The Lamb-Davis House, today the Hubble Shire Farm, was constructed in 1832 and stands as one of the best-preserved examples of a brick Federal style home in Vermont. The home was built by Reuben Lamb, a builder, who showcased his craftsmanship at the entrance especially. The front door has 2/3-length sidelights with curved tracery. Flanking the lights, are engaged columns supporting a protruding, fret-detailed frieze, and above a glazed fanlight with radiating muntins sit in a paneled reveal. Surrounding the entire entrance configuration is a granite arch that incorporates pilasters and a keystone, elegantly framing all the detail. The home was sold to Aaron Davis in 1865 and remained in the Davis family over one hundred years. It was purchased in 2019 and converted to a high-end bed & breakfast and event space. The interior was modernized but the exterior appears much as it would have nearly 200 years ago.
Orange County Courthouse // 1847
The Orange County Courthouse in Chelsea, Vermont, is a two-story white clapboard Greek Revival structure. Built in 1847, the prominent civic building overlooks the south common of Chelsea village. The prominent three-section rectangular bell tower is topped by a gilded copper dome. The courthouse has many hallmarks of the Greek Revival style. Foremost is the temple front image created by the triangular shaped pediment in the gable and the paneled corner pilasters that imitate columns.
The original Orange County Courthouse was built in 1801 by Oliver Terry on land donated by Reuben Hatch, some of which became the South Common in Chelsea. Due to numerous expenses in the early 1840’s for repairs to the deteriorating, old courthouse, in 1846 the county levied a tax to fund a new building. The county dismantled the original building and Master Builder Horace Carpenter of Chelsea constructed the present Greek Revival style in 1847 for $4,228.80. Horace Carpenter was at the start of an illustrious career when he built the courthouse in 1847. In 1848, Carpenter built the Universalist Church (now Baptist) in Washington, VT, using an almost identical exterior design. That same year he also built “Pinehurst,” the home of Horace Fairbanks, and later became the chief carpenter for the Fairbanks Scale Company. He built the Caledonia County courthouse in 1856.
Dana Mansion // c.1808
Sadly, many towns and cities in New England do not have provisions to stop historic homes and buildings to suffer from demolition by neglect. The common ordinance to prevent this from happening is a minimum maintenance bylaw, which requires owners to maintain their home within reason. This historic home in Chelsea Vermont was built around 1808 for Josiah Dana was a descendant of Richard Dana who settled in Cambridge, Mass., in 1640. Josiah was born in Barre, Mass., and was a son of a Congregational clergyman, and first appeared in Vermont records as representative of Chelsea in the General Assembly of 1803 which office he had also in 1806, 1808, and 1809; he was a Delegate in the Constitutional Convention of 1814; and Orange County Judge from 1812 to 1820. His home in Chelsea is a great example of the Federal style and features a unique detached Palladian window capped by a louvered fan. According to Assessing information, the home is owned by the next door neighbor and they do not appear to have the means or desire to restore the clearly significant home back to its former glory.
Rufus Hyde House // 1832
This eclectic home in Chelsea, Vermont has seen some major alterations over time, but it was originally built in 1832 as a Federal style home. It was built for Rufus Hyde (1809-1879) an attorney who worked at the Orange County (Vermont) Courthouse a block away. Upon his death in 1879, the home was purchased by Asa Barnes, proprietor of the Orange County Hotel which stood just next door. Barnes added the Victorian Stick style porch and a projecting second floor gambrel-roof balcony (since removed) and rebranded the home as ‘Parkview’, an annex to the popular hotel.
Blake House // c.1825
One of the most stunning homes (even behind crazy bushes) in Chelsea Vermont is the Blake House, a great example of wood-frame Federal house design. The home appears to have been built in the mid-1820s by Amplius Blake, a mill owner, businessman and developer in central Vermont who also built the Old Hood Store nearby in Chelsea (see previous post). The home was possibly owned by Blake who clearly loved the Federal style influenced heavily by Asher Benjamin and his plan books, which brought stunning Federal architecture to builders all over the country. Asher Benjamin’s books inspired the central entrance detail that includes flanking fluted pilasters supporting a full entablature and broken pediment trimmed with a dentilled cornice and filled with a glazed fanlight with radiating muntins and narrow, keystone-topped surrounds. Above the entrance hovers a Palladian window consisting of a 2/2 sash.
Chelsea School // 1912
The Chelsea Public School building was built in 1912, replacing a school built 100 years prior in the same location. The existing school appropriately resembles a barn, is wood-frame, clapboarded building with a large gambrel roof. Centered on the ridge of the sheet-metal covered roof is a Colonial Revival square louvered cupola topped by an inflected, sheet metal roof. The 1811 school was added onto the rear of the 1912 gambrel building as a classroom addition, demolished after WWII for the massive addition, not very visible from the street.
Stearns-Velas House // 1828
Prominently anchoring the east end of the North Common in Chelsea, VT and adjacent to the Congregational Church of Chelsea, the Stearns-Velas House contributes to the charm of the small town. The Federal style home was built for John Stearns (1784-1838), the postmaster for the town for over thirty years, who suffered financially in the Panic of 1837. The Panic appears to have been a major strain to the family as both he and his wife Elizabeth died in 1838. After, the home was purchased by Levi Vilas, the father of William Freeman Vilas (1840-1908) and they lived at the home for ten years. The Vilas family relocated to Wisconsin and William was eventually appointed as Postmaster General in the cabinet of President Grover Cleveland. serving from 1885 to 1888. In 1888 he was appointed as Secretary of the Interior, and served in that office until 1889. He was then elected as a Democratic Senator from Wisconsin to the United States Senate, serving from 1891 to 1897. There is a lot of history in even the smallest towns in Vermont!
Congregational Church of Chelsea // 1811
The Congregational Church of Chelsea is an outstanding structure in its own right, but also an important component in the village of a well-preserved Vermont hill town. Constructed as the Chelsea Congregational Church in the years 1811-1813, the church’s plan is derived from plates published in Asher Benjamin’s “The American Builder’s Companion”. Notable original Federal style elements include the central pavilion and the steeple, a fine vernacular version of Benjamin’s design. In the 1840s, the interior was reconfigured and the exterior given Greek Revival elements including the wide entablature and corner pilasters. In 1929, the Chelsea Congregational Church merged with Methodist Church to form the United Church of Chelsea. It is now known as Living Water UPCI. The church has remained an important part of the village and region for over 200 years.
Old Hood Store // 1818
Adjacent to a near replica, this 1818 Federal style commercial building and its neighbor anchor the west side of tiny Chelsea Vermont’s Town Common. The store’s gable-front, three bay, two-story form, with its twin end chimneys connected by gable parapets, is trimmed with granite splayed lintels and frieze, a glazed fanlight with radiating muntins in the front gable peak and an arched, recessed, entryway filled with an arched granite piece above the door (likely infilled from an original glazed transom). This well-preserved structure has continuously housed a commercial operation since its construction by Amplius Blake in 1818. In 1874, it was bought by Amos Hood and run with his son William, as a drug store. William’s brother Charles, is believed to have been responsible for developing sarsaparilla, a popular product at the Chelsea store, in a drug store in Lowell, Massachusetts, later developing it in mass in a factory. The building is now home to Will’s Store, a local market.
Chelsea Country Store // 1927
The Chelsea Country Store was built from the remains of an almost identical c.1818 store destroyed in a major fire that also destroyed several other commercial buildings south of the store on the west side of Main Street. Its form mirrors that of the adjacent store, and together the commercial blocks, with their parapet walls, end chimneys, and Federal detail, act as a truly unique landmark for the village. According to records, the brick end survived the fire in 1926, the remainder was reconstructed similar to what was once there.