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The Village Tour

Roads West of the Bridge The complex intersection of Main St., Park St., College St., and South St. was the important hub of the western side of Middlebury. Main Street led to the bridge; Park Street to the mills; College Street (formerly Academy Street) was the original main road to Cornwall; South Street connected the village to farms along the creek and ran to what was known as Three Mile Bridge (burned in 1952) near the junction of the Middlebury River and the creek; and South Main Street was laid out as the new Cornwall Road in 1803, though it was not completed until 1811. Spared the fires that raged up and down most of commercial Main Street, this area presents (if one can think away later intrusions) something of the residential-commercial mix that must have typified the northern end of Main Street as well.

View of the intersection of College and South Main Streets looking southwest, ca. 1870s. The watering trough is visible in the foreground.

View of the intersection of College and South Main Streets looking southwest, ca. 1870s. The watering trough is visible in the foreground. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, Porter Collection

The Vallette Block at 86 Main Street, undated.

ABOVE The Vallette Block at 86 Main Street, undated. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, Oversize

BELOW The John Warren House at 88 Main Street, ca. 1860. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, General Collection

The John Warren House at 88 Main Street, ca. 1860.

86 Main Street Built as a store for Edwin Vallette in 1863, this mercantile structure drew heavily on the Italian Renaissance for inspiration. The cubic mass, heavy cornice, quoins, and regular window rhythm all invoke the palace tradition that was so popular in the 1850s and 1860s for stores in such centers as New York. The ground floor was equally up-to-date, for it originally had large windows framed by fine cast-iron Corinthian columns. Beginning in 1901 this building housed Joseph Battell's Middlebury Register.

88 Main Street Built by John Warren, clothier and developer of the cotton mill in the Hollow, in about 1804 – 05. This was one of the most pretentious and urbane early houses in Middlebury. It was of brick (its end walls of a particularly elaborate Flemish bond) atop a dressed stone basement and detailed with marble from Eben Judd's mill and fine woodwork (note the brackets supporting the entry hood and the modillions of the cornice). The elegant Palladian window has the star-shaped center which was typical of a number of the finer early 19th-century buildings in town. The detailing seems to suggest that the builder was looking to carpenters' handbooks (and particularly to Asher Benjamin) and playing with motifs of the then-popular Federal Style. The handsome interior is arranged symmetrically about a stairhall with curving staircase and moulded plaster ceilings. Each major room has a different fireplace design. The basement, above grade to the rear, housed the kitchen; and a sub-cellar, constructed below frost level for vegetable storage, is reputed by a tenacious local tradition to have served as a stop on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. The house's restoration by Townsend Anderson in the early 1980s won a national award from the Naitonal Trust for Historic Preservation.

14 College Street One of Middlebury's earliest gasoline filling stations, built around 1920 in Colonial Revival style of brick with a gable roof. It has been altered for retail use by a number of renovations and additons.

30 College Street Two doors away from the Warren house is another notable early brick structure. It was built in 1815 by Jonathan Hagar for stores and a warehouse. Hagar began as a cobbler, specializing in the manufacture of dyed "Morocco" leather and selling his shoes in New York City, Troy, Boston and Montreal. He expanded into an export- import business with London at one point, building and running the ship "Mentor" in 1806 – 07. The War of 1812 found him becoming more local in his interests, pursuing among other roles those of bookseller, selectman, and Vermont assemblyman. His building presents an excellent example of early 19th-century commercial architecture. Except for its size, it is essentially domestic in scale and character, with plain walls and simple, regularly-spaced windows. It harks back to the Georgian buildings of Boston and Philadelphia, to a style of simplicity and dignity. Old photos show the building with a cupola on top. In the 1960s the structure was renovated for use as apartments by Middlebury College.

40 College Street This house was built by William Goodrich on the site of a store opened in 1798 by Anthony Rhodes. Goodrich arrived in Middlebury in 1787 and for a while tended Painter's sawmill and lived in the mill house. He served as town clerk from 1797 to his death in 1812. In the early years of the century and before 1812, he built this brick house in which his wife taught one of the early elementary schools in town. With its fine basement, Flemish bond brickwork, and marble string course, it is akin to (if also simpler than) the contemporary Warren House. It was renovated and remodeled by Middlebury College in 1965, at which time the doorway was considerably altered.

54 College Street when it was occupied by Lyons Place, 1979.

LEFT 54 College Street when it was occupied by Lyons Place, 1979. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, Irion Collection

RIGHT 89 Main Street, 1979. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, Irion Collection

89 Main Street, 1979.

54 College Street This may well be the oldest store still standing in Middlebury. Originally at 86 Main Street, it served as Jonathan Hagar's place of business from 1812 – 1815. In 1863 it was moved to make way for the grander Vallette Block. Aspects of the building have obviously been changed, but the basic structure remains evident. Here again can be seen the domestic character of Middlebury's early commercial buildings. There was no radical contrast in building types, and thus the shops could mix easily and naturally with homes such as those to be found on the easterly side of the Main Street hub, a series of particularly fine residences.

89 Main Street This is one of the most noteworthy houses in Middlebury. It was begun in 1813 for Thomas Hagar and subsequently owned by judge Samuel S. Phelps and his family. Born in Litchfield, Connecticut in 1793 and graduating from Yale in 1811, Phelps came to Middlebury and entered the Seymour law office in 1814. He served with the state legislature, as a justice in the Vermont Supreme Court (1831 – 38), and as U.S. Senator (1838 – 51). His son and for a time his law partner, Edward J. Phelps, was to serve as U.S. Minister to the Court of St. James in 1885.

The house was as distinguished as its tenants. A document of 1814 – 15 permits its attribution to Lavius Fillmore (architect of the Congregational Church) and serves as a key for associating Fillmore with many of the finer early homes in town. The great frame block is enlivened by the arched doorway, the Palladian window, and the fine frieze which runs all the way around the building. Later owners have replaced the small panes of glass in the windows (and much altered the character of the doorway), and vinyl siding over the original clapboards has diminished the relief of the detailing, but the remaining woodwork details (rope mouldings, dentils, elliptical sunbursts, etc.) bespeak the original quality of this home. Within the front door a great pilastered arch with sunbursts opened onto a graceful curved staircase (removed in the 1880). The kitchen was in the basement, and the symmetrically arranged upper floors given over to a series of large parlors and chambers, each with its own elaborate (and very inventive) carved fireplace. Paneled window embrasures with rope mouldings, carved chair rails, and fine keystone arches between rooms mark this as one of the town's most lavishly and lovingly detailed buildings.

93 Main Street (Storrs-Turner House) Here is a worthy neighbor for the Phelps House. This fine brick structure was built in 1832 by Seth Storrs and his son-in-law, Prof. Edward Turner. From Mansfield, Connecticut, Storrs was a Yale graduate, had been associated for a while with Timothy Dwight at the public seminary in Northampton, Mass., and then had begun a law practice in Vermont, moving to Addison in 1787, where he was appointed first State's Attorney in Addison County. With the establishment of the county seat in Middlebury, Storrs moved to town, buying a large farm adjacent to the Foot land on the west side of Otter Creek in 1794. He lived there in a gambrel-roofed house built by John Foot until 1801 – 02, when he erected a large frame house on the site. Here he led the life of a leading citizen and philanthropist, selling houselots for what is now much of the western part of the village, participating in the founding of both the grammar school and the college, and donating large tracts of land to both these and the town.

The Storrs-Turner House at 93 Main Steet, ca. 1950.

The Storrs-Turner House at 93 Main Steet, ca. 1950. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, General Collection

In 1831 Storrs' frame house burned, and the next year he and his son-in-law replaced it with the present brick structure. The plan follows that of previous grand Federal Style houses in Middlebury (basement kitchen, symmetrical parlors, apsidal stairhall) and so do some of the details (delicate, curving staircase, eave balustrade). In little more than a decade, however, master builder James Lam was documented to be at work remodeling the house in a more Greek Revival style. He lengthened the first floor windows, framing them inside with Greek woodwork. He also may have provided the handsome detailing for the front door. This last has subsequently been twice remodeled, but it retains its original Ionic columns, palmette pilasters, meander-decorated encasement, and leaded sidelights. Its use of Greek details associated the house with the trend then sweeping the country for an architecture with connotations of democracy and culture, and association carried even to the elegant cast iron and wooden fence around the front yard (now removed).

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