Abandoned Vermont: Shaftsbury House

Driving by in the summertime, this house gave that abandoned aura. Driving by in the winter, it gave me the same feel. Finally, I had an opportunity to pull over and gaze at the building. The verdict? On a frigid (2 degrees) February day, this house looked frozen (actually frozen). With snow over my knees (and not the proper boots), I couldn’t get very close. Abandoned, vacant, seasonal or used for storage – it’s hard to tell.

Many readers always ask for information about the photographs on Preservation in Pink. Information is not always available. But, lucky for us, this house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Center Shaftsbury Historic District (see #22, Section 7, page 50).

The ca. 1850  Norman R. and C. Amelia Douglass House.

The ca. 1850 Norman R. and C. Amelia Douglass House. It looks as though someone started to paint… sort of (note the white and gray on the first story).

A bit about the architecture (from the NR): This ca. 1850 Greek Revival style house is a two-story, three by three bay gable front with sidehall plan, a two bay wing and rear attached shed. The single story porch wraps around the west and south elevations of the main house block.

The house is clad in clapboard on all sides except the area sheltered by the porch, which is flushboard. The double leaf doors with stained glass on the front porch were likely added at the beginning of the 20th century, perhaps when the windows were changed from 6/6 to 1/1.

Beautiful mature trees on the property.

Beautiful mature trees on the property. As for the house: note the 6/6 sash on the second floor and the 1/1 sash on the first floor. The first floor windows would be newer. Also note the tapered corner pilasters.

Side elevation, in which the house looks frozen.

Side elevation, in which the house looks frozen (one clue is the snow between the storm window and the interior sash).

A bit of history (from the NR): This house was owned and built by Norman R. Douglass (1818-1897) who from 1851-1856 was one of the principals in the Eagle Square Manufacturing Company of South Shaftsbury, a long-lived and successful company that formed for the purpose of manufacturing accurate metal carpenter’s squares. His wife was C. Amelia Douglass (1828-1919).

Clark and Rhoda Stone lived here in 1869 and in 1880. The Child’s Gazetteer lists Stone as a livestock dealer and farmer with two hundred acres of land, as well as one hundred acres of timber land in Glastenbury and part interested in 2,500 acres on West Mountain in Shaftsbury. Subsequent owners included Ralph Bottom and Harry Ellison.

Sunny, frigid day.

Sunny, frigid day, and nothing shoveled or plowed.

View from across the street.

View from across the street.

At the time of the National Register nomination (1988), the property was owned by Priscilla & Woflgang Ludwig and the house was rented to tenants. A search reveals that Ludwig Dairy remains in operation in Shaftsbury, today. Where does this leave the beautiful house, 27 years after the NR? Often old farmhouses are used for storage or seasonal use, as descendants built new houses down the road for one reason or another. The Douglass House appears to be generally maintained and on land used by the family farm.

This is large cement block barn sits behind the Douglass House. It and a few other farm buildings appear to be in use.

This is large cement block barn sits behind the Douglass House. It and a few other farm buildings appear to be in use.

The conclusion? It’s not quite abandoned, but it certainly does not appear to be lived in. Hopefully there is a brighter future for this Greek Revival house.

The picturesque road adjacent to the Douglass House.

The picturesque road adjacent to the Douglass House.

Abandoned Vermont: Safford Mills Complex

At the corner Vermont Route 100 and “A” Street (or simply an extension of Main Street) sit two red clapboard buildings overlooking the Lamoille River at the edge of the Morrisville Historic District. Once important structures to a village, mill complexes don’t often serve industrial purposes today. If they have not been adaptively reused to meet the needs of a modern population, mill buildings sit empty. Such is the case in Morrisville. These buildings are currently owned by Morrisville Water & Light, appearing to be buildings no longer used, though in good condition.

(Some information from the National Register Nomination – these buildings are contributing structures in the Morrisville Historic District.)

The warehouse and grist mill date to 1867 as part of the Safford Mills Complex, constructed for and owned by J. Safford & Sons. The warehouse is a Greek Revival style clpaboard industrial building. While its original purpose is unclear, its location and plan suggest it was the receiving office/warehouse for the grist, saw, and wood-turning mill below. Its front is 1.5 stories, while the rear is 3.5 stories from the bottom of the bluff. Freight doors at the top and bottom and a platform elevator inside allowed flour, lumber, and other finished goods to be raised easily to the to of the bluff, thus avoiding a steep ascent by wagon via the access road.

The Safford Mills Complex as seen from Route 100.

The Safford Mills Complex as seen from Route 100.

Side of the warehouse.

Side of the warehouse.

Looking up the hill to the warehouse.

Looking up the hill to the warehouse.

Closed up, but looking well maintained on the exterior.

Closed up, but looking well maintained on the exterior.

The box cornice, pilaster, gable returns, and lintels are typical of Greek Revival architecture.

The box cornice, pilaster, gable returns, and lintels are typical of Greek Revival architecture.

The grist mill.

The adjacent grist mill is also Greek Revival style with corner pilasters, gable returns, and (now hidden) 6/6 window sashes. This 2.5 story mill has a 35’x35′ footprint, a steeply pitched roof, and 4 bay fenestration.

View back to Main Street.

View back to Main Street.

The Saffords, owners of the mill complex, were a prominent family in Morrisville and resided in the adjacent Noyes House, a federal style brick mansion.

The Noyes House (now a Museum) across the street from the mill complex.

The Noyes House (now a Museum) across the street from the mill complex.

The good news is that Morrisville is on the upswing. Recently completed tax credit projects on Main Street show that there is interest and growth in the village. Perhaps there is life left for the Safford Mill buildings.

Any good mill projects in your small town?

Preservation Photos #236

An 1848 Greek Revival style church in Weybridge, VT.

An 1848 Greek Revival style church in the Weybridge Hill Historic District. 

Vermont is filled with picture-perfect skies and beautiful historic buildings.

Abandoned Vermont: Brandon House

Please note that this house is for sale, not abandoned. But I cannot answer to how long it’s been for sale. 

House for sale can hold the appearance and aura of abandonment. Of course there are reasons for this. Perhaps a family member died and it’s an estate sale. Or it was a seasonal home, rarely used. This house in Brandon, Vermont gives that longing look, the look that abandoned or neglected houses carry. It strikes me as a house filled with relics of the last family to the live there; culturally interesting items, but not much that someone would want to truck back to his or her home.

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Aside from that modern garage door, the house maintains much of its architectural integrity.

White house in the white winter snow. The windows look dark and cold, and the house immediately seemed to have that abandoned lure.

White house in the white winter snow. The windows look dark and cold, and the house immediately seemed to have that abandoned lure.

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A beautiful ca. 1850 Greek Revival house.

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For sale by owner, the sign says.

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With a beautiful barn.

Cross your fingers for this house; all it needs is a new owner and some love.

Preservation Photos #168

An abandoned house in rural Vermont.

An abandoned house in rural Vermont, mostly trashed on the interior reveals pocket doors with Greek Revival details.

Abandoned Vermont: Story House

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.

The story house in 1979. Photo credit: Allan D. Hodgdon.

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 in 2011. Photo credit: Josh Phillips.

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.

The shop in 1979. Photo credit: Allan D. Hodgdon.

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.

The Story Shop in 2011. Photo credit: Josh Phillips.

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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.

Preservation Photos #93

A house in East Burke, VT. I'd call it Greek Revival in the transition stage to Queen Anne - Greek Revival for the door and window surrounds. Queen Anne for the vergeboard and 6/1 windows. Anyone else?

Preservation Photos #22

A Greek Revival inspired doorway (and a creepy dentist chair sort of visible in the foreground) at Mason Brothers Architectural salvage in Essex Junction, VT. What are your thoughts on salvage? For it? Against it?