One of my favorite houses in Dorset I saw was this beautiful cottage, which is now home to the Dorset Historical Society. The home was originally built around 1830, but not in Dorset… It was built in Hebron, New York, two towns away. The house was moved to Dorset in 1928 by Charles Wade, a resident for Agnes Houghton. Wade was born in town and worked his whole life to maintain the village’s charm even through economically difficult times. He salvaged historic buildings all over the region and brought them to Dorset, helping to revitalize the town. New York City artist Elsa Bley used the house as her residence, studio, and art school from about 1950 until 1990, when she bequeathed the building to the Dorset Historical Society, which has been located here since 1991.
Colonial Revival perfection! This building on the Dorset Town Green was originally constructed around 1885 for Allan Bourn, the purchasing agent of the New York Central Railroad. When Bourn was told by a trusted associate that a railroad stop was going to be built near Dorset, he made the decision to acquire eight acres of pristine land just west of the Dorset Green on Church Street. Bourn, a resident of Westchester, New York, decided to build a vacation home there for his family. The house was named “Maplebourn,” after a large maple tree on the property. Annie Bourn Sheldon, Allan’s daughter, inherited his property after his death in 1925. She and her husband then added two large additional wings onto the house, just at the time that Dorset’s local theater scene was beginning to take-off. After Annie’s husband Harry died in 1942, she began to rent out rooms of her home to visiting actors to the nearby Dorset Playhouse (last post). Actor and playwright, John Nassivera purchased the property and renamed it the Dorset Colony House, converting it to a residency hall. The building has since been purchased by Adele and Herman Raspé, who lovingly have maintained and enhanced the historically and architecturally significant property.
During the spring of 1927, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Goodman, devotees of the performing arts, were able to interest a number of Dorset residents in producing a play. In April 1927, a three-act play entitled ’39 East’ was presented in the Dorset Town Hall for the benefit of the PTA and was received with great enthusiasm. From this, a movement took off. Many summer residents and artists in town formed a group, the Dorset Players, who would continue performances for the town. They realized that the space in Town Hall was not suitable nor permanent enough for the goals of the group. May Goodman purchased land at the edge of the village and the group held two years of performances in nearby towns to gather funding to erect a playhouse. Ernest West, a member, offered two barns on his property in town and it, plus one more barn, were incorporated into the new playhouse. The auditorium was built so that the weathered sides of the barn boards were on the inside and hand hewn timbers 12 by 12 inches were used to achieve a rustic effect which draws many favorable comments from those visiting the Playhouse. It remains a cultural center of the town and greater region to this day.
Arguably the most high-style building in the quaint village of Dorset, Vermont is the Congregational Church, which appropriately sits on Church Street. The original congregational church in Dorset was located in nearby Maple Hill Cemetery. When the wood structure burned in 1832, an new wooden church was built on this site. The second wooden building burned in 1907, and then this church was built, but of fireproof construction. Jordan Greene, an architect from New York, designed this Neo Gothic Revival style in the historic district. The church was constructed by the contracting firm of O. W. Norcross, partner in the Norcross-West Marble Company, which donated the building stone from its South Dorset quarry. The design is dominated by a massive square central tower that ascends its facade and is capped by pinnacles. Behind the tower, the gable-roofed church is built of rough-faced Dorset marble laid in patterned coursed ashlar and trimmed with dressed stone. How many other marble churches can you think of?
Even with a declining marble industry by the turn of the 20th century, Dorset, Vermont was seen as a beautiful retreat from city life, and it attracted well-to-do middle-class families to escape to the town for parts of the year. One of those families was head by Harry Waters Sheldon (1869-1942) and Annie C. Bourn Sheldon (1875-1958) who lived in Yonkers, N.Y. with their four children. The family lived in this home as a cottage retreat in 1909 and constructed the only Craftsman bungalow in the village of Dorset. The bungalow was later altered and the porches were enclosed, but it was restored in the past few years!
One of the oldest extant houses in Dorset, Vermont, this gorgeous Federal Cape house adds so much charm to the village. The house is possibly the homestead of James Abel Hodge (1756-1826) who settled in Dorset from Connecticut after serving in the Revolutionary War. Hodge settled in the town when it was but wilderness, opening up a store in the village and helping the infant township grow into a thriving marble manufactory. This house was later owned by stonecutter I. W. Dunton and after, by “Grandma” Annette Weeks (1841-1925). Like many Cape houses, it probably evolved, adding wings to the right and left as the family inside grew.
Originally owned by marble dealer Daniel Kent (1793-1858) in the 1850s at the height of marble quarrying in the town of Dorset, Vermont, this house shows the history of Dorset very well in its alterations and ownership. After the marble dealer Kent passed away, the property was owned by watchmaker Luke B. Gray (1825-1878). Soon after, homeopathic physician Charles Farrar Harwood (1833-1902) and family moved in. His son, Elmer Harwood (1885-1960), the first Rural Free Delivery mailman in Dorset, continued living here, likely renovating the home with the oversized front porch and charming rustic quality. Harwood oversaw the delivery of mail to the rural farmhouses and village of Dorset, which previously made individuals living in remote homesteads had to pick up mail themselves at sometimes distant post offices or pay private carriers for delivery. In 1965, the home was remodelled and sold it to Hugh Vanderbilt, the son of Robert Thurlow Vanderbilt (yes of that family) whose primary residence was in Greenwich, Connecticut. This new ownership showed how the town of Dorset became popular as a rural/country retreat for the wealthy, many of those families remain here today, preserving these old homes.
This charming vernacular property in Dorset Village was built around 1830 as a one-story cape house. By the early 20th century, the modest home was enlarged with a second story and an extra bay, all in the Colonial Revival style, mixing the functional or minimally detailed historic building with a little oomph. The addition of a doorway portico and the randomly placed windows on the facade add to the charm. The renovation was completed by owner Bernis Sheldon (1866-1941). After Sheldon’s death, the building became home to the Dorset telephone exchange, who occupied part of the building. The building is now home to the 3 Pears Gallery, who have done a FANTASTIC job mainating and highlighting this beautiful building on the Green!
Much of Dorset Village was built in the early-to-mid 19th century, but there are some excellent examples of Colonial Revival and Craftsman homes and buildings. This Colonial Revival house was built c.1890 seemingly by Warren Robbins Dunton (1839-1902), who served as a Captain in the American Civil War. Captain Dunton seemingly built his home after moving the older house on the site back on the lot, building this house at the street. Great house, look at those chunky shutters that actually match the window openings!
This stunning Greek Revival house in Dorset Village was built around 1850 and was long the home of Gilbert Mortier Sykes (1834-1920). Gilbert Sykes operated a general store in Dorset and held various public offices in town and later in the Vermont House of Representatives and Senate. The house has fully embellished entrance with paneled pilasters carrying an entablature and an amazing triangular window with diamond panes in the gable.