University of Vermont

University Communications

UVM's Popular Historic Tours to Resume July 6

Billings
Billings Library, designed by leading 19th century architect H.H. Richardson, was completed in 1885. (Photo: Sally McCay)

The University of Vermont will launch the sixth season of its popular historic tour program on July 6. Led by UVM emeritus professor William Averyt, the free, weekly tours will take place Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon through Oct. 12.

UVM was founded in 1791, the fifth oldest university in New England, and it boasts both an array of historic buildings, including more than a dozen on the National Register of Historic Places, and a collection of fascinating personalities.

The architectural highlights of the tour include such structures as the Old Mill, completed in 1829, whose cornerstone was laid by the Marquis de Lafayette; the Billings Library, completed in 1885, which leading 19th century architect H.H. Richardson considered among his finest buildings; and Grasse Mount, a brick Federal style mansion built in 1804 by a local merchant, which later served as the residence of Vermont governor Cornelius P. Van Ness.

Tour guide Averyt also brings to life the fascinating personalities who are part of UVM’s history. Founder Ira Allen, for instance, was both a revolutionary war hero and sometimes slippery real estate speculator. UVM's third president, James Marsh, inspired Emerson and Thoreau, invented the modern university curriculum, and made Burlington the intellectual capital of America during the 1820s and 1830s. Professor Royall Tyler, a member of Vermont's Supreme Court in the 18th century, is said to be the model for the villain of Nathanial Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables, Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon. And 1879 alumnus John Dewey, whose grave is on campus, is considered one of American's greatest philosophers.

Averyt plans to add a few new touches this year. He’ll highlight the little known architectural and personal connections between UVM and Averyt’s winter home in Key West, Florida, where he also conducts historic tours. Averty will also tell the story of the honorary degree UVM granted Robert Frost, which helped the poet at a crucial time in his career.  

“UVM’s history is a great yarn to be sure, but it also resonates with significance,” said Averyt. “Through figures like Marsh and Dewey, the university played an important role in shaping modern American thought.”  

For more information on the tour and to register, visit www.uvm.edu/historictour.