The Royalton Town House, Central District School, and Privy are located in the Royalton Village Common in Royalton, Vermont. The three structures are significant under criteria A and C. The Town House built in 1840 is one of the earliest examples of mixed used town hall construction in the state of Vermont, and it is a good example of government buildings constructed in the state at the time. This structure was built as a join venture by the town and the Royalton Academy after both buildings were destroyed by fire in 1839. The buildings illustrate a different time when the village was growing and prospering. Many changes have affected one-room schoolhouses in the area and few retain their massing and details intact. The schoolhouse, originally a one-room schoolhouse, is a good example of the type. After the coming of the railroad, Royalton was divided in two and the area of South Royalton progressed while Royalton suffered a great decline. These three structures are proof of the prosperity present in the area before the coming of the train. The village area is almost a time capsule of an area of fast growing and progress that ended soon after the construction of the Town House and Central District School.
The town of Royalton is located
in Windsor County, Vermont; in the proximity of the state line with New
Hampshire. The original site for the town was up the White River,
west of the current location. After the Indian raid of 1780, where
Royalton was virtually destroyed, the village was relocated. Records
indicate that there was talk about building a grammar school in town as
early as 1782. In 1784, the first meetinghouse in the new village
site was erected and was later replaced with a better one in 1790.
In the beginning, there was some discussion about whether or not a school
should be constructed in the area around the common green. The first
Academy building was erected around 1803 in a site described as “to the
north of White River Turnpike road.” The building was later moved
to a location on the common close to the site occupied by the meetinghouse.
The Royalton Academy was provably established in 1803 since records show that Walter Chapin was the first principal of the academy in the academic year of 1803-1804. The academy was private learning institution. This explains in part why Royalton townspeople originally voted not to allow the academy to erect their building on the common by the meetinghouse green. The townspeople were fearful of violating the conditions on which the common had been given to the town.
In the year 1839 a fire caused by sparks blown from a nearby blacksmith burned the 1790 meetinghouse building and the 1807 Royalton Academy next door. In 1840, the Town of Royalton united forces with the Academy to construct a single shared building. The Town House was built in that year across from the Royalton Common green. It is a simple but significant Greek Revival structure. Detailing such as the return cornices and the boxed bell tower with an inflected dome as well as elements such as massing and fenestration make the Royalton Town House a good example of the vernacular Greek Revival style used in the 1840’s and 1950’s. As with many vernacular buildings of the time, Gothic Revival detailing is also present in such details as the castled railing or battlement around the first level of the tower. Another Greek Revival example is the town hall in Shaftsbury, VT (originally constructed as a church in 1846.) which has a balustrade with Gothic pointed finials.
Town halls as a property
type were built throughout the state of Vermont dating from as early as
the 1830’s, with the majority built after 1850 and before 1941. Originally
town meetings were held in houses, barns, taverns, or any other space available
for the occasion. Meetinghouses were latter constructed to serve
as a meeting space for both the town and the church. In the 1820’s
some buildings were been constructed in the state for the specific function
of town hall, but the type did not gain popularity until the 1850’s.
Built in 1840 the Royalton Town House is one of the earliest examples of
town halls in the state of Vermont.
In Vermont form the 1830’s through the 1870’s, the tradition of building and using town halls for multiple-purposes continued. The Royalton Town House is one of the earliest examples of this kind in the state. The structure was built with a dual function for economic reasons, but this did not stop the town from constructing a building they could nevertheless be proud of.
The location of the building is one of its significant features. The building is a focal point on the town common. Part of the importance in the location is the placement of the building within its site. The structure has a street setback of approximately 160 feet, making it position more prominent in the open green created. The location of the schoolhouse to the side of the structure is also a relevant feature present in the planing of town and village designs of the time where small schoolhouses were commonly placed near the meetinghouse or town house in the center of the town or village.
The Multiple Property Documentation Form, “Historic Government Buildings in Vermont” prepared by the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation in Montpelier, Vermont described some of the reasons for the construction of multipurpose government buildings during the 1830’s and 1840’s in the state of Vermont. The following is an excerpt from that document which used the Royalton Town House as an example of the building type.
“Population and economic fluctuation in the 1830’s and 1840’s curtailed town hall construction in town hall planning evolved. While some towns prospered, especially those with growing manufacturing bases, many towns were losing their population to both more prosperous towns in the state and to emigration of those seeking their fortunes outside Vermont’s borders. In fact Stephen Douglas, a native of Brandon, made an infamous speech in 1855 concerning the situation in Vermont during that time, ‘Vermont is a good state to be born in, a good state to be brought up in… and a good state to emigrate from.” Because of this tendency, some communities had to economize and they planned their town halls to include other activities, such as education, within their walls. Royalton Town Hall (1840) is one example of these mixed-use structures combining government and academics.”1
During the nineteenth century,
the town of Royalton was growing as was the interest placed on the importance
of education. The first publicly funded schoolhouse in the town of
Royalton was constructed in 1801. The oldest, still standing, school
in the small town is the Central District School (also known as the District
14 School) built in 1844. The school originally was a one-room schoolhouse,
but at some point in the late nineteenth-century, a foyer was added.
There are no known photographs of the structure before the addition.
Because of the great changes occurred in the educational system around the state and the country many of the original town schoolhouses have been lost or have lost their integrity due to numerous additions or alterations. The Central District Schoolhouse still retains many of its significant features now gone in other structures. An important characteristic of one-room schoolhouses still present in the building is the rectangular massing of the main room, original to the building. Other significant features retained by the structure are the twelve-over-twelve and nine-over-six windows, as well as the four paneled doors.
A house, which no longer stands, was the only separation between the Royalton Town House and the school. Archeological remains may still exist.
During the twentieth century the Central District School was turned into a garage by the town. A group of citizens decided that the building was of great importance to the history of the town as the oldest standing school and restored it, reconstructing the foyer using documents and historic photographs.
The Privy was the one used on the last Royalton Academy building (Old Methodist Church) located across the town green and Vermont Route 14. In the 1980’s the small structure was about to be demolished. To save it the Royalton Historical Society moved it across the street in 1987. Because of the few existing examples of privies in the state the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation awarded a grant to the Royalton Historical Society for the relocation and restoration of the small structure. The privy was consequently placed between the Town House and the Central District School to be preserved. The structure is representative of the facilities that might have been used by the two buildings at either side.
The three structures are
an integral part of the identity of the Royalton Village. The placement
of the buildings in the common makes their presence a significant one in
the character and the identity of the village.
In resent years the Royalton Historical Society has taken excellent care of the three structures. The Vermont Division awarded two grants for Historic Preservation for the repair of significant features in the Town House. Thanks to these grants repairs were made on the slate roof in 1988, and on the belfry and cornice in 1994.
1 Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. National Register of Historic Paces Multiple Property Documentation Form. “Historic Government Buildings in Vermont.” Montpelier, Vt., August 1994, Section F, page 5.