Rochester Academy // 1838

In the early 19th century, the schools in the town of Rochester, Massachusetts (and many other rural towns in New England), were under the control of a district system. This system divided the town into districts, with each district having its own schoolhouse and an elected committeeman. The committeeman selected the teacher to run his district school and was responsible for providing school equipment. Each district had to provide its school with a building that included a hall or closet, desks and benches on three sides with 10 square feet of open space in the center for recitations. The schools held two terms (winter and summer) and each term averaged a length of 3 months, much of the “off-time”, students would assist their families on farms. By 1859, Rochester had 11 districts, each with its own schoolhouse that stood throughout the town. Rochester Academy was built at the town center, and educated the “older” students in the town. The school later admitted younger students to ease congestion in the smaller rural schoolhouses. The Greek Revival building, constructed in 1838, presently serves as a community space for the town, but is in need of some maintenance!

Captain John Dexter House // 1860

This beautiful house was built by retired whaling Captain John G. Dexter in 1860. The Dexter family’s ties to Rochester, Massachusetts, began when William Dexter became the first descendant of the Dexter
family to settle in town around 1679. William, one of the 32 original grantees of the town (from land by Sachem Metacomet), died in Rochester in 1694 and his four sons and grandsons remained in Rochester through the 19th century. After being away for months or years at a time, Captain John Dexter returned to his hometown to build this home on family land that was previously undeveloped. The Dexter family remained in the house well into the early 20th century, carrying on the family’s deep rooted history in the area. The home is a blending of Gothic and Italianate styles, which work really well in the rural area.

Rochester Congregational Church // 1837

Rochester’s First Congregational Church is the oldest extant building still standing on the Town Green in Rochester Center and is the fourth house of worship to occupy the site. Constructed in 1837 to the designs of architect, Solomon K. Eaton, the beautiful Gothic Revival church building is among the most beautiful in the state. Eaton was well-known for his ecclesiastical structures, but also designed other prominent civic buildings in Southeastern Massachusetts. A fun fact about Eaton is that at age 55, he volunteered for the Union Army during the Civil War and his unit saw action in North Carolina, he returned home after the war and lived out his final days. The church stands out to me for the quatrefoil windows on the bell tower, the pointed finials and comer posts, and large lancet windows. Swoon!

Durand House // 1861

One of the most visually striking homes in little Chester, Vermont, is the Durand House. Sited prominently on a hill, the 1861 home resembles a wedding dress in bright white with intricate spindles that look like lace. The house was seemingly built for Urban Durand, one of the proprietors of the successful Durand Brothers Market in Chester village. The home has an elaborately trimmed full-front porch with a second-story polygonal balcony, and a three-story corner tower with a shallow mansard roof, all possibly later additions. The house stands out in the village, which is largely dominated by classical Federal and Greek Revival houses.

Blaisdell House // 1868

This Italianate style house was built in 1868 for Augustus and Laura Blaisdell, natives of New Hampshire who moved here to Chester, Vermont, in 1860. The Blaisdell’s operated a company that manufactured fireproof roofing and paint at their home base in New Hampshire, and built this building on a prominent site in the village to promote sales, which were conducted from a storefront on its ground floor. The location of the Blaisdell House alongside the tracks of the local railroad depot, was strategic in order to provide ease in the transportation of goods to the village of Chester Depot from the New Hampshire-based headquarters of A.H. Blaisdell & Co.The home and store is significant in the local economy and is itself, a significant example of the Italianate style in town.

Chester Tin Shop // c.1830

Located on the edge of the Chester Town Green, you can find this beautiful Federal style commercial building. The use of blind arches at the facade is a fairly common feature found in brick Federal style buildings in Vermont. The structure was built around 1830 and has served a variety of uses through its existence, the most notable being the tin shop owned by various members of the Miller and Hadley families that sold stoves and hardware during the latter half of the 19th century. The tin business in New England grew rapidly after 1820. Tin shop owners imported tinplated sheet iron from Great Britain, shaped it into a variety of forms, and distributed their finished goods through peddlers and country stores. They also sold tinware in their shops. Colanders, dippers, dish kettles, funnels, measures, and pans were in greatest demand. Other common items included lanterns, foot stoves, teapots, coffeepots, “tin kitchens”, skimmers, and sconces. After its use as a tin shop, the building was occupied as a telephone exchange and electric utility company office. It presently is home to an antique store.

Emery Bolles House // 1841

Next to the Israel Moore house (last post) in Chester, VT, the Emery Bolles house is yet another beautiful example of a snecked ashlar building in central Vermont. The town of Chester has the largest concentration of these buildings in the state in the north village, now known as Stone Village. The building method was so popular that even a couple examples sprouted up in the larger Chester Village nearby. Erected for Emory Bolles (who operated a wagon shop next door), this 1841 house possesses a 5-bay facade and a later, distinguished Victorian-era full-width porch. The porch incorporates turned posts with a central gable above the steps that carries an openwork screen.

Israel Moore Snecked Ashlar House // c.1846

Located on Main Street in Chester, Vermont, you can find this perfect little Snecked Ashlar home. The building technique is very local and can be found in just a handful of towns in central Vermont. Scottish-born masons from Canada introduced the technique to local masons while erecting a mill in nearby Cavendish in 1832, and within a few years, the first stone structure in North Chester village was built by local masons. Soon after, the local school, church and other homes were all constructed the same way. This home outside the Stone Village district was built later than almost all other examples in town. It features Federal and Greek Revival detailing with a central fluted fan at the door and large gable-front roof.

Have you heard of Snecked Ashlar before?

Gingerbread Apartments // c.1850

Built in the mid-19th century this former home in Chester, VT, exhibits the range in tastes seen from the Classically inspired Greek Revival style to the ornate and over-the-top Queen Anne style. The original 1850 Greek Revival design of the house survives in its temple form and classical details, augmented by a visually dominant overlay of Queen Anne features. The house was acquired sometime after 1870 by the Haselton family, whose daughter Hattie married John Greenwood. The Greenwoods undertook a major renovation of the building about 1900, adding the elaborate front porch and other features, giving it the wedding cake or lace-like appearance we see today. The home was converted to apartments in the 1960s, but retains much of its architectural details, it is best known as the Gingerbread Apartments.

Inn Victoria // c.1850

Located right on Main Street in the beautiful village of Chester, Vermont, this historic inn has been a landmark in town since it was built in the mid 19th century. The house was constructed around 1850 for Dr. Abram Lowell (1794-1876), the village doctor. Dr. Lowell conducted his medical practice in a small building next to the main house and resided in the home, which originally had a side-gable roof. Tributes printed in regional newspapers at the time of his death called him an eminent physician, accomplished gardener, “eccentric in his ideas,” and “the wealthiest man in town.” After his death, the home was inherited by his daughter and her husband, George Hilton. They immediately “modernized” the home, adding the mansard roof, which provided an extra full story of living space. The home was converted to a bed & breakfast in 1998, and has been one of the most intact, Victorian era inns in the state since! It is known as Inn Victoria, so named after Queen Victoria and the Victorian period of architecture in the United States.