The last (but certainly not least) building in Dorset, Vermont I’ll be featuring is the Manley-Lefevre House aka. Marble House! This stunning Federal period home was built around 1820 by Martin Manley (1783-1856) on land originally owned by his father George. The house is constructed of ashlar marble that was quarried with hand tools from the lower quarry located approximately 200′ behind the site of the house with dressed marble finished in town and brought back for installation at the lintels, sills, and door surround. In 1907, Edwin Lefevre, Sr. (1871-1943) traveled by train from Bronxville, New York to Dorset at the suggestion of the artist Lorenzo Hatch, with the intention of locating a summer residence for his family. They purchased this home, which became known as “The Old Stone House” and hired Eugene J. Lang, a New York architect, to remodel the house, design a kitchen wing and remodel the barn into a garage (1909). While in Italy, Lefevre fell in love with the formal gardens there, and wanted something like this for his country estate. Upon his return, he retained garden designer Charles Downing Lay to design the gardens that surround the house. The country estate is now home to The Marble House Project, a multi-disciplinary artist residency program.
This building, the largest building in East Dorset Village, was constructed and opened as a hotel in 1852 and has ties to one of the most influential organizations in America. Entrepreneur Ira Cochran built this hotel the same year the railroad came to town, capitalizing on the influx of business and new laborers travelling to the once sleepy town now dominated by the marble industry. By the end of the 19th century, the building was owned by the Griffith family. On November 26, 1895, William (Bill) Griffith Wilson was born here, behind the bar of the hotel during a snowstorm. As a child, he moved away until the age of 11, when he returned to East Dorset to live with their maternal grandparents, the Griffiths. Bill would later go on to become the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. The building would eventually sit vacant and dilapidated until Albert “Ozzie” Lepper, Wilson’s friend, purchased the property in the late 1980s and made it into a living memorial to Bill Wilson, renovating The Wilson House with the help of volunteers’ time and talent. The hotel reopened in 1998 under the historic name. The Wilson House was later established as a nonprofit organization to ensure that Wilson’s memory, spirit, and purpose in life continues on for decades to come. Today, visitors come to the Wilson House from all corners of the world. Many of them are in recovery themselves, while others are history buffs who simply want to visit the homestead, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
This absolutely charming vernacular Greek Revival home was built in the mid-19th century in East Dorset Village. By the end of the 19th century, it was converted to a cheese factory a model in adaptive reuse and historic preservation. In the late 1930s, as Dorset became a popular summer colony for artists and upper-middle class residents of New York and the Mid-Atlantic, the cheese factory was purchased by artists Norman and Silvia Wright. The artists relocated the small building to the Kent Hill neighborhood of town, restoring the home and adding wings onto it. I also love the chocolate color paint!
Located at the principal intersection in the Kent Hill area of Dorset, this home is the visual anchor for its surroundings. The property is a typical early 19th century Federal style house in Vermont, sheathed in clapboards, a central entrance, with a slate gabled roof and two exterior end chimneys. The house was probably remodeled not long before the Civil War, which would account for the classical entry porch, with square piers, entablature, and paneled parapet. Together with the peaked lintels, these are the only classical details on the exterior of the building. This was the home to Martin Kent (1769-1857), a son of Cephas Kent, an original settler to the area of the prominent Kent family of Suffield, Connecticut. Cephas built a house and tavern on the southwest corner of this home, which hosted four meeting of delegates from various southern Vermont towns in 1775 and 1776 to determine how to act together against New York claims to their lands, a catalyst to the establishment of the state of Vermont. Other owners of the Martin Kent House have included historian and novelist Zephine Humphrey, her artist husband Wallace Fahnestock, and Lincoln Isham, Abraham Lincoln’s great-grandson! Lot of history here!
The former Dorset Methodist Church sat on this property from about 1840 to 1900 until they merged with the United Church of Dorset. A Philadelphia physician, Dr. John Herr Musser (1856-1912), built this vacation home in 1906, and passed away just six years later. His widow Agnes Harper Musser (1856-1941) and their children continued to vacation here until after WWII. The home is a rare example of the Shingle style in Dorset and was painted the bright white to fit in with the more traditional New England village vibe, but it would be better-suited with a period- and style-appropriate paint scheme. The home is now offered for short-term/vacation rentals.
One of the oldest continually operating inns in America, the Dorset Inn remains a visual and historical anchor to the charming little village of Dorset, Vermont. The Federal period building was historically known as the Hodges Hotel before becoming The Washington Hotel in about 1858 (the porch was added at that time to make it resemble George Washington’s Mt. Vernon home). The name became the Dorset Inn in 1904. As constructed in 1796, the main block possessed a five-bay facade arranged symmetrically around a central entrance; an 1858 extension added two bays on the west, when it was modernized. Though the inn has seen changes and modernizations over time, the building has such a historic character that brings in people from all over the country to experience the best of Dorset every year.
This charming cottage in Dorset is one of four houses in the village which were moved here by Charles Wade in the 1920s and ‘30s. Wade was born in Dorset and saw declining population with the marble industry failing. He sought to re-invigorate the town by advertising its natural beauty and brought in homes and buildings from nearby to fill the “missing teeth” (including the building that presently houses the Dorset Historical Society). Assembled from parts of various Enfield, Massachusetts buildings moved to Dorset this 1½-story, wood-framed, clapboard house stands on a marble ashlar foundation and is said to have been built by Wade for his daughter, Laura Wade.
One of my favorite houses in Dorset I saw was this beautiful cottage, which is now home to the Dorset Historical Society. The home was originally built around 1830, but not in Dorset… It was built in Hebron, New York, two towns away. The house was moved to Dorset in 1928 by Charles Wade, a resident for Agnes Houghton. Wade was born in town and worked his whole life to maintain the village’s charm even through economically difficult times. He salvaged historic buildings all over the region and brought them to Dorset, helping to revitalize the town. New York City artist Elsa Bley used the house as her residence, studio, and art school from about 1950 until 1990, when she bequeathed the building to the Dorset Historical Society, which has been located here since 1991.
Arguably the most high-style building in the quaint village of Dorset, Vermont is the Congregational Church, which appropriately sits on Church Street. The original congregational church in Dorset was located in nearby Maple Hill Cemetery. When the wood structure burned in 1832, an new wooden church was built on this site. The second wooden building burned in 1907, and then this church was built, but of fireproof construction. Jordan Greene, an architect from New York, designed this Neo Gothic Revival style in the historic district. The church was constructed by the contracting firm of O. W. Norcross, partner in the Norcross-West Marble Company, which donated the building stone from its South Dorset quarry. The design is dominated by a massive square central tower that ascends its facade and is capped by pinnacles. Behind the tower, the gable-roofed church is built of rough-faced Dorset marble laid in patterned coursed ashlar and trimmed with dressed stone. How many other marble churches can you think of?
Even with a declining marble industry by the turn of the 20th century, Dorset, Vermont was seen as a beautiful retreat from city life, and it attracted well-to-do middle-class families to escape to the town for parts of the year. One of those families was head by Harry Waters Sheldon (1869-1942) and Annie C. Bourn Sheldon (1875-1958) who lived in Yonkers, N.Y. with their four children. The family lived in this home as a cottage retreat in 1909 and constructed the only Craftsman bungalow in the village of Dorset. The bungalow was later altered and the porches were enclosed, but it was restored in the past few years!