University Green Area Heritage Study

Historic Burlington Research Project - HP 206


John Purple Howard Bust

According to the University of Vermont’s Art and Architecture website, the John Purple Howard was Burlington philanthropist who paid for the renovation of the Old Mill.(1)  Fittingly, this larger than life, bronze bust was placed in a niche on the Old Mill’s western elevation.  The bust was given to the University of Vermont in 1883 by the citizens of Burlington to honor Howard.(2)  Howard was the golden son of Burlington, so to speak.

The bust was made by John S. Hartley of New York City, where Mr. Howard spent a considerable portion of his professional life.(3)   It is done as a Roman style portrait, employing verisimilitude – or a truthfulness – in its execution.(4)  It was placed in the wall of the Old Mill in December of 1883, but was later removed and accidentally put into storage in the attic and forgotten there.(5)  It was rediscovered and returned to its original site in 1968.(6)

As of December 2011, the Howard bust does not reside on the front of Old Mill, having been removed several years ago to facilitate upcoming repairs to its limestone base.

Text by Rachel J. Peterson

(1)“Art and Architecture at UVM,” accessed 5 October, 2011,
(4)David Blow. Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods. (Burlington, VT: Chittenden County Historical Society, 1991), 179
(5)“Art and Architecture at UVM,” accessed 5 October, 2011,