Located across from the Federal style Unitarian Church and Romanesque style Masonic Temple and rounding out the nicest intersection of Burlington Vermont, I present, the Richardson Building. The Richardson Building was constructed in 1895 by developer Albert Richmond, and can be classified as Chateauesque with its rounded bays surmounted by conical roofs and finials, showing the complexity of a French Chateau. The building was likely constructed for a commercial interest as an income property with retail at the ground floor and professional offices above. In 1911, the famous building was purchased by Frank D. Abernethy, who purchased his partner’s share of their business and created the Abernethy’s Department Store, soon the largest department store in town. Despite being a prominent, long-term fixture on Church Street, Abernethy’s went out of business in November 1982. The building was later renovated and new tenants moved in.
Burlington Masonic Temple // 1898
This large, imposing brick structure across from the Unitarian Church in Burlington, Vermont, was built in 1898 as the state headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Vermont, Free and Accepted Masons. Masonry, also known as Freemasonry, is the oldest and largest fraternity in the world, and they erected architectural landmarks in cities and towns all over the globe. At the end of the 19th century, the Masons in Vermont wanted a large new headquarters to host events and meetings for those visiting from all over. The building was designed by John McArthur Harris of Wilson Brothers & Company of Philadelphia at the time the firm was working on major buildings for the UVM campus. Above the retail use at the ground floor for rental income, multiple floors of meeting and banquet rooms, parlors, library, offices, and regalia spaces culminated in a fifth-floor assembly hall surrounded on three sides by a sixth-floor gallery. At the roof, the gables, along with small hipped dormers, animate a great hipped roof that evokes the symbolic Masonic pyramid. The massive roof, round arches, and a striking stair-step side elevation give the building a purely Richardsonian character, minus the carved sandstone and monumental arches.
Unitarian Church, Burlington // 1816
The building that gives Burlington’s iconic Church Street its name is this, the Unitarian Church of Burlington. One of the most stunning Federal style churches in New England, the church is the oldest surviving place of worship in Burlington, built in 1816. The church was designed by English architect Peter Banner (possibly with assistance of Charles Bulfinch), years after his crowning achievement, the Park Street Church in Boston was completed. From the head of Church Street, the church oversaw the growth of Burlington from a small lakefront town to the largest city in the state. In August 1954, the church steeple was struck by lightning, causing it to shift over two feet in a matter of months, unknown to the congregation and public. It was decided that due to concerns the steeple may collapse through the building, it was selectively demolished and reconstructed. The church remains an active part in the city and architectural landmark for Burlington.
St. Paul’s Cathedral, Burlington // 1973
St. Paul’s Church in Burlington, Vermont, was organized in 1830, when Burlington’s population was about 3,500. About 55 Episcopalians met at a local hotel and laid the groundwork for the parish. In 1832, the fledgling parish dedicated its new building, a neo-Gothic limestone structure, which was enlarged multiple times as the congregation grew as the city did. In 1965, the Diocesan Convention voted that St. Paul’s Church be designated a Cathedral Church of the Diocese (one of two in the state). Just six years later, it was destroyed by fire, sparked by an electrical malfunction in the basement, leading to a new evolution of the church. At the time of the fire, the City of Burlington was engaged in massive urban renewal projects. As a part of this program, the City offered to swap the land on which Old St. Paul’s had stood for a spacious new tract overlooking Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. Although the decision to change locations was a contentious one, the parish did accept the offer. When discussing designs for a new cathedral, there was a strong desire to make a new statement in architecture, diverging from the traditional Gothic or Colonial designs seen all over the country. An international competition was held to determine the architect of the new Cathedral. The winner was the local firm Burlington Associates, now Truex, Cullins & Partners. Completed in 1973, the Cathedral is made of stressed concrete. The structure stands strong and firm, yet is welcoming. Windows provide sweeping views of Lake Champlain and the distant Adirondacks.
Follett House // 1841
One of the last remaining grand 19th-century lakeside mansions in the city of Burlington, Vermont, the Follett House stands as an excellent example of Greek Revival architecture and preservation. The Follett House was built in 1841 for Timothy Follett, a prosperous Burlington developer and former Chittenden County judge. Follett hired architect Ammi B. Young to design his estate. Young would go on to become the first Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department. As a federal architect, he was responsible for creating monumental civic buildings across the United States numerous custom houses, post offices, courthouses and hospitals, many in his favorite Greek Revival style. The house is oriented facing west toward Lake Champlain, with a terraced lawn extending towards the water. The main facade features monumental columns creating a greek temple front, supporting a pediment. The secondary entry is a more modest interpretation of the style with a smaller classical portico. After the home was built, Follett became president of the Rutland & Burlington Railroad, the first Railroad between Boston, MA and Burlington, VT, from 1845-1852. He lost the house, along with his personal fortune, when the railroad went bankrupt in 1852. The house was soon after bought by Henry R. Campbell, superintendent of the rival Central Vermont Railroad.
Fletcher Free Library // 1904
On July 14, 1873, Mrs. Mary L. Fletcher and her daughter, Miss Mary M. Fletcher, gave the city of Burlington, VT, $20,000 for the founding of the Fletcher Free Library. Half of this sum was to be spent on books; the other half was used to start an endowment for the library. By 1901, the library had outgrown its location in the old City Hall building. In the same year, Andrew Carnegie made a gift of $50,000 for the construction of a new library. In 1902, an architectural competition was created with entries from Boston, New York, Buffalo, Montpelier, Vermont, and Lowell, Massachusetts, but a young Burlington architect, Walter R. B. Willcox won the commission. Willcox designed the new ornate library that year and in August, 1904, the new library was dedicated and opened for business. In the early to mid-1970’s there was some pressure from the citizenry to demolish the Carnegie building and rebuild on the site, which coincided with Burlington’s large urban renewal policies in the downtown area. In response, a group of Burlington residents formed The Committee to Save the Fletcher Free Library Building. A petition was circulated, and as a result, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. In 1977, a grant of $234,000 made possible the stabilization and external repair of the building, and later an addition was constructed, to allow the historic library to meet the needs of the much larger city.
Chittenden County Superior Courthouse // 1906
The Chittenden County Superior Courthouse in Burlington, Vermont was built in 1906 and is one of the most bold architectural designs in the city. The building was actually constructed as the U.S. Post Office and Custom House for Burlington, but changed use in the 1980s after the Old County Courthouse was destroyed by fire. The building was the work of U.S. Treasury architect James Knox Taylor. Taylor designed, many major eastern federal buildings during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He provided plans for this Beaux Arts structure with a well-appointed exterior finished in marble and dressed granite. Beaux-Arts architecture depended on sculptural decoration along conservative modern lines, blossoming in the United States in the early 20th century after many American architects studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, particularly from the 1830s to the end of the 19th century.
Burlington Montgomery Ward // 1929
Montgomery Ward was founded by Aaron Montgomery Ward in 1872. Ward had conceived of the idea of a dry goods mail-order business in Chicago. The fledgling company often created catalogs of their items for sale, distributing the booklets in the streets of the city. In 1883, the company’s catalog, which became popularly known as the “Wish Book”, had grown to 240 pages and 10,000 items. In 1896, Wards encountered its first serious competition in the mail order business, when Richard Warren Sears introduced his first general catalog. In 1900, Wards had total sales of $8.7 million, compared to $10 million for Sears, beginning a rivalry that lasted decades. In 1926, the company broke with its mail-order-only tradition when it opened its first retail outlet store in Indiana. It continued to operate its catalog business while pursuing an aggressive campaign to build retail outlets in the late 1920s. In 1928, two years after opening its first outlet, it had opened 244 stores. By 1929, it had more than doubled its number of outlets to 531. This smaller retail expansion was in contrast to rival, Sears Roebuck Company, which was opening a chain of large retail stores on the outskirts of larger cities. The 515th Montgomery Ward store was this one in Burlington. The building is constructed of brick and faced with concrete with “Chicago-style” three-part windows with the three bays capped by concrete pilasters topped by urns. The Burlington Montgomery Ward store closed in 1961, and the building is now home to Homeport, a home goods store.
First Methodist Church, Burlington // 1869
This beautifully designed Romanesque Revival church consists of a large rectangular block with a steeply pitched gable roof and a square tower surmounted by a spire. The church is constructed of Willard’s Ledge stone (a locally quarried purplish limestone) with trimmings of Isle La Motte grey sandstone from quarries north of Burlington. This church is the only Romanesque Revival style church in the city and just one of four pre-1880 churches in Burlington. Architect Alexander R. Esty (1826-1881) designed the building and was a noted New England architect working during the late nineteenth century. He was trained in Boston and opened his own office in 1850 in Framingham, Massachusetts. The congregation remains active and welcoming.
Burlington Savings Bank // 1900
The Burlington Savings Bank building, constructed in 1900, is one of the most architecturally sophisticated buildings in Downtown Burlington, Vermont. The design uses a brick and brownstone facade with prominent wall dormers and a corner tower with conical roof which harkens back to the chateaus and estates of Europe. The recessed corner entrance is framed by free-standing Ionic columns which support a brownstone segmental arch, which helps command the corner presence. The Burlington Savings Bank opened for business on January 1, 1848, and operated under that title until 1988 when it merged with the Bank of Boston to become the Bank of Vermont, which in 1995, was purchased by KeyBank. The corner building is now occupied by Citizens Bank, which continues this buildings legacy as a castle of finance in the city.