Church Street looking northwest from Bank St.
October 23, 2012, 7:30 a.m.
57-59 Church Street
61-69 Church Street
71-75 Church Street
Union-Central Building Block
This three-story, fifteen-bay, easterly-facing brick block on the northwesterly corner of Church Street and Bank Street, directly north across Bank Street from the Howard Opera House, is made up of three separate buildings. None of these buildings appear on the 1830 Young map, in which most of that block is a vacant lot. (1) All three buildings appear on the 1869 Sanborn fire insurance map, which means they were constructed some time between 1830 and 1869. According to the Church Street Historic District nomination, the southerly most building known as Allen Block was constructed between 1857 and 1863, followed by the Central Block circa 1860 and the Union Block in 1863. (2) Built as a cooperative effort between separate owners, these buildings reflect the popularity of Italianate style around the time of the Civil War. (3)
The Union-Central Block has been home to an array of businesses over the years. In 1889 its occupants, as penned onto the Sanborn fire insurance map, included a drug store, grocery store, music store, wallpaper store, jewelry store, and a clothing and fur store, among others. (4) The arrival of a tea, coffee and chinaware shop around 1900 added to the rotating assortment of stores in the growing marketplace. (5) The building was painted, altering its color in more recent history, but details such as the window lintels and cornice line brackets remain telling of its original Italianate style. Hidden by the trees, the northerly Union Block experienced extensive fire damage in 1977 resulting in the demolition of its upper stories. (6) Like many other buildings on Church Street, its exterior appearance has changed but its use and function have not. The tradition of mixed use has been, and remains, an important component of Burlington's downtown economy. Now, this location is home to multiple retailers including a "Life is Good" merchandise shop, the Vermont Butcher Block and Board Co., Lake Champlain Chocolate, and clothing retailers Downtown Threads and Monelle. Ken's Pizza restaurant and pub is in the southwesterly corner of the building.
1. Ammi Young, Map of Burlington, Vermont, 1830.
2. Church Street Historic District, National Register Nomination, 2009, 106; accessed at www.burlingtonvt.gov/PZ/Historic-Preservation/National-Register-of-Historic-Places/
4. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Burlington, Vermont, 1889.
5. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Burlington, Vermont, 1900.
6. Church Street Historic District, 108.