Perched atop a hill at the edge of the town common in Strafford, Vermont, the Strafford Town House epitomizes rural New England charm. The town house was constructed in 1799 by local carpenters as a place to do public business and served for a brief period in the early days as a meeting house for various local congregations. The building is one of the oldest meeting houses in Vermont and was one of the first meeting houses to put the entrance at the tower-end and the pulpit at the other end of the building. The change from a side-entrance orientation reflected a time when New Englanders were clearly deciding to separate their political business from their ecclesiastical affairs.
Josiah Hosford of Thetford, Vermont built this stone house for his family in about 1835. Hosford was a stone mason who built a series of stone houses in town, using stone quarried in nearby Lyme, New Hampshire. Josiah Hosford (1802-1883), was the grandson of Aaron Hosford, one of the earliest settlers in the North Thetford area. The distinguished family contributed resided and contributed to the town’s vibrant history, as ministers, teachers, artists, farmers, and tradespeople. A fire at the home in the early 1900s gutted the interior, and the owner at the time, a carpenter, reconstructed the interiors, shingled the side gables, and added on the porches.
The Congregational Church in Tunbridge, Vermont was organized in February of 1792. The Congregationalists‘ first house of worship, the Tunbridge Meeting House, was built in 1795, and was also the civic meeting hall and a multi-denomination church. The first Tunbridge Village Congregational Church was built from 1835 to 1837, but that building was destroyed by fire in April of 1838. The present building, which seats about two hundred people, was built in 1839 at a cost of about $1,500. The building has changed very little except that in 1882, a freak tornado struck the church destroying the steeple, which was soon replaced with the existing steeple. This building relates architecturally to a number of churches that were built throughout Vermont in the first half of the nineteenth century and serves as a good example of vernacular ecclesiastical Greek Revival style architecture that enjoyed widespread popularity across the state.
One-room schoolhouses were scattered all around small towns like Tunbridge, VT until the advent and proliferation of the personal automobile to allow students to meet in a single, larger school. The Whitney Hill Schoolhouse was one of such one-room schoolhouses that were located in town and constructed in a Vernacular Greek Revival style. The building features two doors at the gable end with transom windows, and a bank of windows at the end of the side facade, to provide light to the classroom inside. The school was apparently in use until the 1920s and appears to be used as a residence or something of the like today.
The Orange County Courthouse in Chelsea, Vermont, is a two-story white clapboard Greek Revival structure. Built in 1847, the prominent civic building overlooks the south common of Chelsea village. The prominent three-section rectangular bell tower is topped by a gilded copper dome. The courthouse has many hallmarks of the Greek Revival style. Foremost is the temple front image created by the triangular shaped pediment in the gable and the paneled corner pilasters that imitate columns.
The original Orange County Courthouse was built in 1801 by Oliver Terry on land donated by Reuben Hatch, some of which became the South Common in Chelsea. Due to numerous expenses in the early 1840’s for repairs to the deteriorating, old courthouse, in 1846 the county levied a tax to fund a new building. The county dismantled the original building and Master Builder Horace Carpenter of Chelsea constructed the present Greek Revival style in 1847 for $4,228.80. Horace Carpenter was at the start of an illustrious career when he built the courthouse in 1847. In 1848, Carpenter built the Universalist Church (now Baptist) in Washington, VT, using an almost identical exterior design. That same year he also built “Pinehurst,” the home of Horace Fairbanks, and later became the chief carpenter for the Fairbanks Scale Company. He built the Caledonia County courthouse in 1856.
This eclectic home in Chelsea, Vermont has seen some major alterations over time, but it was originally built in 1832 as a Federal style home. It was built for Rufus Hyde (1809-1879) an attorney who worked at the Orange County (Vermont) Courthouse a block away. Upon his death in 1879, the home was purchased by Asa Barnes, proprietor of the Orange County Hotel which stood just next door. Barnes added the Victorian Stick style porch and a projecting second floor gambrel-roof balcony (since removed) and rebranded the home as ‘Parkview’, an annex to the popular hotel.
The Chelsea Public School building was built in 1912, replacing a school built 100 years prior in the same location. The existing school appropriately resembles a barn, is wood-frame, clapboarded building with a large gambrel roof. Centered on the ridge of the sheet-metal covered roof is a Colonial Revival square louvered cupola topped by an inflected, sheet metal roof. The 1811 school was added onto the rear of the 1912 gambrel building as a classroom addition, demolished after WWII for the massive addition, not very visible from the street.
Prominently anchoring the east end of the North Common in Chelsea, VT and adjacent to the Congregational Church of Chelsea, the Stearns-Velas House contributes to the charm of the small town. The Federal style home was built for John Stearns (1784-1838), the postmaster for the town for over thirty years, who suffered financially in the Panic of 1837. The Panic appears to have been a major strain to the family as both he and his wife Elizabeth died in 1838. After, the home was purchased by Levi Vilas, the father of William Freeman Vilas (1840-1908) and they lived at the home for ten years. The Vilas family relocated to Wisconsin and William was eventually appointed as Postmaster General in the cabinet of President Grover Cleveland. serving from 1885 to 1888. In 1888 he was appointed as Secretary of the Interior, and served in that office until 1889. He was then elected as a Democratic Senator from Wisconsin to the United States Senate, serving from 1891 to 1897. There is a lot of history in even the smallest towns in Vermont!