Burlington, Vermont
Early 20th-century Postcard Views

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

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"First Church, Burlington VT." Published by Valentine & Sons Publishing Company, New York and Boston. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Vermont.

First Congregational Church, Burlington VT. Taken by Samantha Ford on November 11, 2012.

First Congregational Church

The Burlington Calvinist Society was formed in 1805. They originally met in a church that was built in 1812 that was on Pearl Street. This building unfortunately burned to the ground in 1839.(1) After purchasing a lot at 38 South Winooski Avenue, on the corner with Buell Street, the Society began construction on a new building. The new church was finished in 1842, constructed in the Greek Revival style with a cost of $20,000.00.(2) It is built with red brick and wood painted white to create a contrast that would make the wood shine like stone. This building still stands today, mostly unchanged from 170 years of use. In 1904 the body of the church was lengthened to accommodate the growing congregation.(3) This postcard is postmarked in 1911, so the photo most likely shows the church after the addition was added.

Today, cars and trees crowd much of the view of the building, the best vantage point is from the front where the colonnade is visible. The Ionic columns supporting the pediment are reflections of a Greek temple and a defining feature of the Greek Revival style. Topping the building is a tower that is a replica of the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, Greece. The Church claims this particular monument was used to portray "the importance of music in the worship life of church."(4) Creating exact copies of Greek temples and monuments was extremely popular during this time. It served as a way to add historic character to a young nation. Today the tower monument is lit up at night by a spectrum of colors of the rainbow, putting a modern touch on a very ancient structure.

1. Charles E. Allen, About Burlington Vermont (Burlington, VT: Hobart J. Shanley & Company, 1905), 30.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. "History" First Congregational Church; accessed October 30, 2012 at http://firstchurchburlington.org/welcome/history/