By Josh Phillips
Though a town best known for its endless bog, Victory, Vermont (population 100) has a few very interesting buildings. There’s an old blacksmith shop sheathed entirely in license plates, a 19th century train station from the abandoned settlement of Steven’s Mills that was relocated and converted to a horse barn, and a variety of curious hunting camps, hill farms, and timber industry remnants.
The first thing a visitor from the south (via Concord) encounters, however, is an abandoned homestead that hints at a vitality that has long disappeared from the town and indeed much of Essex County. On the west side of Victory Road is an irregular pile – a massing like those found in typical Vermont Greek Revival houses, but here with steep wall dormers at one end. This home was built after the Civil War by Charles A. Story, a veteran of the Union Army and a native of neighboring Kirby.
In March, 1979 the Story House was recorded by the Vermont Historic Sites and Structures Survey and was found to be in good condition. Given the wild character of the place now, it’s difficult to envision Story’s diversified farm here, which included an apiary and a flock of 46 swans.
The Story house has deteriorated some in 30 years but is still in fair condition. It is now more exposed to the elements with several missing panes in the 6/6 windows and a failing porch that formerly protected the front entry.
Across the road from his home, Charles Story built a shop for his primary trade. He was a talented and well-known stonecutter, producing monuments for the lumber barons and other prominent citizens of the Northeast Kingdom. He also produced granite watering troughs and had a ready supply of material from a quarry he co-owned in Kirby. Story’s work can be seen today at the Governor Josiah Grout monument in Derby Line and the Judge Calvin Morrill memorial in East St. Johnsbury.
Like the house, the stonecutting shop was in good condition in 1979. The shop has since fallen into ruin. The roof of the main block has collapsed and the gable of the small wing will soon join it. Appropriately enough, the stone foundation remains solid. The pieces of granite resting beside the shop will be there long after the building has disappeared.
Josh Phillips is the Director of the Vermont Barn Census. He is a 2003 graduate of the University of Vermont Historic Preservation program and has worked since then on tobacco barns, Rosenwald schools, New Deal era hiking shelters, African American horse-drawn produce carts, and other seemingly hopeless causes. You can follow Josh on Twitter @joshuadphillips or check out his photography at www.scriberule.org.