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.
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.
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?
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.
Lexington Farm was built by Elisha Wright Watkins (1805-1886) in around 1835, and was operated as a dairy farm until the 1980’s. Today, the property consists of a snecked ashlar stone farmhouse, cow barn, horse barn and tractor barn, grouped together at the southern extremity of the village of Felchville (also known as Reading). The farmhouse and barns are situated next to a waterfall on a tributary of the Black River, and are surrounded by pastures, hayfields and extensive woodland. A couple decades after Watkins’ death, the property was purchased by Alonzo Goddard. It stayed in that family and was eventually willed to Errol Locke in 1923. Errol, by trade, wasn’t a farmer. He was a Harvard-educated man who graduated there in 1913. Eventually, he went to work for a company called General Radio, which was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1915. He started as a clerk, and 37 years later, he retired as president. The company, by that time, had moved to Concord, Massachusetts, which we know, thanks to the important events of April 19, 1775, is not too far from Lexington, where Locke lived. He renamed the Watkins Farm, Lexington Farm, seemingly as a tribute to his home town in the Bay State. In 2009, the Hall Art Foundation began the process of converting Lexington Farm to museum-quality galleries. The former dairy farm’s location and existing structures were ideally suited for this purpose. After approximately three years of restoration, renovation and refitting, Lexington Farm was transformed to approximately 6,000 sq. feet of exhibition space.
In the early 1830s, skilled masons from Scotland and Ireland came to central Vermont to work on building projects. A number of these workers, mainly from the Aberdeen area, and specialized in a specific building style in which plates of stone are affixed to a rubblestone wall. This method of bonding stonework is so prevalent in Scotland and
Ireland it has been referred to in some journals as ‘Celtic Bond’, but in Vermont, it is known as “snecked ashlar”. The mixture of stone sizes and colors produces a strong bond and an attractive finish. This home is a rare example in the state, which is estimated to have about 50 of these homes left. I could not locate any information on the owners of the home, but the house has seen better days, with the wooden front porch shifting away from the main house. Also, if you look closely, you can see the original wood shingle roofing breathing under the sheet metal roof!
This Greek Revival home in Reading, Vermont was built around 1853 for Levi Fay Hartshorn, and is an excellent example of a vernacular Greek Revival house in Central Vermont. Levi F. Hartshorn moved to Reading, Vermont and opened up a store, also built this home for his family. It appears that Mr. Hartshorn gifted the village one of his shops to be used as a local library, before the present building was constructed.
One of the most stunning Gothic Revival homes in New England has to be the Justin Morrill Homestead in the tiny town of Strafford, Vermont. The home was designed by and built for Senator Justin Smith Morrill (1810-1898), who was born in town and worked with his mentor Jedediah Harris at the local store. He later expanded and owned numerous stores in the area and diversified, investing in railroads, banks and real estate in the region. He retired in the late 1840s and became a gentleman farmer, building this Gothic Revival home in town. In 1854 Morrill was elected to the Thirty-fourth Congress as a Whig. He was a founder of the Republican Party, and won re-election five times. In 1866, Morrill was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Union Republican, serving until his death in 1898. Morrill is best known for sponsoring the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant College Act. This act was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862, and established federal funding for higher education in every state of the country. Senator Morrill primarily used this house as a summer residence, as he spent much of his time in Washington, DC. The property remained in the Morrill family, until World War II. The house was eventually acquired by preservationists, who sold it to the state in 1969 for use as a Historical Site and museum.
Without question, this property is the most photographed site in the tiny town of Pomfret, Vermont, if not the state. The property dates to the late 18th century when John and Samuel Doten moved to the newly settled town of Pomfret Vermont, overlooking the growing town of Woodstock in the valley below. The two brothers acquired vast farmland on the hills of Pomfret and each built farmhouses adjacent to eachother, with Samuel getting elevated land and John developing the land sunken off what is now known as Cloudland Road into this stunning property. Sleepy Hollow Farm remained in the Doten family for centuries until the 1950s, when the owners sold the property to move to Woodstock and work for Laurance Rockefeller, the famous philanthropist and conservationist, who later donated his Summer home in Woodstock to the National Park Service. The property sold numerous times in the late 20th century, and is presently owned by Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry and his wife, Billie. They are clearly great stewards to the property’s rich history and various outbuildings, and must not care too much to have swarms of photographers at the end of their driveway year-round!
Hezekiah Porter (1783-1851) built this house in 1822 for him and his family, right in Thetford Center, Vermont. Porter was born in 1783 in Hebron, Connecticut, where he presumably learned the clothier trade, before moving to Thetford in 1806. Porter later operated a brickyard, serving as contractor to the Thetford Center Methodist Church, Town Hall and several other brick homes in town dating from the 1820s and 1830s. Porter lived on this large property with his wife and ten children until his death. The property was later occupied by Hezekiah’s son, Amos P. Porter. In 1888, Amos farmed about 200 acres and had 7 cows, 50 Merino sheep and 18 Jersey cattle!