Burlington, Vermont
Early 20th-century Postcard Views

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

About the project

Area maps

Previous projects

College Street View

This postcard is dated circa 1905-1914. The image would have been taken from the corner of South Williams Street looking northeast at the buildings. This image was taken from the corner of South Williams Street looking east. Photo by author, 2012.

The view of College Street looking northeast from the corner of South Williams Street depicts three buildings from left to right: the Sigma Phi house, 438 College Street, and in the current view can be seen the Waterman Building. Other obvious objects worth discussion includes the widening of the road and the curbs. The trees along the road in the postcard and current views of College Street also are important in understanding the changing landscape around the street.

When the postcard was created, horse drawn vehicles were the normal means of transportation. This all changed with the introduction of the automobile and that included paved roads and even the widening of the roads to accommodate the different sizes of vehicles on the roadways. 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.(1) 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.(2)

There was even a classification system of the pavement types and what they were best suitable for. For example, Classification II was for Telford on roads with heavy traffic, while Classification V was for gravel in light traffic area with firm, dry soils.(3) College Street had at least two different classifications including: Classification I for asphalt and Classification III for the macadam.(4) The roads were paved wide enough to allow two vehicles to pass on the road.(5) Throughout the rest of the 20th century roads have continued to be repaved and widened to accommodate the ever-changing motor vehicle.

In 1918 the Burlington Street Department began looking for a contractor to work on the curbs and gutters of the city. The city wanted concrete sidewalks with or without cinder foundations. It was also expected that the contractor would be responsible for cleaning, grubbing, excavating, draining, protecting the work, materials, labor, appliances, the cinder foundation, the concrete bases, and any wearing surfacing that would be done. So basically the contractor needed to have all materials and tools needed to do the work, the city of Burlington had none of it. Lastly, the job also included resetting of stone curbs and gutter with new foundations; the same for current concrete curbs and gutters in need of those repairs too.(6) This bit of information points to the fact that Burlington before 1918 had both stone and concrete curbs, so most likely the curbs seen in the postcards above were of stone or concrete.

The building history of this view starts very early with the 1862 Burlington city map, which shows the area as being owned by two different people: A.C. Spear and a Mrs. Thomas. Both lots had buildings located on the lots. A.C. Spear continued to own the land until at least 1885.(7) The 1906 Sanborn insurance map shows that area of College Street with empty space and one building facing South Prospect Street.(8) The 1912 Sanborn map finally shows the Sigma Phi house to the right of that building is an unlabeled building, most likely 438 College Street, while to the right of that building is another unlabeled home, which is facing South Prospect Street. This home if it is the same one from the 1906 Map, the 1912 view shows that two wooden porches were added to the front and backside of the main building that was there in 1906.(9)

The building known as 438 College Street was built in 1908 by Edward J. Booth; he and his family lived in the home until 1949 at the latest. Edward J. Booth was listed as living at the home until 1944, when he most likely passed away. His wife, Ina V. Booth continued to live in the home until around 1949.(10) In 1951 the Holy Family Convent appears in the Burlington City Directory as the occupants of the structure. The Burlington Roman Catholic Diocese continued to own the home until 1997. The Catholic Church used the building for a number of its organizations including: the Sisters of the Religious Hospitalers of St. Joseph, Saint Joseph's Convent, and the Sisters of Charity.(11) The Church sold the building in 1997 to the University of Vermont. Since acquiring the building, the University has used the building as administrative offices for the College and Arts and Sciences.

In 1941 the Waterman Building's construction began. The 1942 Sanborn insurance map shows the newly constructed structure.(12) Senator Charles W. Waterman funded the construction of the Waterman building and the architects for the building were McKim, Mead, and White.(13) Today the building houses numerous offices including the President, Provost, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate College, Financial Aid, and the Register.

Another thing that can be seen in the postcard image is a row of elm trees going along the edge of the street. Today those elms are not there anymore because 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."(14) Efforts were made throughout the state to save the elms but it had no effect and most of the elms were felled during the 1960s and 70s.(15) In place of elm streets it was decided that short, quick growing, and tough trees that could handle the Vermont environment would be replanted.

Text by Courtney Doyle

1. 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.
2. Ibid, 22.
3. Ibid, 26.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid, 30.
6. Burlington Street Department, Specifications-Sidewalk Curbing and Gutter Work, Information for Contract Bids, (Printed by the Burlington Free Press for the City of Burlington's Street Department),1918, 5-8.
7. Sanborn Insurance Map, Burlington Vermont, June 1862, New York: Sanborn Map & Publishing Co., 1862, Sheet 15. Sanborn Insurance Map, Burlington Vermon,t June 1885, New York: Sanborn Map & Publishing Co.,1885, Sheet 12.
8. Sanborn Insurance Map, Burlington Vermont, June 1906, New York: Sanborn Map & Publishing Co.,1906, Sheet 35.
9. Sanborn Insurance Map, Burlington Vermont, June 1906, New York: Sanborn Map & Publishing Co., 1906, Sheet 35. Sanborn Insurance Map, Burlington Vermont, June 1912, New York: Sanborn Map & Publishing Co.,1912, Sheet 33.
10. Burlington City Directory (Burlington, VT: L.P. Waite and Co., 1909), 79. Burlington City Directory 1944 (Springfield, MA: H.A. Manning Co., 1944), 38. Burlington City Directory 1949 (Springfield, MA: H.A. Manning Co., 1949), 263.
11. Lucy Hamer, University Green Area Heritage Study: 438 College Street (UVM Historic Preservation, 2011) http://www.uvm.edu/~hp206/2011/sites/34.html. Burlington City Directory 1951 (Springfield, MA: H.A. Manning Co., 1951), 143. Burlington City Directory (Springfield, MA: H.A. Manning Co., 1954), 302. Burlington City Directory (Springfield, MA: H.A. Manning Co., 1961), 308.
12. Sanborn Insurance Map, Burlington Vermont, June 1942, New York: Sanborn Map & Publishing Co., 1942, Sheet 33.
13. "New Building for UVM Campus," Barre Daily Times, March 28, 1940.
14. 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.
15. University of Vermont Trees, "UVM Tree History," PowerPoint presentation,accessed at www.uvm.edu/~uvmtrees/?Page=meet/treetour.html&SM=meet/submeet.html, accessed December 1, 2012.