Burlington, Vermont
Early 20th-century Postcard Views

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

The postcard above, postmarked August 9th, 1914, was printed in the United States. The photo on the right was taken from a similar angle across Rock Point Road on October 18th, 2012.
The postcard above has an undivided back and was postmarked March 30th, 1914. The photo above was taken on October 18th, 2012 from roughly the same place as the postcard image, but which is apparently much more overgrown today.

HOPKINS HALL


Bishop Hopkins did not only have a vision for a school for young men at the Rock Point property, he also had a clear intent and vision for a school for girls on the property as well, and he set out some $14,000 dollars before he died in 1868 for just that purpose.[1] In 1886, a challenge grant was issued by John P. Howard for the Episcopal diocese to jumpstart the request in Bishop Hopkin's will. Howard would donate $20,000 to the construction of a girls school if the diocese could raise $40,000 to match.[2] By the following year the money had been raised and the committee of the trustees of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont adopted the architectural plan presented by Mr. Fredrick T. Camp of New York, a grandson of Bishop Hopkins.[3]


The building, which was built using locally quarried stone of a "reddish cast", was on a plot that included a large lawn in the front, and praised views of Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks, and the Green Mountains. At this time it is apparent that beautiful views could be seen 360 degrees around the building. The trustees also had spent a great deal of time and energy in making sure the interior of the building was up to date and suitable for the education of young ladies. The school opened on Wednesday September 19th, 1888 to a large crowd of the important members of the Diocese. One notable exception was Bishop Bissell, who had fallen ill. Ten of the most important clergy from the Episcopal diocese were present including all of the late Bishop Hopkins sons, and Theodore Hopkins said a special prayer for Bishop Bissell that day.[4]


The Girls School operated for just a little over a decade when the Episcopal diocese unfortunately had to close both schools at Rock Point due to financial difficulty.[5] By 1906 the school had been closed for six years already and was in need of an endowment of $100,000 to reopen, of which only $80,000 had been raised.[6] It took 11 years, but by 1910 the $100,000 dollar endowment fund had been raised and the school was preparing to open in the fall of 1911. At this time, and under the assumption the school would open in the fall, Reverend Hall was looking for a principal and a core of six to eight teachers to run the girls school. An income of $5,000 dollars would be available from the endowment fund annually for the upkeep of the school, but extensive repairs were necessary.[7]


In 1911, opening of the girls school was delayed a year due to $10,000 of necessary repairs to the plumbing and lighting which were needed for the upkeep of the building. The $100,000 endowment fund could not be touched if there school were to open, and so the money had to be raised separately. The trustees were about $3,500 dollars short at the time of the start of the academic calendar and so the opening would have to wait another year.[8] In the winter of 1912 Bishop Hall hinted at retirement due to his ongoing bout with illness, and insistences from doctors that he should head south for the winter. He also hinted and the possible delay of the opening of the Girls School because his illness had prevented him from securing any suitable ladies for run the property, and so the reopening would have to wait again.[9]


Hopkins Hall finally reopened on September 22nd, 1913, with Ellen Seton Ogden Ph.D. as principal and teacher of English and sacred studies, and nine other ladies as teachers and faculty members that taught subjects such as mathematics, science, French, history, phys ed., Latin, art, art history, and music.[10] The girls school had a fancy closing ceremony that first year which included a garden party and a series of plays put on in French for friends and family of the students and faculty.[11]


The girls organized a student government in 1919,[12] and in by 1922 board and tuition cost $700.[13] Despite a clearly well organized, structured, and loved program, the school again fell on hard times as the onset of the Great Depression severely hampered enrollment. In the last publication of the semi-annual Bishop Hopkins Hall circular, the trustees were as follows: president, Rev. Arthur C. A. Hall; secretary, The Rev. George Lynde Richardson; and treasurer, Theodore E. Hopkins.[14] At the time of its final year in 1929, the school could accommodate thirty-five girls as full time students, and these young ladies would take comprehensive courses in three to four year sequences over their time at Hopkins Hall. This description from the 1928 - '29 school circular can give us a reasonable picture about what the landscape, and building looked like both interior and exterior back during the 1928/1929 school year:

"The school buildings lie on the hillside, with open fields orchards, garden, and course for games between the terraces and the Lake the main building rises to three and a half stories in front and to four and a half stories on the lakeside. Contains all the rooms for school and social activities and the chapel at one end rising through two stories. At the other end of the main corridor on the first floor are the schoolrooms and the adjoining classrooms; while in the center of the building are the drawing room, the library and the offices. On a level with this principal story are the large porches which are used for recitations and study hour when the weather permits.

"The schoolroom is a large, well-ventilated and well-lighted room with a northwestern exposure. In it each girl has her own desk and her own section of the memorial bookcase. In the corner of the fireplace are the reserve shelves for the books of general reference and for prescribed reading. At all times during the day this room is a popular gathering place. Here in the schoolroom every one assembles for the opening of school in the morning, and for house meetings and meetings of the various organizations. Here the recitals are given and here the girls dance after dinner. Here too, study hall is held for everyone during school hours and for anyone during the afternoon and evening study hours whose report for the week is lower than a prescribed standard." [15]

However, the annual board and tuition, which had nearly doubled between 1921 and 1928 to $1,200.00, was certainly not affordable for Vermonters of the time.[16] So once again, in 1929, this version of the school at Bishop Hopkins Hall closed, but reopened as the Rock Point School under the with the new mission of helping destitute young local girls.[17] Official church research documents report that the girls were initially trained in basic skills like personal hygiene, health care, domestic subjects, and manners. However, over time a more traditional school of education eventually developed which became accredited, and even went on to help a number of girls get into programs at the University of Vermont.[18] The school became co-educational in 1972, and remains in operation today as a school "for students in grades 9 - 12 who have not found success in more traditional high school settings."[19]

Rock Point School was exclusively a boarding school until in 1985 when Sally Carpenter, Dean of Students, opened the doors to local day students as well.[20] Today the school operates on the principle it is best to provide individualized attention to students, and in turn students of the Rock Point School today enjoy weekend field trips, internship opportunities, and special college seminars for seniors.[21] The most striking difference between the building 100 years ago and the building today is the absence of the large tower at the center of and over the port-cohere.

Notes:

1. "A New School For Girls," Burlington Weekly Free Press, 17 June 1887. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1887-06-17/ed-1/seq-5/


2. "The School For Girls," Burlington Weekly Free Press, 12 March 1886. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1886-03-12/ed-1/seq-5/


3. "Hopkins Memorial Hall," Burlington Weekly Free Press, 14 October 1887. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1887-10-14/ed-1/seq-2/


4. "Bishop Hopkins Hall," Burlington Weekly Free Press, 21 September 1887. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1888-09-21/ed-1/seq-8/


5. Elizabeth Allison, Our Precious Heritage: An Introduction to the History of The Rock Point Property, April 2012, 14; David J. Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods (Burlington, VT: Chittenden County Historical Society), 16-17.


6. Vermont Phoenix, 2 February 1906. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060050/1906-02-02/ed-1/seq-3/


7. "Girls School To Reopen," Burlington Weekly Free Press, 1 December 1910. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1910-12-01/ed-1/seq-16/


8. "School at Rock Point," Burlington Weekly Free Press, 27 April 1911. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1911-04-27/ed-1/seq-7/


9. "Bishop Hall Hints at His Possible Resignation," Burlington Weekly Free Press, 15 February 1912. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1912-02-15/ed-1/seq-13/


10. "Hopkins Hall Teachers," Burlington Weekly Free Press, 11 September 1913. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1913-09-11/ed-1/seq-7/


11. "Hopkins Hall," Burlington Weekly Free Press, 18 June 1914. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072143/1914-06-18/ed-1/seq-16/ =5


12. Brenda Perot Cameron, Bishop Hopkins Hall (Burlington, Vermont, 1928-1929), 7.


13. Ellen Seton Ogden, Bishop Hopkins Hall (Burlington, Vermont, 1921-1922).


14. Bishop Hopkins Hall, 1928, 6.


15. Bishop Hopkins Hall, 1928, 9-15.


16. Bishop Hopkins Hall, 1928, 25-26.


17. Allison 17, 33; Blow, 17; Rock Point School Viewpoints, Burlington, VT, October, 1987.


18. Allison, 34.


19. Allison, 17, 33; Blow 17; Rock Point School Viewpoints, Burlington, VT, October 1987.


20. Rock Point School Notes, Rock Point School, Burlington, VT, July - August 1985; Rock Point School Viewpoints, Burlington, VT, December, 1985.


21. "About Rock Point School," http://www.rockpoint.org/about-us

Text and photographs by Daniel Leckie