The main block of the Daniel Lyon house is roughly square,
with three bays on each side. Additions extend out from the rear
of the house, and a carriage shed, now a dwelling, is located
to the northeast. The shallow hip roof overhangs the clapboard
walls, looking somewhat awkward without its cornice-line brackets.
According to the research completed by David Blow , the Lyon house
has seen at least two dramatic remodelings-first in 1918 and again
in 1991 (1). The changes to the house's exterior have obscured
or removed many of the original architectural details, such as
the cornice-line brackets and a Tuscan tower that was located
on the southeast corner. The main entrance to the house was through
the tower, so the current front door is the product of a later
alteration. The large window with sidelights above the door was
probably also changed when the front door was added. The Burlington
Historic Sites and Structures Survey notes that the house's roof
probably once supported a cupola as well, as was typical of the
large Italianate homes in Burlington of this period. The 1877
Birdseye View of Burlington provides visual evidence of the house's
original appearance, complete with offset tower.
The house was built for Captain Daniel Lyon after he sold his previous home on College Street to D.D. Howard in 1855. Captain Lyon enjoyed a long career, beginning at age ten on ships of his uncle, Captain White. He made his living as the captain of several boats and steamships on the Lake until about 1844, retiring to become the President of the Commercial Bank in Burlington. In the early 1830s he also became involved in the hotel business-this is what eventually sent him to Detroit in 1855 (2). Capt. Lyon's first wife, Alvira H. Lyman died young, at age 31, on March 15, 1837 (3). The following year he married Mary Grout, a teacher at the Charlotte Female Seminary , and known for her "clear intellect and intense moral earnestness" (4). Their only daughter later married the prominent Burlington hardware merchant, George. I. Hagar. The Lyons first lived on King Street and then moved in 1844 to their newly constructed home on the corner of College and Williams Streets, now known as the O. A. Burton house. In 1855, the Lyons moved briefly to Detroit, only to return later that year, taking up residence in a newly constructed home at 300 Main Street (6). From 1868 until 1879, Captain Lyon served as one of the first cemetery commissioners in Burlington, playing a key role in the construction of the Lave View Cemetery on North Avenue (7). Dan and Mary lived at 300 Main Street for the rest of their lives-he until his death on January 20, 1892 at age 89, and she until her death just ten days later, at 82 years old. Herman Allen, a dry goods merchant in the Howard Opera House Block on Church Street, purchased the property in 1894 (8). He and his family lived there until 1918. In 1919, the Burlington City Directory lists the occupant as Holland (later spelled Harland) B. Howe, US District Court Judge. By 1925, the house had been divided into four apartments and the carriage shed at the rear of the property had also been converted into a dwelling. The 1977 City Directory shows the main house divided into five apartments and by 1980, it contained fourteen apartments. The address does not appear in the 1990 directory, perhaps indicating that this is when its conversion to condominiums was underway. It has been used as condominium residences since that time.
The exact construction date for this house is somewhat nebulous. TheHistoric Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods estimates its date as 1855, as does the Burlington Historic Sites and Structures Survey. The National Register nomination for the Main Street-College Street Historic District, to which both the house and the carriage barn are contributing structures, dates the house to c. 1856 (9). Captain Lyon's obituary in the Daily [Burlington] Free Press notes that he spent 1855 and 1856 in Detroit managing the Michigan Exchange Hotel with his brother Edward. He returned to Burlington in 1856: "...on his return from the West he built the residence on Main Street" (10). This places the house's date of construction some time between 1855 and 1856. However, it does not seem to appear on the 1857 Wallings map of Chittenden County. It is shown and labeled on the 1862 map of Burlington. This footprint, largely matching that of today, also appears on the 1869 Beers Atlas map. Consequently, it may be more accurate to date the house construction as some time between 1855 and 1862. The Italianate details original to the house also support the slightly later construction date. Despite the alterations it has seen over the years, it remains an important historic house, both for the association it has with a prominent Burlington family, as well as its high style.
(1) Blow, David J., Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, Chittenden County Historical Society, Queen City Printers, 1991.
(2) "Death of Captain Lyon, Last of the early steamboat captains of Lake Champlain," Daily Free Press, January 21, 1892, page 4, column 3.
(3) Blow, David J., Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, Chittenden County Historical Society, Queen City Printers, 1991.
(4) "Mrs. Capt. Dan Lyon Follows Her Husband 10 Days After His Death," Burlington Free Press, February 1, 1892, page 4, column 3.
(6) "Death of Captain Lyon, Last of the early steamboat captains of Lake Champlain," Daily Free Press, January 21, 1892, page 4, column 3.
(8) Burlington City Directory, 1894-1895.
(9) Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Burlington, Vermont, Main Street-College Street Historic District.
(10) "Death of Captain Lyon, Last of the early steamboat captains of Lake Champlain," Daily Free Press, January 21, 1892, page 4, column 3.