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.
Burlington Vermont History
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.
Burlington Trust Co. Building // 1891
This narrow, four-story commercial block is located near the Burlington City Hall, and fronts the park it sits on. Constructed in 1891 from local redstone in a unique Romanesque Revival style, the building stands out as one of the most unique in the commercial downtown area. The building was built for the Burlington Trust Company from plans by Clellan W. Fisher, an architect who soon after joined a firm with Stephen C. Earle in Worcester, MA. The design features an unusual checkerboard pattern of inlaid red and white ashlar paired with a stone cornice which similates dentils and brackets. The building is now home to a Burton snowboard retail store, a company started in Vermont in 1977, now the leading snowboard company in the country.
Burlington City Hall // 1928
One of the largest, most grand buildings in Downtown Burlington, Vermont is its City Hall building, constructed in 1928, just before the Great Depression. The brick facade with extensive carved marble trim is Neo-classical in style, with virtually all the finish materials – brick, marble, roofing slate, and granite produced in Vermont. The building replaced the 1850s City Hall, which was poorly constructed and suffered from deterioration, exacerbated by an earthquake in 1925. Architect William M. Kendall was hired to complete the designs of the large, bold Classical building. Kendall spent his career with the New York firm of McKim, Mead & White, the leading American architectural practice at the turn of the century, and showcased the best of that firm with the design of this building.