Church Street has long been known as a great center of commerce and business for the city of Burlington, Vermont, and one of, if not the most, popular destinations for tourists and residents alike. This of course did not happen overnight; within the last century, Church Street has transformed significantly to become the popular pedestrian mall that it is today, and it is unquestionable that the preservation of its historic properties has played a key role in the continued success of the Marketplace. Church Street itself has gone through a drastic transformation in the past century. Photographs from the late 1800s indicate that Church Street was once home to residential properties; timber-frame houses flanked what was once a dirt street with paved sidewalks. These were replaced with brick storefronts, and by the 1890s, larger buildings were being constructed to quarter expanding businesses. Figure 1. Church Street from the Unitarian Church tower, estimated circa 1860. At the time, mixed residential and commercial buildings populated Church Street. Special Collections, Bailey/Howe Library, University of Vermont. It was around this time that two of the most prominent buildings on Church Street were erected. The intersection where Church Street terminates at Pearl Street was already headed by the Unitarian Church, built in 1816. In the late 1890s, the Masonic Temple and Richardson Block were constructed on the southwest and southeast corners of the intersection, respectively, and in the distinct, popular architectural styles of the era. These three buildings comprise the Head of Church Street Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.1 Church Street continued to evolve around the buildings anchoring its head. A streetcar service was introduced in 1893 and was discontinued in 1929; photographs suggest that the tracks were removed by the 1940s.2 Urban renewal led to the construction of the Burlington Town Center mall in 1976, which was renovated in 1999. Church Street famously converted to a pedestrian mall in 1981, and a fountain was installed in 1994 at the head of Church Street and recently removed in 2013. Throughout all of these changes, the Marketplace remains popular in great part for its historic integrity; the framing of the Unitarian Church between the Masonic Temple and Richardson Place is an iconic Burlington scene.3 Figure 2. Present-day head of Church Street. The Masonic Temple stands on the left, Richardson Place on the right. Both the Masonic Temple and Richardson Place received the Hertzel N. Pasackow Award in 1986 “for significant contribution to the physical or architectural quality of downtown Burlington, Vermont”. Award plaques are erected on the main façade of both buildings. The 1974 National Register nomination for the Head of Church Street Historic District succinctly describes the relationship between the Masonic Temple and Richardson as “two dissimilar but compatible structures, and the quality of weightiness and magnitude of the latter buildings provides a striking contrast to the delicate quality of the church.”4 There are many buildings in the Church Street Marketplace that deserve to have their architectural and historic significance acknowledged and explored. For the purposes of this research, the buildings that will be discussed are Richardson Place at 2 Church Street, the Masonic Temple at 1 Church Street, and the Montgomery Ward Building at 52-54 Church Street. Figure 3. Map of noted commercial buildings in Burlington. The earliest of these commercial style buildings is the Richardson Block, presently known as Richardson Place. Built in 1895 by Albert E. Richardson and W.B. McKillip, it was designed by Albany architect Walter Dickson of Withers & Dickson for $50,000. The four-and-a-half-story building was intended to accommodate commercial space on the first two floors and apartments on the upper stories.5 The Richardson is, in its most basic form, a rectangular five-by-five-bay brick building. The round towers dividing the bays on the primary western façade, capped with finials, are characteristic of what Dickson termed as “Scoto-French” style; a blend of French Chateauesque and Scottish baronial revival. Their asymmetry and protrusion from the wall plane complex the appearance of the façade, but still bring order and organization between each story. The windows are one-over-one double-hung sash with brick lintels, except for the three arrow-slit windows that interrupt the brick façade near the top of each tower. Two center bays each feature a pair of windows and a balcony overlooking Church Street, which is adorned in the center with an iron “R”. All of these careful but thoughtful details give the Richardson an elegant appearance, which appealed to Burlington residents at the time of its erection. Early front-page newspaper advertisements boasted of the Richardson as “the largest and handsomest store in the state” and its state-of-the-art elevator.6 Figure 4. Northern elevation of Richardson Block, estimated 1896. The Masonic Temple has not yet been constructed across Church Street. Special Collections, Bailey/Howe Library, University of Vermont. The first floor of the Richardson initially housed McKillip & Smith Company until 1901, when H.W. Allen & Company announced in an issue of The Vermonter that they had bought McKillip’s stock and would be relocating to the Richardson from 83-85 Church Street. The dry-goods retailer occupied the first two stories of the Richardson before it was taken over in 1911 by Frank D. Abernethy, H.W. Allen’s business partner, and evolved into Abernethy’s Department Store, which came to be synonymous with the Chateauesque building on the east corner of Church and Pearl Street. Abernethy’s even replaced the “R”s on the balconies with “A”s, a fitting and symbolic act for this transformation. Signs hand-painted high on the southern façade advertised Abernethy’s Department Store; faint traces of a ghost sign can still be spotted today if one looks closely.7 Figure 5. Postcard of southeastern view of Richardson Block. Estimated 1901-1911, based on the “Heman W. Allen & Company” sign on the northern façade. Special Collections, Bailey/Howe Library, University of Vermont. In 1919, Abernethy’s purchased the adjacent property at 10 Church Street and expanded into the building in 1929. Originally a three-story brick structure dating to 1877, it was remodeled in 1936 in the Art Deco style. The three-bay façade is white stucco with red and gray geometric decorations characteristic of the era. It has continuously been maintained, making it one of the few authentic Art Deco buildings left in the state of Vermont. Abernethy’s Men’s Shop opened at 10 Church Street after its renovation and it became integral to the main department store’s façade.8 Despite being a prominent, long-term fixture on Church Street, Abernethy’s went out of business in November 1982. In June of the following year, J. Richard Corley purchased the property and spent $3 million to renovate it and bring it up to code. The first two floors were gutted in preparation for new retail stores and the upper stories were renovated into office spaces. It was renamed Richardson Place in honor of Albert E. Richardson; Corley even restored the iron “R”s to the balconies overlooking Church Street, as were originally found on the building. However, Corley’s business model for Richardson Place was not sustainable; an initial focus on selling more expensive and sophisticated clothing lost them potential customers. Unable to recover, the space closed in spring of 1986.9 Figure 6. Eastern view of Richardson Place’s main façade details. Original architectural details have been well-maintained, and the iron “R”s restored to the upper story balconies are visible. Today, Richardson Place is owned by Jeff Davis and is home to offices on the upper stories. Downtown Danform Shoes and Top of the Block Sandwich Shoppe occupy some of the retail space, and the corner entrance belongs to BELLA Accessories. 10 Church Street is a separate entity from Richardson Place and has housed E.B Strong’s Prime Steakhouse since July 2012. The Art Deco façade is still intact and the building is a contributing site to the Church Street Historic District, which was included on the National Register in 2010.10 Across from Richardson Place, at 1 Church Street, stands the Masonic Temple, constructed a few years later in 1898. The Grand Masonic Lodge had chosen Burlington as the location for the organization’s special assemblies since 1868, and by 1895 they desired to locate the state headquarters of the Grand Masonic Lodge of Vermont permanently downtown. According to a plaque on the northeast corner of the main façade, the building was designed by John McArthur Harris from the Philadelphia-based Wilson Brothers and Company and cost $80,000. Construction began in 1897 and it was completed less than a year later, soon after a cornerstone ceremony on October 20.11 Figure 7. Illustration of northeastern elevation of the Masonic Temple by architecture firm Wilson Bros. and Co. The final design is slightly simpler; the towers on the northern façade were replaced with a gable, and the windows lack lintels. The Masonic Temple is an immense structure: a five-story, rectangular, brick building with four wide arches on the ground floor along its eastern façade, originally breaking up the first story into four commercial spaces of equal size. The eight-bay windows are arched and seem small in relation to the building’s massive flat wall planes. A tall, thin chimney projects from the northwestern corner. The Temple is notable for its steep hipped roof, everpresent in the downtown Burlington skyline, and for the strip of stepped windows mimicking the stairwell they light on the northern Pearl Street façade. The style is considered to be Romanesque Revival; the use of arches along the main façade in the windows is a defining characteristic, and the steeply pitched roof and simple decorative elements were fashionable at the turn of the century. Stone lintels give the base of the arched windows weight, and brick dentils run between the first, second, and fifth stories. Many photographs show the Masonic Temple with red metal shutters for fire protection on the southern façade; these windows were shuttered in every southerly image of the Temple as far back as the 1920s. The small dormers were once adorned with copper finials, but these appear to have been removed after the 1950s. Figure 8. Southern elevation of the Masonic Temple, estimated between 1910-1928 based on street car rails. The southern façade’s windows are fireproofed, and the roof finials are still intact. Landscape Change Program, University of Vermont. The first floor was reserved for commercial use, while the upper four stories were for Grand Mason Lodge purposes; banquet halls, regalia rooms, galleries, offices, libraries, and parlors are only some of the rooms the Masons incorporated into their headquarters. The first floor was also diverse in its offerings. One of the earliest businesses accommodated at the Masonic Temple was the China Hall Company, a glassware retailer. Daniel N. Nicholson, Grand Master of the Grand Mason Lodge himself, relocated his furrier business to the Temple’s new retail space soon after its completion. Early long-term businesses include Singer Sewing Company and the drug store William H. Zottman & Company.12 The Masons continued to use the lodge until 1970, after a decline in membership no longer warranted the cost of upkeep for their five-story headquarters. In the 1980s, the Masonic Temple was purchased by Paul Frank & Collins and P.F. Jurgs, a law firm and accounting firm respectively. For three million dollars, the Temple was thoroughly renovated, including the upper stories which were converted into office space and brought up to code. The foundation was rehabilitated, and the windows on the south façade are no longer shuttered, although hinges are still attached to the windows.13 Figure 9. Southeastern elevation of Masonic Temple. The southern façade’s windows are visible, but the decorative roof elements have been removed. Today, The Gap has occupied the Temple’s first two stories since October 2014, which had been vacant after Ann Taylor closed in 2008. The removal of the fountain at the head of Church Street in 2013 was cited in the Burlington Free Press as being a hindrance to finding a tenant for the Temple’s ground floor. Athleta also has a retail store in the southernmost space. Offices occupy the upper floors, including the Burlington headquarters of United States Senator Bernard Sanders.14 A few blocks down is the Montgomery Ward building at 52-54 Church Street, on the block between Cherry and Bank streets. It was built specifically to be a Burlington location for Montgomery Ward, a catalog business that was quickly expanding its retail outlet stores across the country. Construction began in the summer of 1929 and the store opened in December, only a few months after the Wall Street Crash that started the Great Depression.15 The store was designed in-house by Montgomery Ward and is an excellent example of commercial-style architecture of the era. The two-story three-bay concrete façade is a modern interpretation of neo-classical style. The façade is ordered and symmetrical, and the concrete pilasters between bays are topped with small decorative urns, a careful contrast with the geometric decorations found above the second-story windows. Also of note is the terra cotta “Spirit of Progress” emblem, one of many designs created by sculptor J. Massey Rhind for Montgomery Ward. The style and condition of the building make it an excellent specimen of early commercial chain store architecture in Vermont, and the fact that it is made from concrete is something rare for the state.16 Figure 10. Western elevation of Montgomery Ward, currently owned by Homeport. Figure 11. Neoclassical detail on Montgomery Ward façade. Rhind’s “Spirit of Progress” terra cotta emblem is featured in the center panel. Montgomery Ward closed its Burlington store in December 1961 during the company’s decline. In the 1970s, a partition on the first floor and brick veneer were added, allowing a second business to use the space. The second-story windows were boarded and shuttered, and a Capitol Stationers logo was fixed to the center bay when the office supplies retailer took ownership of the space in 1979. In 1989, Capitol Stationers removed the brick storefront and replaced new windows to the second-story façade. A new storefront had to be installed, but with no available historic references of the original design, “new display windows and entrance were designed to be compatible, yet distinguishable from the historic features.”17 Figure 12. Western elevation of Montgomery Ward façade in 1989 prior to its renovation, occupied at the time by Capitol Stationers. Photograph: Thomas D. Visser. In 1991, the Montgomery Ward building was nominated and added to the National Register of Historic Places. It was also added as a contributing building to the Church Street Historic District, which was included in the Register in 2010. Local houseware retailer Homeport has owned the Montgomery Ward building since parting ways with franchise owner Pier One in 2005, and Designers’ Circle Jewelers occupies the partitioned space. Today, the interior still has its original open wooden stairway in the back of Homeport, leading upstairs and down to the basement.18 Just as Church Street has evolved, the buildings it accommodates have their own rich histories that have molded the identity and historic integrity of this downtown district. It is incredibly fortunate that such efforts were taken to restore Richardson Place, the Masonic Temple, and Montgomery Ward for present-day visitors of Church Street to enjoy, and hopefully continue to enjoy in the years to come.