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.
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.
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.
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.
When I think of Vermont, I think of maple syrup, barns and covered bridges. The Moxley Covered Bridge in Chelsea, VT is the only covered wood bridge to survive in the town of Chelsea. It and five other covered bridges in the adjoining town of Tunbridge cross the First Branch of the White River within a distance of about seven miles, comprising one- of the most concentrated groups of covered bridges in Vermont. Historically, covered bridges were built in New England for the purpose to protect the wooden bridge from weathering. Uncovered wooden bridges typically have a lifespan of only 20 years because of the effects of rain and sun, but a covered bridge could last 100+ years. Many of New England’s wooden covered bridges have been preserved by municipalities and states to harken back to their rural roots.