Historically, towns and cities were typically settled on rivers or another body of water for many reasons, one of which is for power. This unique grist mill was constructed around 1830 after the Cushman brickyard began providing bricks for new buildings in the town of Tunbridge. The mill stands on a site that has seen industrial activity since the 1780s, which was seen as advantageous due to the cascade created by a topographic constriction in the river flow at this point. The mill building has as its core a 1-1/2 story brick structure, built about 1820 as a gristmill, to which a larger wood-frame sawmill was added about 1870. The building is starting to deteriorate which is troubling as it may be one of a kind in Vermont, if not New England as a whole.
This vernacular Greek Revival church was built in 1839 for the Universalist Society in Tunbridge, Vermont. The 45-member congregation gathered funds and had this building constructed on land donated by a member of the church. By about 1910, the church was poorly attended and in accordance with the original deed, when the church fell into disrepair, the property reverted to the owner of the accompanying land. The new owner removed the tower as it was becoming a safety hazard and used the former church as a barn to store hay. In 1972, the building was purchased by the Dybvig Family who restored the exterior of the church and converted it into a learning center for youth and adult classes in a variety of topics.
What I love about Vermont is that you can drive down a random road and stumble upon amazing old farms! This home was built around 1830 by Benjamin Holmes Cushman (1778-1880) who lived to be over 101 years old! Cushman opened a brickyard on the White River just north of his soon-to-be home in the early 1820s, likely having his home built soon after as an advertisement to the quality of his bricks. The home was probably the first brick home built in town, and due to the successful brickworks, many others were later built. Cushman bricks were probably used in the construction of the South Tunbridge M.E. Church. The Cushman Family apparently lived in the home until 1975 when a fire destroyed a portion of the home and it was subsequently sold.
The South Tunbridge Methodist Church, built in 1833 in South Tunbridge, Vermont is one of the finest ecclesiastical examples of the late Federal style in the state. Until construction of the church in 1833, the fledgling Methodist community in Tunbridge had met at what was called “the old parsonage,” a house just to the north of this church. Land was acquired and a sum of $1,500 was raised through the sale of pews and construction began in the spring of 1833. The distinctive church is constructed of red brick with two entrances flanking the central bay. The upper windows are capped with sunburst masonry lunettes which mimic the Federal fanlights synonymous with the style. The gable roof is capped with a square clapboarded tower housing the belfry.
One of the more “Vermont” building types is the cattle barn. When I was driving through the charming town of Tunbridge, I saw a massive barn out of the corner of my eye and had to slam on the brakes to get out and take a photo of one of the most unique I have ever seen! This octagonal bam was built by Lester Whitney, a descendent of the Whitney family, which played a significant role in the pioneering, settlement and community life of the historical town of Tunbridge. The Whitney Farm was primarily a dairy farm, with the growing of corn and hay, raising horses, making butter, and cutting ice from a pond created by damming the brook near the old brickyard. The Whitney’s raised sheep, made maple syrup and had an apple orchard south of the house. The purpose of a round barn was that the circular shape has a greater volume-to-surface ratio than a square barn. Regardless of size, this made round barns cheaper to construct than similar-sized square or rectangular barns because they required less materials. It also would be easier for carriages, plows and animals to navigate as there were no sharp corners to go around.
The Congregational Church in Tunbridge, Vermont was organized in February of 1792. The Congregationalists‘ first house of worship, the Tunbridge Meeting House, was built in 1795, and was also the civic meeting hall and a multi-denomination church. The first Tunbridge Village Congregational Church was built from 1835 to 1837, but that building was destroyed by fire in April of 1838. The present building, which seats about two hundred people, was built in 1839 at a cost of about $1,500. The building has changed very little except that in 1882, a freak tornado struck the church destroying the steeple, which was soon replaced with the existing steeple. This building relates architecturally to a number of churches that were built throughout Vermont in the first half of the nineteenth century and serves as a good example of vernacular ecclesiastical Greek Revival style architecture that enjoyed widespread popularity across the state.
One-room schoolhouses were scattered all around small towns like Tunbridge, VT until the advent and proliferation of the personal automobile to allow students to meet in a single, larger school. The Whitney Hill Schoolhouse was one of such one-room schoolhouses that were located in town and constructed in a Vernacular Greek Revival style. The building features two doors at the gable end with transom windows, and a bank of windows at the end of the side facade, to provide light to the classroom inside. The school was apparently in use until the 1920s and appears to be used as a residence or something of the like today.
In the small town of Tunbridge, Vermont, it is impossible to not be impressed by the rustic landscape, historic architecture, and vast farmland. The town was established in 1761 and today has a population of under 1,200. In rural Vermont towns, small one room schools were often scattered all over to service the dispersed students who mostly lived on farms or in small villages. By the turn of the 20th-century, the town center began growing larger and the need for a slightly larger consolidated school was apparent. The Market School was the first Tunbridge two-roomed schoolhouse. Built in 1904 at a cost of $2,600, the facility consolidated two school districts and was used as a school until 1954 when Tunbridge Central School was built. It is now occupied by the Town Offices and a meeting room for town boards and commissions. The school can be classified as Classical Revival with a hipped roof, paneled corner pilasters, and a recessed central entrance under a gable with a lunette window.