East Montpelier Center on Center Rd. (Town Hwy. 3) near its intersection with Brazier Rd. (Town Hwy. 50). The church is open to visitors Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00am to 12:00pm and for Sunday morning services at 9:30am.
The early 19th-century East Village Meeting House, now known as the Old Brick Church, is an excellent example of a Greek Revival style masonry meeting house. The meeting house, serving both religious and secular functions, had no precedent in England, and was an early American building type. In 18th-century New England, meeting houses were characterized by their rectangular form, gable roof, and steeple symbolizing its importance to the community. The local brick used in this meeting house's construction distinguishes it from others in the area, most of which were wooden. The East Village Meeting House remains the visual, religious, and social focus of the village of East Montpelier.
When the Meeting House was built in 1834, the two front doors provided entrances on either side of the pulpit. In 1908, the base of the pulpit was sawn off and the top portion moved and attached to the opposite wall. At this time the original pews, which initially faced the doors and pulpit, were reversed. The choir loft, above the original pulpit location, was also closed in. The original windows were comprised of 50 small panes of clear glass, unfortunately only one of these remains. In 1908 stained glass memorial windows were installed, and only three of these remain. In 1954, three memorial windows were salvaged from a neighboring church that was demolished and installed at East Village. The excellent craftsmanship of the masonry work is evidenced in the unusual brick designs of the gable end. While building the Meeting House, some of these brick masons were also working on the Vermont State House that was built in the 1830s.
The meeting house first served Methodists and Universalists. In 1858, the Methodists withdrew, while the Universalists continued to worship here. In 1864, Reverend Olympia Brown, the first female minister ordained by the Universalist Church, preached here. By 1980, the East Village church was once again a united church serving not only Universalists but Methodists, Baptists, and Congregationalists as well.
The East Village Meeting House is located on Rt. 14 where that road merges with Rt. 2, just before the intersection of Quaker Hill Rd. It is open 9:00am to 3:00pm, call 802-223-3313 for further information.
The covered bridges of Vermont are among its most cherished and symbolic historic resources. The Coburn Covered Bridge is the only one to remain in East Montpelier. It reflects the widespread construction of covered bridges on Vermont's public highways from around 1820 to 1904, one of the highlights in Vermont's transportation history. Covered bridges were roofed and enclosed to protect the wooden structural elements from the weather, which in Vermont can be quite harsh. Little more than 100 covered bridges remain in the State, the result of expanding highway systems, intensive commercial development, and physical neglect. Still, Vermont has the greatest concentration of covered bridges in the country, and in the recent past has become dedicated to their preservation. Vermont law now protects all covered bridges and none can be torn down without the permission of the Governor and the Board of Historic Sites.
The Coburn Covered Bridge was built by Larned Coburn in the 1840s. It is 69 and a half feet long and of queenpost construction. The wood trusses and superstructure are intact and in excellent condition, although the original timber deck has been replaced with steel beams and concrete. The bridge spans the Winooski river, once called the Onion River. Mr. Coburn gave the bridge to the town in exchange for changing the path of the town road to pass by his house. The bridge, in relationship to other historic structures and the villagescape, helps to form the unique historic environment of East Montpelier.
Coburn Covered Bridge spans the Winooski river on Coburn Rd., east of Rt. 14, in East Montpelier. Be cautious of automobiles if you cross the bridge by foot
Greatwood, now a collection of fine buildings comprising Goddard College, was one of Plainfield's largest farms in the 19th century. Farmed by generations of the Martin family from the early 1800s, Willard Martin Jr. was the last to own the site. Martin was a wealthy Boston businessman, and developed the successful agricultural business he inherited from his father in 1902 into a "gentleman's farm." Gentlemen's farms were large agricultural operations using modern scientific farming techniques and breeding programs with a large estate for the family's summer use. Once known as "Vermont's Finest Farm," Greatwood is indicative of this broad pattern in agricultural history. Some of the most outstanding Shropshire Sheep and Milking Shorthorn Cattle herds in the country were raised here. Now a small college, the Greatwood site is a unique institution of higher learning.
The buildings and grounds of Greatwood, most dating to 1908, reflect major architectural and landscaping styles of the early 20th century. Martin hired architect James T. Kelly to replace the 19th-century farm buildings with an estate home and a modern agricultural complex. Kelly designed numerous barns, a creamery, clock house, greenhouse, garden house, blacksmith shop, farm manager's cottage, and the family estate. He primarily drew on the Shingle Style, with elements of the Indian Bungalow and Colonial Revival styles, to unite his complex. Arthur Shurcliff, the landscape architect during Colonial Williamsburg's restoration, designed the gardens of Greatwood, which are an integral part of the site today.
When Goddard Seminary purchased the site in 1938, it became a college with a unique philosophy of teaching and learning. The college's first president believed schools should be forums for learning, and that tests were not the best way to measure a student's success. Since its inception, Goddard College has taught in alternative ways and included students in the operation of the school. Goddard College is but one of a number of small Vermont colleges which have successfully adapted the various buildings of large summer estate farms as the educational, recreational and residential facilities that comprise a college.
Goddard College Greatwood Campus is located west of Plainfield at the intersection of Rt. 2 and State Rt. 214. The college welcomes visitors to its campus. Tours can be arranged by calling 802-454-8311.
The first settlers in Plainfield arrived at the turn of the 19th century. Only a quarter of a century later it had grown into a well established agricultural township. In 1827 Allen Martin, son of one of the original settlers, erected a home for himself along the fertile Winooski River. Allenwood, as the home is known today, is a typical 19th-century Vermont hill farmstead. It is an example of the unusually large number of brick houses erected in Plainfield, which together create the village's unique historic architectural character. This concentration of brick homes was made possible by a few early local brick masons, one of whom was William Martin, Allen's brother. Allenwood is just one of several brick homes in Plainfield attributed to the Martins.
A notable feature of Allenwood is its double wall construction, two brick walls with air space in between where hay was inserted for insulation. This durable construction was an interesting response by Vermont's early settlers to the region's harsh winters. In addition to the house, three 19th-century barns reflect the historic agricultural use of the property. Unlike many historic houses, minimal changes have been made to Allenwood since its construction, the fortuitous result of several factors. Allen Martin resided in the home until his death in 1876. The lack of changes to the house made during his occupancy indicates that modernization was either not desired or affordable. After Allen's death the house was inherited by his nephew Willard Martin, a judge, farmer, and businessman who owned the neighboring Greatwood Farm. Willard Martin's son, Willard Jr., an even more successful businessman, inherited the properties in the early 20th century and proceeded to expand Greatwood and its gardens in opulent style. Allenwood became the home of Greatwood's gardeners and did not receive stylistic updating during that time. Upon Willard Jr.'s death, the house was deeded to his daughter, Marjorie Townsend, whose careful stewardship during her lifetime has resulted in the home's preservation.
Allenwood is located west of Plainfield on Rt. 2, just east of that road's intersection by State Rt. 214. It is a private home and not open to the public.
Nestled in the Winooski River Valley, Plainfield Village is located ten miles east of Montpelier, and developed throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries as a prosperous mill community and service center for the surrounding countryside. The falls of the Winooski River, which lie immediately to the south of the Main Street Bridge, provided the principal power source for Plainfield's mills. While none of the mill buildings survive, the historic village contains a cohesive collection of 19th-century buildings and is noteworthy for the concentration of brick buildings in a singular style which represents a local building tradition.
Many significant commercial, residential, and civic buildings comprise Plainfield Village. Plainfield was chartered in 1797, and the following year the first frame house was erected, still standing at the center of the village. Possibly the two oldest surviving Federal style brick commercial buildings in the State also stand in the center of the village. The district includes three of the four original churches, the original fire station from 1890, and seven of the eight original stores. Like other small Vermont villages, the connection of Plainfield to the railroad in 1871 boosted the local economy and growth of the town. In 1812, Plainfield was home to only 12 families, by 1881 that number had risen to 80. Numerous industrial enterprises were located in Plainfield at the end of the 19th century including a clothes mill, sawmill, gristmill, tannery, as well as factories producing wagons, sleighs and carriages. With the disappearance of all these industrial sites, the village presently serves as a residential community for Montpelier, and as a cultural and commercial center for Goddard College.
The Plainfield Village Historic District is roughly bounded by the town line to the north, Main and Water Sts. to the east, Great Brook to the south, and Rt. 2 to the west. The private homes within the district are not open to the public, but most of the businesses welcome visitors.
Near the historic center of Plainfield Village, stands the Gale-Bancroft House, so named for two of its 19th-century owners. Built around 1840, it is a vernacular brick one and a half story home, and a well preserved example of one of many brick houses erected in Plainfield. Plainfield contains an unusual concentration of brick buildings within a Vermont town, all built in a singular style that represents a local building tradition. Together these houses create the village's unique historic architectural character, made possible by a few early local brick masons.
The Gale-Bancroft house is a typical New England Cape Cod house type, a small rectangular one and a half story building, only one and a half rooms deep with a high pitched gable roof, symmetrical openings and simple details. The house is also an example of the typical New England building practices of additive or continuous architecture, in which a small building is expanded through the addition of connected living spaces and barns. Soon after the construction of the brick Cape portion of the house, two separate woodframe sections were added, and a mid-19th century barn was connected at the end of this row of buildings. Today, the house is one of the best preserved small brick houses in Plainfield. The only major alteration was the removal of the second woodframe addition. Reflecting the early years of the automobile and its effects on domestic structures, garage doors were added to the first frame addition around 1910. The interior of the house maintains its original Cape Cod floor plan of two large front rooms and three small rooms at the rear. A tin ceiling has been added in the parlor.
The Gale-Bancroft house has had many owners. It was probably built by S. B. Gale, who lived there until 1847. Several other people owned the house before J. A. Bancroft purchased it in 1859. Bancroft was an undertaker, and the house and its wings were the headquarters of his business. The property was later used as a small farm and in the 20th century was the home of Plainfield's rural postman, Newton Davis.
The Gale-Bancroft House is on the corner of Brook and Creamery Rds. in Plainfield. It is a private residence and not open to the public.
Old West Church, an extremely well preserved meeting house, has served the community of Calais since 1825. Interestingly, the Old West Church is more typical of southern New England churches built half a century earlier, as it was modeled on late 18th-century meeting houses that Calais' settlers had attended in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The meeting house, serving both religious and secular functions, had no precedent in England, and was an early American building type.
In 1823 the town's settlers formed the First Meeting House Society of Calais to select a plan for a meeting house. Although it is unknown whose design was selected, all of the committee members were likely influenced by memories of their former meeting houses, erected in the late 1700s, which they had been long absent from. The construction of such a familiar building was an important step in the establishment of their community. The selected plan may have been designed by the moderator of this group, Caleb Curtiss, who had migrated from Salisbury, Connecticut. Curtiss family tradition holds that Caleb's plan drew upon his memory of the Salisbury Meeting House, and in many ways Old West Church is a simplified interpretation of that building.
The Old West Church is an excellent example of 18th-century New England meeting houses with its rectangular form, gable roof, frame construction, white clapboards, and simple three-tiered spire symbolizing its importance to the community. The three-sided balcony, arrangement of pews, and elevated pulpit of the church's interior were less hierarchical than traditional Christian churches of that time. Unique to Old West Church is the 19th-century blue paint used for various interior surfaces and the phrase "Remove Not The Ancient Landmark Which Thy Fathers Have Set" mounted above the pulpit in 1886. The church was originally owned by six denominations, the Baptists, Universalists, Congregationalists, Christians, Free Will Baptists, and Methodists. The building was also used for secular purposes such as community meetings and plays.
The Old West Church is in Calais on Old West Church Rd., .8 miles south of its intersection with Kent Hill Rd.
The small collection of buildings that comprise the Kent's Corner Historic District are reminiscent of a 19th-century Vermont crossroads hamlet. The one square mile of the district contains an intact collection of buildings from this time period that were the nucleus of a small rural community. The remaining buildings include Kent's Tavern, a saw mill, and a few houses, barns and outbuildings.
The most prominent building is Kent's Tavern. Constructed in 1837 by Abdiel Kent, it was originally "A. Kent's Hotel," a stop on the Montreal to Boston stage line. Stage horses needed to be changed both before and after the ten mile trip to Montpelier, and after realizing that the Kent family property was the mid-point of that stage route, a young Kent decided to construct a hotel. Kent built a large brick rectangular domestic building, while living in a small frame structure behind it. This wooden section eventually became the tavern's rear ell, providing space for a kitchen, pantry and buttery. Almost all of the building materials were made or produced within a short distance of the building site, illustrating the independence of small rural communities. Brick came from the family brickyard, wood came from the farm and was sawn in the mill, iron work was done in the family blacksmith shop, granite came from a local quarry, while windows and blinds came from a factory in North Calais. Kent's hotel opened with a Thanksgiving Day Ball in 1837, held in the large ballroom on the second floor. After 1846, when Kent was married and the railroad was replacing the stage's business, Kent gave up his hotel business and made the tavern his family home. Kent became involved with other family businesses and operated a general store in the frame ell behind his home.
The saw mill is an industrial site of considerable architectural and archeological interest, representative of the water-powered lumber milling industry in Vermont. The relatively intact mill is typical for northern New England, and one of very few surviving examples. A timber wheel house was located on the north side of the rectangular mill, water to power the wheel was drawn from a nearby pond. The first floor of the mill housed equipment, while the second was the working floor.
The boundaries of Kent's Corner Historic District extend a quarter mile in each direction along Kent Hill and Old West Church Rds. at their intersection known as Kent's Corner, east of Calais. The tavern, owned by the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, re-opened as an art museum in 2001 after undergoing restoration. Visitors can call 802-223-6613 for hours and more information.
The town of Woodbury had been served by several small scattered schoolhouses until 1914 when the centrally located Woodbury Graded School was constructed. Architecturally, it is an excellent example of an early 20th-century rural Vermont graded school. Its construction and history embody the economic and social history of the community, while its prominent location in the center of the town attests to its importance.
Several factors led to the construction of the new school. Statewide, large centrally located schools, like Woodbury's, replaced smaller scattered district schools after a 1892 Vermont State law turned educational control over to individual towns. The construction of these schools was influenced by the State Board of Health's standards, which beginning in 1904, called for adequate sanitation, ventilation, and lighting. The Woodbury Graded School was a thoroughly modern school with large banks of windows, steam heat, and indoor plumbing, quite a contrast to the ten modified houses which had served its school children in the past. The town of Woodbury experienced a major economic and population boom at the turn of the 20th century spurred by the discovery of local deposits of granite. It was during this boom period in the town's history that it needed, and could afford, to build a new modern school, aligned with statewide standards and proudly located in the center of the town.
Four classrooms comprise the first floor of the school, while a large gymnasium/auditorium fills the second floor. This auditorium was often used as a public hall because of its large size and the school's central location. The school has experienced very little alteration, and today continues to provide education for around 90 Woodbury children in grades K-6.
The Woodbury Graded School is still used as an elementary school, and visitors are welcome only when school is not in session. It is located on Town Hwy. 22 in the center of town.
The Woodbury Town Hall was one of the earliest town hall buildings built in Vermont specifically for this purpose. Built in 1842, it was constructed in a vernacular Greek Revival style, typical for town halls from this period. It is an important and well-preserved example of a small Vermont government building.
Woodbury was a town of just over 1,000 citizens in the early 1840s. Most of these citizens were small farmers or mill workers. Before the construction of the Town Hall the citizens of Woodbury met in a small school house. When these citizens voted to construct a new town hall, they specified it was not to exceed $500. Typical for Vermont town halls of that time, the building faced the town common. The hall includes distinctive Greek Revival details, such as the pedimented gable front with triangular louvered fan, which were common and important elements in town hall public architecture of this period. Other elements signified that the simple one story clapboard structure was a public building, such as the gable end facing the street and the two front entrance doors. The one large interior room features some original woodwork and many 1910 replacements of the original features, such as the stage at the far end of the room. The date of these renovations is linked to Woodbury's boost of prosperity in the early 20th century when the town became a leader in granite quarrying.
When the hall was first constructed, meetings were held twice a year in March and September. Local issues were discussed in March, while State officials were elected in September. The hall has also served the town as a place for religious services and social gatherings. Woodbury Town Hall today continues to function as it was originally intended, the site for town meetings and a focus of the community.
The Woodbury Town Hall is in the center of town on the west side of Rt. 14.
Native Americans, primarily from the Abenaki tribe, have lived in Vermont for 10,000 years. In 1609, French explorer Samuel de Champlain was the first European to set foot in Vermont. During the 17th century a few French military settlements were establish and abandoned, and the area became primarily a thoroughfare between French and Native American settlements to the north and English settlements to the south. As the English slowly pushed north, the first white settlements was made at Fort St. Anne, on Isle La Motte, in the middle of Lake Champlain near Canada. Fort Dummer, near the present Brattleboro, was established in 1724 by Massachusetts colonists, and became the first permanent European settlement in Vermont. By the time of the American Revolution, many more English colonists had migrated to Vermont's lands. They came from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and New York, as those English colonies extended their boundaries into the Vermont territory.
With New Hampshire and New York colonist laying claim to Vermont, there was a period of confusion in the 18th century as their land grants and titles overlapped. In the turbulent years leading to the American Revolution, several acts of rebellion took place in Vermont that were not against the British Crown, but against the province of New York. Vermont's famous "Green Mountain Boys," a group of colonists from New Hampshire organized by Ethan Allen in 1770-71, were among those harassing and attacking Vermont settlers with land titles issued from New York. These skirmishes ceased when news of the Revolution reached the territory. In 1775, Allen and other Vermonters captured important British forts in the north, including Forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point on Lake Champlain. The spreading news of their victories was significant, as it indicated to other colonists that the Revolution truly was a united American cause.
Amidst the battles, debates and congresses of the Revolution, Vermont organized itself as an independent republic and was admitted to the Union as the 14th State in 1791. As the State's population nearly doubled in the following decade, small self-sufficient communities developed slowly, populated primarily by people from New York and other New England States. The connection of rail lines to Vermont in the mid-19th century vastly expanded the possibilities for export and import of goods, information, and people. With this economic expansion came major, rapid growth for many of Vermont's small towns. While a majority of Vermont's immigrants during this period were of English descent, for the first time, a large influx of non-English speaking peoples arrived as well. The immigration of thousands of skilled stone workers from Italy, seeking chances to utilize their skill, made the growth of Barre's granite industry possible. The impact of their presence in the town can be seen at the Socialist Hall and Italian Baptist Church.
The prosperity fostered by the railroad lasted well into the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The State's industries, businesses, agriculture, and population thrived. Two Vermont natives, Chester A. Arthur and Calvin Coolidge, served as President during this period. But changes in the 20th-century economy, that began early in the century, affected the viability of Vermont within an increasingly competitive and global market. Vermont has seen many changes during the last half of the 20th century. Tourists have discovered the State's natural beauty, ski slopes, and small town character. While tourism in Vermont has soared, other aspects of Vermont's economy, such as farming, milling and quarrying have experienced a decline.
The historic sites of Washington County tell specific stories of Vermont history. Geographically, Washington County is located in the center of the State, home to the Capital City of Montpelier, the more industrial community of Barre, and many small towns and villages dispersed along the valleys of the Green Mountains. This region has moderate average temperatures, summer highs reach the mid 80's, autumn and spring months have highs in the mid 50s, and lows in the 20s and 30s. Washington County receives 40 inches of rain annually and has the heaviest snow fall of the State, averaging ten feet every year. This amount of precipitation has always been a challenge for Vermonters. Although it has the shortest growing season in Vermont, less than four months, Washington County was historically an agriculturally based economy, augemented by numerous small industries throughout the counties villages. Many of the sites on our tour reflect this aspect of the area's history, as well as the changes brought by the railroad, the varied industries that developed there, and the built environment that was the backdrop for it all.
Agriculture in Vermont has played a dominant role in the State's development. The region's first New England/European settlers were primarily farmers, cultivating only that which they and their immediate community required. Sparse settlements were established in the southern half of the state in the mid 1700s, but more permanent settlements and cultivation of the land for export were not measurable until after the Revolutionary War. By 1790, the establishment of good shipping routes to Canada and southern New England cities expanded the possibilities for trade. The earliest exports were potash and pearl ash, two forest-clearing by-products. These were replaced by crops from large diversified farms. Major exports included potatoes, grains, and livestock, especially beef cattle. Their importance within Vermont agriculture was established in the early 19th century, when large herds of cattle were driven overland to Boston, New York and other east coast markets.
Agriculture in Washington County did not differ from the whole of Vermont, and in many ways exemplifies statewide patterns. Small scale agriculture dominated the countryside in the early 19th century, with grains and meats as the staple export products. The creation of additional trade routes, while opening new markets, caused an increase in the supply of these staples, and their plummeting prices. Especially significant was the opening of the Champlain Canal of 1823 and to a lesser degree the Erie Canal in 1825. Struggling with the larger regional economy these canals created, Vermont replaced these varied staples with product specialization, and merino sheep farming soon dominated Vermont agriculture. The prosperous sheep market was bolstered by a wool-import tariff in 1828 and the expansion of the textile industry of southern New England. When the tariff was eliminated in 1846, wool prices fell. While some sheep were subsequently raised for mutton, many farmers continued raised their merino sheep to be sold all over the world for high quality breeding. After the Civil War, the expansion of the railroad to the American west successfully eroded Vermont's advantage of proximity to East Coast grain, meat and wool markets. Farmers slowly shifted their emphasis away from sheep to more profitable dairy cattle and small scale diversified farming. As refrigerated rail cars were not perfected until the 20th century, proximity was still a vital factor in the dairy market of North Eastern cities, and Vermont's chief products soon became butter and cheese, supplemented by maple sugar, livestock and local market gardening.
Vermont's heavily wooded hills, primarily maple and spruce trees, provided wood for the lumber industry as well as firewood and sap for maple syrup, another well known Vermont product. The McLaughlin Farm is typical of large diversified farms in Washington County, producing in 1850 large quantities of wool, butter, cheese, and maple sugar, as well as smaller quantities of wheat, corn, oats, potatoes and hay for personal use. The variety of farms that still operate can be seen throughout the Mad River Valley Historic District, ranging from small to large, from diversified to huge dairy farms. The dairy industry still dominates Vermont and Washington County agriculture today. Two nationally known dairy companies, Ben and Jerry's and Cabot Creamery, are located in Washington County.
Similar to its agriculture, Vermont's industries also started as small operations to support the local population. Lumbering was the first major industry established in the State. As settlers cleared land for emerging towns and farms, entrepreneurs established numerous lumber mills along the rivers in Washington County, harnessing the power of the water. Grist mills, such as the Old Red Mill and Twing Gristmill were also plentiful, producing feed for Vermont's livestock. Taking advantage of the plentiful lumber supply, paper and woolen mills also developed as early Vermont industries. Warm wool clothing and blankets produced in Vermont woolen mills especially afforded protection against the State's cold climate. Other small mills manufactured wooden furniture, tools and household items.
Vermont is especially well known for its stone quarries, and the quality of their products. In the early 20th century, the State was the second largest producer of marble, granite and slate. Around 100 varieties of Vermont marble, from white to jet black, have been used in major American monuments and government buildings, such as the Jefferson Memorial and Supreme Court. Vermont railroad lines facilitated the expansion of Vermont's stone market, more so than any other export as the heavy loads were nearly impossible to transport any great distance before this time. In Washington County, granite was particularly plentiful. In the last half of the 19th century, granite quarries were the most important industrial feature of this region's landscape and collectively the county's quarries produced half the nation's granite supply. In fact, tons of white granite were transported by rail to Washington, D.C. for the construction of one of the most monumental railroad station's ever built, Union Station. The boom in this industry fostered the greatest period of growth for many Washington County towns, specifically Barre, Northfield and Woodbury.
Commercial shipping ports developed along Lake Champlain, connecting with the Champlain Canal and the Hudson River on the western side of the State. The Connecticut River, Vermont's eastern boundary, was also a major water route. Though never built, there was serious discussion of a canal route, connecting Lake Champlain with the St. Lawrence River to the north, which leads out to sea. Washington County was able to connect to these major shipping routes by the Winooski, Mad and Dog Rivers. While shipping remains an important element of Vermont's transportation infrastructure even today, it has almost always been supplemented by other means. During the first half of the 19th century, the stagecoach was the primary overland method for exchange of information, smaller goods, and frequently personal travel. Sites such as Kent's Corner and the Warren House Hotel, former stagecoach stops, reflect this era of Vermont's transportation history.
In the mid-19th century change was on the horizon. The coming of the railroad and telegraph lines to Vermont vastly improved the exchange of information and the transportation system. The railroad quickly became the preferred method for transport of passengers, raw materials, and manufactured goods. Like communities all around the country, rail transit resulted in the vast expansion of trade. Ground was broken in 1846 for the Vermont Central, the State's first railroad, at its headquarters in Northfield. Northfield was a small village which had previously relied on the nearby Dog River for transportation. The State's first line was actually a portion of the main route from Boston to the Great Lakes, and extended through the center of Vermont, and Washington County. Passenger train service started in 1848, and Northfield prospered until 1860, when the company moved its headquarter to St. Albans. However, the Central Vermont Rail Depot remained and became the lifeline of the town once again at the end of the 19th century, when Northfield's booming granite industry relied on the rails to ship their products.
In Vermont, like many other States, the arrival of the railroad directly influenced the transition of small villages to thriving towns and cities with expanded industries, populations, commercial cores, and cultural institutions. The town of Barre is a typical example. Rail lines were connected there in 1875 and 1888, resulting in a major expansion of the local granite industry. Barre's quarries were finally able to transport large amounts of stone to distant markets, fostering the greatest population and economic boom in the city's history. Thousands of skilled and unskilled European immigrants arrived in Barre by rail, where their craftsmanship and labor were in demand. Barre's downtown commercial core expanded, as did the variety of cultural activities, typified in the Barre Opera House, and in the Socialist Labor Party Hall which served the working class Italian community.
The general condition of Vermont's public highway system also began to improve throughout the nineteenth century. By mid-century, individual towns purchased most of the early private turnpikes, primarily in response to rising protests against their tolls. In 1820, a statewide program of covered bridge construction began on the State's public highways, one of the highlights in Vermont's transportation history. Covered bridges were roofed and enclosed to protect the wooden structural elements from the weather, which in Vermont can be quite harsh. This period of public bridge construction continued until 1904, and the bridges dating from this period are some of the State's most cherished resources. With over 100 remaining, Vermont has the greatest concentration of covered bridges in the country.
In the 20th century, Vermont's greatest natural disaster, the Flood of 1927 destroyed many bridges and miles of roadways throughout the State. In response to the damage, a major building program ensued, which vastly improved the general condition of the State's highways. Great improvements were made in American standardized bridge design as a result of the numerous bridges constructed in Vermont after the flood. The Middlesex-Winooski River Bridge is a typical example of a post-flood metal truss bridge that affected this type of bridge construction throughout the county.
Improved road conditions were especially important in the late 1920s, as the automobile had already firmly established itself as the newest and most improved method of travel in the State. The covered bridges and winding highways that had once carried horses and carriages, began carrying cars and trucks as Vermont, like the rest of the country, embraced the automobile and the ease of travel it provided. Furthermore, the development of the automobile and modern roadways facilitated the growth of tourism in Vermont, which has become a major factor in the state's economy over the last century.
The primary physiographic feature in Vermont is the Green Mountains, which run along the western edge of the State in a north/south direction. Due west of the Green Mountains, the Hudson River, Lake George and Lake Champlain act as the physical boundaries between Vermont and the State of New York. Aside from a physical boundary, these watercourses bounding the entire north/south length of the States early on acted as the primary thoroughfares for transportation and commerce activities in the region. The northern, southern and eastern edges of Vermont do not have physical boundaries that separate them from the adjacent States. Other than Lake Champlain, Lake George and the Hudson River, the primary water feature east of the Green Mountains is the Connecticut River, which runs in a north/south direction along the central and eastern edge of the State.
Due to its relative remoteness, the physiographic diversity of the State and its slightly different settlement pattern influences (by the French from the North and the English from the Southeast), Vermont was considered wilderness well past the other New England States. During the Colonial settlement period, English settlers migrating from Boston and central Massachusetts were using numerous river corridors, especially the Connecticut River, to access the fertile southeastern lands in Vermont. At the same time, French settlers migrated west along the St. Lawrence Seaway, and south from Canada along Lake Champlain into the northernmost areas of Vermont.
The lands of Vermont were originally inhabited by Native Americans of the Abeanki tribe. The Native Americans coexisted with early settlers between 1534-1672 when New France established numerous forts along Lake Champlain. Once European Americans began to flood the region with vigor, numerous land claim battles ensued between nations at first (France and England, France and Iroquois, Canada and U.S.) and later between States (New York and New Hampshire). By the time Vermont received Statehood in 1791, numerous small settlements had been established including Burlington, Essex Junction, Shelburne, Rutland, Woodstock, Montpelier and Jericho.
Throughout New England, and especially in Vermont, remnants of glacial retreat in the form of rolling topography and mountainous terrain, deposited thick layers of fertile soil. This rich soil, especially along the many wide river valleys, afforded settlers the ability to sustain themselves through subsistence living. Similar to the other New England States, the colonial period economy was based on furs and skins in the upper area of Vermont, while the southern regions focused on grain and cattle. By the early to middle 1800s the majority of the State economy emphasized dairy cattle and hay. The development of small rural towns along watercourses and major transportation routes typically emphasized a central town green surrounded by important public buildings within the community including schools, churches, agricultural centers, and commercial structures.
During the colonial period one of the primary transportation routes was a post road from New York City to Montreal along the Hudson River corridor. Smaller roads that acted as direct access routes into and through the State include routes from Boston heading northwesterly to Brattleboro and from central Massachusetts leading to the Lake Champlain forts.
By the mid 1800s three major railroads were in existence leading from Boston to Montreal along Lake Ontario, along the Connecticut River and from central Massachusetts to Lake Champlain. All of these rail lines influenced the development of the State by allowing settlers to more easily move themselves and their products throughout the region.
From 1800-1900 Vermontís population remained a constant 18-45 people per square mile with the State economy relying primarily on dairy cattle and grain production. By the early 1920s two major urban centers, Rutland and Burlington, had been established. Not until the 1960s did the population increase to 25-100 people per square mile, and the economy diversify to include lumber and wood products, metal products, machinery and food processing.
People native to the State have long understood what a special place it is. In 1965 two National Forests were established consuming at least a quarter of the State land acreage. Recognizing increasing development pressures and its result in their own and adjoining States, as well as acknowledging increased tourism and its impact to the region, Vermont planners and development officials took a bold step to control growth and retain their heritage.
Vermont is one of the few States in the entire country that has very strong planning and development controls in place at the Statewide level. Because of that foresight in the late 1960s and 1970s, Vermont has been able to control urban growth, sprawl and retain its primary rural character in the majority of the State. One example of these controls is signage. No where in Vermont will you find billboards. A closely regulated signage ordinance allows the placement of discreet yet clear signage at all major intersections throughout the state, yet does not allow billboards to be constructed. In addition to signage controls Vermonters have been successful at convincing big business, especially fast food restaurants, to design contextually sensitive new facilities.
Vermont is still quite rural in character with few concentrated centers of urban development. There is still a thriving agricultural industry as well as a strong tourism industry, even without the billboards.
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Vermont History Resources
Vermont Children's Literature
Vermont Tourism Links
Vermont Historic Preservation Links
Vermont History Resources
Bassett, T. D. The Growing Edge : Vermont villages, 1840-1880. Vermont Historical Society, 1992.
Bellesiles, Michael A. Revolutionary Outlaws : Ethan Allen and the Struggle for Independence on the Early American Frontier. University Press of Virginia, 1993.
Goodman, Lee Dana. Vermont Saints & Sinners : An Impressive Assortment of Geniuses, Nincompoops, Curmudgeons, Scurvy Knaves, and Characters. New England Press, 1985.
Graffagnino, J. Kevin. Vermont in the Victorian Age : Continuity and Change in the Green Mountain State, 1850-1900. Vermont Heritage Press, 1985.
Jones, Robert C. Vermont's Granite Railroads : The Montpelier & Wells River and the Barre & Chelsea. Pruett, 1985.
Klyza, Christopher McGrory and Stephen C. Trombulak. The Story of Vermont : A Natural and Cultural History. University Press of New England, 1999.
Marshall Jeffrey D. ed. A War of the People : Vermont Civil War letter. University Press of New England, 1999.
Potash, P. Jeffrey. Vermont's Burned-over District : Patterns of Community Development and Religious Activity, 1761-1850. Carlson Pub., 1991.
Sanford, Rob. Stonewalls and Cellarholes : A Guide for Landowners on Historic Features and Landscapes in Vermont's forests. Vermont Dept. of Forests, Parks, and Recreation Waterbury, VT, 1994.
Sherman, Michael and Jennie Versteeg, eds. We Vermonters : Perspectives on the Past. Vermont Historical Society, 1992.
Strickland, Ron. Vermonters: Oral histories from Down Country to the Northeast Kingdom. University Press of New England, 1998.
Vermont Children's Literature
Baker, Carin Greenberg. Pride of Green Mountains. Gareth Stevens Pub., 1999.
Curtis, Alice Turner. A Little Maid of Ticonderoga. Applewood Books, 1996.
Hahn, Michael T. Ethan Allen: A Life of Adventure. New England Press, 1994.
Hahn, Michael T. Alexander Twilight : Vermont's African-American Pioneer. New England Press, 1998.
Lunn, Janet. The Hollow Tree. Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 1997.
Vermont Tourism Links
Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce
Vermont State Department of Tourism
Vermont: the Green Mountain State
Vermont History and Preservation Links
Vermont Division of Historic Preservation
Vermont Historical Society
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Site
Vermont Heritage Network
A group organized to stimulate awareness and appreciation of Vermont's cultural heritage and built environment.
Vermont State Archives
The Historic Preservation Program at the University of Vermont
Vermont Archaeological Society
The Green Mountain Club
National Scenic Byways Program