University Green Area Heritage Study

Historic Burlington Research Project - HP 206


Waterman Memorial Building
85 South Prospect Street

Its construction marked "a new era at the University of Vermont."(1) It was Waterman Memorial Building, a $1,250,000 state-of-the-art facility designed by the architects McKim, Mead and White. Hailed as "one of the largest, best appointed, most modern educational units in New England,"(2) it was erected in 1941 on the corner of College and South Prospect Streets as the "show spot of campus."(3) The colossal building was boasted to have 264 feet of frontage and a depth of 190 feet, occupying four entire building lots upon completion.(4) Despite its enormity in both size and significance, the Waterman Memorial Building was a gift from a man of a very humble background.

Senator Charles W. Waterman was not born rich. Described as "a poor boy who worked his way through college," Waterman graduated from the University of Vermont in 1885.(5) Following his graduation, he found his fortune as legal counsel to the sugar beet industry and western railroads while residing in Colorado, the state he later served as Senator until his death in 1932. Regardless of his rise in status and fortune, Waterman continued to support his alma mater, serving as a trustee from 1921 to 1925, and finally leaving two trust funds to the university following the death of his wife in1939. This fortune was given on the grounds of having an educational building erected with the inscription "Charles Winfield Waterman and Anna R. Waterman Memorial."(6) Upon completion, the Waterman Memorial Building became home to several academic departments as well as entertainment outlets for students.

Designed by McKim, Mead and White, who were the architects for several other projects on campus, Waterman Memorial was built to match the Colonial Revival style the architects had used on the Ira Allen Chapel, Slade Hall, Fleming Museum and Southwick Memorial Building.(7) Constructed mainly of brick with stone portico (Figure 1) and trim, the exterior, in both size and ornamentation, adds grandeur to the University's already remarkable green area.

Figure 1: Waterman Building Portico. Photograph by Lucy K. Hamer, 2011

The original interior was not built uniformly to serve a single purpose; instead it served many different needs. The plans called for educational, practical and recreational spaces, meant to "fill a long-felt need at the University."(8) The basement housed a four-lane bowling alley, an electrical laboratory, a boiler room, as well as locker and dressing rooms. The ground floor was outfitted with several game rooms, a billiard room, cafeteria, lounges and several bedrooms. The second floor held offices, a library and reading rooms. The third floor again held offices as well as drafting rooms and bedrooms. The fourth and final floor was designed to serve university faculty, providing a meeting room and dining room, as well as bedrooms. This floor also held engineering, drafting and blue-printing rooms.(9)

These plans were mainly designed with the male undergraduates in mind. The recreational centers were created to supplement those already provided for the women at Southwick Memorial Building.(10) The cafeteria was greatly anticipated, "expected to become the central eating place for…male undergraduates."(11) The drafting and engineering facilities expanded those male-dominated departments, which were struggling to fit within their current structures. The combination of recreation facilities, cafeteria and administrative offices poised Waterman Memorial to be "the center of men's activities on the campus."(12)

In order to accommodate this structure, extensive reconstruction of the existing sewer system had to be done. Below (Figure 2) is a picture of the construction, dated March 28, 1941. In the picture, the Waterman Building is visible on the left, as well as 438 College Street.

Figure 2: Burlington Streets: College Street, Louis L. McAllister Collection, Special Collections, University of Vermont Library

In order to make room for this facility, several other structures had to be razed. (Figure 3) Among these include the Music Building, Campus House (a woman's dormitory) and a private residence, known on the site plan as the Jackson Purchase.(13) These structures have a history of their own, beginning before they were even built.

The entire southern block from South Prospect Street to Williams Street was an estate owned by Amos C. Spear, listed as being part of the firm A.C. Spear & Co. in the Burlington City Directory in 1866.(14, 15) The area continued to belong to A.C. Spear until at least 1889, but was clearly divided by 1906.(16) Evidence from the city directory indicates that the division happened in 1890, as the ownership of the structure at 85 South Prospect Street changed to W.W. Henry.(17) Henry had previously lived at 18 Pearl Street, during which time he was the mayor of Burlington.(18) During his stay on South Prospect Street, he was part of the firm Henry, Johnson & Lord Co. and also served as the US Consul to Quebec until his departure in 1902.(19)

Figure 3: Site Plan: Waterman Building 1933. Courtesy of UVM Campus Planning Services.

After passing between several other temporary owners and a year of vacancy, the property settled into the ownership of Delta Psi Fraternity, where it would remain from 1905 to 1924.(20, 21) Between 1925 and 1927, the property was simply known as Prospect House, before being used as the Department of Music building for the university from 1928 until its demolition in 1940.(22-24)
Another structure, claimed to have been built in 1827, was also razed. The building, which was a women's dormitory at the time of its destruction, was called Campus House.(25) Formerly known as the Pease House, there is physical evidence confirming its existence as early as 1853.(26) Finally, the Torrey House, a structure also found on maps from 1853, had to be moved to accommodate the new construction.(27) This building now occupies 466 South Prospect Street.(28)

Waterman has undergone extensive interior renovations since its completion. In 1970, a plan by Freeman, French & Freeman proposed to replace the current bowling alley with conference rooms.(29) Currently, the structure holds multiple administrative offices, such as that of the president and senior administration, financial aid, registrar and the Graduate College. The building also holds the largest computer lab on campus, as well as a café and cafeteria.(30)

Text by Lucy K. Hamer, 2011

(1) Edward J. Crane, "Building is Product of Bailey Era," The Vermont Alumnus, May 1940, 172.
(2) "New Unit Will House Many Activities," The Vermont Alumnus, May 1940, 170, 184-185.
(3) "New Building for U.V.M. Campus," The Vermont Alumnus, May 1940, 169.
(4) "New Unit Will House Many Activities," 170.
(5) Lawrence O. Clayton, "Left Fortune to University," The Vermont Alumnus, May 1940, 171.
(6) Ibid.
(7) "New Unit Will House Many Activities," 170.
(8) Crane, "Building is Product of Bailey Era," 172.
(9) Revised Waterman Plans, June 1942, McKim, Mead & White, Microfilm Roll 81-3, Films 1611-1619, Courtesy of Campus Planning Services.
(10) "New Unit Will House Many Activities," 170.
(11) Crane, "Building is Product of Bailey Era," 172.
(12) Ibid.
(13) Site Plan 1933, Drawing Drawer 16, Drawing 1, Courtesy of Campus Planning Services.
(14) Insurance Map of Burlington, Vermont, 1869, Sanborn Map Company, New York, Special Collections, University of Vermont Library.
(15) Burlington City Directory 1866 (Burlington, VT: Hiram S. Hart, Free Press Steam Printing House, 1866), 69.
(16) Insurance Map of Burlington, Vermont, 1906, Sanbron Map Company, New York, Special Collections, Univeristy of Vermont Library.
(17) Burlington City Directory 1890 (Burlington, VT: Hiram S. Hart, Free Press Steam Printing House, 1890), 398.
(18) Burlington City Directory 1888 (Burlington, VT: Hiram S. Hart, Free Press Steam Printing House, 1888), 79.
(19) Burlington City Directory 1890, 398.
(20) Burlington City Directory 1905 (Burlington, VT: L.P. Waite and Co.,1905), 333.
(21) Burlington City Directory1924 (Springfield, MA: H.A. Manning Co., 1924), 387.
(22) Burlington City Directory 1925 (Springfield, MA: H.A. Manning Co., 1925), 416.
(23) Burlington City Directory 1927 (Springfield, MA: H.A. Manning Co., 1927), 398.
(24) Burlington City Directory 1928 (Springfield, MA: H.A. Manning Co., 1928), 435.
(25) "New Unit Will House Many Activities," 170.
(26) Insurance Map of Burlington, Vermont, 1853, Sanborn Map Company, New York, Special Collections, University of Vermont Library.
(27) Ibid.
(28) "Torrey Hall," University of Vermont Department of Biology, accessed November 28, 2011,
(29) Proposed Renovations 1970, Freeman, French, Freeman, Drawing Drawer 72, Drawing 1-9, Courtesy of Campus Planning Services.
(30) "Campus Photo Tour: Waterman Building," University of Vermont, accessed October 15, 2011,