In November of 1927, a disastrous storm hit the State of Vermont. Severe flooding in the Winooski River Basin area resulted in the loss 55 lives and damages totaling over $22 Million. A Corps of Engineers study was initiated soon thereafter to investigate “the improvement of the Winooski River for the purposes of navigation in combination with the development of waterpower… and the control of floods.” The report presented a comprehensive plan for flood control and power development, consisting of: the construction of seven reservoirs; the installation of seven new hydropower plants, and the enlargement or improvement of 12 existing plants. Construction of the Waterbury Dam and Reservoir began in 1935 and was completed in 1938. The dam and reservoir were designed and built by the Corps of Engineers using contract services and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) labor, all thanks to the New Deal legislation enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The gatehouse at the top of the dam’s embankment is a rare example of Art Deco architecture in the state of Vermont and was completed in 1938 as the last piece of the project. The building and dam remain today as part of the Little River State Park and are a great example of Engineering History and a look into human intervention in the natural landscape.
Almeron Goodell Farmhouse // 1863
The Little River area of Waterbury, Vermont, was a very sparsely developed area of farms located on the slope of Ricker Mountain, which was difficult to traverse and farm. Almeron Goodell (1834-1910) and his wife Luthera bought farmland here in 1863 and built this farmhouse that year from rough-hewn timbers on the land. In 1870, the couple and their seven-year-old son, Bert, had four cows, one horse, and a flock of chickens on their property – enough to supply the family’s needs. Life on Ricker Mountain was hard. By the late 1800s, the loss of soil fertility on the land prompted some farmers to abandon the hillsides for more fertile land in the valleys nearby or the free land offered in the American West. Additionally, the Green Mountain Power Company began purchasing farmland to erect a hydroelectric dam and reservoir in 1920, effectively abandoning the area. The Little River area was left behind, with abandoned farms, family cemeteries, and carriage roads, slowly returning back to the earth. Luckily for us, the area is preserved as part of the Little River State Park, where you can hike and explore the area, learning about the past inhabitants of the now ghost village. The Goodell Farmhouse is the only extant farmhouse left from this early settlement and a lasting reminder of how hard life was for many who settled in undeveloped land in New England. The farmhouse was used as a hunting lodge in the 1940s, likely the only reason it still stands to this day.
Former Green Mountain Seminary // 1869
The Green Mountain Seminary building in Waterbury Center, Vermont was built in 1869 as a co-educational Free Will Baptist school. The building is one of the largest and grand examples of Italianate architecture in this part of the state. As originally laid out, the lower two floors were used for educational purposes and included a chapel, while the third floor and attic level were used for men’s housing. Here, men would be trained to be Baptist priests. Upon opening, a catalogue expressed the building’s rural location in the town as a benefit, stating “It is removed from the bustle and distraction of large commercial villages; is free from the haunts of vice and dissipation or temptation to idleness; and is surrounded by natural scenery unsurpassed in its magnificence and grandeur.” The building went through a variety of educational and boarding uses until 1895, when it was deeded to the town for use as a public school building. The building is nearly unchanged as when it was built in 1869, besides the removal of the rooftop belvedere and walkway in the 1940s.
Waterbury Railroad Depot // 1875
Historic train stations are among some of my favorite types of buildings as they transport you to a different time (no pun intended). The Waterbury Railroad Depot was built in 1875 by the Central Vermont Railroad, connecting Montreal, Quebec with New London, CT and to other lines to Boston and Albany on the way. Waterbury service began in 1849, but this updated station was built later as the railway prospered and expanded. The station suffered from some deferred maintenance for decades in the mid-20th century and its fate (like many such stations) was unknown. Beginning in the late 1990s into the 2000s, Revitalizing Waterbury worked with the Great American Station Foundation, the Vermont Agency of Transportation, and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Foundation, establishing a capital fundraising campaign meeting the goal of $1,200,000 through donations from the private sector and community members. These funds helped restore the building in phases, beginning when Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. agreed to lease the station from Revitalizing Waterbury, and created a visitor center and cafe (now Black Cap Coffee and Bakery) that has become a first-class attraction and provided an economic boost to the downtown.
Charles C. Warren House // c.1880
Located just steps from the former State Hospital of Vermont in Waterbury, the Charles C. Warren House on Main Street stands as an important Victorian-era residence in the town. The late Italianate style residence features a detached carriage house at the rear which was later converted to a auto garage and most recently to office space. Mr. Warren was a businessman in town who owned a tannery and creamery. He built a water system in the town in 1879, making a substantial amount of money in the process. Mr. Warren was a serious auto enthusiast who in addition to purchasing the first automobile in Vermont (a 1899 Haynes Apperson), he held Vermont registrations #1 and #2. He had his carriage house converted to an auto garage equipped with a turntable that obviated forever the tedium of backing down the driveway. The building is now home to a law office.
Former Vermont State Hospital // 1890
The former Vermont State Hospital campus in Waterbury, Vermont, is a 36.3-acre campus of institutional buildings that have been converted for use as state government offices. A sprawling array of more than 17 structures, the hospital, which historically treated mental disorders, was first funded by the Vermont State Legislature in 1888. Construction began on the plans by the Boston architectural firm of Rand & Taylor in 1890. The architects designed the landmark main administration and auditorium building at the core, which is built of brick on a rusticated stone foundation and under a steep hipped slate roof. The building is connected by single-story links to two-and-a-half-story wings, which are attached to clustered two-story cylindrical wards. In planning the hospital, Rand & Taylor stressed the isolation of patients and stressed the importance of light and air in each room and restricted height of the building to facilitate egress from upper floors in the event of fire or emergency. The asylum has a dark history in that Dr. Eugene A. Stanley, the Superintendent from 1918–1936, was an advocate of eugenics and espoused forced sterilization and advised the Eugenics Society based on his patients records. From this, the word, “Waterbury,” became used in a derogatory sense, and did harm to the town for years. The hospital was closed in 2011 due to flooding in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, and after a thorough renovation by architects Freeman French Freeman and Goody Clancy, the complex re-opened in 2015 as State Offices with renovated historic assets and modern, contextual new buildings.
William W. Wells House // c.1845
One of the most stately and classic homes in central Vermont is this Greek Revival beauty constructed of brick, right on Main Street in Waterbury. The home was built for William Wellington Wells, who was born in Waterbury, Vermont in 1837. He soon became one of Waterbury’s most prosperous merchants of the mid-nineteenth century, starting as a lawyer with business interests including a tannery and grist mill in nearby “Mill Village” and a mop and chair stock business. He served in the Civil War and contributed much to the town’s growth. After successive ownership, the town’s appeal during the winter months shifted the demand towards short-term stays tied to the ski industry. The Wells House was added onto at the rear and converted to a motor hotel called the “Gateway Motel” in the mid-20th century. The use remained for decades until a fire destroyed much of the motel, leaving the 1840s Greek Revival home’s future in limbo. Thankfully, new owners restored the home and built much-needed residential housing at the rear, largely in the same form as the old motel. Love to see preservation at work!
Dr. Henry Janes House – Waterbury Municipal Center // c.1890
Probably best known for being in charge of all the military hospitals in the Gettysburg area after the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, Waterbury, Vermont native, Dr. Henry Janes (1832-1915) had a decorated career and gave much to his country and hometown. Janes attended local schools before enrolling at St. Johnsbury Academy, later graduating from New York City’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1855. After a few years working in NY and MA, he moved back to Waterbury to take up a private practice. This was disrupted by the Civil War where he was a major surgeon on the front lines and had over 250 surgeons under his command. After returning home from the war, Dr. Janes was involved in politics and business, and had a home built in town. According to local historians, this present home of Janes was built in 1890, but it definitely could date to the 1870s with Stick style features. Upon his death, the Dr. Janes home was gifted to the town for use as a public library. When Tropical Storm Irene hit the region in 2011, the town offices were destroyed and Vermont Integrated Architecture was hired to expand the Janes House adding space for town offices, meeting space, a modern library and to reconfigure the historic home for the Waterbury Historical Society. Everything about this is perfect, down to the paint colors!
Vincent’s Pharmacy and Waterbury Masonic Hall // 1834
While of different scale, these two brick buildings on Main Street in Waterbury, Vermont compliment each other very well. Vincent’s Pharmacy, the smaller building, was built in 1834 in the Federal and Greek Revival styles by Dan Carpenter, early lawyer and judge, to house a pharmacy business that he ran with his son, William. Next door, dating from approximately the same year as the pharmacy, the larger structure housed Waterbury’s first Masonic hall in 1860’s and in successive years a hardware business. The former Masonic hall is now home to The Reservoir, a great local restaurant that I grabbed lunch in while visiting the town.
Stagecoach Inn // 1826
Built by the Carpenter brothers in Waterbury, who also designed and built the neighboring Congregational Church (last post), this large structure was a stagecoach stop on the road to Stowe for much of the nineteenth century. Briefly, the Inn served as a private residence for Albert and Annette “Nettie” Spencer. Nettie grew up in Waterbury and married Albert who owned rubber factories in Ohio and invested in real estate in Burlington. At one time, the Spencers’ residences included their Waterbury house, a suite at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, a house in Newport, an apartment in Paris, as well as one in London. Albert died in London, and Nettie continued living in Waterbury until her death in 1947, approaching 100 years of age. Within a year, the property was sold and the owners reopened the main house as a sort of boarding house. The property was restored and operates today as the Old Stagecoach Inn.