79, 70, and 69 Front Street

circa 1840s


by Nate Bailly

These locations are special in that they are examples of only a few remaining Gothic Revival structures in Burlington. Each has gone through varying degrees of alteration, but retains its distinctive and steeply pitched Gothic dormer facing the street. They are also unusual in that they appear to be surviving buildings that once were a complete set of four.

Though the date of construction of these homes is estimated by the sites and structures survey to be around 1860,(1) they appear to have been built prior to 1853. There is ample evidence to show that the central massing of the current three buildings is the same as shown on the 1853 Presdee & Edwards map of Burlington. The map shows that there were four structures with footprints identical to eachother at these locations, and that they were the only buildings on this section of Front Street at the time. The symmetry and uniformity with which the buildings were placed on the street suggests that the homes may have been constructed simultaneously.(Fig. 1)

Further evidence for a pre-1853 construction date involves the history of Front Street itself. In 1842, well known Burlington businessman Frederick Smith was contracted by the city of Burlington to lay out a series of streets north of the city that included Front Street.(2) Smith had been a key player in Burlington's Champlain Glass Company, and conducted business with a variety of partners. In both the 1853 Presdee & Edwards map and 1857 Walling Map, the four structures were labeled "Smith & Landon," which was one of Smith's many partnerships. The neighborhood also came to be known as "Glassville," in recognition of the area's connections to Smith's glassworks.(3) It is interesting also to note that Smith's own home at 58/60 Park Street has a Gothic dormer very similar to that of the three buildings on Front Street.

Smith's role in laying out the street and the labeling of the area on both the 1853 and 1857 maps of Burlington suggest that the buildings were built both simultaneously and prior to 1853. Further research on the similarities of Smith's home and the Front Street buildings may bring to light stronger connections between them.

79 Front Street , though altered significantly, is the most intact of these buildings. Its eaves forward gable roof is interrupted by a forward facing Gothic dormer. There is a later rear addition. The porch, though recently renovated, may be an original attribute of the building and contains what appears to be original fabric. An on-site inspection while work on the porch was being completed revealed large wooden beams similar to those framing the remainder of the house. This fact is contradicted, however, on the 1877 Bird's Eye map of Burlington which shows 70 Front Street as the only building of the remaining three with a porch. Many Gothic Revival homes during this time were constructed with a one story porch.(4)

According to the sites and structures survey, the house was constructed for "industrial laborers in the post-Civil War lumber boom on the waterfront." It is clear, however, that the house was built prior to 1853 and was connected to Frederick Smith's laying out of Front Street and his glassworks business. The house currently serves as a single family dwelling.

70 Front Street is identical in mass to 79 Front Street. Again, the eaves forward orientation of the structure is dominated by a Gothic dormer. There is a rear and side addition, and the porch has been altered significantly. Little was found of the home's early inhabitants. According to the 1869 Beers Atlas, a woman named "Mrs. G" Resided there. Later in 1902, the building was occupied by Thaddeus B. Robinson.



69 Front Street
has been significantly altered and added to, but the central mass with its Gothic dormer remains. Due to the extent of these changes, the building was not included in the Sites and Structures survey. These alterations occurred early in the life of the building. The 1889 Sanborn Insurance map of Burlington shows a footprint identical to the one seen in current aerial photographs, including its large gable addition in the front. According to the 1869 Beers Atlas, M. Courtney resided at this address. In 1889, there were three different addresses attributed to the building. It is currently a single family dwelling.


(1) Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, Vermont Historic Sites and Structures Survey, Front Street, (Montpelier, Vermont: Division for Historic Preservation, 1978)
(2) W.S. Rann, History of Chittenden County Vermont (Syracuse: D. Mason & Co., 1886), 425.
(3) David Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods (Burlington: Chittenden County Historical Society, 1991), 3.
(4) Virginia and Lee McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984), 149.

Photos: Nate Bailly
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