Carriages, Sugar, and Old-Fashioned Crackers
by Aidan Pellegrino
Gray's Carriage Company
Just south of the intersection, at King Street and South Champlain Street, there lies a building that has been standing since 1848. While in this current day it is simply known as 183 South Champlain Street, it was for the first fifty years of its life referred to as, Gray’s Carriage Factory. The story of how this building came to be begins with John K. Gray, and his apprenticeship with two local wagon builders and blacksmiths. These two men were Simon Willard and Truman Seymour. In 1830, Mr. Seymour left both Burlington and his business on Pearl Street, and so it was taken over by both Mr. Gray and a man named John D. Perrigo. However when Mr. Perrigo died, seven years later, Gray then bought the business. It was at this point in time that the idea probably began for a new building, and in the spring of 1848, Mr. Gray purchased a lot from Lyman B. Potter on South Champlain Street. It was on this lot that his new carriage factory was built.1
For the next thirteen years John K. Gray built his carriages and sleighs at this location. Over this time it is determined that he taught the trade to his son. On March 1861, the partnership between the father and son was dissolved, and all of the assets and debts of the company were granted upon Charles. The Burlington Free Press described this as “a mutual consent”.2
Charles B. Gray was able to transform the business and become one of the most powerful carriage dealers in the area. The reason for his success was not only due to the machines he created but also for his marketing. The advertisement below was posted in many editions of the Burlington Free Press and it most definitely helped to spread the word of his factory.
Additionally in 1871 he was recognized as the only exhibitor of carriages in all of Burlington.3 The open and top buggies on display were of superior craftsmanship and were sold for close to a thousand dollars. These ranged from yacht bodied, coal-box patterned open buggies to Germantown Rockaway’s. It is said that a Mr. Henry Loomis purchased an elegantly cushioned and upholstered Germantown Rockaway for 800 dollars. With this being known, it is understood that more than just carpentry and finishing went into this craft, but upholstery as well. There are many aspects to creating carriages and the property at 183 South Champlain Street was seemingly designed for all of these aspects.4
Charles Gray ran the company well until he became old and decided to sell. On January 17, 1885 at ten in the morning a public auction was held to sell the property. As to who purchased the property it is unknown, but ever since, the building has housed only apartment units.5
Notes (Gray's Carriage Factory)
2. Burlington Free Press, March 30, 1861.
3. Burlington Free Press, September 25, 1871.
4. Charles Edwin Allen, About Burlington Vermont (Burlington, VT: J, Shaney, 1905).
5. Burlington Free Press, January 9, 1885.
Crystal Confectionary Co. & Mead Manufacturing
In September of 1902, Urban A. Woodbury (the past governor of Vermont) , purchased a lot on the corner of College Street and Pine Street from Mr. Charles B. Gray.1 It was from this point on that that the building at 101 College Street pictured below began construction to house the Crystal Confectionary Company and Mead Manufacturing Company (both of which Mr. Woodbury was president and majority owner).
Just three months later the first newspaper article was released previewing the plans for building construction. The east side of the building was designed to house the Crystal Confectionary Company and the west side was designed to house the Mead Manufacturing Company.2 In between these sides of the building were general offices and two solid brick firewalls. The reason being for this design was to make each companies building portion meet its specific needs because both companies were involved in very different business. Crystal Confectionary Company was a maker of both confections and cigars and so they required systems similar to kitchens. The Mead Manufacturing Company was a maker of shirts, overalls, and suspenders and so they required much different types of systems. Mead was also a bit of a smaller company and so they required less space then Crystal.
Urban A. Woodbury had owned Crystal Confectionary Co. for a while however Mead Manufacturing was newly acquired. Originally the company started in Berlin, NH and had moved to Burlington not very long before 101 College Street was built. This process for the transfer of location began on February 17, 1902 at a Burlington city public meeting. In the past Mead had employing somewhere from fifty to a hundred operatives and Burlington was doing what it could to draw them into town because they thought it could be good for the economy. The reason for the meeting was to make a vote on the proposed tax plan for Mead if they came to operate in Burlington. This plan was very gracious and would exempt Mead from paying any taxes for a total of ten years as long as they stayed in town for that time.3 Of course this was a very good offer and Mr. Mead (the owner at the time) accepted the proposal, moved to Burlington, and within a few years sold the company to Mr. Woodbury.
The age of the building can really be seen by the amount of bays that were covered. Back in the day when lighting was not as efficient and operations were mainly during the day more windows were needed. In the picture below is an example of how the windows were covered with brick. While this is only one portion of the building I did some counting and around the entire building there is about 25 different bays that have been covered to date. While some people may find these changes visually unappealing I think it is a cool insight into the history of a building. The fact that you can still see those headers a hundred years later is very interesting.
In addition to these covered bays some lower level windows were also filled. The curious thing about these lower windows is that they allow us to see that the ground around the building was also raised over time for some reason.
The only reason of for all of the window fill-ins is that perhaps it was done for privacy purposes. Currently this building is set up to house elderly folk and they may not like people having the ability to see in windows. Also more elevators or stairways may have been added for these people with disabilities and so sections of building may be closed off now for those reasons.