Burlington, Vermont
Early 20th-century Postcard Views

HP 206 Researching Historic Structures & Sites • 2012
Historic Preservation ProgramUniversity of Vermont

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South Prospect Street Views

This postcard of South Prospect Street looking North possibly may have been taken looking north from the corner of South Prospect Street and Main Street. The postcard shows to the right, the University Green and the Marquis de Lafayette statue. To the left of the postcard are seen sidewalks, dirt roads, and 109 South Prospect Street. The postcard is circa 1900-1923. This photo of South Prospect looking north was taken from the corner of South Prospect Street. In the picture the University Green is located on the right and 109 South Prospect Street can be seen on the left behind the fall foliage. Photo by author, 2012.
This postcard of South Prospect Street looking south is postmarked 1905. The image was most likely taken from across the University Green looking south. The University Green is located on the left. This image of South Prospect Street was taken looking south from the corner of Main Street and South Prospect Street. Photo by author, 2012.

The postcard views of South Prospect, facing both north and south, offer details of the street and most importantly the landscape. Barely visible in the north view of South Prospect Street, in the left side of the road, is 109 South Prospect, which is known as the Peirce-Spaulding House. In the same postcard, the right side of the road depicts the University of Vermont's campus green. The statue of the Marquis de Lafayette is just visible in the midst of the foliage. Another obvious aspect of the north view of South Prospect street is the over abundance in trees, most of which are not there today. The same types of features seen in the north view of South Prospect Street can also be seen in the south view of the street.

Focusing briefly on the history of 109 South Prospect, the land the house was built on originally, was in the possession of two different people. The Burlington city map of 1853 shows that the land on South Prospect closest to Main Street was owned by John Wheeler and north of that estate, the land was owned by Z. Thompson.(1) Later in the 1869 Burlington Sanborn insurance map, the same area of land is owned by A. C. Spear and Mrs. Z. Thompson.(2) Mrs. Thompson lived in that area from 1867 until 1876; the 1875/76 Burlington City Directory described the home as being located on Prospect Street near College Street.(3) A. C. Spear was located in the area from at least 1865 until 1891; his home also was described as being near the corner of College and Prospect Streets.(4) Though in later directories, the A. C. Spear home is listed as 438 College Street.(5) It is possible that Spear owned all of that land and then moved from one home to another.

The building that eventually became today's 109 South Prospect was constructed in 1895 by Albert G. Peirce. The land Peirce bought was originally part of the Wheeler Estate. Peirce supposedly hired Taylor Austin to build the home.(6) Peirce lived in the home from 1895 until his death in 1904; during his lifetime the building was listed in directories under 103 South Prospect Street.(7) Mrs. Albert G. Peirce continued to live in the house until her death in 1917. After that time, Franklin Douglas Spaulding bought the home and lived there until his death in 1958.(8) It was under his ownership, that the building received it current street address of 109 South Prospect Street.(9)

Shortly after Spaulding's death, the University of Vermont purchased the house for $53,000; the University's Trustees allowed $60,000 for the purchase and the costs of renovations. President Carl W. Borgmann felt the building was, "Ideal for some future building, perhaps an engineering building because of the proximity to the engineering laboratories in the Waterman Building." At the time though, the Peirce-Spaulding home was used as the office for alumni activities and Public Relations & Development.(10)

Located within the campus green, seen in the north view of South Prospect Street, is the Marquis de Lafayette Statue donated by John P. Howard.(11) The reasoning behind the statue was because Lafayette had laid the corner stone of the South College Building on June 25, 1825, when he visited Burlington.(12) The Vermont Sentinel reported on July 8th, 1825 that Lafayette had visited Burlington because of a request made by Governor Van Ness for the Burlington citizens to Lafayette to visit the city. When Lafayette arrived there was much celebration and on his visit, Lafayette laid the corner stone of the new South Wing of the College Building.(13)

In 1920 it was decided by the University to replace the Lafayette statue with a statue of Ira Allen.(14) The reason behind the statue of Allen is because Ira Allen had been responsible for establishing the University. In 1789, Allen gave 4,000 pounds towards the founding of a college that would be located within two miles of the Burlington bay; this was passed and approved by the Vermont Legislature in 1791.(15) Since the Ira Allen statue was to replace the Lafayette statue, the later had to be moved to a new home. It was decided that the Lafayette statue would be placed further north on the Campus Green and for this reason it was decided that new paths on the Green would be eventually needed.(16)

Other objects that were located on the College Green during the years have included graded walkways, rows of trees, and a fence. All of which were gifts from the class of 1837.(17) In the second edition of Picturesque Burlington from 1894, the author described the College Green as having two groves, one of pine and the other of tamaracks. Chauncey Goodrich allegedly planted the pine grove in the 1850s and Professor Farrand W. Benedict planted the tamaracks. There was also supposedly a group of cedars planted by President Wheeler and elms surrounded the College Green.(18)

During the 1930s and 40s Dutch elm disease started to spread throughout America from infected elm logs imported from Europe. In 1949, the threat of the Dutch elm disease in Vermont was severe enough for the Governor at the time, Ernest W. Gibson, to discuss it in his inaugural speech. Gibson said about the disease, "…left unchecked there is every reason to expect this to spread rapidly and damage our trees. I believe provision should be made for inspections by out department of Agriculture to determine the spread of this disease and that steps be taken to encourage community effort in carrying out clean up and control measures."(19) Efforts were made throughout the state to save the elms but it had no effect and most of the elms, especially on campus, were felled during the 1960s and 70s.(20)

The pathways of the campus green have changed throughout the history of the University. In 1894 the pathways on the green went around the outline of the area, which formed a quadrangle with the south end being wider than the north end. Walkways cut across the northern portion forming an "X," while the paths leading to the Marquise de La Fayette statue and the Howard fountain, north of it, created a triangle with circles surround each lawn decoration. The south portion of the green also formed an "X." the layout of the paths in 1910 remained similar to those of 1894; the only changes included parallel paths created between the northern "X" and the path crossing the fountain.(21)

The two postcards would show the western edge of the campus green (facing South Prospect Street) and any paths visible here would correspond to paths there during 1894 and 1910. It does seem that in the northern view of South Prospect Street, that the walkways leading to the La Fayette statue are visible; the same can be said of the south view too.

Lastly, another visible change in the South Prospect Street landscape would be the roadways. In the two postcard views, the roads are unpaved and the south view of South Prospect Street even shows a horse drawn wagon in the distance. In 1894, the city of Burlington began formulating plans for permanent street improvements. In preparation for the improvements many aspects of the surrounding roadways were examined including: roadbeds, soils, grades, topography, and even traffic patterns.(22) Different types of pavement were researched to decide which ones were best for Burlington's soils, for example tar concrete was declared not suitable for the soils in Burlington.(23)

There was even a classification system of the pavement types and what they were best suitable for. For example, Classification I was for asphalt paving to be used in business districts, while Classification III was for eight inch macadam, meant for heavy traffic on firm or dry soils and heavy grades.(24) Since South Prospect Street was a busy location, it probably was paved with macadam if the soil was firm and dry, or Telford if the local soil was wet or a light grade.(25) The roads were paved wide enough to allow two vehicles to pass on the road.(26) Throughout the rest of the 20th century roads have continued to be repaved and widened to accommodate the ever changing motor vehicle.

Text by Courtney Doyle

1. Presdee & Edwards, Map of Burlington Vermont, 1853.
2. Sanborn Insurance Map, Burlington Vermont June 1869, New York: Sanborn Map & Publishing Co., 1869, Sheet 14.
3. Burlington City Directory for 1875/76, (Burlington: L.P. Waite & Co., 1875/76), 93.
4. Burlington City Directory for 1877/78, (Burlington: L.P. Waite & Co., 1877/78), 129.
5. Burlington City Directory, (Burlington: L.P. Waite & Co.), years: 1881-1891.
6. Campus Treasures: Peirce-Spaulding House, 1999. http://www.uvm.edu/campus/109soprospect/109history.html.
7. Burlington City Directory of 1902, (Burlington: L.P. Waite & Co., 1902), 298.
8. Campus Treasures: Peirce-Spaulding House, 1999. http://www.uvm.edu/campus/109soprospect/109history.html.
9. Burlington City Directory, (Burlington: L.P. Waite & Co., 1930), 413.
10. "Public Relation Note," dated February 22, 1958. Part of the Special Collections UVM Building Info File for the Peirce-Spaulding House.
11.Untitled, Vermont Phoenix, June 24, 1881.
12. Untitled, Vermont Phoenix, June 24, 1881. J.E. Goodrich, "Sketch of the History of the University of Vermont," The Burlington Cynic, 1901-1902.
13. "Reception of General La Fayette," Vermont Sentinel, July 8, 1825.
14. "Statue of Ira Allen," St. Albans Daily Messenger, August 27, 1920.
15. E.F. Walbridge, "Historical Sketch of the University," Ariel, (Burlington, VT: University of Vermont: Junior Class, ed.), 1917, 418-438.
16. Untitled, St. Albans Daily Messenger, October, 21, 1920.
17. Junior Class ed., Ariel, Vol. 18, (Burlington, Vt: University of Vermont), University Archives, University of Vermont, 1905.
18. Joseph Auld, Picturesque Burlington: A Handbook of Burlington, Vermont and Lake Champlain (Burlington: Free Press Association, 1893), 116.
19. Ernest W. Gibson, Inaugural Address, Journal of the Joint Assembly, Biennial Session, 1949. State of Vermont Archives, http://www.vermont-archives.org/govhistory. Defenders of Wildlife, Invasive Species in Vermont, http://www.defenders.org/publications/vermont.pdf.
20. University of Vermont Trees, "UVM Tree History," PowerPoint presentation, located at www.uvm.edu/~uvmtrees/?Page=meet/treetour.html&SM=meet/submeet.html, accessed December 1, 2012.
21. Chester H. Liebs, ed., The Burlington Book: Architecture, History, Future Historic Preservation Program (Burlington, Vt: UVM Historic Preservation Program, 1980), 16-17.
22. William S. Bacot, C.E. and Advisory Board, Permanent Street Improvements in the City of Burlington 1894, (Burlington, VT: Burlington Free Press Associate Printers, 1894), 1, 17.
23. Ibid, 22.
24. Ibid, 26.
25. Ibid.
26. Ibid, 30.