Craftsman bungalows are a rarity in New England. The Craftsman style surged in the early 1900s, which coincided with the ever-popular Colonial Revival styles reign as most commonly built house style. Many of the Craftsmans that were built are less “ornate” than the West Coast counterparts, lacking deep exposed rafters, sweeping porches, and low-pitched roofs, but they are out there. This bungalow in Rochester was built around 1910 and has some Colonial qualities, including the Tuscan columns, boxed eaves, and shingle siding. I do love that full-length porch and hipped roof with a cute centered dormer! Do you wish we had more Craftsmans in New England?
In the early 19th century, the schools in the town of Rochester, Massachusetts (and many other rural towns in New England), were under the control of a district system. This system divided the town into districts, with each district having its own schoolhouse and an elected committeeman. The committeeman selected the teacher to run his district school and was responsible for providing school equipment. Each district had to provide its school with a building that included a hall or closet, desks and benches on three sides with 10 square feet of open space in the center for recitations. The schools held two terms (winter and summer) and each term averaged a length of 3 months, much of the “off-time”, students would assist their families on farms. By 1859, Rochester had 11 districts, each with its own schoolhouse that stood throughout the town. Rochester Academy was built at the town center, and educated the “older” students in the town. The school later admitted younger students to ease congestion in the smaller rural schoolhouses. The Greek Revival building, constructed in 1838, presently serves as a community space for the town, but is in need of some maintenance!
This beautiful house was built by retired whaling Captain John G. Dexter in 1860. The Dexter family’s ties to Rochester, Massachusetts, began when William Dexter became the first descendant of the Dexter
family to settle in town around 1679. William, one of the 32 original grantees of the town (from land by Sachem Metacomet), died in Rochester in 1694 and his four sons and grandsons remained in Rochester through the 19th century. After being away for months or years at a time, Captain John Dexter returned to his hometown to build this home on family land that was previously undeveloped. The Dexter family remained in the house well into the early 20th century, carrying on the family’s deep rooted history in the area. The home is a blending of Gothic and Italianate styles, which work really well in the rural area.
Rochester’s First Congregational Church is the oldest extant building still standing on the Town Green in Rochester Center and is the fourth house of worship to occupy the site. Constructed in 1837 to the designs of architect, Solomon K. Eaton, the beautiful Gothic Revival church building is among the most beautiful in the state. Eaton was well-known for his ecclesiastical structures, but also designed other prominent civic buildings in Southeastern Massachusetts. A fun fact about Eaton is that at age 55, he volunteered for the Union Army during the Civil War and his unit saw action in North Carolina, he returned home after the war and lived out his final days. The church stands out to me for the quatrefoil windows on the bell tower, the pointed finials and comer posts, and large lancet windows. Swoon!
In 1679, three years after the end of King Phillip’s War, an armed conflict in 1675–1678 between indigenous inhabitants of New England and New England colonists, land that would become Rochester, Mattapoisett,
Marion, and Wareham was purchased from King Phillip, and immediately divided among 32 proprietors of “Old Rochester.” The first white settlers took up residence in 1680, and the Town of Rochester was incorporated in 1686. Rochester town center was formally established in 1697 when land was set aside for a meetinghouse, burying ground and training field. Rochester’s first meetinghouse, built in 1699, served as a church and town building. A larger meetinghouse was built in 1717, and a third in 1760, doubling in size every time as the town’s population grew. The old buildings were insufficient for the growing farming town, and wealthy widow Elizabeth Leonard funded half the cost of a new town hall building. The current structure on the town green was built in 1892 and is an uncommon example of a Queen Anne style town hall in Massachusetts. The building originally was painted a darker color, common in the style, but was given a bright white paint scheme to blend in with the older buildings on the Green.
Amasa Snell (1794-1850) and his son Nelson built this house, just a year before his death. The house is yet another example of the vernacular snecked ashlar construction method, which Chester, Vermont is known for. This house is located in the rural Trebo section of town, an area where many of the masons who built these snecked ashlar homes lived. It stands out for the use of light and dark stone laid in alternating rows. This house is perfect!
One of the most visually striking homes in little Chester, Vermont, is the Durand House. Sited prominently on a hill, the 1861 home resembles a wedding dress in bright white with intricate spindles that look like lace. The house was seemingly built for Urban Durand, one of the proprietors of the successful Durand Brothers Market in Chester village. The home has an elaborately trimmed full-front porch with a second-story polygonal balcony, and a three-story corner tower with a shallow mansard roof, all possibly later additions. The house stands out in the village, which is largely dominated by classical Federal and Greek Revival houses.
This Italianate style house was built in 1868 for Augustus and Laura Blaisdell, natives of New Hampshire who moved here to Chester, Vermont, in 1860. The Blaisdell’s operated a company that manufactured fireproof roofing and paint at their home base in New Hampshire, and built this building on a prominent site in the village to promote sales, which were conducted from a storefront on its ground floor. The location of the Blaisdell House alongside the tracks of the local railroad depot, was strategic in order to provide ease in the transportation of goods to the village of Chester Depot from the New Hampshire-based headquarters of A.H. Blaisdell & Co.The home and store is significant in the local economy and is itself, a significant example of the Italianate style in town.
Located on the edge of the Chester Town Green, you can find this beautiful Federal style commercial building. The use of blind arches at the facade is a fairly common feature found in brick Federal style buildings in Vermont. The structure was built around 1830 and has served a variety of uses through its existence, the most notable being the tin shop owned by various members of the Miller and Hadley families that sold stoves and hardware during the latter half of the 19th century. The tin business in New England grew rapidly after 1820. Tin shop owners imported tinplated sheet iron from Great Britain, shaped it into a variety of forms, and distributed their finished goods through peddlers and country stores. They also sold tinware in their shops. Colanders, dippers, dish kettles, funnels, measures, and pans were in greatest demand. Other common items included lanterns, foot stoves, teapots, coffeepots, “tin kitchens”, skimmers, and sconces. After its use as a tin shop, the building was occupied as a telephone exchange and electric utility company office. It presently is home to an antique store.
Next to the Israel Moore house (last post) in Chester, VT, the Emery Bolles house is yet another beautiful example of a snecked ashlar building in central Vermont. The town of Chester has the largest concentration of these buildings in the state in the north village, now known as Stone Village. The building method was so popular that even a couple examples sprouted up in the larger Chester Village nearby. Erected for Emory Bolles (who operated a wagon shop next door), this 1841 house possesses a 5-bay facade and a later, distinguished Victorian-era full-width porch. The porch incorporates turned posts with a central gable above the steps that carries an openwork screen.