University Green Area Heritage Study

Historic Burlington Research Project - HP 206


Dewey Hall


Dewey Hall, located at 2 Colchester Avenue, is at the head of Pearl Street where it intersects with North and South Prospect Street. Its three stories are constructed of gray terra cotta and red brick. [1] The building was constructed in Pomeroy Hall picture 001.jpg 1904 upon the grounds of the University of Vermont’s previous medical college building which burned in 1903. [2]

Some of the earliest classes taught at the Medical College were in 1809, thus making the University of Vermont’s Medical Department one of the oldest in the United States. [3] The University’s first Medical College, now known as Pomeroy Hall, located on Main Street opposite the south end of the University Green, was built in 1829. [4] However, it closed in 1836 due to a lack of students, and was used by the chemistry department until the Medical Department was reorganized in 1854. [5]  

The Medical Department was allowed to reoccupy the building as long as they kept it maintained. [6] In 1858, renovations were done in order to maintain the Medical College. However, by 1875, the building was once again in need of repair. medical building 001.jpg These repairs were undertaken, but due to the increasing class sizes entering the medical school, they were of no consequence. In 1883, the repairs the Medical Building needed became known to the public. Shortly afterwards, a citizen came forward offering to buy property on the north side of the College Green upon which the new medical building was built. It is this building that burned. [7] The fire which destroyed the Medical Building began at eleven o’clock on the morning of December 3, 1903, resolving the issue of whether or not to give the Medical Department a new building. [8] By 3:30 p.m., the fire was extinguished after having burned for more than four hours. [9]  

     April 8, 1904, four months after the fire, the trustees instructed that preliminary plans for a new building be drawn up; a fund-raising campaign was started later that month. The construction of a new building that would be “completely medical building on fire 001.jpg modern” was approved by the trustees in July provided that the medical faculty agreed to pay four percent interest on a $30,000 loan to pay the $80,000 it would cost to build this new building. Champlain Manufacturing Company received the contract on August 25, 1904, with a completion date set for May 1, 1905.  The company agreed to build the building as designed by W.R.B. Willcox. [10] On Alumni Day, June 27, 1905, the building was dedicated. [11]   

The building was designed in the Neoclassical style by Burlington native Walter Ross Baumes Willcox (1869-1947). Willcox was one of the only professionally trained architects in Burlington at the time; he trained at the University of Pennsylvania in addition to a year of advance study in Europe. Willcox was highly influenced by the Jacobethan style; his designs in this style can be seen today at 59 North Prospect St., 266 South Union St., 148 College St., and at 255 South Willard St. Willcox was also interested in other styles such as the Beaux-Arts style, which can be seen on College Street in the Carnegie Library, as well as the Colonial Revival style. Willcox found success in Burlington, yet it was his goal to belong to a larger and more progressive community; he believed that “…architecture, along with other arts, is an expression of the values, aspirations and character of the society that produces it.” [12] Thus, he only practiced in Burlington from 1895 to 1907, when he moved to Seattle. There he formed a partnership with William J. Sayward, a young architect from Woodstock VT., and engaged in city planning, municipal affairs, and became an active member of the American Institute of Architects. [13] Willcox remained in Seattle until 1922, when he moved to Eugene, Oregon where he remained there for the next twenty years, devoting himself to teaching and becoming the head of the State School of Architecture; where he created an architecture program which not only became a prototype but led to a reformation in the training of future American architects. [14]         

When built, the new building was fireproofed and contained three floors consisting of a basement, first floor, second floor, and third floor; it also contained a ventilating system. It was heated by steam and lighted by gas and electricity. [15] The basement contained a coat room, a boiler room, coal storage, a fresh air chamber, a lounging room, toilet room, storage, a reception room surrounded by three consultation rooms, and a room for ashes. The first floor contained a histological and pathological laboratory, a library, a bacteriological laboratory, an obstetrics room, a patient’s room, a coat room, a lecture hall, an ante  room, a business office, toilet, faculty room, and four storage rooms. The second floor contained a chemical laboratory, a pharmacology room, three recitation rooms, private chemical laboratory, two lecture rooms, minor surgery and bandage room, the upper part of the main lecture hall, and an experiment room. Finally, the third floor contained a museum, physiology room, curator’s office, dissecting room, prosecting room, demonstration amphitheater, locker room, a recitation room, lecture room, three storerooms, and three open classrooms. [16] A garage was built north of the building by 1909.

As early as 1914, the Medical College was once again in danger of closing due to the recommendation of the Carnegie Institute. Yet, this recommendation never came to fruition thanks to the intervention of the University and the legislature. In 1919, the office of the President of the University, as well as the offices of his administration, joined the Medical College. The Medical College expanded its student body in 1921, when it began to accept women into the program. [17] In 1924, the Medical College had large laboratories for chemistry, anatomy, physiology, histology, bacteriology, physiology, clinical microscopy, embryology, and pharmacology, as well as rooms for “practical work,” recitation rooms, lecture halls, Anatomical and Pathological Museums and the University library. Additionally, the first floor contained the offices of the comptroller and registrar as well as the President of the University. On the second floor were the offices of the Vermont Children’s Aid Society, while the third floor contained the offices of the editor of University Publications, Alumni Council, Alumni Secretary, and Alumni Weekly. [18]

In 1969, the Medical College underwent renovations in order to become the home of the Psychology Department. [19] The laboratories, dissecting rooms, lecture rooms, library, lounge room, museum, as well as the corridors were all renovated. The rooms were divided into smaller spaces and turned into offices, which created space for more offices to be placed in the middle of the corridor. In the basement, what used to be the student lounge is now the Behavioral Therapy Center; the rest has been converted into office space. The lecture hall on the second and third floor is all that remain of Willcox’s original design. The fourth floor, like the other floors, was renovated into office space, and is currently a restricted area where research takes place. [20]  

On November 10, 1969, the Medical College was dedicated to John Dewey, who was a philosopher educator, and “…world famous for his teaching and writings on education and philosophy.” [21] The Medical College is now referred to as Dewey Hall, and is still the home of the Psychology Department.

Text and photo by Robyn Sedgwick, 2011

Fig. 1-3, Martin Kauffman, University of Vermont College of Medicine (New Hampshire: University of Vermont College of Medicine, 1979), 24, 88, 95.

[1] “University Buildings: The Medical College,” The Vermont Alumni Weekly, December 3, 1924.

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Department of Medicine,” University of Vermont and State Agricultural College Catalogue 1904-1905, 139.

[4] Martin Kauffman, University of Vermont College of Medicine (New Hampshire: University of Vermont College of Medicine, 1979), 24, 86.

[5] Martin Kauffman, University of Vermont College of Medicine, 53.

[6] Ibid, 53.

Ibid, 86.

[7] Martin Kauffman, University of Vermont College of Medicine, 86-89.

[8] Ibid, 94.

[9] Ibid, 94-96.

[10] “Building Contract,” (Campus Planning Service files, University of Vermont).

[11] Ibid, 96-100.

[12] Clark Schoettle, “Deceased architects and builders who have worked in Burlington VT,” 20.

 “The Department of Architecture: History,”

[13] Clark Schoettle, “Deceased architects and builders who have worked in Burlington VT,” 20.

Alan Michelson, Pacific Coast Architecture Database: Walter Willcox,

[14] Clark Schoettle, “Deceased architects and builders who have worked in Burlington VT,” 20.

The Department of Architecture: History,

[15] Department of Medicine, University of Vermont and State Agricultural College Catalogue 1904-1905, 139.

[16] Campus Planning drawer 14 “1904  drawing plans”, 35-37.

[17] National Register of Historic Places Continuation Sheet Section number 7,

[18] The Vermont Alumni Weekly “University Buildings: The Medical College” Vol. IV, No. 9, December 3, 1924.

[19] “UVM President Rowell Dedicates Dewey Hall for Psychology Studies,” The Burlington Free Press, September 11, 1969.

[20] Walter L. Hough, First Floor Plan Second Floor Plan, 1968, (Campus Planning Services files, University of Vermont).

[21] “UVM Dedicated Dewey Building Today,” The Burlington Free Press, 10 September 1969.