Pomeroy Hall

By Michael Johnson

Master builder John Johnson constructed Pomeroy Hall on Main Street, south of University Place, in 1828 to house the Medical College, one of only about twenty in the country. Originally, the building was a two-and-a-half story brick, rectangular structure, and 45-by-36 feet, with a gable roof. The "footprint" of this building can be seen on Ammi Young's 1830 Plan of Burlington. It was probably designed, like the Middle College building, in the Federal style popular at the time. No photographs of the original have been located but a materials list indicates seventeen windows on two main floors, two exterior doors, a fan light over the main entrance, and four cellar windows.

In 1836, competition for dwindling numbers of medical students forced the Medical College to close until 1854. George Benedict bought the Medical Building and its contents in 1836 to avoid losing valuable books and equipment, and continued to teach chemistry in the building. In 1839, the university bought the Medical Building back from Benedict and the Medical College reopened in 1854, proprietarily owned and operated by its faculty. Low enrollment continued to plague the college and the faculty was unable to keep up with repairs on the building, which they had agreed to do in lieu of paying rent to the university.

Enrollment increased in 1857, which also increased the need for repairs. This resulted in fund-raising efforts by the faculty and increased publicity for the Medical College. By the summer of 1858, the needed funds were raised and a third story with arched windows and a hipped roof replaced the gable roof. The three-story stair tower with an inset two-story arched window, topped by an octagonal cupola was added to the front, or north façade. This resulted in the bricking over of original openings on either side of the front entrance. A three-story brick ell was added to the south of the building.

Included on the third floor was an amphitheater with seventeen-foot high ceilings, tall arched windows, and a large skylight. Connected to this, on the third floor of the ell, were a dissecting room and two offices. Changes in the interiors of the first and second stories included a large lecture room, a laboratory, and storage rooms on the first floor and the expansion of the anatomical museum on the second floor of the original building. In addition, a concrete floor was poured in the basement, furnaces were installed for the chemistry professor, and plumbing was installed. These improvements vastly increased the college's standing as a medical teaching facility.

By 1877, enrollment had again increased enough to warrant another expansion. In 1879, an 18 by 35-foot, two-story addition with a gable roof and clapboard siding was added to the southern, brick ell. In addition, the seating capacity of the first-floor lecture room was increased and the third-floor amphitheater was enlarged.

Within two years of the 1879 expansion, space in the Medical College was found insufficient to the number of students enrolled. Through the funding of John Purple Howard, the college moved to a new location on Pearl Street and a new use was sought for the old Medical College building. In 1886, the building became the new home to the Agricultural Experiment Station. The anatomical museum became a chemical laboratory and other rooms in the ell were also converted. In 1888, a small barn was built behind the building to house the director's horse. With the passage of the Hatch Act, funds Became available to install a 100 light Springfield gas lighting system and convert the first story lab of the old Medical College into a milk Laboratory. A botanical lab was incorporated into the second story of the 1880 addition and two floors of dorms were built into the seventeen-foot high third floor of the main block. Smaller windows replaced the large arched windows of the third story, one for each floor. This expansion proved insufficient to house the continually growing agricultural program and with the completion of Morrill Hall in 1907, the old Medical College was largely abandoned.

Increased funding to the Experiment Program in 1925 generated a need for more space. At this time, the old Medical College was in very poor condition and required interior renovation. Funds were only available to keep the building in service and the cupola had to be removed. Upon completion, it became the home of the department of Dairy Husbandry and later to the Home Economics department.

In 1950, the "Experiment Annex Station", as it had come to be known, was named Pomeroy Hall to honor Dr. John Pomeroy, the first faculty member of the Medical College. The next year, the Speech and Drama departments moved into the first and second floors following the move of the Experiment Station to Morrill Hall. The first floor became offices, a large classroom and clinic and exam rooms, new rest rooms were also added. The second floor was adapted to offices, a classroom, and a seminar room. Five years later, WRUV began broadcasting from Pomeroy and the east half of the barn, this continued until the mid-1980s.

An increase in students in the Department of Communications and Theatre necessitated another renovation of Pomeroy in 1971. The buildings structural system was reinforced, modern fluorescent lighting and acoustical ceiling panels were installed, the front tower stairway was replaced, and fire doors, a gas furnace were installed along with the replacement of plumbing and electrical systems. Another extensive renovation took place in 1997 that restored the external façade to its look in the late 1850s. The 1858 cupola was also recreated. The clapboard addition of the 1880s was replaced by a three-story brick addition and the interior fourth floor, along with its fenestration, of the main building was removed. Pomeroy Hall continues to contribute to the University Green Historic District and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Johnson, John. (John Johnson Papers, Special Collections, University of Vermont), Carton 5 Folder 52.

United States Park Service. National Register of Historic Places: University of Vermont Green Historic District. Section 7, 1978.

Visser, Prof. Thomas; UVM Historic Preservation Program. Pomeroy Hall. 1999. Online. http://www.uvm.edu/~campus/pomeroy/pomeroyhistory.html.

Young, Ammi B. Plan of Burlington Village 1830.

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