Ephraim Morris House, Hartford, Vermont

The house at 1627 Maple Street in Hartford, around 1900. Image from The Old and the New.

The scene in 2018:

This house was built in 1894 as the home of Ephraim Morris, one of the most prominent residents of late 19th century Hartford, Vermont. Morris was born in 1832, a little to the north of here in the town of Strafford, and he grew up in Norwich, where he attended Norwich University before moving to Boston to become a clerk in a boot and shoe firm. However, he ultimately returned to Vermont in 1854, settling in Hartford and joining his father Sylvester’s business. Later in the year, he married his wife, Almira M. Nickerson, who was originally from South Dennis, Massachusetts.

Sylvester Morris retired in 1857, and Ephraim carried on the business with his brother Edward. In the early years, they ground plaster and sold it for use as fertilizer, but they subsequently switched to manufacturing chairs. Then, later in the 19th century the brothers entered the woolen manufacturing industry, operating the Hartford Woolen Company along with the Ottauquechee Woolen Company in nearby North Hartland.

Aside from these businesses, Ephraim was also a director and vice president of the National Bank of White River Junction, and he represented Hartford in the state legislature from 1896 to 1898. However, perhaps his single most important contribution to the town came in 1893, when he donated $5,000 to build the Hartford Library. The library, which remains in use today, stands directly adjacent to the spot where, a year later, he built his own house.

Ephraim and Almira Morris had two daughters, Kate and Annie. Both attended Smith College, and Kate was in the school’s first graduating class, along with being the first to receive a Ph.D. from the school. She married Charles M. Cone in 1884, and they lived in a historic house just a little to the east of here in the center of Hartford. Annie, who was 14 years younger than her sister, was still living with her parents when they moved into this house in 1894, and she was still here during the 1900 census, shortly before her marriage to Roland E. Stevens.

The first photo was taken around this time, showing the side view of the house from the library grounds. The architecture of the house was primarily Colonial Revival in style, with distinctive elements such as the large Palladian window, but it also had some features from the earlier Queen Anne style, including the asymmetrical design and the turret at the southeast corner of the house.

Ephraim Morris died in 1901, followed by his widow Almira in 1909. Their daughter Annie subsequently inherited this house, and she lived here with her husband Roland for many years. He was a lawyer, and probably his most famous case came late in his life, when in 1952 he sued the state of Vermont on behalf the Iroquois tribe, claiming that much of the state’s land was unlawfully taken from them. The suit was ultimately unsuccessful, but both he and his case gained widespread attention in newspapers across New England.

Annie apparently died at some point in the 1950s, and Roland died in 1957 at the age of 89. Their large house was subsequently sold to the Bible Baptist Church, which converted it into a church. Since then, the building has been acquired by a different church, Praise Chapel, and it remains in use today. Despite these changes in use, though, the exterior of the building has remained well-preserved in more than a century since the first photo was taken, and it is now a contributing property within the Hartford Village Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

Sunnyacre, Hartford, Vermont

The house at the corner of Main and Pleasant Streets (present-day Maple and Elks Streets) in Hartford, around 1900. Image from The Old and the New.

The house in 2018:

This Queen Anne-style house was built in 1884 as the home of Horace Pease, a member of one of the most prominent families in Hartford during the late 19th century. His father, Luther Pease, had owned the original Pease Hotel here in the village for many years, and he was also a merchant who sold hardware, paints, tinware, stoves, and other such items out of his store nearby.

Horace Pease was born in 1844, and over the years he was involved in a number of different business in the area. He was a partner in the manufacturing firm of French, Watson & Co., which produced farming tools such as pitchforks, rakes, shovels, and spades, and he was also the president of the Ottauquechee Woolen Company. In addition, he served variously as town treasurer, town auditor, and a justice of the peace, and he was the secretary and treasurer of the Hartford Water Works, with his wife Seraph serving as president.

Horace and Seraph Pease were married in 1877, and in 1884 they moved into this newly-built house in the center of Hartford. This lot had been the site of an earlier house that was built here in 1801, but when Horace purchased the property he relocated it to Summer Street and constructed his own house here. He and Seraph subsequently lived here for the rest of their lives, until her death in 1929 and his death three years later.

With no surviving children, Horace’s nephew Charles W. Pease inherited the property, and the house remained in the family for a few more years until it was sold in 1938. Then, in 1945 the house was sold to the Hartford Elks Club, and it was used as the club’s lodge for the rest of the 20th century. During this time, it underwent a significant expansion with an addition to the rear of the building, as shown on the far right side of the second photo.

The Elks chapter has since disbanded, but their sign was still standing when the photo was taken in December 2018. Aside from the addition, the exterior of the house has seen other changes over the years. Many of the original Victorian-era details are now gone, along with the shutters, and the house is now covered in siding. Overall, though, it is still an architecturally-significant feature in the center of Hartford, and in 2018 the 11,000-square-foot building was eyed as the new home of the Hartford Historical Society. However, the organization was unable to raise the necessary funds, and the property has since been sold to a church for use as a community center.

Kneeland-Cone House, Hartford, Vermont

The house at 1407 Maple Street in Hartford, around 1900. Image from The Old and the New.

The scene in 2018:

This house was built in 1804 by Joseph Kneeland, although it has undergone significant changes since then. It originally had a hip roof, and at the time it only consisted of the front portion, without the rear ell. Kneeland evidently owned the property until 1831, but it does not seem clear as to how long he personally lived here, because from 1816 to 1828 it was the home of George E. Wales, a prominent local politician. Wales held many public offices, including serving as speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives in 1823 and 1824, and he was subsequently elected to two terms in Congress, serving in the U. S. House from 1825 to 1829.

In 1831, Kneeland sold the house to Justin C. Brooks, a merchant who lived here for nearly 50 years until his death in 1875. He and his wife Sarah raised their five children here, and the 1870 census shows that his real estate was valued at $6,000, plus $5,00 for his personal estate, for a total net worth equivalent to about $225,000 today. According to once source, the house acquired its current appearance during Brooks’s ownership, with the gambrel roof and the addition of a rear ell. However, another source indicates that this occurred later in the 19th century.

The Brooks heirs sold the house to Charles M. Cone in 1883, shortly before his marriage to Kate Morris. Charles was a local businessman, serving as treasurer and manager of the Hartford Woolen Company, but Kate was probably the more accomplished of the two. She was one of the eleven women in the first graduating class at Smith College in 1879, and three years later she became the first to earn a Ph.D. from the school. She subsequently served on the school’s Board of Trustees, and in 1892 one of its dormitories, Morris House, was named in her honor. In addition, Kate was an author who focused on local history. She wrote a biography of her grandfather, Sylvester Morris, and she served as editor of the Vermont Antiquarian magazine, while also contributing to national magazines such as Outlook and The Atlantic Monthly.

Their house here in Hartford was damaged by a fire in 1889, but it was subsequently restored. It apparently underwent another renovation in 1897, and according to the National Register of Historic Places inventory it was at this time that the gambrel roof was added. In either case, the exterior of the house had largely assumed its current appearance by the time the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century. This photo was published in a historical magazine about Hartford that was titled The Old and the New, whose regular contributors included Kate Morris Cone.

The Cones had four children, although only two, Morris and Alice, survived to adulthood. Charles and Kate continued to live here in Hartford for the rest of their lives. In the absence of street numbers on early 20th century documents, it is difficult to determine whether they resided here in this house for the entire time, but the 1920 census shows them living in Hartford with their son Morris, his wife Jessie, and their infant son John. Kate subsequently died in 1929, and Charles in 1935.

Since then, the exterior of the house has remained well-preserved, although it is difficult to determine which features are original to the house, and which were added as part of the Colonial Revival trend in American architecture during the late 19th century renovations. Either way, though, the house survives as one of many historic 19th century homes here in the traditional town center of Hartford, and it is now part of the Hartford Village Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

Mount Vernon, Virginia (4)

Looking south along the east piazza of the Mount Vernon mansion in Virginia, around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

As shown in the previous post, perhaps the most distinctive feature of George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate is the piazza here on the east side of the mansion, although it is not original to the house. The house was constructed in several stages, starting around 1734 when the future president’s father, Augustine Washington, built a small house here. This was later expanded twice by George Washington, first in 1758 with the construction of a full second story, and then in 1774 with additions on both the north and south sides, along with the piazza on the east side.

The mansion sits on a bluff about 125 feet above the Potomac River, and from here the piazza offers expansive views of the river and the Maryland shoreline on the opposite side. Following the American Revolution, George Washington had envisioned that the river would serve as the primary gateway to the west, with all of the resulting east-west traffic literally passing by his front door. He was even involved with establishing the Patowmack Company, which made navigational improvements further upstream. The river ultimately did not become the great trade route that he had hoped, but it did become the site of the new national capital of Washington, D. C., which was built only 15 miles upstream on Mount Vernon.

After George Washington’s death in 1799 and his widow Martha’s in 1802, Mount Vernon remained in the Washington family for more than 50 years. It steadily declined during this period, though, and by the late 1850s the piazza was in danger of collapsing, with ship masts being used to support the roof. Then, in 1858 the last Washington owner, John Augustine Washington III, sold the property to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. This organization restored the mansion, and opened it to the public and a museum in 1860, making it one of the first historic house museums in the country.

Very little has changed here at Mount Vernon since then. The first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century, showing at least nine visitors, mostly women, on and around the piazza. More than a century later, it looks essentially the same as it did then, with even the same style chairs still lined up here. The estate is still owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, and it remains open to the public as one of the most popular tourist attractions in Virginia.

Mount Vernon, Virginia (3)

The Mount Vernon mansion in Virginia, seen from the east side around 1900-1915. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in a previous post, which shows the house from the west side, Mount Vernon was the estate of George Washington, who lived here from 1754 until his death in 1799. This property had been in the Washington family since 1674, when it was acquired by John Washington. His grandson, George Washington’s father Augustine Washington, later owned the land, and around 1734 he built the original portion of this house, on the banks overlooking the Potomac River.

In 1739, Augustine Washington gave the property—which was then known as Little Hunting Creek—to his oldest son Lawrence. He subsequently renamed it Mount Vernon, in honor of his former commanding officer Admiral Edward Vernon, and he lived here until his death in 1752, when he was in his early 30s. Lawrence and his wife Anne had four children, although all of them died young, and shortly after his death she remarried to George Lee and moved out of the house.

Under the conditions of Lawrence’s will, Anne owned Mount Vernon for the rest of her life, at which point his brother George would inherit it. With the house vacant, though, Anne began leasing it to her brother-in-law starting in 1754, when George Washington was about 22 years old. In 1758 he expanded the house by adding a second story, and then in 1761 he gained ownership of the property upon Anne’s death.

In the meantime, in 1759 Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis, a wealthy widow who was a year older than him. They never had any children together, but Martha had two surviving children from her first marriage, and they grew up here at Mount Vernon. This was also around the time that Washington became involved in politics. He had served with distinction as a colonel in the Virginia militia during the French and Indian War, and in 1758 he was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, where he served until the beginning of the American Revolution.

Washington further expanded the mansion here at Mount Vernon in 1774, with two-story additions on either side of the original house. The large piazza here on the east side was also added as part of this project, and it would later become perhaps the most recognizable feature of the house. However, Washington did not get to enjoy the enlarged house for very long, because in 1775 he traveled north to take command of the Continental Army, and he was away from Mount Vernon for eight years before the war ended.

At the end of the war, Washington resigned his commission in the Continental Army and returned to civilian life here at Mount Vernon. His retirement did not last for long, though, because in 1789 he was elected president. For the next eight years, Washington spent most of his time in the temporary capital cities of New York and Philadelphia, before eventually returning to Mount Vernon at the end of his second term in 1797. He lived here for the last two and a half years of his life before his death in 1799, and Martha Washington died in 1802.

With no biological children, George Washington left Mount Vernon to his nephew, Bushrod Washington, who was a justice on the U. S. Supreme Court. After his death in 1829, his nephew John Augustine Washington II inherited it, followed by John’s son, John Augustine Washington III. He was the last member of the Washington family to own Mount Vernon, and in 1858 he sold the estate to the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which preserved it and turned it into a museum.

By the time the association acquired the property, the mansion was in poor condition. As with many other southern planters, the Washington family owned vast amounts of land, but had relatively little cash. Consequently, the house suffered from many years of neglect, to the point that by the 1850s ships’ masts were being used as makeshift supports for the piazza roof, which was in danger of collapsing. However, the house was subsequently restored, and it opened to the public in 1860.

The first photo was taken about 40-50 years later, showing the mansion’s appearance at the turn of the 20th century. As shown in the second photo, very little has changed since then, aside from the removal of the small porch on the left side and the balustrades over the piazza, neither of which existed during George Washington’s ownership. The estate is still owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association and open for public tours, and it remains a popular tourist attraction, drawing an estimated one million visitors here each year.

Church Street, Bellows Falls, Vermont

The view looking north on Church Street from the corner of Westminster Street in Bellows Falls, around the early 1900s. Image courtesy of the Rockingham Free Public Library.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in more detail in the previous post, the house on the left side of this scene was once the home of Hetty Green, a Gilded Age financier who was well-known for both her business acumen and her extreme frugality. The house itself dated back to 1806, when it was the home of merchant William Hall, and it was later owned by Nathaniel Tucker, who operated the nearby Tucker Toll Bridge over the Connecticut River. In 1879, Tucker’s grandson, Edward Henry Green, purchased the house, and he lived here with his wife Hetty and their two children.

The first photo was probably taken at some point during their ownership of the house, prior to Hetty’s death in 1916 at the age of 81. By then, she had accumulated a fortune of over $100 million, equivalent to over $2 billion today, which made her the richest woman in the country at the time. However, she lived a very modest lifestyle, wearing plain, old clothing and eating only inexpensive food, and reportedly foregoing both heat and hot water here in her house.

Just to the right of the Green house in the first photo is another brick house, which was the home of flour mill operator Edward Arms. He died in 1900, but the house remained in his family for many years. The 1910 census, which was probably done around the same time that the first photo was taken, shows his widow Josephine living here with their daughter Caroline, who was 31 years old. Caroline continued to live here until at least the early 1950s, although in her later years she apparently used it primarily as a summer residence.

On the far right side of the scene is the First Baptist Church of Bellows Falls, which stands at the top of the hill at the corner of Church and School Streets. The congregation was established in 1854, and this building was completed in 1860. It originally featured a tall, narrow spire atop its roof, and throughout the 19th century it was referred to as the needle spire. However, the building was renovated in 1899, including the removal of the spire and an addition to the right side, including a new tower on the corner. The first photo was probably taken soon after this work was completed, as it shows the church in its altered appearance.

Today, more than a century after this photo was taken, much of this scene has changed. Hetty Green’s daughter Sylvia owned the house on the left throughout the early 20th century, but in 1940 she gave the property to the town. The old house was subsequently demolished, and the site is now a bank. The Arms house next door is also gone, and in its place is Hetty Green Park. As a result, the Baptist church is the only surviving building from the first photo. Its exterior is not significantly different, although the tower is hidden from view by the trees, and it remains in use by the same congregation that constructed it more than 150 years ago.