The former Vermont State Hospital campus in Waterbury, Vermont, is a 36.3-acre campus of institutional buildings that have been converted for use as state government offices. A sprawling array of more than 17 structures, the hospital, which historically treated mental disorders, was first funded by the Vermont State Legislature in 1888. Construction began on the plans by the Boston architectural firm of Rand & Taylor in 1890. The architects designed the landmark main administration and auditorium building at the core, which is built of brick on a rusticated stone foundation and under a steep hipped slate roof. The building is connected by single-story links to two-and-a-half-story wings, which are attached to clustered two-story cylindrical wards. In planning the hospital, Rand & Taylor stressed the isolation of patients and stressed the importance of light and air in each room and restricted height of the building to facilitate egress from upper floors in the event of fire or emergency. The asylum has a dark history in that Dr. Eugene A. Stanley, the Superintendent from 1918–1936, was an advocate of eugenics and espoused forced sterilization and advised the Eugenics Society based on his patients records. From this, the word, “Waterbury,” became used in a derogatory sense, and did harm to the town for years. The hospital was closed in 2011 due to flooding in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, and after a thorough renovation by architects Freeman French Freeman and Goody Clancy, the complex re-opened in 2015 as State Offices with renovated historic assets and modern, contextual new buildings.
Vincent’s Pharmacy and Waterbury Masonic Hall // 1834
While of different scale, these two brick buildings on Main Street in Waterbury, Vermont compliment each other very well. Vincent’s Pharmacy, the smaller building, was built in 1834 in the Federal and Greek Revival styles by Dan Carpenter, early lawyer and judge, to house a pharmacy business that he ran with his son, William. Next door, dating from approximately the same year as the pharmacy, the larger structure housed Waterbury’s first Masonic hall in 1860’s and in successive years a hardware business. The former Masonic hall is now home to The Reservoir, a great local restaurant that I grabbed lunch in while visiting the town.
Stagecoach Inn // 1826
Built by the Carpenter brothers in Waterbury, who also designed and built the neighboring Congregational Church (last post), this large structure was a stagecoach stop on the road to Stowe for much of the nineteenth century. Briefly, the Inn served as a private residence for Albert and Annette “Nettie” Spencer. Nettie grew up in Waterbury and married Albert who owned rubber factories in Ohio and invested in real estate in Burlington. At one time, the Spencers’ residences included their Waterbury house, a suite at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, a house in Newport, an apartment in Paris, as well as one in London. Albert died in London, and Nettie continued living in Waterbury until her death in 1947, approaching 100 years of age. Within a year, the property was sold and the owners reopened the main house as a sort of boarding house. The property was restored and operates today as the Old Stagecoach Inn.
“The Old Corner Store” // 1833
White settlement in Waterbury Vermont began in about 1770, with the establishment of a small cluster of houses along the Winooski River near what is now Winooski Street. When Main Street, a stagecoach route paralleling the river opened in the 1790s, development moved to that area, including the construction of churches, residences, and businesses. Industry followed, and a town was formed. Many settlers arrived here from Waterbury, Connecticut, and named their new village Waterbury as a result. Many early commercial buildings were constructed with wood frames, but as the town prospered, businessmen developed more substantial brick blocks. This charming Federal/Greek Revival commercial building was erected in 1833 at the most prominent corner on Main Street in Waterbury, by Leander Hutchins (1798-1879). It is apparently the oldest extant commercial structure in the downtown section of Waterbury! The building has been restored in the late 20th century, down to the multi-pane windows and granite lintels. This building is just so perfect.
Moretown Town Hall // 1835
The township of Moretown, Vermont was chartered on June 7, 1763 by Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire. The original charter contained approximately 23,040 acres of land to be divided into about 65 shares of proprietors. Active settlement did not occur until after the Revolutionary War with early buildings constructed on the Winooski River (the northern boundary of the town) and subsequent development along the Mad River (which cuts through the middle of town). Saw and grist mills were built and the town developed as a rural farming and industrial community on the rivers. The Moretown Town Hall was erected in 1835 in the Greek Revival style. It has a pedimented portico with Doric columns that support a large pedimented gable peak in imitation of a Greek temple. Like most buildings in the Mad River Valley, the building is unapologetically Vernacular which means it relies on local materials, local builders, and not on architect-designed finishes. This is an aspect of Vermont architecture that makes the state so charming.
South Duxbury Church and Hall // 1855
This is the first church which ever built in Duxbury, Vermont. On December 18, 1854, at the South Duxbury schoolhouse, representatives from six denominations in the newly formed town, gathered to form the First Union Society of Duxbury. The participants were: the Congregationalists, Universalists, Free Will Baptists, Protestant Methodists, Episcopalian Methodists, and the Adventists. Twenty-five names appear on the original subscription list, indicating the pledged money or materials that each would contribute to the construction of the church. Samuel Cook Turner was contracted to build the church, with pews inside purchased by individual families to help fund the construction. The building is vernacular and modest due to the rural character of the congregations and town’s location, but it has a more Classically inspired door enframement. In 1890, funds were gathered for a church hall, which sits nextdoor. The meeting hall would serve as the meeting space for a temperance organization known as the “Independent Order of the Good Templar”. The church hall appears to have some deferred maintenance, but both buildings together share an early history of a rural and often overlooked small Vermont town.
Coolidge Homestead // c.1840
In 1876, a four year old Calvin Coolidge moved to this house in sleepy Plymouth Notch, Vermont, which was purchased by his father and he lived here continuously until 1887 when he began to attend the Black River Academy at nearby Ludlow, Vermont. The house was likely built in the mid-19th century as a modest Greek Revival cape and was Victorianized in the late 19th century by Calvin Coolidge’s father, when he added the two-story bay window, dormer, and side additions. The house remained in the Coolidge family until 1956 when it was given to the State of Vermont as part of the Calvin Coolidge Historic Site.
Coolidge Cheese Factory // 1890
Does it get more Vermont than a cheese factory?! The Coolidge Cheese Factory in Plymouth Notch, Vermont was built in 1890 by Col. John Coolidge (President Calvin Coolidge‘s father), James S. Brown, and two other local farmers so that they would have a convenient market processing milk produced by their farms into cheese. The vernacular building was a short walk from the original Coolidge home and is evocative of many such buildings in rural Vermont. The cheese factory continued to operate until the 1930’s. The factory was renovated in the early 1970s in honor of President Coolidge’s 100th birthday and now produces cheese according to the original formula. The cheese would make a great Christmas gift!
Union Christian Church of Plymouth Notch // 1840
Located next to President Calvin Coolidge’s birthplace and the Coolidge Family store, the Union Christian Church of Plymouth Notch in Vermont stands as another of the village’s well-preserved buildings with direct ties to the former president. The church was built in 1840 as a modest, vernacular Greek Revival building with a two-stage tower and originally was the town’s meetinghouse. The building was dedicated as a Congregational church in 1842. President Coolidge attended services here as a child and later when visiting his hometown as Governor of Massachusetts and President of the United States. In 1942, the
building became a union church for all congregations.
Coolidge Family Store // c.1830
Built before 1835, this typical country store in Plymouth, Vermont, consists of a two-story main block with a one-story storage ell on the southern (left) side, each of frame and clapboard with gabled roof. The building was the village’s country store and was owned by the Coolidge Family, made famous by Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States. This store was built years before a home for the Coolidge Family was built attached at the rear. The attached house was the birthplace of President Calvin Coolidge in 1872, and the building was where after the death of President Warren Harding, Col. John Coolidge, Calvin’s father, a notary public, administered the presidential oath of office to his son in the family dining room at 2:47 a.m. on August 3, 1923. The old house and store are preserved by the State of Vermont as a living museum to President Coolidge and his family.