The President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth, Vermont preserves the birthplace and childhood home of Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States. This iconic historic village appears much as it was during Coolidge’s lifetime. The homes of the Coolidge family, their relatives and friends are joined by the 1840 church, 1890 schoolhouse, cheese factory, and historic agricultural structures and barns. More on all of these later. First up is the birthplace of President Coolidge. This squat 1 1/2-story dwelling was built in 1840 at the rear of the Coolidge Family store which fronts the main road. The five-room house was later known as the location where President Coolidge took the presidential oath of office. By the 20th century, the old home was altered, but was restored in 1971 just in time for the 100th birthday celebration by the State of Vermont for Coolidge, dedicating the village as a historic museum.
National Historic Landmark
Naulakha // 1893
Located on a hillside in rural Dummerston, Vermont, you will find Naulakha, one of the most significant properties in the region. Naulakha (pronounced now-LAH-kuh) was built in 1893 for Rudyard Kipling an english journalist and author born in British India, an upbringing which inspired much of his professional work. In 1892, Kipling married Caroline Balestier, who was born into a prominent New England family. The couple honeymooned in Vermont near Carrie’s family home. The couple would settle in Vermont in a cottage which was soon outgrown, leading the couple to buy 10 acres of land from Carrie’s brother Beatty Balestier and built their own house. The new Shingle-style home they had built was named Naulakha after a book written by Rudyard and Caroline’s late-brother Wolcott. Kipling wanted a home that merged the distinctive qualities of the Indian bungalow with those of the American Shingle Style and he worked closely with his architect, Henry Rutgers Marshall of New York City, a Balestier family friend to achieve this.
The rectangular mass of the home parallels the contours the hill upon which its sited, and sits atop a raised fieldstone basement salvaged from stone walls on the property. From the home, Kipling wrote some of his most influential work, including the Jungle Books (1894, 1895), Captains Courageous (1896, The Seven Seas (1896), and The Day’s Work (1898). Sadly, the Kipling’s moved out of Naulakha after just a few years, largely from familial disputes with Caroline’s brother, Beatty. The family removed to England where they settled, though Rudyard always mentioned how much he missed his secluded life in Vermont. The property was then purchased by the Holbrook family, who made slight modifications to the property, but all maintaining the original design and feeling. In 1992, the British-based Landmark Trust acquired Naulakha as its first American building, later creating the Landmark Trust USA to maintain the property and more. The Landmark Trust USA rents out Naulakha and the adjacent carriage house for short-term rentals to provide revenue for maintaining these properties.
For more on my stay at the absolutely stunning Kipling Carriage House, check out my later blog post here.
John Sullivan House // 1740
John Sullivan was born in nearby Somersworth, and studied law. He settled in Durham to practice law in 1763, and purchased this house in 1763 (it was built in 1740 by Reverend Hugh Adams). It served as his home for the rest of his life, and is buried in the family cemetery nearby. Sullivan was a vocal opponent of British rule in the colonies, and was elected to the First Continental Congress in 1774. In December of that year he led a raid on Fort William and Mary in which the colonial militia seized munitions stored there. He was appointed a brigadier general in the Continental Army in 1775, and served through the American Revolutionary War. He participated in the Siege of Boston, and was captured by the British in the 1776 Battle of Long Island. After being exchanged, he served in the Battle of Trenton, the Philadelphia campaign of 1777, the failed attempt to recapture Newport, Rhode Island, and the 1779 Sullivan Expedition, in which the Iroquois, who had largely sided with the British, were driven from upstate New York. Sullivan’s actions and barbed personality made him enemies in Congress, and he resigned from the army late in 1779. He returned to New Hampshire, where he served as Attorney General 1782-86, and as President (the office now known as Governor) 1787-89. He chaired the state convention that ratified the United States Constitution. His home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1972, the most prestigious designation (more than listing on National Register of Historic Places). I encourage everyone to read his Wikipedia page, he was a fascinating and polarizing early Revolutionary, that I personally did not know about until researching.
Joseph Reynolds House // 1698
This three-story wood-frame house is one of the oldest buildings in Bristol and the oldest known three-story building in Rhode Island. The home was built by Joseph Reynolds (1679-1759), a patriarch in the Reynolds Family, who later built the Reynolds-DeWolf House I featured previously. The house is five bays wide and three deep with the roof extending lower to the rear, giving the house a classic New England saltbox appearance. Joseph built this house, and also operated a tannery and gristmill on his land. The home is nationally significant as during the ownership of the house by his son Joseph II, Marquis de Lafayette occupied the north parlor chamber. Lafayette was a general in the Continental Army and was responsible for the defense of Bristol and Warren from September 7 to 23, 1778 during failed military operations to drive the British from occupied Newport. The home was added onto and altered in 1790 to give it the current design, with Federal detailing. The home remained in the Reynolds Family until 1930.
Oliver Wendell Holmes House // c.1880
Built around 1880, this modest Victorian-era house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1972, as the only surviving structure associated with the life of Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935), who occupied it as a summer home from 1909 until his death. The Holmeses divided their time between this house and a residence in Washington, D.C., generally staying here between June and October. While here, Holmes would continue to work on cases, and would entertain legal and political luminaries, including Louis Brandeis, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Albert Beveridge. Noted for his long service, concise and pithy opinions, and deference to the decisions of elected legislatures, Holmes is to this day, one of the most widely cited United States Supreme Court justices in history. Holmes retired from the court at the age of 90, an unbeaten record for oldest justice in the federal Supreme Court. The house is now in private hands and well-maintained.
Chesterwood // 1901
Chesterwood is the former summer home, studio and gardens of American sculptor Daniel Chester French (1850–1931), who is best known for creating two of our nation’s most powerful symbols: the Minute Man (1871–75) at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, John Harvard in Harvard Yard, and Abraham Lincoln (1911–22) for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Daniel Chester French was one of the most successful artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, producing more than 100 works of public sculpture. In the fall of 1895, he and his wife drove by horse and buggy and discovered the resort town of Stockbridge. They returned the next summer and purchased the Marshall Warner farm from the family who had purchased the land from Mohican Native Americans. The French family and two maids moved into the white clapboard farmhouse the next summer. To ensure that his summer would be productive as well as restful, he improvised a studio in the barn. He asked his friend and colleague, architect Henry Bacon, to design a studio for him (Bacon would later work with French on the Lincoln Memorial). Soon, in spite of renovation, the original farmhouse was deemed inadequate and French commissioned Bacon to design a residence, completed in 1901. The family owned the home for decades, even after Daniel Chester French’s death. Much of the credit for Chesterwood’s preservation and metamorphosis from summer retreat to public site belongs to Margaret French Cresson (1889–1973), the sculptor’s daughter. After her parents’ death, she maintained the property and began to use it year-round, assembled the work of her father, and established the estate as a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Tabernacle // 1879
The year after Trinity Methodist Church was constructed, the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association at Wesleyan Grove, built the wrought-iron Tabernacle, the most significant single building in the campground. The beautiful iron Tabernacle, which seats over 2,000, was designed and built in 1879 by John W. Hoyt of Springfield, Massachusetts. The building was completed in less than four months after the contract was signed. The Tabernacle covers the original consecrated ground of 1835 where the first Methodists erected canvas tents to worship under the trees. By 1869, the attendees at the revival meetings needed more protection from the sun and rain because the large oaks that had attracted the founders 35 years before had begun to die. Since 1870, the Association erected a mammoth canvas tent supported on tall poles every summer. The tent proved unsatisfactory because of ventilation problems and a tendency to collapse in storms. In 1878 the Association solicited designs for a large wooden tabernacle a building of vast roofs, minimal supports, and open walls. The plans it received, which were elaborate versions of the wooden
tabernacles or “arbors” of southern camp meetings, proved too expensive to build on this site. Campground resident John W. Hoyt solved the problem with a much cheaper wrought iron structure that was largely prefabricated and could be speedily erected on the uneven site. The gorgeous Victorian Gothic tabernacle remains today as the centerpiece of the Wesleyan Grove National Historic Landmark District, an esteemed historical designation.