Colby Mansion
Photograph courtesy of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation

  Circa 1870 stereoptican view of the Colby Mansion

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.

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