University Green Area Heritage Study

Historic Burlington Research Project - HP 206


Nabb-Jacobs House

146 South Williams Street

The Nabb-Jacobs house is a two and a half story brick-veneered Greek Revival house that was constructed circa 1850. The house presents as a gable front house on the northwest corner South Williams Street and Main Street. It was constructed in three successive phases. The earliest structure is on the western most end of the property. The west façade, which incorporates the original main entrance to the residence, has a gable end orientation to South Williams Street. The house has terrific examples of Greek Revival elements including Doric columns, a full entablature, Greek moldings, a wide frieze, and the corners of the house are articulated as engaged columns.

Based upon its Greek Revival style, the house was probably built circa 1850 by Captain John J. Jones for a retired sea captain friend, Captain John Nabb. (1) Not much is known of the sea-faring captain, and he died in 1877. In 1879, Capt. John Jones deeded the house to the Trustees of the Fund for the Support of the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Vermont. The next occupant of the home was Rev. William H. A. Bissell, the second Episcopal Bishop of Vermont. The Protestant Episcopal place of worship in Burlington is St. Paul’s Church. It is a fine stone Gothic structure that is located on St. Paul and Bank Streets with its stone chapel and rectory. Reverend Bissell moved in the house in 1879 and he lived there until his death in 1893. (2)

A curate of St Paul’s Episcopal Church occupied the house from 1893 to 1902 and in that year the Diocese Trustees sold it for $5000 to Mrs. Caroline Canfield. It appears that she never actually lived there but did rent out the dwelling. The next occupant moved in the house in 1906. Joel Page was a prominent lawyer with an office down on 182 Main Street. (3) He lived there for only two years until the house was turned over to Robert Dewey Benedict in 1908. (4) He too was a lawyer but recently retired.   Mr. Benedict passed away in 1911, but his widow continued to occupy the dwelling until 1920. (5)

It has been disputed when the second lower section to the house was constructed. According to David Blow in his Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, it’s been estimated the addition was built between 1900 and 1920. (6) However, according to a Burlington city map of 1890 published by G.M. Hopkins of Philadelphia, the addition already existed a full ten years before Mr. Blow’s earliest estimate. (7) And to further make the matter more complex, a 1906 Sanborn insurance map shows the house’s shape is much more elongated than its original box form. (8) Therefore the additional section was constructed by this year, and possibly as early as 1890 or even earlier. The Sanborn also shows the house was flanked by wooden porches on both its northern and southern ends. A stable was located in the southeastern portion of the property. (9) The third section of the house, the garage, dates from 1920. This is a wood framed one story structure and sided with painted clapboards.

That same year the house was purchased by Professor Eldridge Jacobs. He taught chemistry and geology at the University of Vermont from 1899 to 1944. He was also a field geologist for the United States Corps of Engineers when they were studying flood control and proposed dam sites in Vermont in 1929. Professor Jacobs lived in that house for 37 years until his death in 1957. His widow, Jessie Jacobs, lived there for another two years until she sold the house to the University of Vermont in November of 1959. (10)

Today the garage has been converted to extra office space and the stable in the yard is long gone. The house has been home to various uses by the university, including housing a student Roman Catholic club at one point, and today it is the home of the student counseling center. (11) Despite its various uses and alterations, the house continues to retain its historic integrity.

Bishop William Russell. Died May 14, 1893. (12)

Text by Andrew Evick, 2011

(1) David Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods (Burlington, VT: Chittenden County Historical Society, 1991), 117.
(2) Charles E. Allen, About Burlington, Vermont (Burlington, VT: Hobart J. Shanley & Co., 1905), 29-30.
(3) Burlington city directory. Springfield, MA: H.A. Manning Co., 1906.
(4) Ibid, 1908.
(5) Ibid, 1920.
(6) Blow, 117.
(7) Map of the City of Burlington Vermont From official Records, Private plans and Actual Surveys (M. Hopkins, C.E.: Philadelphia, PA, 1890).
(8) Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, Sanborn Fire Insurance Map; Burlington 1906 (New York: Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, 1906).
(9) Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, Sanborn Fire Insurance Map; Burlington 1906 (New York: Sanborn Fire Insurance Company, 1906).
(10) Blow, 117-118.
(11) Ibid, 118.

(12)Image from Charles Sumner Lord, Round About Burlington, VT  (Winooski, VT: Vermont Illustrating Co., 1900), 50.