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The Village Tour

3 Main Street, when it was owned by Philip Battell, 1923.

3 Main Street, when it was owned by Philip Battell, 1923. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, Swift Collection

3 Main Street At the corner of Seymour and Main Streets stands the house built for the Honorable Horatio Seymour in 1816 – 17. A Yale graduate of 1797, Seymour came to Middlebury in 1799 and opened his law practice the next year. Postmaster, director of the Vermont State Bank, member of the corporations of Middlebury College and the Addison County Grammer School, instigator and supporter of the female seminary, U.S. Senator from Vermont from 1821 – 1833, and recipient of an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Yale in 1847, he must be counted one of Middlebury's leading citizens.

His house was suitably elegant. Set atop a stone terrace with a fine old fence (the last survivor of a series of such fences that once defined house lots around the Green), and a handsome flight of brick steps. It is of brick (painted at an early date to seal its walls from the moisture-induced spalling experienced by many of Middlebury's first brick buildings), with marble-capped walls and chimneys carried above the roofline and joined across the front and back by fine eave balustrades. The ogival door hood is a unique survivor of several that once graced a series of grand Middlebury houses. The unusually-shaped pilasters that support it are a device to be found as well on a number of particularly interesting early-19th-century fireplaces in town. The interior is notable for many reasons. The attic boasts forty-foot hemlock beams. The original kitchen, in the basement but exposed to the south and west by the slope of its site, retains its four-foot-wide back door and large fireplace with bake oven and laundry vats. The first floor centers about an entry hall with a lovely curving staircase (and a curved door set into its back wall). There are ten fireplaces in the house, fitted with some of the most elaborately decorated mantles in Middlebury. Everywhere there are fine details, such as the paneled window embrasures, decorated door frames, rope mouldings, and cloisonné hardware (this last imported from Russia and added by Seymour's son-in-law, Philip Battell in the 1880s). The Battells also modernized the plumbing, adding a marble bathroom and a new (upstairs) kitchen. They replaced the small-paned windows with Victorian single sheets of glass and added the facing and brackets under the eaves. The house was then occupied by Philip Battell's son-in-law, Governor (and subsequently U.S. Senator) John W. Stewart and his family. The Governor's daughter, Mrs. Charles M. (Jessica Stewart) Swift, donated the house and its furnishings to the community in 1932, and it has since been open for community affairs.

In his History of Middlebury, Samuel Swift recorded: "While building his large and very expensive brick house… [Seymour] expressed to the writer of this notice his regret to lay out so great an expenditure on a house." It took him two years to pay for it. Through his great-granddaughter's generosity, Seymour's expense has become the community's great gain.

Post Office Utilizing the site of the 1837 Brewster commercial building and the village's 1856 fire house, the Post Office was built in 1932 – 33 using WPA funding and labor. Supervising architect was James A. Wetmore, one of the designers of the Grand Central terminal and office tower in New York City. The original cornerstore was installed during 1932, under a Republican administration, and identified Ogden L. Mills as Secretary of the Treasury. By the time the building was completed in 1933, power had shifted to the Democrats, and the original cornerstone was replaced by the present one identifying William H. Woodin as Treasury Secretary.

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church on Main Street, ca. 1870s

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church on Main Street, ca. 1870s. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, Stereoviews

St. Stephen's Episcopal Church The Episcopal Society, first in Addison County, was founded in 1810, counting among its early members Horatio Seymour and Lavius Fillmore. Between 1810 and 1827 the Society met first in the courthouse, then in Seymour's house, and finally in Osborne House (77 Main Street). In 1825 the town voted to permit them to construct a church on the Green so long as it was to be of brick or stone (in accord with provisions of Painter's original deed for the land).

The stone Gothic-inspired building was constructed in 1826 – 27. The shell with its pointed windows and western tower was contracted out for $1,600. Its stone was brought from Weybridge, stored on the site of the inn, and wheeled down elevated ramps to the top of the rising walls. The finishing of the interior and the exterior window frames and woodwork appear to have been by Fillmore. Total insured value on completion was $6,000. The choice of the Gothic style for the building at this early date is quite remarkable. (While architects in England had added the style to their working vocabulary by then, it was not until the 1830s and 1840s that it achieved real popularity in the United States.) The original interior, however, was rather more Federal than Gothic, with light colored plaster and a shallowly coved ceiling. Stained glass windows were installed in 1853; in 1872 the roof and tower were restated; in 1876 the whale interior was remodeled with pseudo-structure supporting a false ceiling; and in 1879 the chapel was built. The crenellations that originally topped the tower were reconstructed in the 1980s after decades of absence, but the tower still bears Fillmore's wooden tracery about the door and still houses the Revere bell commissioned by the builders of the church.

(Crossing the railroad tracks on Main Street, one enters the mercantile and manufacturing area that gave early Middlebury its prosperty and vitality.)

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