The Crooker House


60 North Prospect Street

By Katharine K. Burns

Among the six houses along the corridor of Prospect Street highlighted in this study, the inclusion of this structure is probably the most contentious. The Historic Sites and Structures Survey (hereafter HSS) states that the "unusual old house probably dates from the 1920's or the 1930's," although Burlington historian David Blow disagrees, dating the house in the 1840s (1). Unfortunately, the National Register does not recognize the building, and thus cannot be called on to settle the argument. While the data is inconclusive, the Ammi B. Young map shows a footprint on this site, and it is probable that the Crooker house was part of the pre-1830 fabric of Burlington (2).

Mason William Eustis Crooker is the first known resident of the house, which appears on the 1857 Wallings map and the 1869 Beers atlas under his name (3). Given Crooker's profession, Blow argues that he built the house shortly after purchasing the property from Colonel Archibald Hyde in 1841 (4). (The HSS also postulates Crooker as the builder, yet provides no rationale for dating the structure nearly twenty years before Crooker bought the property.) In addition to his masonry work, Crooker also co-owned a brickyard with his brothers. Married to Cordelia Crooker, the couple had two daughters, Florence Nightingale and Arabella. The Crooker family tenancy lasted for nearly a century. Florence, who was born in the house in 1856, spent her entire life in the residence. A 1877 graduate of the University of Vermont, she held occasional jobs, but mainly "passed most of her life in her residence on Prospect Street as housekeeper for her parents and sister" (5). W. E. Crooker died at the age of 82 in 1893, leaving the three women alone in the house. The following decade brought the death of older sister Arabella on 3 October 1901 as well as that of Cordelia on 3 February 1903 (6).

According to the Burlington city directory, Florence remained alone in the house until 1920, when she married Vermont-born retiree Louis Shaw. Shaw, a UVM engineering graduate, held the residence in his name. Florence was Louis' second wife, but the marriage lasted only briefly, as she died on 7 June 1924. Shaw lived the remainder of his life in the residence. On 12 December 1997, the Crooker family's time at 60 North Prospect Street ended with his death. According to Blow, Shaw bequeathed the house to the Mary Fletcher Hospital (7), which in turn sold the property to Leo and Rose Schildhaus.

The residence was listed as "vacant" in the city directory until 1940, presumably the time in which the Schildhaus' converted the house into apartments. The first apartment occupants were UVM history assistant Arthur P. Silvester and the manager of the Holland Furnace Company, Thomas O'Keefe. Silvester was the first of many one-year UVM-affiliated personages to dwell in this house, and O'Keefe only remained for three years. In 1941, however, Frank and Marguerite McClure moved in, and the longevity of their residency rivaled that of the Crooker's. Frank died in 1951, the same year that Margaret and Hannah Hinman moved into the adjacent apartment. This arrangement lasted for a decade, until Marguerite apparently passed away, with her son and daughter-in-law remaining. Five years later, the Hinmans were also gone. McClure was listed in the directory as the sole occupant until 1982, when students moved into the two other apartments.

In many ways, the history of the Crooker house shatters many notions relating to the historical value of older structures. Its historicism is virtually ignored both because its lays outside the typical domain of "historic Burlington" with its campus buildings and wealthy society members. In this respect, the vernacular expression of Federalism combined with Greek Revival is under appreciated. As the HSS states, the house "represents the earliest style house found in this area" and "is first in a broad spectrum of styles to be found on the street." Secondly, despite the fact that the house has been modernized on both the south and east facades (not shown in the photo), the residence is remarkable for having maintained a strong sense of familiar dwelling even after its conversion into apartments. Since Blow stops his history after the conversion occurred, this encourages the notion that a buildings history ends when a nuclear family exits. As the McClures and Hinmans demonstrate, this is clearly not the case at 60 North Prospect Street.

 (1) Ammi B. Young, Plan of Burlington Village, 1830. Special Collections, University of Vermont. Burlington, Vermont.
 (2) Wallings Map, Chittenden County, 1857; Beers Atlas, Chittenden County, 1869.
 (3) David Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods. Vol. 2. Lilian Baker Carlisle, ed. (Burlington, Vermont: Chittenden County Historical Society, 1991); Vermont Historic Sites and Structures Survey (Burlington, Vermont: Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, 1990).
 (4) Blow, 109.
 (5) Ibid.
 (6) Burlington City Directory. The following information was obtained through a yearly scan of the directory, 1900-1980.
 (7) Blow, 109.

To STORRS HOUSE, 415 Pearl Street

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