Postcard of College Street Congregational Church, Burlington VT. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Vermont.
College Street Congregational Church, Burlington VT. Taken by Samantha Ford on October 8, 2012.
In the spring of 1860 there was a schism in the Calvinist Congregation of the First Congregational Church on South Winooski Avenue. Forty-five of their members left to form the Third Congregational Society in July of 1860. (1)
Another group also split from the original congregation to form the Unitarian Church, which stands at the head of Church Street. The Third Congregational Society built their church at 265 College Street on the corner of College and South Union Street in 1863-1866. (2)
Designed by J. D. Towle from Boston, the building was dedicated in 1866 and cost about $40,000.00 to $50,000.00 to build. (3) The Gothic Revival style architecture makes this building stand out from those in the surrounding area. The yellow sandstone came from the nearby Willard's Ledge Quarry and the blue limestone, used to accent to the sandstone, was quarried in Isle La Motte. The redstone foundation of the building and the slate roof are similar shades of dark red. The slate used on the roof was brought up from southern Vermont. (4) A Burlington Free Press article titled, "The College Street Church," from February 23, 1866 states, "The effect of the three combined colors is very pleasing."
To the left of the front entrance is a 114-foot tower topped with a spire. This tower was adorned with a bell and a clock with illuminated dials in 1878. To the right of the entrance is a smaller 54-foot tower capped with a hipped roof. The chapel can hold two hundred-fifty people while the audience room was built for five hundred to six hundred people. (5) In 1951 an addition was built onto the back, designed by Freeman French Freeman out of Burlington. (6)
Today the church looks very similar to how it did when it was built. The surrounding area, however, has changed greatly. The grass yard to the right of the front entrance is now a parking lot for the Fletcher Free Library. The streets were paved with asphalt and new concrete sidewalks were added. The street was widened to provide more parking for visitors who wish to utilize the downtown area of Burlington. In the original postcard, American elm trees line the street, which are no longer present due to Dutch elm disease that devastated the city's population of elms by the 1970s. There also appears to be vines growing up the western elevation of the church that no longer exist today. Power lines and streetlights line the sidewalks, leaving no doubt that this area has come into the 21st century.
1. Charles E. Allen, About Burlington Vermont (Burlington, VT: Hobart J. Shanley & Company, 1905), 30.
3. "The College Street Church," Burlington Free Press, February 23, 1866.
6. David J. Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods Volume II (Burlington, VT: 1990), 20-22.