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The Powell House

70 South Williams Street


Offices, Philosophy Department



The house at 70 South Williams Street is one of oldest remaining homes on the street.  In 1865, South Williams Street was just known as Williams Street and this home was shown in the city directory as being located between Pearl and College Streets.  The first owner of the home was P.S. Peake, who only lived there for a few years and does not appear in any subsequent city directories.[1]  By 1869, A.G. Strong, a prominent local hardware store owner purchased the home.  Strong’s hardware store was located downtown on College Street and was one of several hardware operations in Burlington at the time.[2]  By 1892, E. Henry Powell, an auditor of accounts and attorney moved into the house.  A year after moving into the home, Mr. Powell’s brother Max moved into the home and the two created the Vermont Collections Agency and later the Powell & Powell Insurance Company.[3] 

Visible differences on the exterior of the building point attention to changes made to the building over time.  On the main block, shutters were removed, leaving shadows over the spots they once occupied.  A wing on the building which projects southward has a slightly different color of brick and course pattern from the rest of the brick used on the building, suggesting that this was a later addition.  This building features a porte cochere, one of three such examples found on the same city block with the others located on 86 South Williams Street and 438 College Street.  E. Henry Powell passed away in 1913 but his widow, Georgiana lived in the home until 1930.[4]  Several changes to the property occurred shortly after Mr. Powell passed away.  Between 1912 and 1919, a back porch was added to the building.[5]  This is supported by physical evidence showing ghost lines of a removed shed roof on the rear elevation.  By 1926, a two story wood building was constructed at the back edge of the property near to the rear porch.[6]  After a series of renters resided at the house during the 1930s, the Powell house was purchased by the University of Vermont for use as the new home of the University Music Department.  The department needed to relocate shortly after the Music Building on 85 South Prospect Street was slated for demolition to make room for the Waterman Building.[7]  The wood frame building on the rear edge of the property was converted to general storage and later as a plumbing and paint shop for the University.  Sometime between 1960 and the present day, this wooden frame structure was removed from the site.[8]  In 1976, the Music Department moved to a new building on the Redstone Campus and the Powell house was occupied by the Philosophy Department.[9]  The house at 70 South Williams Street has remained in use by the Philosophy Department since the 1970s.


[1] Hart, Hiram. Burlington City Directory & Business Advertiser.  Burlington Free Press Steam Printing Establishment publ. Burlington VT: 1865.
[2] Burlington City Directory 1869-1870.  Burlington Free Press publ. Burlington VT: 1869-1870.
[3] Burlington City Directory 1892-1893.  Burlington Free Press publ. Burlington VT: 1892-1893.
[4] Burlington City Directory 1930.  Burlington Free Press publ. Burlington VT: 1930.
[5] Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Burlington 1919.  Map. Burlington VT: Sanborn Company, 1919.
[6] Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Burlington 1926.  Map. Burlington VT: Sanborn Company, 1926.
[7] Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Burlington 1942.  Map. Burlington VT: Sanborn Company, 1942.
[8] Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Burlington 1942-1960.  Map. Burlington VT: Sanborn Company, 1960.
[9] Blow, David.  Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods.  Eds. Lilian Baker Carlisle. Chittenden County Historical Society publ.  1991. Page 113.



Researched by: Johnny Holdsworth

graduate student, Historic Preservation Program, University of Vermont, 2007



Last modified December 04 2007 08:50 PM

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