58/60 Park Street

Smith House, circa 1830s


by Nate Bailly

On the corner of Park and Shermann streets stands this two story brick building with an eaves forward gable roof and a large forward facing Gothic dormer. A large rear section was added between 1869 and 1889.(1) It was once the home of Frederick Smith, a well known Burlington businessman and owner of the town's first manufacturing outfit; the Champlain Glass Company.

The Champlain Glass Company began business in 1827.(2) For many years, Smith served as an apprentice with the company and later became co-owner in 1835. The new management was named "Smith, Loomis & Co., but continued to sell window glass under the title of Champlain Glass Company.(3) The sale and production of window glass became a booming success under Smith, and in December of 1838 it was reported that Champlain Glass would be replacing many old wooden buildings with stronger brick ones.(4) The Smith House was among those that were used for the manufacture of glass, and could feasibly have been scheduled for maintenance work or even replacement during this time of prosperity.

The exact date of construction for the building is very difficult to determine, and there is evidence that points toward both pre-1830 construction and circa 1840 construction. The house is an interesting combination of the Federal and Gothic Revival styles. The allusions to the Federal style of the early 1800s include its gabled roof eaves forward orientation, and semi-circular gable vents. The steeply pitched forward facing dormer is unmistakably Gothic Revival, and is nearly identical to those found on the 79, 70 and 69 Front Street buildings. Smith had been contracted by Burlington in 1842 to lay out Front Street and Battery Street north of Pearl.(5)

On the 1830 Ami B. Young map of Burlington, there appears to be a building at the current location of the Smith house. It is not known whether the current structure represents this, or if it was constructed at a later date. The house is given a construction date of circa 1840 by the Sites and Structures Survey, but mentions that the structure underneath is that of a much older building. It was also not able to be determined whether the Gothic dormer was added at a later date, but the exterior of the house was said to have been "updated."(6) The historian David Blow mentions a construction date of 1840 in his Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, but is most likely basing this on the sites and structures survey. Historian Diana Carlisle also mentions an 1840 date and does not list a source for her information.(7) A University of Vermont Graduate student doing research on this same house felt that it most likely contained pre-1830 fabric.(8)

The finding of older building fabric by the sites and structures survey suggests that this building went through a series of changes from around 1830 to around 1840. Much of what is seen today, including the brick exterior and the Gothic dormer, could very well have been added in the 1840s during a prosperous time for the Champlain Glass Company. This cannot be determined definitively due to lack of evidence, but updating a house for maintenance reasons or to coincide with the current styles was certainly not unusual. In 1837, Alexander Jackson Davis had published his design book Rural Residences which highlighted many of his Gothic Revival ideas.(9) It would not be far-fetched to suspect that Smith had access to this pattern book and others written at the time. This may also help to explain the similar design of buildings at 79, 70, and 69 Front Street, which were in the area layed out by Smith known as "Glassville."

By 1850, Smith's Champlain Glass Company appeared to be closing up shop. With a dwindling supply of wood and severe competition from the Pennsylvania area, the business could no longer profit.(10) Smith continued to live at 58/60 Park Street until his death on January 27, 1892. He spent the last three years of his life "confined to the house" due to ill health.(11) In 1917, the house was renovated, split up to create a duplex, and continues to serve this function today.

(1) Sanborn Insurance Map, 1869 and 1889.
Hamilton Child, Gazetteer and Business Directory of Chittenden County Vermont (Syracuse: Hamilton Child, 1882), 100.
(3) L. Diana Carlisle, "Champlain Glass Company: Burlington's First Manufacturing Enterprise," Vermont History 67-68 (2000): 147.
(4) Burlington Free Press, 28 December 1838.
W.S. Rann, History of Chittenden County Vermont (Syracuse: D. Mason & Co., 1886), 425.
(6) Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, Vermont Historic Sites and Structures Survey, Park Street, (Montpelier, Vermont: Division for Historic Preservation, 1978)
Carlisle, 151. Carlisle's research is very thorough, and her conclusions about the date of construction for the Smith house likely stemmed from personal interviews with direct descendents of Frederick Smith.
(8) Douglas Porter, "58/60 Park ­ Smith House" [UVM HP website], available from www.uvm.edu/histpres/HPJ/burl1830/streets/battery/smith.html.
(9) Mark Galerntner, A History of American Architecture: Buildings in their Cultural and Technological Context (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1999), 149.
Carlisle, 156.
Burlington Free Press, 28 January 1892.

Photo: Nate Bailly
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