Friday, December 16, 2011

North Bennington, Vermont, Walking Tour, #24- 26

#24 - McCullough Library, 1921, replaced the N. Bennington Boot and Shoe Factory which burned down in 1884. Its classic columns and symmetry compliment the markets across the park, but the columns have Corinthian capitals with leaves instead of the plain Doric capitals on the stores. The brick work is like a tapestry, an outer skin, decorative, not structural. The round brick columns at Welling and Thatcher’s Store hold up the building. The corner pilasters on Loomis and Hawkes’ store cover real wood posts.

In 1856, the Union Store (#3) was here as well as some carriage sheds and a clothing store.

#25 - B. Hammond House: Federal, c. 1825, is the reverse image of the Welling House (#10). Its circular fan light has the same ball detailing as the Welling House. Both houses were originally unpainted brick, as the Knapp House (#9) still is. George Briggs was the builer.

#26 - Hiland Knapp House, Federal, c. 1825. This house sports curving bands – guilloche – at the eaves and at the entrance, slender ionic columns, a subtle brick pattern, dressed marble lintels and sills. It is graceful and sophisticated. Its style - center entrance, gables to the sides - was soon eclipsed by side entrance, gable to the street houses such as Welling (#2) and Hammond (#25). Water St was laid out in 1825 along Paran Creek.

End the tour at #2 – The Welling house, seen from Main Street - the twin of # 25, the Hammond House, across the way.

And #1 - The Thatcher and Welling Store, which has been Powers Market since c1900.

It is the oldest country store in Vermont. Note the pulley for a hoist under the eaves of the roof and the bricked-in loading door.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The 1856 map of N. Bennington, Vermont

Here is the map of North Bennington in 1856.

The walking tour highlights the buildings shown here, ignores those built after the map was made.

The few exceptions are the William Hawks House that probably was built by 1856, but not when the map was first drawn, the McCullough Library and the VAE which are landmarks and replaced existing buildings, and the buildings on Nash Street.

This is a work in progress. The tour is posted here so that readers, (and I hope people who have walked the route) may comment and suggest changes.
A working version will be available at the McCullough Library with a page for each building - with lots of space for additions and comments. What else do we know about these houses, about their owners before and after this map? What have I missed?

A printable copy which will fold up onto a small booklet will also be available through the Fund for North Bennington. The logistics of the layout are time consuming...

North Bennington, Vermont, Walking Tour, #17- 23

#17 – Mosher – here the simple form used for mill housing ( see #11,13, 15,) has turned 90* - gable to the street – to become Greek Revival in style, like its neighbor, #18.

# 18 - The brick school house. How does this building tell us it is a school?? The entrance is in the center, not to one side. It opens into a cloak room and then into one large room. Schools might also have 2 doors on the front, one for boys, one for girls. The second floor windows are decorative: they don’t service a living space.

# 19 - P.L. Robinson House. (Robinson and Parsons mill?) Like the Bruce and Draper houses this house has 3 windows across the front, the usual pattern between 1820 and 1890. The verge boards at the roof line are the beginning of Victorian ‘gingerbread’ – surface decoration. The Elwell House on Bank Street, # 42 has similar trim and a similar porch. This house was deliberately set back and landscaped to separate the house from the hustle of the thoroughfare and give it a sense of ‘retirement’. This is a quite different feeling from the Draper House across the street.

# 20 - Mrs. A. Watson, c. 1830 with a later porch. The corner columns and front door are Greek Revival. These details become much more pronounced in later houses.

#21 - The G. Watson House, c. 1830 with c. 1910 wing. The older, left wing of the house is similar in size, proportion and window layout to Mrs. Watson’s house. The picture window in the right wing, with the small rectangular window at the top, called a ‘cottage window’, was very popular in 1915. There are many in the village.

#22 - The Rufus Towsley House is an ample two story residence. The wide, stylish Greek Revival frieze is only on the side walls as it would have blocked the 2nd floor windows on the front of the house.

This was the only house on Pleasant Street and had great presence when viewed from Main St, across Paran Creek. Today that view is hidden most of the year. In season Pleasant Street affords a view of the creek with its numerous falls, and the stone mill built by EM Welling.

Mr. Towsley’s carriage shop was next door. In 1866 he moved to Bank Street.

#23 - Dr. S F Ranney House. This house has been greatly altered since the 1852 flood. The window hoods on the west side show some of its original character. The flood destroyed the doctor’s office on the first floor.

Monday, November 28, 2011

North Bennington, Vermont, Walking Tour, #11-16

Rather than wait until I have a finished presentation, I am posted without all the photographs and the maps. I will add them as I can.

#11 - c.1820's mill housing. Sage built this simple housing for his employees along Sage St. The only frill is the return on the eaves. The next mill owner, Vermont Mills, also built dwellings here for its employees. The housing was owned by the mill until 1957.

#12 -The factory now at the end of Sage St. is the third factory to be built here. It was built in 1920 after fire destroyed the E.Z.Waist Co. in 1913.

Note how the rich and poor lived side by side. The factory owner wanted to be able to see his property, to care for it and show it off.

Cross the bridge on North Street. This is a good place to see how the creek becomes a mill pond. The bridge was not here in 1856. For an extra excursion, turn left on Lake Paran Rd., the road along the creek. The road goes along the creek, past the new railroad bridge, where the dam burst in 1852, and come to the park at Lake Paran. Return and continue left up the hill to

#13 – Vermont Mills housing, c. 1825, probably for foremen as it is fancier than the mill housing on Sage Street.

Here the 2 family cottage has wings and an entablature – the trim and hood around the front doors.

Turn right on Mechanic Street.

Mechanic St. was not here. That’s why -

#14a – Mr. Draper’s barn sits in such an awkward location – this was his backyard: These houses weren’t here.

Turn left on to Prospect St. - in 1781 the route across Bingham Hill to Bennington.

#14 – The Draper House, c. 1850, is a Greek Revival mansion. When this was built much of the United States embraced the new Gothic and Italianate styles. But many dramatic Greek Revival houses are going up in this part of Vermont and upstate New York. J Draper, Jr. built a grand house with 2 story columns, lots of trim, side wings and an amazing delicate fan light.

# 15 – P E Ball House – Ball, the town blacksmith, built his shop at the bridge after the flood. The porch and front gable are later renovations.

#16 - Col. JH Walbridge House, Italianate – the shape is traditional: side entrance, 2 windows on the front. The low hipped roof and curly corbels at the eaves, the porch that extends around 3 sides, make it Italianate. The style was just beginning to be popular in town.

Monday, November 21, 2011

North Bennington, Vermont, Walking Tour, #2a

The Wellings' barn

The Wellings, successful village merchants and mill owners, were also farmers, as were their neighbors. Their house and large barn in the center of the village shows the rural nature of N. Bennington in the 1850s. The barn was dismantled and moved here from Pittstown, NY, about 1827.

The roof is a fine example of a slate layer's skill. This particular slate pattern, mixing the colors available from the slate quarries in nearby Poultney, VT, is seen on many roofs in N. Bennington, (indicating that one roofing company laid most of the local roofs, probably in the 1880’s).

North Bennington, Vermont, Walking Tour, #4a,8-10

#4a – Hawkes, Loomis & Co. store, rear

The back of the building is the service side - note loading doors on every floor and the hoist cover at the peak of the roof. The corner columns (pilasters) are well defined, with bases and capitals. There is no skimping even at the warehouse end of the store.

Walk up Nash Street, which wasn’t here. Nor were

#8 - the 1965 fire station,

#9 - the livery stable, and

#10 - Nash’s blacksmith shop.

All were part of a world to come in 1856.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

North Bennington, Vermont, Walking Tour, #4-7

#4 – Hawkes, Loomis & Co. Store: a Greek Temple in wood. Both Powers Market (#1) and this store have gables outlined as pediments; here are corner pilasters instead of columns. The front porch is a later addition which softens the strong shape of the building.

#5 -To the right of Hawkes and Loomis’ store, down the street, is Paran Creek.

Stop at the bridge to see why Joseph Haviland, and the mill owners who came after him, wanted the ‘privilege’ to dam the creek for water power. In 1856 one mill stood on the park site, another where the fire station is today. Both, owned by Bronson Harmon, manufactured carpenter squares.

#6- Red Mill, built by Bronson Harmon after the flood destroyed his first factory. The mill has had numerous additions and other uses since then.e to see why Joseph Haviland, and the mill owners who came after him, wanted the ‘privilege’ to dam the creek for water power. In 1856 one mill stood on the park site, another where the fire station is today. Both, owned by Bronson Harmon, manufactured carpenter squares.

Coming back toward the square:

# 7 – PE Ball’s blacksmith shop, c. 1855, replaced a blacksmith shop swept away by the flood. This building was bought for $3.00 in 1878, to become the town’s first fire station. The arches and fanciful shingle patterns were added when the shop was remodeled. The large doors came even later when motorized fire trucks replaced horse drawn apparatus. The second floor was used for meetings of the volunteer firemen. It is now a private residence.

2011 map for N. Bennington walking tour

Here is the map for the actual walking tour, a route around the village paying attention to what was here in 1856.

It is broken into 3 loops for easy walking.
The red tour is the early center with its mills around Paran Creek, and Prospect Street.
The green tour is the west side, just 2 roads: West Street and what is now Bank Street, then the road to White Creek.
The black tour shows the village expanding toward the railroad and north to Shaftsbury.
Each tour includes an extra excursion or two.

Again, this is a work in progress, made possible by the flexibility of the internet. I know I will change it over time. I hope it will be improved with the help of you, the walker.

North Bennington, Vermont, Walking Tour, #1- 3


Starting at Lincoln Park

( I need to take new picture of the store. Posting the whole tour, 40+ buildings, to the blog is a work in progress. Obviously the maps need to be here too.)

#1. Thatcher and Welling Store, 1833, The market was the mill store for the Welling’s paper mill. Thatcher was Edward Welling’s brother-in-law. The market is a Greek temple in brick. The curved bricks for the round columns were specially made for building columns. The second floor extension under the portico was added later.

# 2 – EM Welling House, 1827, has 2 front doors. One faces Main Street. The other looked out over the Welling mill yard and store, to his factory on the site of Haviland's grist and saw mills. The house has been expanded over the years, each wing sympathetic to travelers coming into the square see the original house but with its own identity factory, on the site of Haviland’s grist and saw mills. This is the classic Georgian way to set a house, so it can be seen from a distance, as one approaches.

#3 – The Union Store originally sat where the McCullough Library is today. It was moved in 1920. It is a stripped down version of the Greek Revival style. The gable faces the street; the returns on the eaves suggest the pediments which are so clearly defined in the buildings on either side. Note that all 3 buildings, though different width and heights, have 3 windows - 3 bays - across the front.

North Bennington, Vermont Walking Tour

The village is rich with 200 years of architecture, from simple vernacular homes and factories to those built by well known architects.

For this tour I have chosen to focus on one date, 1856, to show the village at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. I hope to add other tours highlighting later periods and styles.

The house names used on this tour are those which appear on the 1856 map.

The village is here because of Paran Creek. The creek drops 100 ft from Lake Paran to the Walloomsac River.

West Street came first. In 1765, it connected Joseph Haviland’s home

to his mill on the creek. Haviland held the ‘patent’ to dam the creek,

to use the water to power his mill, granted by the Rensselaer family who controlled the land around Albany, NY.

Next Main St. was cut north to Shaftsbury. In 1781, Prospect Street was laid out over Bingham Hill to Bennington; and in 1825, Water Street was added, going south along Paran Creek to the Walloomsac River.

By 1856 North Bennington was a village of about 80 homes and 8 factories, 6 of which were powered by that falling water.

4 years earlier the railroad bridge which dammed Lake Paran had collapsed. The subsequent flood tore through the center of the village, destroying mills and houses. The map shows how quickly the residents rebuilt.

In 1856, Bank Street went to the town of White Creek. Park, Pleasant and Houghton Streets were roads to farms. Every road was dirt.

Lincoln Park was a working delivery and storage yard. The stores here were built to serve the factories and the people who worked in them.


I haven't written since last January.

I have been tending to family responsibilities.

How much more acceptable it would be if I could claim writer's block. The feminist in me laughs and replies to Virginia Wolfe, "Yes, I do have a room of my own."

I know that taking care of life for the last 40 years has made me a better architect.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why Didn't Regulating Lines Get Passed Down?

In the more than 35 years that I've worked as an architect renovating old houses north of Boston, I've worked on houses as old as 1680 and as new as 2000. And because so much about existing construction is unknown until it is actually taken apart, I worked very closely with 'my' contractors - about 8 different firms - much as design-build teams work.

In the beginning I was lucky enough to work with experienced contractors who had grown up working for their fathers - so the knowledge we had access to was deep and broad. Later the crews pretty much knew each other and if there was a real problem we could ask everyone (and their fathers!) for their expertise.
In my experience neither they nor the men who did finish millwork had ever been taught about any kind of regulating lines being used to determine proportion or design. They certainly have been interested in the ideas.
Circle geometry is beginning to be taught at forums of the Timber Framers Guild.

I met architects 40 years ago who knew about the Golden Section. I know only one architect today who is familiar with the Golden Section as it applies to architecture, but have not been able to have in depth conversations about how he uses the proportions.

I would welcome information about who is using all the variations of regulating lines and where. Earlier posts outline what I know at the moment.

Why Didn't Regulating Lines Get Passed Down? Part 2

The simple answer is The Industrial Revolution. 
While I think that is true, the word ‘revolution’ assumes a quick change, not something that lasted over 150 years. So what happened?
Here is what I’ve managed to piece together:
In the colonies:
Before 1770, if a young man was not preparing the ministry, for college, he would be apprenticed to a craftsman to learn a trade, sometimes at as young as 11 years old. After as many as 7 years he would have skills and tools, a trade. If you remember Benjamin Franklin’s story, you know he disliked his apprenticeship and eventually ran away from Boston to Philadelphia to seek his fortune.
Especially after the American Revolution the system didn’t work very well. Many young men moved to new places, tried several trades and never finished apprenticeships. Housewrights and joiners couldn’t pass on their knowledge so easily. A man might need to teach himself the skills he lacked.
The pattern books of the period bear this out – their first plates teach basic geometry, knowledge a carpenter would have taught his apprentices as they worked. The books were very popular. One book - over 100 pages of geometry - was Peter Nicholson’s The Carpenter’s New Guide, published in England in 1792, and then in Philadelphia, PA. Published into the 1850's, it went through 16 editions.
The pattern books I have read (list supplied upon request) do not clearly spell out how to use geometric proportions and ratios to determine size and placement in design. I haven't yet figured out why.
An aside: Nicholson himself was self-taught. His biography on Wikipedia is fascinating.
more later...