By the late 1800s, Vermonters had left the state in high numbers as agriculture began to sharply decline as a career path in New England, with many leaving to urban centers and manufacturing towns. Vermont politicians responded to the de-population with initiatives to encourage the redevelopment of existing farms by seasonal residents with money who could summer there to escape the hustle and bustle (and dirty air) of urban centers. Towns threw events like “Old Home” days with activities to entice affluent family members to return home and bring their money with them. After 1850, railroads made it easier for urban families to trade the heat and congestion of the city for the beauty of Vermont. One of these wealthy expats was James Hale Bates (1826-1901), who was born in Cavendish, Vermont, and moved to New York and worked in advertising, operating a major firm there. He retired in 1895, after the completion of Brook Farm one year earlier, a gentleman’s farm that he had built in his ancestral hometown of Cavendish. This massive Colonial Revival mansion was the centerpiece among sweeping fields and orchards contained by rustic stone walls. It is believed that Vermont architect, Clinton Smith, designed the estate house and many of the out-buildings on the site from the carriage and cow barns to the caretaker’s house and creamery. In recent years, the estate was operated as a vineyard, but it appears to be closed now. This is one of the hidden gems of Vermont and one of the most stunning Colonial Revival homes I have seen!
“Red Tower” // 1780 & 1895
One of the most interesting homes in Durham, NH, sits right on Main Street, and while lacks much of its original grandeur, the house still has a story to tell. When mining engineer, Hamilton Smith met and married Alice Congreve while working in London, the couple envisioned and planned for a sprawling gentleman’s farm in New England to retire to. In 1895, the couple purchased the 1780 Rev. Blydenburgh home on Main Street, a large Federal style mansion. When Alice and Hamilton retired to the Red Tower in 1895, they set about renovating the estate into a jewel of the Gilded Age. They added a three-story tower to the rear of the home, large additions and Colonial Revival alterations, and they purchased large land holdings behind the house for a working farm. On the farmland, they built a carriage house, creamery, and men’s and women’s accessory buildings (a billiards building and tea house, respectively). Hamilton could only enjoy the home for a couple years until his death in 1900. His widow created the family cemetery at the farthest extent of the property and built the stunning Smith Memorial Chapel (last post). In the 1940s, much of the property was sold off and developed for a residential neighborhood for UNH faculty, and the Red Tower mansion was converted to an apartment house for students.