The importance of community involvement is paramount in Preservation. From private businesses to public offices and places of worship, community support has been the driving force behind these three highlighted projects, and often times it was because of the outcry from the community that the projects began, continued, and succeeded. Ethan Allen Firehouse, the Follett House, and Howard Mortuary Chapel reflect that sense of community into their various uses today.
Ethan Allen Firehouse
Figure 2. Sanborn Maps from 1885 and 1900, respectively
The Ethan Allen Firehouse is situated on 135 Church Street, flanked by City Hall on the South and City Hall Park on the West. The building that stands today was designed by A.B. Fisher & Co., a business of contractors and builders employing A.B. Fisher and his son Clellan Fisher.1 It was erected in 1889.2 However, a smaller structure in relatively the same location is indicated as “Ethan Allen Hose No. 4” on Sanborn maps from 1869 and 1885.
According to the Firehouse’s National Register nomination in December of 1970, “the original use was to house the complete operations of a horse drawn fire company, and later motorized fire apparatus.”3 The Ethan Allen Engine Co. 4, which initially occupied the building, was organized due to the growing demand for more fire fighting contingencies, and eventually grew into a thriving social club as well.4 The firehouse was used to house the Ethan Allen Fire Company No. 4 until 1927, when the Burlington Police Department occupied the building. The Ethan Allen Company moved to a newly built location on South Winooski Ave. In place of firetrucks, the police department used the lower level for emergency vehicles and motorcycles, while “the west end contained the main office and on the third floor were ‘lock-ups’ for wanderers who came in for a night’s lodging.”5
Burlington Police Department vacated the building in 1967, when it moved into 82 South Winooski Avenue.6 After this point, the building remained unoccupied and began to suffer from lack of maintenance. Mayor Francis Cain initially declared the building a hazard, and apportioned $12,000 of the city budget to raze the building. However, a surprising amount of public outcry, culminating in a landmark New York Times article by Ada Louise Huxtable, drew attention to the Firehouse’s viability as a significant architectural edifice:
“The Ethan Allen fire station, a severe brick volume of considerable style and strength in the center of the row, that ties the two lesser volumes of the architecturally nondescript bank and City Hall together. In a sense, it saves them. But it is about to be torn down, for a gap-tooth parklet between the buildings.”7
In response to a “rising tide of opposition” to the Fire Station’s proposed demolition, Mayor Cain organized a meeting to investigate potential efforts at restoration, and a pair of designs was submitted, although the board meeting to review the designed was poorly attended by city aldermen.8 One design by William Henderson of Linde-Hubbard, Inc. proposed use of the building for office and commercial purposes, with an estimated cost of $135,000.9 A less ambitious alternate proposal by Colin Lindberg of Freeman French Freeman introduced the idea of using the first floor as a gallery, with renovation costs of $35,000. Unfortunately progress was stymied by a, perhaps not unforeseen, inability to cull together the funds for the project. The situation became even more dire as the impending winter loomed, with the threat that the building could not survive another cold season without degenerating into a state of irreparable dilapidation.
In October of 1970, Mayor Cain formed a committee in response to the sense of urgency for the building’s survival.10 While prospective tenants flirted with the ideas of using the space for a restaurant or offices, those uses “failed to jell.”11 Having not yet found a reasonable use for the building, the $12,000 that had been budgeted for the building’s demolition again seemed to be the impending fate of the firehouse. However, preservation efforts forged ahead, and the Burlington Historical Sites Committee appointed by Mayor Cain looked to federal sources of funding to help usher the Ethan Allen Firehouse through the winter. At what seemed to be the eleventh hour, a $63,000 matching grant from HUD was allocated to the project, which made the prospective of saving the building a realistic one.12
In April of 1971, the Chittenden County Historical Society featured the Firehouse preservation effort in a bulletin, stating that the building required “$15,000 worth of work to hold its own,” and referencing the mayor’s appeal to interested parties in advising on the Burlington Historic Sites Committee with particular focus on the preservation of the Firehouse. The article urged members of the Chittenden County History Society to join the cause. 13
Following the renewed effort, the city continued to raise funds to match the HUD grant, for the federal money could not be released until equal funding was provided. Out of this necessity, a “Firehouse Preservation Fund” drive was initiated by the Burlington Ecumenical Action Ministry (BEAM), and by October 5, 1973, the fund had raised $63,200 towards the effort, which allowed construction to begin on the building.14 Acquiring appropriate funding was merely the beginning challenge; while the structural integrity of the Firehouse was still intact, on the inside, “the building’s interior looked as if it had exploded.”15 Because the HUD grant stipulated that an elevator be installed in the building, a full renovation was not attempted within the budget at the time; instead restoration focused on the first and second floors. Colin Lindberg, one of the two architects who had originally proposed the renovation plans for the Firehouse, was commissioned along with Kencliff Construction Company to complete the work, with a projected completion in January 1974.16
Figure 3. Plans for the rehabilitated Firehouse. Courtesy of UVM Special Collections, Historic Buildings—Ethan Allen Firehouse Stack File
Figure 4. Firehouse West Elevation, photo courtesy of author
Later that year, the University of Vermont established Church Street Center, a division of Continuing Education 1974, offering courses at the Firehouse.17 In 1976, rehabilitation of the third and fourth floors was completed.18 The Firehouse has entertained many community-focused uses since then, serving as the office for the Department of Planning and Zoning beginning in 1989.19 The building was also used as an Office for Senator Patrick Leahy, and eventually was leased to Burlington City Arts, the current tenants, in 1995. BCA used the first floor of the building as an arts gallery, first on a trial basis, later acquiring the second floor, and eventually expanding its operations to the third and fourth floors.20 Major renovations were initiated in 2001, and the Burlington City Arts officially took primary residence of the building in 2004. Today BCA hosts art galleries on the first, second, and fourth floors of the Firehouse, using the second floor for administrative offices and well as for art classes and events.
Figure 5. Firehouse at East elevation, photo by author
Sources Cited in Endnotes
Figure 1. The Follett House, west elevation. Photo by author.
Ammi B. Young, renowned Vermont Statehouse architect and designer for UVM’s Wheeler House, designed the Follett House.1 The building was commissioned by Timothy Follett, who was, at the time, a successful businessman and railroad tycoon.2 While the building has a storied history in community service and philanthropy, it was used primarily as a residence from its construction in 1840-1841 until 1885. Follett befell the misfortune of losing much of his wealth due to a poor investment, and his house was purchased by his industry rival Henry R. Campbell.3 Below is a timeline of the building’s owners following the Follett residence:
• 1853: Henry R. Campbell, who served as the superintendent of Vermont Central Railroad4
• 1865: Sold to Dr. Benjamin Smith Nichols, an “industrialist” who owned a complex on the waterfront 5
• 1885: Adams Mission (educational work with young children)6
• 1905-1918: Neighborhood House – Housing for women, occupied by the Patriotic League7
• 1918-1919: “gathering place and social club for service men.” 8--War Camp Community Service9
• 1919 (Summer)- Red Cross briefly uses the house for “French war brides” in the aftermath of WWI10
• 1919-1925: Blue Triangle organization (YWCA)11
• 1927: Knights of Columbus owned for 14 years
• 1948: Owned by Veterans of Foreign Wars
During its heyday as a residence, the Follett House was a distinguished social hub, hosting many parties and galas during the height of Burlington’s industrial boom. The third owner, Dr. Benjamin Smith Nichols, was well known for hosting Christmas parties and church gatherings at a time when social congregational meetings outside of regular church services took place in people’s homes.12 According to the Vermonter magazine, after Nichols moved from the area, William J. Van Patten purchased the property, and the building entered into a phase of more philanthropic missions. The Follett House became a space for providing such services as educational space for young children, housing for displaced women, and a “gathering place” for soldiers in World War I. On December 13, 1919, the building was occupied by the Blue Triangle organization of the YWCA.13 Among other functions, the Blue Triangle Hospitality House served meals, provided lodging, and exemplified good housekeeping and furnishing to young women who were soon to become homemakers themselves.14
In the 1960s, Urban Renewal efforts in downtown Burlington earmarked the Follett House for demolition, but perhaps fate in the form of sluggish government funding had other plans for the building.15 It was listed on the National Register in October 1972, while the building was still occupied by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.16
Figure 2. Follett House as occupied by the VFW, courtesy of UVM Special Collections, Wilbur Collection.
Ernest Pomerleau set his sights on purchasing the building to house the real estate agency comprised of Ernest and his father Anthony, who founded the Pomerleau Agency. The Pomerleaus negotiated for some time with the VFW, who had requested a new lodging as a contingency of the sale of the property. The building caught fire during the time that the negotiations were underway, in May of 1979.17 Despite significant damages to the upper floors of the building, the Pomerleau Agency forged ahead, and successfully appeased the demands of the VFW to obtain the building. After much negotiation, the Pomerleaus were to open a new chapter in the building’s history, an important reminder of historic preservation on the outskirts of urban renewal.18
Figure 3. The Follett House, dated in the summer of 1979, after the fire destroyed much of the upper floor of the building. Courtesy of UVM Special Collections, Ralph Orth Collection.19
The project soon gained further momentum, and with strong support from the community and media, the Follett House began to regain the glory and prestige it had exuded upon its initial construction in 1841. Extensive restoration efforts were required to bring the building back into service in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s standards for rehabilitation. Working with Preservation Partnership of Natick, Massachusetts, Ernie Pomerleau harkened to the original intents of Ammi Young’s Greek Revival design, transforming from the outside in. Much of the restored elements were constructed in situ, with the assistance of an on-site mill.20 One of the columns on the west-facing elevation was replicated off site and then replaced entirely, and the slate roof tiles were replaced.21 Within the building, all the floors were replaced, and in order to bring the building up to city code, a fire escape was carefully crafted into the secondary stairwell.22 In August 1980, the restoration work was completed.
Figure 4. The Follett House, 1980, after restoration. Courtesy of UVM Special Collections, Ralph Orth Collection.23
The Pomerleau Agency still occupies the building, which functions not only as a place of business, but as a community resource. Over the years it has hosted events, school groups, and diplomacy meetings,24 and it continues to wow tourists and passers-by with its undeniable grandeur. With the exception of some minor modern improvements, the building has gone largely unchanged since its restoration thirty-five years ago.25
Sources Cited in Endnotes
Howard Mortuary Chapel
Figure 1. Map of Lakeview Cemetery, Burlington, VT.
Figure 2. Lakeview Cemetery, Copy of Original Plan
Built under the philanthropic gift of Louisa Howard, the Howard Mortuary Chapel (also known as the Howard Memorial Chapel) stands at the entrance of Lakeview Cemetery, facing North Avenue. The chapel was commissioned in August of 1881 and dedicated in November of 1882.1 As a response to fashionable philanthropy at the time, Miss Howard anticipated the need for an indoor sanctuary in which to conduct funeral services when weather was not appropriate for the outdoors. Her brother, John P. Howard, had gifted the city Lakeview Cemetery’s fountain and entrance gate in 1874; thus the commission of the chapel was a natural progression in the city’s development of adequate and distinguished burial grounds.2 The Howards’ influence on the cemetery is perhaps the reason why the gravesites of many of Burlington’s most prominent are found there.3 Burlington-based architect and builder A.B. Fisher was responsible for the High Victorian Gothic Revival design.
Construction began in 1881, under the direction of Elmore Johnson—a Burlington carpenter who worked on the Second Congregational Church and Methodist Church—and was completed later the next year.4 An 1882 article from the Burlington Free Press depicts the feel of the building while construction was underway:
“The visitor to Lake View Cemetery is attracted at once by the beautiful, though still unfinished, mortuary chapel, the gift of Miss Louise H. Howard. It stands a little to the South of the main entrance to the cemetery, facing to the east, and its fine proportions and elegant exterior claim the admiration of the stranger even at a distance.”5
Figure 3. Howard Mortuary Chapel, east elevation. Photo by author.
The tradition of holding memorial services in mortuary chapels began to change in the mid 20th century, as the advent of funeral homes affected the regular use of such structures. The Chapel was used for its intended purpose into the 1940s, but then fell out of use and was closed for many years, during which time the condition of the building suffered on account of lack of maintenance.6 While the steeple of the chapel had undergone repairs in 1986, further maintenance issues materialized over the next several years.7 By the 1990s, the plaster of the interior was “crumbling,” the original “handwoven carpet, one of the oldest in the state,” was water-damaged, and the exterior mortar and stained glass windows were in dire need of repair.8
In 1994, an architectural conservation assessment was conducted on the building, by the University of Vermont Historic Preservation Program’s Architectural Conservation & Education Service with funding from the Patrick Foundation. At that time, the condition of the roof was “fair to good,” the masonry was relatively intact; however, most of the original mortar had either fallen away or been replaced by varying materials.9 Many of the windows had broken or missing panes. The interior of the chapel was significantly water damaged, and though the chapel had fallen out of use of its ceremonial function, it was mainly used to store caskets throughout the winter. In addition, alterations to the building throughout the years had changed some of its historic qualities. Another condition assessment found that during the 1930s or 1940s, stenciling around the window coves had been painted upon, and over time as the paint peeled, the original Victorian Gothic stenciling did not survive.10
In 1993, the cause of the chapel’s restoration was steered by Glenna Light, a Burlington resident whose attention was drawn to the building’s state of disrepair when she chose to bury her husband in a plot at Lakeview Cemetery. Joining the Burlington Cemetery Commission, Light was instrumental in drawing attention to the need for the chapel’s upkeep.11 The city intended to modernize the facility by installing electricity and running water. The cemetery commission, under the direction of Burlington cemetery commissioner Tamara Irving, initiated a campaign to raise $120,000, and had reached $15,000 of its goal by July 1994.12 In addition, an ad hoc committee was formed to raise private donations towards restoring the chapel. This committee, the Friends of the Louisa Howard Chapel, was instrumental in spearheading a grass roots effort to bring the chapel back to its initial glory. Electricity was installed by the end of January 1999. In September of 1999, while repairs were underway, the building was nominated to the National Register for Historic Places, and listed on October 21, 1999. The Chapel has been owned by the City of Burlington since its dedication in 1882, and is maintained by the City Cemetery Department, which is now incorporated into the Parks and Recreation Department.
Figure 4. Louisa Howard Chapel, courtesy of Friends of Lakeview Cemetery
Over a period of about twelve years, the necessary funds were raised through private donations, and restoration work continued intermittently as funds were available. Exterior mortar was repointed and windows were repaired in 1996.13 The heating system was installed in 2004, along with insulation and electrical wiring.14 With the installation of the carpet reproduced to reflect the origination design, stenciling recreation, and modifications to the entrance and bell tower, the Howard Mortuary Chapel was completed and rededicated in 2006.15 Today the appearance of the Chapel remains largely true to its original condition. Furthermore, the Friends of the Louisa Howard Chapel, now known as Friends of Lakeview Cemetery, having achieved their goal of restoring the chapel, have expanded their efforts and continue to rehabilitate different areas of the cemetery. Through the cooperation with the city departments, private donors, and tireless citizen advocates, the restoration of Howard Mortuary Chapel is highly attributable to the wellspring of community support that uplifted the cause of its preservation.
Sources Cited in Endnotes
Ethan Allen Firehouse- Sources Cited
1 Historic Preservation Program, Department of History, University of Vermont. The Burlington Book. 1980.; David Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods. Chittenden Co. Historical Society: Burlington VT. (Burlington: Chittenden County Historical Society, 1990), 160-161
2 Blow, 160-161
3 National Register of Historic Places, Ethan Allen Engine Company No. 4, Burlington, Chittenden County, Vermont, #714500010.
4 Joseph Auld, Picturesque Burlington: A Handbook of Burlington, Vermont, and Lake Champlain, (Burlington: Free Press Association, 1893), 49, accessed at books.google.com/books/about/ Picturesque_Burlington.html; “Bit of History,” Burlington Free Press, September 25, 1967.
5 David Blow, 160-161
6 Jeffrey H. Beerworth, Historic Crimes and Justice in Burlington, Vermont, (Charleston: The History Press, 2015), accessed at books.google.com/books?id=nvgyCgAAQBAJ.
7 Ada Louise Huxtable, “The Bucolic Bulldozer,” New York Times, September 14, 1969.
8“City To See Fire Station Renewal Ideas Today, “Burlington Free Press, April 22, 1970.; Christopher Hapner, “2 Plans Presented for Renovating Old Fire-Police Station,” Burlington Free Press, April 23, 1970.
10 Christopher Hapner, Burlington Free Press, October 3, 1970.
12 Blow, 160-161
13 Roger Pratt, "Preservation of the Ethan Allen Firehouse," Chittenden County Historical Society Bulletin 6, no. 4 (1971).
14 Letter to donors, from the Firehouse Preservation Committees. October 5, 1973. Courtesy of UVM Special Collections, Historic Buildings—Ethan Allen Firehouse Stack File; Blow, 160-161
15 Historic Preservation Program, Department of History, University of Vermont. The Burlington Book. 1980, 84.
16 Letter to donors, Courtesy of UVM Special Collections, Historic Buildings—Ethan Allen Firehouse Stack File.
17 Blow, 160-161
18 The Burlington Book, 84.
19 Burlington Annual Report, FY 1989
20 “History of BCA,” burlingtoncityarts.org
Follett House Sources Cited
1 National Register of Historic Places, Follett House, Burlington, Chittenden County, Vermont.
2 Ralph N. Hill, “The House That Persevered,” Vermont Life, Spring 1981.
4 David Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods. Chittenden Co. Historical Society: Burlington VT. (Burlington: Chittenden County Historical Society, 1990) Pg. 106-108
7 Marion Gary, “The Blue Triangle Hospitality House,” The Vermonter: The State Magazine, Volume 25 (1920), 180-183, accessed at https://books.google.com/books?id=ON9EAQAAMAAJ.
8 Blow, 106-108
9 Gary, 180-163
12 Gary, 181-183.
15 Blow, 106-108
16 National Register of Historic Places, Follett House, Burlington, Chittenden County, Vermont.
17 Blow, 106-108
18 Hill, “The House That Persevered.”
19 Ralph Orth Collection, UVM Landscape Project, accessed at uvm.edu/landscape/.
20 Ernie Pomerleau, interview with author, November 13, 2015.
23 Ralph Orth Collection, UVM Landscape Project, accessed at uvm.edu/landscape/.
24 April Burbank, “Burlington builds global bridges with sister cities,” Burlington Free Press, December 1, 2014, accessed at http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/local/2014/12/01/small-world-burlington/19680681/.
25 City Permit Report, accessed at http://property.burlingtonvt.gov.
Howard Memorial Chapel Sources Cited
1 Burlington Free Press. November 6, 1882.
2 National Register of Historic Places, Howard Mortuary Chapel, Burlington, Chttenden County, Vermont.
3 David Blow, Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, (Burlington: Chittenden County Historical Society, 1990) Pg. 160-161
4 Historic Preservation Program, Department of History, University of Vermont. The Burlington Book. 1980.
5 Burlington Free Press. July 1, 1882.
6 Molly Walsh, “Jewels of the City.” Burlington Free Press. July 3, 1994.
7 Leonard Kaigle, “Cemetery Department,” City of Burlington, Vermont Annual Financial Report, 1986, 24.
9 Thomas Visser, "Architectural Conservation Assessment: Howard Memorial Chapel, Lakeview Cemetery, Burlington, Vermont, 1994." Burlington Cemetery Department.
10 Rebecca Lee Harper, "Documentation and Analysis of Stencils, Howard Memorial Church, Burlington, Vermont, 1994." Manuscript. Historic Preservation Program, Wheeler House, University of Vermont, Burlington.
11 Anne Geggis, “1875 chapel on its way back to glory.” Burlington Free Press, January 31, 1999.
12 Molly Walsh, “Jewels of the City.” Burlington Free Press. July 3, 1994.
13 Burt Shangraw, “Cemetery Department,” City of Burlington, Vermont Annual Financial Report, 1996, 24.
14 “Cemetery Department,” City of Burlington, Vermont Annual Financial Report, 2004, 45.
15 “Parks and Recreation Department,” City of Burlington, Vermont Annual Financial Report, 2006, 47.