262 South Prospect Street
The Ruggles Foundation
By Katharine Burns
Tucked neatly behind the Italian Villa mansion fronting South Prospect Street stands a house dating back to the 1820s (1). An isolated structure in this area appears on the 1830 Ammi B. Young map, adding veracity to the claim that the rear of the Ruggles Foundation survives from this early date (2). What is now the eastern wing of the complex was built between 1819 and 1828 for Jesse and Clarissa Hollister. Jesse had joined the Continental army at 19, participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill, and been taken prisoner to Canada prior to settling down for a more sedate existence in Burlington. He died at the age of 76 in 1831, and Clarissa remained in the house until 1835, when Congregational minister Marshall Shedd acquired the property.
Shedd's son William Greenough Thayer Shedd taught at UVM for seven years, and was given the house a year after marrying Lucy Ann Meyers. The younger Shedd, however, did not hold on to his position at UVM for long, and sold the house before vacating Burlington. The next owner, Chalon Davey, had an unsuccessful stint as UVM treasurer in 1855. His performance was deemed unsatisfactory, and he relocated to New York City. The Wallings map of 1857 lists Davey as the resident, although George DeForest, a weathly New Yorker, had bought the house in 1856 as a summer residence (3).
The National Register credits Burlington lumber baron Mial Davis with augmenting the property with construction of the large Italian Villa, yet Blow offers convincing evidence that DeForest built the structure prior to Davis' purchase. Whereas DeForest paid only $4,500 for the site, Davis purchased it from DeForest's widow in 1868 for $30,000, clearly supporting the contention that significant improvements had been made. Either way, the modest original house was incorporated into the new residence. The Davis' were incredibly active in matters of the church, and a Burlington Free Press article from 1897 claims that, "It was in his beautiful house in Burlington about 1868 that Morgan Park Theological Seminary (since merged into Chicago University) was born" (4).
By 1876, the residence had passed into the hands of Horace Brookes (the grandson of Horace Loomis), who maintained ownership for 49 years, although mainly as a summer home. Among Brookes' achievements was the founding of the Vermont Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Dr. Carl Robinson purchased the property in 1927, operating the site as a sanitarium for his patients as well as his home residence. He had earned his medical degree at the UVM College of Medicine, during which time he composed "Hail Green and Gold." His medical career was distinguished by his 1921 decision to purchase radium for the treatment of cancer, the only doctor in Vermont to do so at the time. Unfortunately, his continued exposure to radium wrecked havoc on his body, with his own doctor warning him that he had only five years to live if he continued to handle it. The Ruggles Foundation was established by a grant from Lucy Ruggles, a teacher who lived her own life sparingly. At the time of her death, she had amassed $30,000 for the founding of a home for teachers. In 1932, the Ruggles Foundation was opened.
Photo of 262 South Prospect Street from David Blow, 155.
(1) David Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods. Vol. 2. (Burlington, Vermont: Chittenden County Historical Society, 1997), 153. All information for this history taken from Blow, 152-157.
(2) See Ammi B. Young, Plan of Burlington Village, 1830 (Special Collections, University of Vermont Library, Burlington, Vermont).
(3) Wallings Map, Chittenden County, 1857.
(4) Blow, 155.
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