Updated: Apr 18
Welcome to the April edition of History & Heritage. Our purpose is to acquaint you with our mission to preserve the town’s rich history, highlight the legacy of those who have gone before and show how our past has shaped our present. We are a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status.
We are located at 421 Summer Street. At the present time, the Center is open Monday through Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. thanks to a wonderful staff of volunteers.
Beginning in June our hours will be 10:00 – 4:00 Monday through Saturday. Please mark your calendar for the August Ghost Walk. It will be the 19th at 7:00 p.m. at Mt. Pleasant entrance. This is your establishment and we encourage your support in making this historic home a wonderful place for exhibiting, preserving and collecting St. Johnsbury’s history. The carriage barn is a work in progress but the horse drawn vehicles and the ice cutting exhibit are ready for your visit. Progress is happening on different projects in the Center with two closets being readied as exhibit spaces; reception area having maps hung and a new case filled with early St. Johnsbury artifacts; stain glass windows lit and basement storage improved with lighting, shelving and climate controls. The Carriage Barn has a wagon platform scale up and weighing while other scales wait for their place in the exhibit space. Check out our web site at www.stjhistory.org and our Facebook page. Our mailing address is 421 Summer Street, St. Johnsbury, Vt., 05819 and phone number is 802 – 424 – 1090.
Whose House was Where?
One of our most commonly asked questions is about named homes and where they were. I have to stop and think myself sometimes so maybe this month’s article will help. The most often “named” houses were: Paddock House, Brantview, Sheepcote, Pinehurst, Elmwoode, Underclyffe, The Bluffs, Fernwood and the Elms. From this list, the first four are still standing; the others have faded from their sites for one reason or another.
Here is an interesting perspective for seeing the most at one time – if you stood with your back to the door of the front entrance to the St. Johnsbury Academy Alumni office (former home of Graham Newell) and looked to your right on the same side of the street, there would be Sheepcote, beyond but still right you would have Brantview. Now let your “memory” eyes look across the street and you would have been looking at the Elms and last with the same kind of eyes, more to the left and across South Park, you would have seen Fernhill. I have an idea that you might be able to see Pinehurst too if Streeter Hall was missing and maybe when the leaves were down, Underclyffe could have been seen!
The first remaining home is the Paddock House, built in 1820 on Main Street. It was the first brick home in town. Ephraim and Abba had the home built and all these years later, it still is referred to as the Paddock House. Ephraim’s sister was Phoebe Paddock Fairbanks, mother of Erastus, Thaddeus and Joseph. It was letters of encouragement from the Paddocks to the Fairbanks that got them here from Brimfield, Mass. The three brothers’ homes are gone but a couple of the next generations live on. Pinehurst, on Western Avenue was built as the home of Horace Fairbanks and family in 1852 by Horace Carpenter. Horace, son of Erastus and giver of the Athenaeum, had greenhouses, carriage barn and cattle grazing on Summer Street. You now know it as the Elks Home.
Horace’s brother Franklin had Underclyffe built in 1872. All that remains is the street name and the area has dozens of homes where once there was one. Underclyffe is off Cliff Street and is a rather small height of land. It was the beginning of the Fairbanks Museum on the third floor! The Brooks family (the next generation) fell on hard times and had to leave the home in 1922. The buyers were much more interested in the land and location of “homes” and by 1938, it was torn down.
Also in the vicinity of Western Avenue was the home of Henry Fairbanks, (son of Thaddeus), called Elmwoode in 1878. It was said to have had within its walls the cottage built by Thaddeus in 1838. The land is now the site of the St. Johnsbury School, having been bought by the town in 1930. The demolition was started at the end of that year, with the area graded and cellar hole filled in around 1935.
The remaining two are not so commonly spoken of but every once in a while a named picture shows up and the question is asked, where was that? The Bluffs was located in the most northern section of Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. That section is called the Ross section because the home once belonged to the Honorable Jonathan Ross. It sat on a bit of a rise overlooking the Passumpsic River. Fernhill is shown in Balch’s 1900 photo book entitled St. Johnsbury, containing many photos of homes in St. Johnsbury. Fernhill was home to E. D. Blodgett and sat on the rise above Western Ave, known as South Park. This home came down when Streeter Hall was put up.
Hopefully you are not more confused! And in all honesty, these are not all the homes asked about but surely are the most popular ones. When looking at pictures, you cannot imagine why they would be brought down but time marches on and other needs and ideas replace what time no longer sees as useful.