It’s not everyday that you encounter an octagonal stone schoolhouse; but drive on Route 22 through the tiny hamlet of Boquet in the town of Essex, NY and you’ll come across this historic 1826 structure. Designed by architect Benjamin Gilbert, the school served the population around the local, growing sawmills. The octagon was later popularized by Thomas Jefferson at Poplar Forest (read more here from AARCH). Today the building is owned by the town and open for tours by appointment. Many original features remain in this octagonal schoolhouse. The community is undertaking a fundraiser to raise money for restoration of the building. Read more here. And there’s an old set of swings, too. Take a look!
Most everyone thinks this building is a chicken house. That was my first guess, as it was many of yours.
It’s not. Nor is it a sugar house. But, it does have to do with agriculture. This building is located on the former Vermont State Tree Farm in Essex, VT (Chittenden County). In fact, this building is a seed extractory building, part of the tree farm. What does that mean? (I asked the Vermont State Architectural Historian the same question! Below is his answer:)
Pine cones would be placed on mesh grates in front of the banks of windows, where the heat of the sun would dry them out and cause them to open up (“cone flaring”). The pinecone seeds would then be removed, and voila! New seeds for planting the next crop of Vermont’s seedlings, which were shipped all over the state for re-forestation projects. By the late 1800s, 80% of Vermont’s forests had been cleared. To counteract this deforestation, the Vermont State Tree Farm was established in 1922 to grow new trees. By 1924, this tree farm was transplanting 2 million seedlings a year. Prior to this, seedlings were imported from Germany.
Today the tree farm is home to recreational fields serving the town of Essex, Vermont.
On Saturday September 10, a group of about 20 people gathered for a work (half) day with the Preservation Trust of Vermont in Essex, VT. The purpose was to give the Molloy-Delano house a spruce – some cosmetic improvements, you could say. This house is an important landmark for the area, and sadly located where much of the historic landscape and environment has been erased by development. From the Preservation Trust of Vermont:
The Molloy – Delano House was built ca. 1820 at Butler’s Corners, the site of an early settlement in the Town of Essex, Vermont. The house and the adjacent brick house were built by brothers Roswell and William A Butler who, with their sons, were engaged in several enterprises in the area, primarily lumber and mercantile operations. They also built a store, which no longer stands, located between the two buildings. At the intersection of Route 15 and Old Stage Road, Butler’s Corners was an important crossroads community with roads connecting Burlington and Winooski north to St. Albans, and east towards Cambridge and Johnson. The settlement consisted of several houses, the store, a blacksmith shop, a school and a handful of farms.
The Molloy-Delano House is distinctive architecturally. It is a 1 1/2 story post and beam, wood frame building with wood plank wall construction, clapboards, and a low-pitched gable roof. An early and rare example of an arcaded, recessed front porch with five arched openings extends across the full width of the front facade.
The house, after surviving for almost 200 years, could, after rehabilitation, continue to serve the community for generations to come.
We split into groups for cleanup and painting. My friend Brennan and I started with sweeping the upstairs, bagging garbage, and removing plaster or sheetrock from the floor. We then primed over the graffiti. Others took on yard work and others painted the front porch. For the age of the house, it was surprisingly intact with original woodwork, horse-hair plaster walls, floors, door hardware; it is lovely. One of the most interesting aspects was the wall construction. Studs and sheetrock were attached to the plaster walls (likely for insulation and wiring purposes), effectively concealing three layers of wallpaper. So in areas where the gypsum walls were wallpapered, too, there were at least four layers of wallpaper to investigate. Fun!
Volunteers included current UVM HP students, alumni, community members and board members of the PTV. Our reasons were fueled by curiosity and the opportunity to have access to a neat historic, abandoned building more so than the coffee, bagels, lunch and refreshments provided. Those, of course, were appreciated. It was a beautiful morning and a fun task. Here are a few pictures from the morning:
Interested in buying the house?
Purchase Price: The house and garage are for sale for $29,500. The property is located within the larger Essex Town Center development. The buyer will lease the land under the building from the developer and in addition to the ground lease payment, the buyer will also pay monthly common area maintenance fees.
Conditions of Sale: A façade easement on the exterior of the house will be attached to the deed. The new owner will be required to rehabilitate the house within a specified time frame.
For more information, contact the Preservation Trust of Vermont.