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The Village Tour

Park Street Beginning in front of the Star Mill and running southward to Main Street is Park Street. Here at number 3 is the house that Stillman Foot built for the superintendent of his grist mill in 1799. Originally a story-and-a-half, it was remodeled and enlarged in 1923. It retains its fine old sidelighted doorway, simple but with pretensions to being more than just a door. The small building across the street housed the woolen mill offices. It burned and was rebuilt in 1875 and probably again in 1903. Number 2 was built as a two-story house in 1801 and expanded and remodeled as the Logan House Hotel in 1891.

View of Park Street looking south, ca. 1880s.

ABOVE View of Park Street looking south, ca. 1900. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, Averill Collection

BELOW The Sheldon Art Museum at 1 Park Street, ca. 1900. Founder Henry Sheldon is standing on the porch. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, General Collection

The Sheldon Art Museum 1 Park Street, ca. 1900. Founder Henry Sheldon is standing on the porch.

Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History This grand house was built in 1829 by Eben Judd and his son-in-law Lebbeus Harris with the profits and some of the products from their marble works in Frog Hollow (including a porch carried on marble ionic columns and a series of showy black Shoreham marble fireplaces, and the first rectangular, as opposed to trapezoidal, marble lintels in town—indicative of a changing taste for Greek Revival rather than Federal forms). It was purchased in 1875 by Henry Sheldon, who had a penchant for local history and for collecting things. His house became something of a repository for objects of local significance, and in 1882 it was opened to the public as the Sheldon Art Museum, Archaeological and Historical Society, the first incorporated village museum in the United States. By the time of Sheldon's death in 1907 all but two rooms (in which he lived) had been turned over to the museum's collections.

In recent decades the house has been organized to present a glimpse of 19th-century life—from formal front parlor and dining room to bedrooms and a spacious kitchen (with its large, utensil-hung hearth and bake oven). Most of the items on display also have connections with the history of the town and community: furniture by local cabinet-makers, Dyar clocks and silver, Lake Dunmore Glass, Wainwright stoves, tools brought from Connecticut to build the first buildings in town, student chairs from the College, portraits of prominent early citizens (including numerous works of Benjamin Franklin Mason). In the research wing are housed the documents of Middlebury's local history: maps, notebooks, letters, newspapers, photographs. The Fletcher Community History Center, housing changing art and local history exhibits, was built in 1990. Scholars and more casual visitors alike can find much of fascination in Henry Sheldon's house.

Just south of the museum was a reservoir (a forty-gallon barrel under a canopy) fed with spring water brought through log pipes. It was placed there by the Middlebury Aqueduct Company (chartered 1804) as a public water source for the west side of the village and continued to serve in that capacity until 1893 – 94. Today the site is occupied by the bell from the old Town Hall. An 1888 barn, reputedly built for Henry Sheldon to house his collection overflow, stands near the rear of the property. This carriage-barn-style structure, painted in its original colors of yellow ochre and red oxide (both produced locally from regional iron ore deposits), sporting a stylish gothic window in its gable end, is part of the museum.

Cannon Green Between Park and Main Streets is the small triangle known as Cannon Green, a bit of Foot land that in time became public property. In it is set a Civil War cannon with a Vermont marble base, presented to the town in 1910. The cannon, a 10-inch "Rodman," (named after Thomas J. Rodman, U.S. Army Chief of Ordnance), weighs 15,140 pounds, and was manufactured by Cyrus Alger & Co. of Boston in 1866. Cyrus Alger was a long-time gun founder from as early as the 1830s. These big guns, that ranged in size from 10 to 20 inches, were sometimes referred to as "Columbiads," and intended for seacoast fortifications. The one came to Middlebury from Bucksport, Maine. The intials "JGB" that appear on the muzzle refer to James Gilchrist Benton, an inspector between 1842 and 1881. The monument was completely disassembled, cleaned, repaired and reassembled in 1996.

Ilsley Library Across the Green and Main Street from the museum is the Ilsley Library, a gift to the town by Col. Silas A. Ilsley in 1923. Here is another and later example of the City Beautiful urge to construct public buildings in the classical style, though as with banks the traditional association of libraries with temples in this country dates back to our early days (e.g. the 18th-century Redwood Library, Newport, R.I., or Jefferson's early 19th-century library at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville). Here the tradition continues with a marble temple set apart, its fine oak interior housing a heavily-used and continuously updated collection. Previous to the 1920s the community had been served since the 1860s by the Ladies' Library Association on the second floor of the old bank building north of the inn and then (from 1912) by the Middlebury Free Library.

The library has undergone two expansions since 1923. In 1978 a marble-faced two-story addition was made to the southern side that provided additional access to the building, an elevator equipped to serve the handicapped, a meeting room on the second floor and additional office space and rest rooms. In 1989 a major renovation added about 8,000 square feet on the north side as well.

Osborne House at 77 Main Street, ca. 1925.

Osborne House at 77 Main Street, ca. 1925. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, General Collection

Osborne House (77 Main Street) The frame house south of the library is known as Osborne House. It was built in 1816 by Daniel Henshaw, partner and then successor in Stillman Foot's milling business. From 1820 to 1827 this was the meeting place of the Episcopal Society. It is now the property of Middlebury College.

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