The tiny town of Landgrove, Vermont, like many small rural towns in New England, suffered from population decline in the early-mid 20th century. In Landgrove’s case, the town was effectively saved by one man, Samuel Ogden (1896-1985). Samuel was born in New Jersey but eventually visited rural Vermont, eventually buying a run-down farmhouse in Landgrove in the year 1929. By the ’30s and ’40s, began to buy up all the houses in town and fix them up and then sell to people he knew as summer vacation homes, saving historic houses and barns from decay and providing them a new life. He worked as a realtor, selling the restored homes for a series of well-known cultural figures: documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty, artist Bernadine Custer, and the violinist Nathan Milstein, among many others. In the process, Ogden helped to create an informal network that linked writers and artists across his section of southern Vermont, effectively gentrifying the town in the process (for better or worse). One of his draws to bring wealthy city-dwellers to summer in the hills of Vermont, was a community center/tennis club, known as the Landgrove Tennis Club. The club is still members-only and has just one clay court, but the clubhouse is oh so charming!
Landgrove Methodist Church // 1857
Built in 1857 as the Landgrove Methodist Church, this absolutely charming church sits in the middle of Landgrove, a town with a population of just 177. The town’s small population acquired funds to erect a church in their town, opting to not make the trip by horseback or foot to the churches in surrounding towns. The vernacular Greek Revival building was likely constructed by the members of the congregation and possibly the work of a local builder. Methodists commissioned the 30 × 40–foot building to attract a regular circuit rider, and by 1870 it had become a Union church with other denominations. There is something so enchanting about these old white churches in small New England towns!
The River House // c.1820
Sitting on the banks of Utley Brook, which meanders through the Clarksville village in Landgrove, Vermont, you will find this gorgeous Cape home in a perfect yellow color (seemingly to blend in with the turning leaves every Fall). The home dates to the early 19th century, possibly earlier, and was owned by the Harlow Family, who operated a saw mill across the street. The house was listed for sale in 2019 and is absolutely stunning inside and out!
Russell House // c.1810
Landgrove, like many other rural towns of Vermont, has seen a lot of investment from out-of-state residents who pick up historic farm properties and renovate them. This is a great thing for many, as with investment comes tax-dollars and preservation of these historic buildings. On the other side, it prices out many who have grown up in these rural towns. Many villages and regions in Vermont have strict zoning which limits density, to maintain the character and charm of these back roads. Another Catch-22, as more housing (especially multi-family) means lower costs for limited available housing, but it can adversely impact what makes these rural towns so enchanting. Anyways, here is a beautifully restored Federal house!
Dale-Pease-Bigelow Homestead // c.1800
In the early years of the establishment of the settlement of Landgrove Vermont, Joshua Dale 1765-1845) moved to the newly incorporated town and built this large farmhouse on the south-facing slope of a mountain. With strong ties to nearby Weston, he tried to make a life in the new town of Landgrove, serving as a selectman, but he and his family moved back just four years later. The property was purchased by Obadiah Pease (1766-1830) who lived here with his wife Achsah and their seven children. The farm was eventually willed to their son Elihu, who did very well farming the property during his ownership (1830-1857). In 1842, he was the third-richest man in town at just 39 years old. From 1855 to 1857 he farmed only half the farm and a Shrewsbury man, Dexter R. Way, farmed the rest. At age 54, Elihu sold his farm to Dexter Way and left Landgrove to Wisconsin. After successive ownership, the farm was bought in 1933 by Nelson and Elizabeth Bigelow, for $1,500! The property included 200 acres of land, a dilapidated farmhouse and two decrepit barns. For the following seven years the land was gradually brought under control and the house restored, but the barns were unsalvageable. This homestead is a lasting example as to what a little faith and hard-work can accomplish, bringing what is seen as a tear-down up to one of the nicest homes in the area!
Cory House // c.1859
I stumbled upon this Greek Revival farmhouse located on one of many dirt roads in Landgrove, Vermont and had to snap a few photos! I couldn’t find much on the history of the house besides the fact it was listed on an 1869 atlas as the property of an “I. Cory”. The five-bay farmhouse has an elaborate door treatment and bold corner pilasters all perched behind a historic stone wall. The house telescoped outward with additions, eventually connecting it to what is now a garage. This farmhouse purchased in the 20th century by John A. Brown, who worked as Dean of Students at Princeton University.
Landgrove Old Schoolhouse – Town Offices // c.1900
Before driving down the winding dirt roads of Landgrove, Vermont, I had never even heard of the town, let alone what I would find. It is always a treat to explore a rural Vermont town, not knowing what lies beyond each hill and bend in the road. Landgrove was chartered in 1780 and is one of the least-populated towns in New England at just 177. The town’s founding occured in the spring of 1767, when Captain William Utley (1724-1790) and his 16-year-old son Asa, traveled from Connecticut to what is now Springfield VT, across a newly created road to the frontier town of Chester. Upon arriving, they spent the rest of the year cutting a road from Chester to the West River. He thought that he arrived in the Town of Bromley, one of the New Hampshire Land Grants. After building his cabin, settling here with his family, he realized he was in unincorporated land between other grants. He petitioned for a new town and it was accepted after the Revolution. The town grew slowly with farms sprouting up along the countryside, never expanding beyond 355 people. This old schoolhouse was constructed, likely around the turn of the 20th century at the geographic center of town after the town consolidated their school districts. When the town’s population shrunk further, Landgrove’s school district merged with nearby Londonderry and Weston. This former school was converted to town offices.