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.
The Reading Town Hall in Reading, Vermont is an imposing shingle-clad, gambrel roof building which sits in the village of Felchville. The hall was built in 1911 as a gift to the citizens of Reading by Wallace F. Robinson. Wallace Robinson was born in Reading in 1832. He went to Boston as a young man and entered into the provisions (groceries) market, and became quite successful, expanding into the wholesale provisions business and meat packing. He was active in civic and business affairs of Boston, most notably as the President of the Boston Chamber of Commerce and as a State Representative in the Legislature for two terms. By around 1900, Robinson had retired and had taken up a life of philanthropy, spending much of his wealth on memorial buildings and to places that had a lasting impact on him, including Robinson Hall at Dartmouth College and renovations at UVM. The design for the Reading Town Hall is especially notable for the fact that it was designed to resemble historic gambrel roofed barns found in the state.
Built in 1889, this interesting structure is located away from the rocky coastline of Cape Elizabeth, a lasting remnant of the agricultural history of the town. The building was constructed as the Cape Elizabeth Grange Hall. The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, is a social organization in the United States that encourages families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture. The Grange organization, as it is often known as, had grange halls all over the country, where farming community members would gather to discuss issues and challenges that needed addressing. The building echos late 19th century architectural styles, blending multiple to create an elegant composition, wrapped in wood clapboard and shingle siding. In 1916, the hall was purchased by P. W. Sprague from the Cape Elizabeth Grangers to insure its use and upkeep – and it is still the home of the Patrons of Husbandry, Cape Elizabeth Grange #242.
Attempts were made to organize the Congregational Church in Thetford, Vermont as early as 1771, making this congregation among the five earliest in the state. As was typical of the day, the meetinghouse was intended to serve both public and religious functions, before the separation of church and state. Following the customary dispute over the location of the meetinghouse in town, the structure was erected on the Town Common, marking the beginning of the village of Thetford Hill. Construction began on the meetinghouse in 1785, being completed within a couple years. Sometime between 1807 and 1812, the Congregational Church ceased to be supported by taxes as the separation of church and state resulted in the sale of the meetinghouse and its subsequent move in 1830, from the town-owned common to its present site just north of it. In 1830, the pavilion, tower, and pilasters were added to give the church a Greek Revival flair. The church is reportedly the oldest meetinghouse in the state still in continuous service.
This meeting hall in Suffield, CT was built in 1883 on Crooked Lane, named Central Hall. When Crooked Lane was renamed Mapleton Ave, the hall was so renamed to reflect this name change, to Mapleton Hall. Starting in 1885, the hall was home to the local grange, a fraternal organization that encouraged families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture. With Suffield’s active agricultural uses (primarily in tobacco crops), this grange was quickly funded and built. For nearly 100 years the building saw use as a fraternal center, with dwindling membership after WWII, when the agricultural character of town began to make way for suburban growth. The building was sold to the Mapleton Hall Asssociation, in 1978, who began restoration of the structure which began to decay from deferred maintenance. The building is now owned by The Suffield Players, a non-profit community theater company.
One of the more “Vermont” building types is the cattle barn. When I was driving through the charming town of Tunbridge, I saw a massive barn out of the corner of my eye and had to slam on the brakes to get out and take a photo of one of the most unique I have ever seen! This octagonal bam was built by Lester Whitney, a descendent of the Whitney family, which played a significant role in the pioneering, settlement and community life of the historical town of Tunbridge. The Whitney Farm was primarily a dairy farm, with the growing of corn and hay, raising horses, making butter, and cutting ice from a pond created by damming the brook near the old brickyard. The Whitney’s raised sheep, made maple syrup and had an apple orchard south of the house. The purpose of a round barn was that the circular shape has a greater volume-to-surface ratio than a square barn. Regardless of size, this made round barns cheaper to construct than similar-sized square or rectangular barns because they required less materials. It also would be easier for carriages, plows and animals to navigate as there were no sharp corners to go around.
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.
In the small town of Tunbridge, Vermont, it is impossible to not be impressed by the rustic landscape, historic architecture, and vast farmland. The town was established in 1761 and today has a population of under 1,200. In rural Vermont towns, small one room schools were often scattered all over to service the dispersed students who mostly lived on farms or in small villages. By the turn of the 20th-century, the town center began growing larger and the need for a slightly larger consolidated school was apparent. The Market School was the first Tunbridge two-roomed schoolhouse. Built in 1904 at a cost of $2,600, the facility consolidated two school districts and was used as a school until 1954 when Tunbridge Central School was built. It is now occupied by the Town Offices and a meeting room for town boards and commissions. The school can be classified as Classical Revival with a hipped roof, paneled corner pilasters, and a recessed central entrance under a gable with a lunette window.
When I think of Vermont, I think of maple syrup, barns and covered bridges. The Moxley Covered Bridge in Chelsea, VT is the only covered wood bridge to survive in the town of Chelsea. It and five other covered bridges in the adjoining town of Tunbridge cross the First Branch of the White River within a distance of about seven miles, comprising one- of the most concentrated groups of covered bridges in Vermont. Historically, covered bridges were built in New England for the purpose to protect the wooden bridge from weathering. Uncovered wooden bridges typically have a lifespan of only 20 years because of the effects of rain and sun, but a covered bridge could last 100+ years. Many of New England’s wooden covered bridges have been preserved by municipalities and states to harken back to their rural roots.
This building was constructed by Jabez Sargent Jr., the son of one of the original settlers of what is today known as Chester, Vermont. Jabez was a farmer who worked on the fields surrounding what would become his estate for years until he realized that his property was an ideal location for a tavern to host travelers making the journey between Boston and Montreal.
The Sargent House, also known as the Jeffrey House, is a rare example of the Georgian style in Vermont. The state of Vermont was actually contested land between nearby New Hampshire and New York, and the state was scarcely developed by the time Georgian architecture was in vogue. The building apparently featured a tavern in the raised basement and a ballroom on the middle floor. Jabez and his family would have occupied the upper story. The home is vernacular in that it has the scale and form of a Georgian style property, but lacks many high-style detailing besides the Palladian windows.