447 Main Street
The building at 447 Main Street is a quaint brick cottage that has demonstrated social importance and architectural longevity. Its hints of classical architectural characteristics speak to the democratic ideologies the nation exuberated in the mid-19th century and the fact that it is still home to a Burlington family demonstrates its longstanding appeal and efficiency. Since its original inhabitants in the mid-19th century, a wide array of people have lived, worked, and grown in this building; everyone from the unemployed transient that passed through Burlington to the Assistant Secretary to the U. S. Navy. All of which, have contributed to the social and historical context that makes the building at 447 Main Street a home, and an integral part to historic Burlington.
The house itself is a two unit, one-and-a-half story cottage. The front unit is a rectangular brick block, with a wooden ell extending off the back. It is a north-facing building, three bays by two bays, with a gable front roof. There is a shed on the property estimated to have been built at the same time, demonstrated by its presence with the house in the 1869 Beers map.(1) According to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from 1942, both buildings are wood framed and the shed is two stories with barn-style doors.(2)
447 Main Street was constructed between 1853 and 1865. The Burlington city directories recorded people having lived there as early as 1865 and it appears in 1869 on the Frederick W. Beers Plan of the City of Burlington and Town of South Burlington.(3) However, on the Presdee and Edwards 1853 Map of Burlington, the same lot was vacant.(4) In the 1869 Beers map, the building is cited as the property of M. C. Wheeler, Mary Constance Wheeler; a relative of John Wheeler, a former president of The University of Vermont. Although M. C. Wheeler was listed as the homeowner at "Main and Tuttle" in the 1865 Burlington City Directory, she was not the primary resident.(5) According to David J. Blow in his Historical Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods the property was rented to Mrs. Mary Parker and her daughter Ms. Kirah Parker shortly after its construction.(6)
These were two teachers who used this residential property to educate and care for orphaned young girls. The building soon earned the title, "The Home."(7) The Home gained such instant success it had to relocate twice in the following two years. It eventually grew into the famous Burlington charitable organization known as The Home for Destitute Children.(8) Mary Constance Wheeler, along with many other prominent Burlington citizens, continued to be an active contributor after The Home's relocations from its humble start at 447 Main Street; as demonstrated in the organization's recognition of her in the annual Home for Destitute Children Reports as a contributor.(9)
Ownership of 447 Main Street transferred at the turn of the century to a man named Alfred L. Austin, a local carpenter/builder in the area.(10) For many years the building saw many residents, it was the perfect property to accommodate the rising mercantile class in the New England area, and professionals referenced in the Burlington city directories held jobs as jewelers, traveling salesmen, coachmen and builders.(11) It accommodated a number of people involved with the University of Vermont as students and professors, but there is little evidence that it functioned as an apartment for university affiliated people. It also was home to notable professionals, such as Charles H. Darling.
From 1907-1921 this address is listed as 457 instead of 447 in the Burlington city directories.
Charles H. Darling began living in the building in 1925.(12) He was a very prominent lawyer in Burlington and a United States political figure. Information provided in an address he gave to the Vermont Historical Society in 1904 demonstrates that he was involved in the Civil War, he was a participant in the Vermont Historical Society and he was the Assistant Secretary to the United States Navy.(13) He contributed greatly to the political history of both Vermont and the United States of America, and lived at 447 Main Street in Burlington until 1944.(14)
For the decade after 1944 the building saw some inconsistent residency, people came and went for brief periods of time until Thomas J. Sproston moved in. Thomas lived there from 1956 until 1989, during which he was a professor at the University of Vermont.(15) He authored a few books on Vermont agricultural experimentation and horticulture that can be found in the University of Vermont's library catalogue, demonstrating his specialization in plant sciences. The myriad of occupants who have lived at the building is demonstrative of its importance in the community as a long-standing home for Burlington residents.
The building at 447 Main Street has housed many people, professors, and students that are accounted for over the century in the Burlington city directories. The building is important in the aforementioned contexts because it illustrates how the building helped foster the philanthropic, academic and history rich culture of Burlington.
Text and image by Christine Prevolos, 2011
(1)Frederick W. Beers, Plan of the City of Burlington and Town of South Burlington (New York: FW Beers, 1869).
(2)Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, Sanborn Fire Insurance Map; Burlington 1942 ( New York: Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, 1942), 33.
(3)Frederick W. Beers, Plan of the City of Burlington and Town of South Burlington (New York: FW Beers, 1869).
(4)Presdee and Edwards, Map of Burlington (New York: Presdee and Edwards, 1853).
(5)Hiram S. Hart, Burlington City Directory (Burlington, VT: Free Press Steam Printing Establishment, 1866), 86.
(6)David J. Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods (Burlington, VT: Chittenden County Historical Society, 1991), 172.
(9)Home for Destitute Children, Report of the Secretary and Treasurer of the Home for Destitute Children (Burlington, VT: The Home, 1865), 13.
(10)L. P. Waite and Co, Burlington City Directory (Burlington: Free Press Association, 1896), 78.
(11)H. A. Manning Company, Manning’s Burlington and Winooski (Vermont) Directory (Greenfield, MA: H.A. Manning Company 1914-1929).
(12)H. A. Manning and Co, Burlington City Directory (Springfield, Mass: H.A Manning and Co, 1925), 391.
(13)Charles Hial Darling, Thomas Macdonough: an address delivered before the Vermont Historical Society, October 27, 1904, in the hall of the House of Representatives, Montpelier, Vermont,/by Hon. Charles H. Darling, Assistant Secretary to the U.S. Navy (s.l. : s.n., 1904).
(14)H. A. Manning and Co, Burlington City Directory (Springfield, Mass: H.A Manning and Co, 1925), 391.
(15)H. A. Manning Company, Manning’s Burlington and Winooski (Vermont) Directory (Springfield, MA: H.A. Manning Company), 1956-1989 (directories from 1962-89 were published in either Greenfield, MA or Bellows Falls, VT by the same company).