Deacon John Holbrook House, Brattleboro, Vermont

The house at 80 Linden Street, at the corner of Chapin Street in Brattleboro, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The house in 2017:

John Holbrook was born in 1761 in Weymouth, Massachusetts, but as a young man he moved to Vermont, where he found work as a surveyor in what was, at the time, largely uncharted territory. He originally settled in Newfane, where he later ran a general store, but he subsequently moved to Brattleboro, where he continued his business career. Holbrook was affiliated with merchants in Hartford, Connecticut, and in 1811 he relocated to East Windsor. However, he only remained in Connecticut for a few years, returning to Brattleboro soon after the death of his son-in-law, William Fessenden, in 1815. Upon returning, Holbrook took over Fessenden’s publishing company, and he was also selected as a church deacon.

Holbrook had no prior experience in the publishing industry, but he grew the company into a prosperous business, which specialized in producing Bibles. Although located far from the major commercial centers of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, Holbrook’s Brattleboro-based business fared well in competition with the more established publishing houses in the major cities. His Bible proved popular, thanks in part to its quality paper and abundant illustrations, and over the next few decades he and his firms would produce 42 different editions.

Holbrook retired in 1825, and moved into this newly-built home in the northern part of the downtown area. It was designed and built by local builder Nathaniel Bliss, with a Federal-style design that was likely inspired by the works of Asher Benjamin, a prominent New England architect who published a number of architectural handbooks in the early 19th century. As was usually the case in Federal architecture, the front facade is nearly symmetrical, with the only exception being the off-centered front door. The house also includes a distinctive, and somewhat unusual front porch, although it does not seem clear as to whether this was part of its original design.

By the time John Holbrook and his wife Sarah moved into this house, most of their ten children were already grown. The youngest, Frederick, was born in 1813 during the family’s brief residence in Connecticut, but spent most of his childhood in Brattleboro. He was about 12 when this house was built, and presumably lived here for at least a few years before leaving to attend school. Returning to Brattleboro after a tour of Europe in 1833, Frederick became a farmer, eventually serving as the president of the Vermont State Agricultural Association for eight years. Along with this, he also had a career in politics, serving in the state legislature from 1849 to 1850, and as governor from 1861 to 1863.

In the meantime, John Holbrook lived here in this house until his death in 1838, and his widow Sarah sold the property three years later, to Dr. Charles Chapin. Originally from Orange, Massachusetts, Dr. Chapin attended Harvard, and he subsequently began practicing medicine in Springfield, Massachusetts. His first wife, Elizabeth, died only a few years after their marriage, and in 1830 he remarried to Sophia Dwight Orne, the granddaughter of prominent Springfield merchant Jonathan Dwight. A year later, the couple relocated to Brattleboro, where Dr. Chapin became a businessman and a government official. His long career included serving in the state legislature and as a U.S. Marshal, and he was also a director of the Vermont Mutual Insurance Company and the Vermont Valley Railroad.

Dr. Chapin had one child, Elizabeth, from his first marriage, and he had five more children with Sophia: Lucinda, Oliver, Mary, William, and Charles. All but the youngest were born before the family moved into this house, but they all would have spent at least part of their childhood here. The two older sons, Oliver and William, would later go on to serve in the Civil War, and William spent time in the notorious Libby Prison in Richmond, after being captured by Confederates. By the 1870, their widowed daughter Mary was their only child still living here with them. The census of that year shows Charles with a net worth of 40,000 – a considerable sum equal to nearly $800,000 today – while Sophia had $25,000 of her own, possibly an inheritance from her wealthy Dwight relatives.

Dr. Chapin died in 1875, and Sophia died five years later. Shortly after, the property behind the house was sold and subdivided. Chapin Street was opened through the property, just to the left of the house, and was developed with new houses by the late 1880s. The first photo was taken only a few years later, and one of the new houses can be seen in the distance on the far left. However, the old Holbrook and Chapin house remained standing, even as the surrounding land was divided into house lots for the growing town population.

Today, the house’s exterior is not significantly different from when the first photo was taken over 120 years ago. Although now used as a commercial property, the house has remained well-preserved as a good example of late Federal-style architecture, and as one of Brattleboro’s finest early 19th century homes. Because of this, in 1982 the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Francis Goodhue House, Brattleboro, Vermont

The Francis Goodhue House on Main Street in Brattleboro, probably around 1870-1885. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene in 2017:

This house was built in 1815, and was originally the home of Francis Goodhue, a businessman who had previously lived in Swanzey, New Hampshire, and Weathersfield, Vermont. In 1811, when he was about 43 years old, Goodhue moved to Brattleboro, which at the time was still a small town of fewer than 2,000 residents. He built this house a few years later, and went on to become a prominent local figure. He had a wide variety of business ventures, and was also involved in a proposed canal that, if constructed, would have linked Brattleboro New Haven by way of Northampton, Massachusetts.

An 1880 biographical sketch in Brattleboro, Windham County, Vermont describes how Goodhue “carried on a wool-carding, cloth-dressing, saw and grain mill, cotton spinning, distilling, and a large store of such goods as were sold from country stores at that time. He was also erecting a building of some kind every year, and largely, at the same time, engaged in farming, yet his note was never worth less than 100 cents on the dollar.”

Francis Goodhue lived here with his wife Mary and their three children: Joseph, Lucy, and Wells. In 1834, Francis gave this house to Joseph, and he and Mary moved to a house across the street, where they lived until Francis’s death in 1839 and Mary’s death a decade later. In the meantime, Joseph lived here in the old family home with his wife Sarah until his death in 1862. Sarah outlived Joseph by more than two decades, and was presumably still residing here until she died in 1883, at the age of 87.

The first photo was probably taken during Sarah’s lifetime or soon after her death, because around 1885 the house was demolished by businessman and philanthropist George Jones Brooks, in order to build a public library on the site. Brooks had grown up in the Brattleboro area, but made his fortune as a merchant in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. Later returning to Brattleboro, he built the landmark Brooks House hotel in 1871, and in 1885 began work on a permanent home for the town’s public library. Brooks was the older brother of Mary E. Goodhue, whose husband was Francis J. Goodhue, the son of Joseph and Sarah, so Brooks likely acquired the property through this connection.

The George J. Brooks Library was dedicated in January 1887, only a few weeks after its benefactor’s sudden death, and it was used as the Brattleboro public library for about 80 years. However, by the 1960s the building was overcrowded, and the neighboring post office needed the room to expand. As a result, in 1967 the current library building was completed just to the north of here, and the old building was demolished in 1971. Today, there are no surviving traces of either the Goodhue House or the library that had replaced it, and the site is now a parking lot for the post office, which can be seen on the right side of the photo.

Jonathan Hunt House, Brattleboro, Vermont

The house near the northwest corner of Main and High Streets in Brattleboro, around 1894. Image from Picturesque Brattleboro (1894).

The scene in 2017:

This house was the home to a number of notable Brattleboro residents throughout the 19th century, starting with Jonathan Hunt, Jr., a lawyer and politician who served several terms in Congress. Born in 1787 in the nearby town of Vernon, Hunt was the son of Jonathan Hunt, Sr., the first lieutenant governor of the state of Vermont. The elder Hunt was one of the early settlers of Vermont, arriving in the area in the mid-18th century, and he became the patriarch of a prominent family.

The younger Jonathan Hunt was an 1807 graduate of Dartmouth College, and subsequently became a lawyer here in Brattleboro. At some point in the early 19th century, he built this elegant house here on Main Street. It was reportedly the first brick house to be built in the area, and Hunt lived here with his wife, Jane Leavitt, who came from a prominent family in Suffield, Connecticut. The Hunts raised their five children here, and Jonathan went on to have a successful political career, serving in the state House of Representatives in 1811, 1816, 1817, and 1824, before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1826. He was re-elected two more times, and served in Congress until 1832, when he died from cholera while in Washington, D.C.

Jonathan Hunt’s death left Jane with five young children, all under the age of 10. Soon after his death, Jane and the children left this house, moving first to New Haven before going to New York and then to Boston. In the subsequent decades, three of her sons would go on to achieve fame as artists. The oldest, William Morris Hunt, was a prominent painter in Boston, while his brother, Richard Morris Hunt, was one of the most celebrated architects of the Gilded Age, designing mansions such as The Breakers and Marble House in Newport, along with the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The youngest child, Leavitt Hunt, was an attorney like his father, but he also became a noted photographer, and during an 1851-1852 tour he took some of the earliest photographs of the Middle East.

Later in the 19th century, this house was owned by George Howe. Like Jonathan Hunt, he was also a Vernon native who went on to become a lawyer and politician. He was an 1847 graduate of Harvard Law School, and later that year he was admitted to the bar and began his practice here in Brattleboro. From 1858 to 1860, he served as state’s attorney for Windham County, and from 1861 to 1864 he was the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont. He also served in the Vermont state Senate from 1874 to 1875, and was a delegate to the 1876 Republican National Convention. He moved out of Brattleboro in 1880, after being appointed to a position in the Pension Department, and he died eight years later in Vernon.

By the time the first photo was taken around the early 1890s, this house was owned by yet another prominent Brattleboro resident, Colonel George W. Hooker. A Civil War veteran, Hooker was 23 years old when he enlisted as a private at the start of the war. However, he quickly rose through the ranks, and by the end of the war he was a lieutenant colonel. During this time, he was noted for his heroism in combat, particularly at the Battle of Crampton’s Gap in 1862, when he single-handedly captured 116 Confederate soldiers at one time. He had been riding ahead of his men, and stumbled into the midst of the Confederate unit. Despite being alone, he demanded the colonel’s surrender, who complied and gave Hooker his sword, and Hooker was later awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.

Later in the war, Hooker was badly wounded at the Battle of Cold Harbor, where he was shot five times. However, he recovered from his wounds, and after the war he resumed his peacetime occupation as a traveling salesman. Then, in 1876 he moved to Brattleboro, where he began a career in politics. He was Governor Redfield Proctor’s chief of staff in 1878, a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1880, and the Sergeant at Arms of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1881 to 1883. He also served in the Vermont state House of Representatives, and he lived here in Brattleboro until his death in 1902.

Despite its connection to many important Brattleboro residents, this house was demolished sometime in the early 20th century, and the property was redeveloped for commercial use. The current buildings on this site date back to 1929, so the house was probably demolished shortly before then. However, there is one building that remains from the first photo. On the far right is the First Baptist Church, which was completed in 1870, just to the right of the Hunt-Howe-Hooker House. It is still standing today, although from this angle it is mostly hidden by buildings and trees.

Burnham School, Northampton, Mass

The Burnham School on Elm Street in Northampton, around 1894. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

The scene in 2017:

This house was built sometime around 1810, although it has been significantly altered over the years. It was originally the home of Elijah Hunt Mills, a lawyer and politician who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1815 to 1819, and in the U.S. Senate from 1820 to 1827. Mills was also one of the founders of the Northampton Law School, a short-lived but notable law school whose students included future president Franklin Pierce. Because of ill health, Mills retired from the Senate at the end of his term in 1827, and about a year later he left the Northampton Law School, which closed soon after. He lived here in this house until his death in 1829, and the house was subsequently owned by Thomas Napier, a Southerner who was was apparently a slave auctioneer and a vocal anti-abolitionist.

By the mid-19th century, this house was owned by Samuel L. Hinckley, whose occupation was described as “gentleman” in the 1860 census. Born Samuel Hinckley Lyman in 1810, he legally changed his name in 1831 at the request of his grandfather, Judge Samuel Hinckley, in order to carry on the Hinckley family name. After graduating from Williams College, Hinckley married Henrietta E. Rose, although they were married for less than a year before her death, soon after the birth of their only child, Henry. Hinckley later remarried to Ann L. Parker, and they had four children together. By the 1860 census, all seven family members were living here in this house, along with three servants. At the time, Hinckley’s real estate was valued at $15,000, plus a personal estate of $40,000, for a total net worth equal to about $1.5 million today.

The house was subsequently owned by Hinckley’s younger brother, Jonathan Huntington Lyman, a physician who was living here by the 1865 state census. He received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1840, and in 1847 he married his first wife, Julia Dwight. She came from a prominent family, and both of her grandfathers were among the most influential men in late 18th and early 19th century New England. Her father’s father was Timothy Dwight IV, the noted pastor, theologian, and author who served as president of Yale from 1795 to 1817, and her mother’s father was Caleb Strong, a Northampton lawyer who served as a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787, a U.S. senator from 1789 to 1796, and governor of Massachusetts from 1800 to 1807 and 1812 to 1816.

Jonathan and Julia Lyman had three children together, but Julia died of tuberculosis in 1853 at the age of 29. Two years later, he remarried to her older sister Mary, and by 1865 they were living here with Jonathan’s two surviving children, John and Francis, plus two servants. Francis died in 1871 from yellow fever at the age of 18, while in Brazil studying natural history, and John went on to become a physician, after graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1872.

In 1877, Jonathan sold the property to Mary A. Burnham, who established a school for girls here in this house. Originally called the Classical School for Girls, it opened in 1877 with the goal of preparing girls for the newly-established Smith College, located directly across the street from here. Only 22 students were enrolled during this first school year, but the school soon grew, and by the time the first photo was taken there were 175 students on a campus that included several other buildings. Mary Burnham died in 1885, and assistant principal Bessie T. Capen subsequently took over the school, which was renamed the Mary A. Burnham School in honor of its founder.

By the time the first photo was taken, very little remained of the house’s early 19th century appearance. It originally had Federal-style architecture, as seen with features such as the second-story Palladian window, but after its conversion to a school a wing was added to the right side, and the original part of the house was altered with a Mansard roof, dormer windows, and a tower above the main entrance.

The house would remain part of the Burnham School for many years, but in 1968 the school merged with the Stoneleigh-Prospect Hill School in Greenfield, forming the present-day Stoneleigh-Burnham School. The Northampton campus was then sold to Smith College, which converted this building into student housing. It is now known as the Chase House, in honor of writer and Smith professor Mary Ellen Chase, and it is attached to the neighboring Duckett House, just out of view to the right. Over the years, the house has lost some of its Victorian-era elements, particularly the tower, but it still stands today as one of many historic homes along Elm Street.

Warner House, Northampton, Mass

The Warner House hotel on Main Street in Northampton, sometime around the 1860s. Image from Northampton: The Meadow City (1894).

The scene in 2017:

The Warner House, seen on the left side of the first photo, had been perhaps the most prominent hotel in early 19th century Northampton. The wooden, three-story Federal-style building dated back to the 1790s, when it was built by Asahel Pomeroy, who operated it as a tavern. It was ideally located in the center of Northampton, where several major stagecoach routes crossed, including an east-west route from Boston to Albany, and a north-south route from New Haven and Hartford to Brattleboro and other points north.

In 1821, the tavern was purchased by Oliver Warner, and it continued to serve as both a stagecoach stop as well as a popular gathering place for locals. Probably its most famous visitor during this time was the Marquis de Lafayette, who stayed here in 1825 during his grand tour of the United States. The Revolutionary War hero arrived in Northampton to much fanfare, and attended a reception and dinner in his honor here at the Warner House. He later gave a speech from the balcony, and spent several days in Northampton before continuing on his journey east.

Another 1820s visitor was Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, a German prince who had fought for the Netherlands in the Seven Years’ War a decade earlier. He later published an account of his 1825-1826 visit to the United States, which included a stop here at the Warner House. In the English translation of the book, he gives a detailed description of both the hotel and Northampton itself:

About a mile from Northampton we passed the Connecticut river, five hundred yards wide, in a small ferry-boat, which, as the night had already set in, was not very agreeable. At Northampton we took lodgings at Warner’s Hotel, a large, clean, and convenient inn. In front of the house is a large porch, and in the first story a large balcony. The gentlemen sit below, and the ladies walk above. Elm trees stand in front of the house, and a large reflecting lamp illuminates the house and the yard. This, with the beautiful warm evening, and the great number of people, who reposed on the piazza, or went to and from the house, produced a very agreeable effect. The people here are exceedingly religious, and, besides going to church on Sundays, they go thrice during the week. When we arrived, the service had just ended, and we saw some very handsome ladies come out of the church. Each bed-chamber of our tavern was provided with a bible.

By the middle of the 19th century, railroads had supplanted stagecoaches as the primary means of intercity transportation, but the Warner House continued to be one of Northampton’s leading hotels. It was one of three Northampton hotels listed in the 1851 The Mt. Holyoke Hand-book and Tourist’s Guide; for Northampton, and its Vicinity, which wrote that:

Warner’s Hotel is in the centre of the town, and in the midst of the trading part of the community. The house was inadequate in size to its business, and a large and very handsome addition has just been made to it, the rooms of which are spacious, airy and pleasant. The venerable proprietor has made a spirited and liberal outlay, by which he has added much to the beauty of the town, as well as promoted to public convenience; and we trust he will receive that ample remuneration he so well deserves.

This “handsome addition” was likely the three-story brick building on the right side of the photo, which was built in the prevailing Italianate style of architecture, in sharp contrast to the 18th century tavern building. With this expansion, the hotel remained in business for the next two decades. However, the 1870s saw several disastrous fires in downtown Northampton, including one that started here in the Warner House. The fire burned for four hours, destroying the old hotel building, the newer brick addition to the right, and the Lyman Block on the left, and it caused about $125,000 in damage.

In the wake of the fire, the site was rebuilt as the Fitch House, a large four-story brick, Italianate-style hotel building that was completed in 1871. The hotel was later named the Mansion House, and then the Draper Hotel,and it remained in business until it finally closed in 1955. The eastern two thirds of the Draper Hotel was subsequently demolished, and the current one-story building was built in its place, but the westernmost section of the building is still standing, and can be seen on the left side of the present-day photo.

Benjamin James Building, Newport, RI

The northeast corner of Thames and Franklin Streets in Newport, around 1885. Image courtesy of the Providence Public Library.

The building in 2017:

Newport has many fine examples of architecture from a wide variety of styles, ranging from the colonial era to the 20th century. However, there are comparatively few examples of Federal-style architecture, which was common throughout the northeast in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This era coincided with a stagnation in Newport’s economy, which lasted from the American Revolution until the 1830s, when the city started to become a popular resort community. As a result, there was a limited amount of new construction, and none of Newport’s great architectural landmarks date to this period.

This modest commercial block, located at the corner of Thames and Franklin Streets, was built toward the end of this period, with the National Register of Historic Places inventory listing it as having been built in 1827 by Benjamin James. The early history of the building seems unclear, but by 1860 the ground floor was the home of William Alderson & Co., a wholesale tobacco and alcohol store. An 1860 advertisement in the Newport Daily News listed a wide variety of tobacco, pipes, cigar cases, snuff boxes, and related merchandise. In addition, the advertisement listed “Fine old Wines, Champagnes, Syrups, Cordials, Bitters, &c., fine old Brandies, Hollands, Gin, Wolfe’s Genuine Aromatic Schiedam Schnapps, and Liquors generally.” They were also “Agents for the Columbian Brewery Co.’s Pale and Amber Ale and Porter,” and offered “Goods delivered to any part of the city free of expense.”

By the end of the 1860s, the tobacco shop here was owned by John D. Richardson, “dealer in Havana and domestic cigars, fine meerschaum and briar pipes, tobacco, snuff, and smokers’ articles of all descriptions,” as listed in the 1869 city directory. Richardson was in his late 30s at the time, and during the 1870 census he and his wife Abby were living in an apartment above the store, along with their 12-year-old son John, Jr. According to that same census, Richardson did not own any real estate, but he had a personal estate valued at $2,000, equal to nearly $40,000 today.

The Richardson’s later moved into their own house at some point in the 1870s, but John was still running his business here in this building on Thames Street when the first photo was taken around 1885. The photo also shows a drugstore here in this building, in the storefront on the left side. Opened in 1885 by Charles M. Cole, the store sold “Drugs and medicines, a complete assortment of hair, tooth and nail brushes, perfumes, soaps, etc.,” as indicated in that year’s city directory. Like Richardson had previously done, Cole also lived in an apartment above the store, although by 1890 he and his wife Ella were living in a house elsewhere in Newport, along with their young son Norman.

John D. Richardson died in 1891, but his family remained in the cigar business for many years. The firm later became Richardson & Tilley, and operated out of this building until at least 1929, the last year that the company appears in the city directory. Cole, however, remained in business in this building for nearly 50 years, running his drugstore in the storefront on the left side until his retirement in 1933, two years before his death at the age of 77. In an article about his retirement, the Newport Mercury and Weekly News noted that “In all the years the structure has remained with no alteration, except a front installed by Mr. Cole some years ago, the old paneling and ornamentation remaining in its original form.”

Today, more than 130 years after the first photo was taken, the building’s exterior still has not significantly changed. There have been some minor changes, such as a large window on the right side, and the some of the old details, such as the window lintels, have been removed. The drugstore and the cigar shop are long gone, but the building itself still stands well-preserved, and it is now part of Newport Historic District, a National Historic Landmark district that was established in 1968 in downtown Newport.