Burlington, Vermont
Early 20th-century Postcard Views

HP 206 Researching Historic Structures & Sites • 2012
Historic Preservation ProgramUniversity of Vermont

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The postcard above was postmarked October 18th, 1914, at which time this building was an orphanage. The photo above was taken facing westward across North Avenue on October 22nd, 2012. The building now houses Burlington College.


This photo postcard from the early 20th century is of the building that currently sits at the property at 351 North Avenue, Burlington, Vermont. The description on the top right corner of the postcard says, "St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum". There are early mentions of a St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum dating back to 1875, however this orphanage, like St. Joseph's Church on Allen Street, which is also in the North End, is listed at a completely different address on the other side of town. This location of St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum was at 447 Pearl Street, or "head of Pearl Street.[1]

The building was constructed between 1879 and 1883 under the oversight of the Reverend John S. Michaud.[2] The first appearance of an orphanage on North Avenue was somewhat curiously listed in the city directory as "Providence Orphan Asylum" and this property shows up with this name in the city directories throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.[3] "St. Joseph's Providence Orphan Asylum and Hospital", as it is referred to on the Sanborn fire insurance map issued in 1885, is described as a three story brick building with windows all around. The interior of the building in its original construction consisted of a large kitchen in the back right, large recreation rooms on last two or three bays of either end, and a laundry room in an rear extension, as well as many rooms for sleeping for the children. The building had kerosene lighting, and there were originally four wooden utility buildings in the back with uses listed as a carriage house, two sheds, and an icehouse.[4]

Moving forward, throughout the last decade of the 19th century and into the turn of the 20th century, there were a few different caretakers, residents, and supervisors at the St. Josephs Orphan Asylum. As of 1893 Sister Joseph, Mother Superioress, was the head of the orphanage,[5] and by 1895 the first Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Vermont, Lucas J. Degosbriand, had retired there. Degosbriand lived out his final years at the orphanage and passed away in 1899.[6] By the turn of the century, only William Linsley was mentioned as a separate resident of 350 North Avenue, the listed address of the building in the postcard at the time.[7] Linsley was employed by the Burlington Traction Co.,[8] which was the company ran the old trolley system in town.[9]

Between 1900 and 1906 a some of the outbuildings in the back of the orphanage were repurposed, and two others were constructed; in 1906 the original carriage house was being used as both a small wooden school room in the front and as a workshop in the back. The two buildings that were built became a hen house and a new and more modest carriage house.[10] However, it is apparent the old carriage house did not make a very suitable schoolroom, because by 1912 this building had once again been repurposed as a nursery with another new small wooden workshop and house built in this backyard area.

Between 1906 and 1912 electric lighting was installed into the main building. Also this property was given a new addresses, 251 North Avenue, in order to conform with the odd side of the street it is on this address is still listed for this property today.[11]

By the middle 1910s Mrs. Henrietta Linsley, William's widow, was now the other occupant at 351 North Avenue. It seems Mr. Linsley had passed away sometime in the early part of the decade. Mrs. Linsley would live there until 1919, when she moved downtown for a few years,[12] but by 1930 she eventually settled across the street at 346 North Avenue. Mrs. Linsley would be the last long term occupant listed aside from the operation of the orphanage of any part of the property at 351 North Avenue.[13] Lakeview Cemetery, which is on the property just north of 351 North Avenue, was also listed at the same address at this time.[14]

The property went under a number of minor changes in the second half of the 20th century. In the mid 1940s the property was listed officially as St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum for the very first time, as this alternative name finally became officially recognized in the directory,[15] and by the mid-50s a the orphanage had a telephone as a phone number is listed for the first time.[16] Between 1942 and 1960 a major change occurred in the form of a large southerly addition, which is visible in the current photo. This new building was used as a school with a stage and a hall. Also within this time frame one of the larger wooden structures on the property buildings in the back was demolished.[17]

By the late 1960s, this property was renamed in a very politically correct manor to "St. Joseph's Child Center". At this time the Sisters of Charity Providence Organization was running operations out 351 North Avenue. Also, a full time messenger named Paul Brisnehan was listed as a tenant on the property, and may have been the first full time tenant since Mrs. Linsley moved in 1930.[18]

By the early 1980s, the Roman Catholic diocese had moved many of their administrative operations to the property at 351 North Avenue. These listings include Camp Holy Cross, Marie F. Collins, Diocesan Office Building, R.C. Diocesan Tribunal Office, R.C. Diocese of Burlington, Society for the Propagation of Faith, St. Joseph's Child Center, Vermont Catholic Charities inc., Vermont Catholic Tribune, and Vermont Catholic Youth Organization.[19]

The Catholic church retained control over this property until 2010 when Burlington College, a small private liberal arts college, purchased it for $6,075,100.00 as reported by the city assessor's office.[20] According to the Burlington Free Press, the building was sold to help pay for settlements of a number of sexual abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic diocese in Vermont.[21] Burlington College classes started at 351 North Avenue for the very first time in the fall of 2012. The Burlington College website stresses the beauty of its campus and the historic nature of its building with little mention of its long history as an orphanage.[22]


1. Burlington City Directory and Business Advertiser, July 1875 to July 1876, (Burlington Free Press Association, 1875), 95.

2. Hiram Carlton, Genealogical and Family History of the State of Vermont (New York: Lewis Publishing, 1903), 125.

3. Burlington City Directory 1885-5 (Burlington, VT: Free Press Association, 1885), 146.

4. Sanborn Co., Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Burlington Vermont, 1885.

5. Burlington City Directory for 1893 (L.P. Waite & Co Publishers, Free Press Association Printers), 212.

6. John J. Duffy, Samuel B. Hand and Ralph H. Orth, The Vermont Encyclopedia (University of Vermont Press/ University Press of New England, 2003), 139.

7. Burlington City Directory including Winooski for 1901 (L.P. Waite & Co., 1901) 270.

8. Ibid., 160.

9. Burlington Traction Company Records, 1883-1929, (Vermont Historical Society).

10. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Burlington Vermont, Sanborn Co., 1900; Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Burlington Vermont, Sanborn Co,. 1906.

11. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Burlington Vermont, Sanborn Co., 1912.

12. Burlington and Winooski (Vermont) Directory (Greenfield Mass.: H.A. Manning Company, 1918), 194; Burlington and Winooski (Vermont) Directory (Greenfield Mass.: H.A. Manning Company, 1919), 205.

13. Manning's Burlington Winooski and Essex Junction (Vermont) Directory For 1930 (Springfield, Mass.: H.A. Manning Co.,1930), 331

14. Burlington and Winooski Vermont Directory 1916 (H. A. Manning Co, 1916), 457.

15. Manning's Burlington Winooski and Essex Junction Vermont Directory For 1946 (Springfield Mass.: H. A. Manning Co., 1946), 265.

16. Manning's Burlington City Directory for 1954 (Springfield Mass:, H. A. Manning Company, 1954) 314.

17. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Burlington, Vermont, Sanborn Co., 1960.

18. Mannings Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski, and Essex Junction (Chittenden County, Vermont) Directory 1968 (Greenfield Mass.: H. A. Manning Company,1968), 775.

19. Manning's Burlington and South Burlington Essex Junction and Winooski Chittenden County, Vermont Directory 1981 (Bellows Falls, VT: H.A. Manning Co., 1981), 491.

20. Permitting History, 351 North Ave., City of Burlington, Vermont, http://www.burlingtonvt.gov/PropertyDetails.aspx?a=3620

21. "Catholic Diocese property sold for $10 million", Burlington Free Press, January 3rd, 2011.

22. "About Burlington College" https://www.burlington.edu/content/our-campus

Text and photographs by Daniel Leckie