The First Universalist Parish of Chester, also known as the Stone Church, was built in 1845 and originally occupied only the top floor. At the time, the basement, with its own entrance, was occupied by town government offices. The users practiced their own style of the separation of church and state however, as there was no interior staircase to join the two.
The church, along with the nearby homes and school, were built by Scottish masons who developed the largest enclave of “snecked ashlar” buildings in the country. The church can be classified as a vernacular mixture of Greek and Gothic Revival. The building features a gable-end form with a classical wood cornice and frieze with partial cornice return, as a nod to the Greek Revival style. Additionally, a square steeple tower atop the gable roof is capped by a balustrade and spires, an acknowledgment to the Gothic style.
This unique vernacular example of the Second Empire architectural style in Chester stands on the side of Vermont Route 103. Records state that the fire station was constructed in 1873 with the two towers (bell and hose) built within a decade after. The station’s name, “Yosemite” is a Miwak Indian tribe name meaning Grizzly Bear. “Yosemite” was also the name on the engine purchased for Chester’s Fire House. The name was quickly adopted by the men for their volunteer Fire Department.
As of early 2018, it appears the Chester Historical Society maintained the building, but gifted the building to the town as it could not afford maintenance and insurance on the building. There have been calls from the public to move the station away from the road to be incorporated into a fire museum. RT-103 was once a dirt road only traversed by horse, now, thousands of cars pass by the structure, narrowly avoiding it.
Arguably the best example of Queen Anne architecture in Chester, Vermont is the Pollard House at 137 Main Street. William Pollard was a co-owner of a thriving shirt-waist factory who ran the company with his brother (who lived in the house nextdoor). The Queen Anne home features a prominent octagonal tower, intricate stickwork, and asymmetrical massing with porches. The home has been painted colors to accentuate the many details of the home which appears as a Vermont version of a “Painted Lady”.
The Fullerton Inn exemplifies the prevalence of large hotels in smaller New England towns. By the middle of the 19th century, the railroad had brought both a great increase in travel and the accompanying need for better accommodations in Chester. In 1862, a hotel was constructed on the site fronting the town Green hat would remain the location of the village’s icon, the Fullerton Inn. The Ingraham House (as it was originally called) was a 3-story, hip-roofed building in the Italianate style. The hotel on the Green became the node around which the village’s previously scattered commercial enterprises thereafter coalesced. The Ingraham House later burned to the ground in a massive fire in 1888.
The industrialization and development of the village boomed, and townsfolk rallied for a new hotel to bring in visitors. By 1890, a new hotel was constructed. Named “The Fullerton” after Nathaniel Fullerton, who largely underwrote its cost, the new 3-story, 30-room hotel presented to the Green an eclectic design distinguished mostly by a broad veranda with second-story balcony and a four-story, pyramidal-peaked corner tower. The Queen Anne Victorian hotel also succumbed to the same fate as the original, as a fire destroyed the building in 1920.
Within a year, however, a new Fullerton Inn arose on the site. The 35-room replacement emulates its predecessor in scale and the fullwidth veranda; its style, however, corresponds to a gambrel roofed version of the Colonial Revival shared by several contemporary houses in the village. A novel feature of the second Fullerton dominates its lobby: a rubble fireplace that incorporates 27 varieties of stone found in the vicinity in Chester.
The lemon-yellow Italianate mansion on Main Street in downtown Chester, Vemont was built for one of the richest men in town, Frederick Fullerton (1817-1869). Mr. Fullerton was the owner of a woolen mill in nearby Cavendish and was active in affairs in the town of Chester. Frederick was the son of Nathaniel Fullerton (1775-1872) who was a banker who also developed and funded numerous civic and recreational developments in town.
The asymmetrical house features a deep wrap-around veranda (porch) and while the home faces east, and not the street, commands the street with its massing, design features and bright paint color. There are estimates that the construction of the home took 50 men two years to build!
Located on Main Street, this large brick structure stands as the latest example of Italianate architecture in town. The building was constructed as the consolidated central high school, which sought to bring together secondary school students to a larger school. By 1801, the town of Chester, with a population of just under 2,000 citizens, had 19 school districts, each with its own school building (nearly all being one-room schools). As the population of town became more centered around the developing main street and railroad depot, the central school was constructed. The building served as the town’s high school until 1911, when a larger school was constructed nearby on Depot Street. The building later served as a primary school. By the 1960s, the town had no use for the building, and allowed the newly established Chester Historical Society and Museum to operate the space and showcase the town’s rich history.
This building was constructed by Jabez Sargent Jr., the son of one of the original settlers of what is today known as Chester, Vermont. Jabez was a farmer who worked on the fields surrounding what would become his estate for years until he realized that his property was an ideal location for a tavern to host travelers making the journey between Boston and Montreal.
The Sargent House, also known as the Jeffrey House, is a rare example of the Georgian style in Vermont. The state of Vermont was actually contested land between nearby New Hampshire and New York, and the state was scarcely developed by the time Georgian architecture was in vogue. The building apparently featured a tavern in the raised basement and a ballroom on the middle floor. Jabez and his family would have occupied the upper story. The home is vernacular in that it has the scale and form of a Georgian style property, but lacks many high-style detailing besides the Palladian windows.
The Chester Congregational Church (originally the Union Meeting House), was built in 1828 and is an elaborate example of a Federal style meeting house in Chester, Vermont. The union ownership lasted only until c.1843, when the Congregationalists purchased the shares held by the other denominations, thus making the church strictly Congregational.
The five-stage tiered clock and bell tower sits above a three-bay entrance pavilion of flush-board siding. A semi-elliptical fanlight is located in the pediment, along with the three above the entry doors. The building remains as one of the best examples of a traditional New England meetinghouse, later painted a bright white as seen in nearly all rural towns and villages.
The Brookside Cemetery in Chester, Vermont has its first burials in 1770. At historic cemeteries in New England, outbuildings were required to meet the needs of the dead. The building on the lower left was constructed in 1830 as a “hearse house”, which was used to store the horse-drawn funeral coach. The hearse would pick up bodies from homes or elsewhere in coffins and transport them to the cemetery for burial. The stone building was a public tomb, built in 1850 and used to store bodies and coffins during the winter months when the ground is too hard to dig. The building is likely stone to prevent smell from escaping and retain the cold temperatures.
In front of the cemetery, a bronze statue of a Civil War soldier stands with a rifle above a piece of Chester granite. The granite is inscribed with names of local men who served and lost their lives in the war, fighting for the Union cause. The monument was dedicated Memorial Day in 1885.
Jonathan Warner, a local farmer who inherited land originally purchased by his grandfather in 1697, built this massive farmhouse on over 100 acres at the western edge of the Connecticut River. Warner owned land on both sides of the river, in modern-day Chester and Hadlyme. He then established a ferry crossing the river which had a toll, that helped him amass a larger fortune. The Chester-Hadlyme Ferry remains today as the second oldest in the state. Warner and his family farmed the land with oxen, pigs, geese and sheep (among other animals) and often traded with nearby towns and colonies as far as the Caribbean. He was also engaged in a successful shipping business, both in New England and in the Caribbean. He was a partner in the ventures of the brig Matilda until she was seized by the French in 1799.
The homes large estate of land has been subdivided somewhat, but the existing home and over 20-acres of land surrounding it retain the bucolic feelings of the old farm. It features two double-height Ionic columns flanking the entry and at the center, a gorgeous Palladian window.