East Middlebury Walking Tour

[UNDER CONSTRUCTION, SEE BELOW. COME BACK SOON FOR UPDATES]

To visit the Middlebury Walking Tour which has a brief section about East Middlebury go to: http://midddigital.middlebury.edu/walking_history/index.html




East Middlebury, Vermont

Workers at Goodro Lumber in East Middlebury, 1930’s

History and Walking Tour

This walking guide of the history of East Middlebury was designed and produced by the members of the East Middlebury Historical Society in 2019, revised 2021.

PLEASE!

Respect the privacy and property of the homeowners and businesses identified in this brochure. Do not enter private property without permission.

The area that is East Middlebury today first came to the attention of settlers from English America after the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The earliest settlement in East Middlebury dates from 1775 when Ebar Evarts cleared land for the construction of a tavern. Jonathan Foote began the industrial development of the Middlebury River in 1790 with the creation of a sawmill on the south side of the river near the bottom of the gorge. The river was a prime area for mills using waterpower. The growth of the village was also encouraged by its important location at the west end of the trail over the Green Mountains and into the Otter Creek Valley and Lake Champlain. In 1810, Foote built a “place of entertainment” (the forerunner of the Waybury Inn) that also served as a stagecoach stop for traffic coming west over the Green Mountains from the White River Valley. Just upstream from his Inn Foote also built a home. The Foote/Partridge House is perhaps the oldest private dwelling house in the village. It may be the original house built by Jonathan Foote as early as 1812. The Jones/Mary Belle Zahn house is the house built by Ephraim Jones at about this same time.

The first iron works established in East Middlebury was the Eagle Forge, just North of the current bridge on Highway 125. The Eagle Forge was in operation as early as 1810 and washed away in a flood in 1831. No remnants of the structure remain. The East Middlebury Iron Works was constructed circa 1845 in the area just below the Highway 125 bridge. Foundations of the coal storage shed can still be seen there. This “bloomery” became the last operating iron works in Vermont. It ceased operations in 1890. The river went on to power a grist mill, a wool finishing mill and a tannery near the present Lower Plains Road bridge. Norman Tupper built a Grist Mill further south on the river. The original mill was swept away in a “freshet” in 1869 and replaced by the current building.

By the outbreak of the War of 1812 the village had added a general store and Ephraim Jones built a glass making facility (Vermont Glass Factory Company) in East Middlebury to offset the glass shortage caused by the War of 1812. The glass kiln was a circular brick construction located just west of the Waybury and across the street (the current site of St. Barnabas Chapel). In 1821, the community had ten dwellings, an Inn, and a few shops. Growth continued, so that by 1850 there were fifty homes in the village.

The Civil War (1861-1865) saw many men from East Middlebury serve in the Union Army. Emory Bidwell, son of Methodist minister Sedgewick Bidwell, was executed in 1863 by Confederate irregulars in the Shenandoah Valley. Cyrus Brush was captured and spent time in the infamous Andersonville Prison. William Many also survived multiple battles and captivity and returned to East Middlebury to live out the rest of their lives. Both men have memorials in Prospect Cemetery. The demand for village products (iron, timber, glass, leather, and other goods) swelled to serve military needs and led to further growth of the town. The 1872 map shows more than seventy homes along the Middlebury River.

The one-hundred years after the Civil War saw many more changes to East Middlebury. The Methodist Church was established in 1864 and moved to the former Congregational Church building in 1870. The inventive minds of the village residents continued to produce practical inventions and social change. The father and son, Nathan and Almon Tupper, were mechanics and inventors. Nathan is credited with inventing a circular saw with “inserted” teeth. The Tupper’s mill was operated for many years by Austin Peck and was purchased by the Brown Novelty Company in 1915.

Almon Tupper and his wife Mary were also involved in community matters via their involvement with the “Independent Order of Good Templars,” a temperance organization that, unlike others of the era, admitted both males and females as well as people of color.

In the 20th Century the village continued to produce and attract people of industry and intellect. Frank Partridge was a successful manager for Vermont Marble Company in Middlebury and served as senator in both Vermont and at the federal level. He went on to serve as ambassador to Morocco and consul in Venezuela. Partridge was also instrumental in providing support for the construction of the Sarah Partridge Community House in memory of his mother Sarah. Robert Frost, poet emeritus of the United States, was a frequent visitor to the village and had his favorite table at the Waybury. Arthur Kennedy (actor appearing in Lawrence of Arabia, Fantastic Voyage, and many other films) was a frequent visitor to the Inn. The connection to cinema for the village continued with the inspiration for the Newhart (1982-1990) TV show. Inspired by a visit to the Waybury Inn, exterior shots of the inn and local landmarks were shown in the introduction to each episode. The actors portraying the innkeepers were Bob Newhart and Mary Frann.

Established by statute, the East Middlebury Prudential Committee is an independently elected legislative body (unaffiliated with the Middlebury Select Board) that governs East Middlebury's Fire District #1 and manages the East Middlebury water system. Among its duties, the Prudential Committee establishes water rates for residents and businesses in East Middlebury. The 2010 census reported 425 residents of the village of East Middlebury with about twice that number in the surrounding fire district. On January 1,1997, the Middlebury and East Middlebury fire departments became one unit with the Middlebury station being Station 1 and the East Middlebury station being Station 2.

East Middlebury continues to be a place next to the river and below the Green Mountains where residents and visitors enjoy natural beauty, community, and the comfort of village life. The village continues to change with the times and has shown strength and resilience during major floods of the Middlebury River (1928, 1937, 2011).

*Locations in bold indicate stops on the walking tour.

Names marked indicate burial in Prospect Cemetery.

1

457 East Main

Waybury Inn

An Inn has existed at or near the current Waybury Inn site since 1775 when Eber Evarts cleared land for the construction of a tavern, the forerunner of today’s Waybury Inn. The current inn was built in 1810 and is one of the oldest operating traveler's accommodations in the state. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. It is well known for its use in exterior shots of the Newhart television series (1982-1990). Robert Frost was a frequent visitor to the Inn as well as poet, activist, and amateur naturalist, poet, and archivist Viola White of Middlebury College.

2

439 East Main

Jones/Zahn House

The Jones/Mary Belle Zahn House was constructed in 1810. The house was built by Ephraim Jones, who conveniently had his glass

factory just across the street from the dwelling. Jones profited from the glass shortage created by the war of 1812 when the British government prohibited exports to the upstart United States.

3

431 East Main

Community House

The Community House and Sarah Partridge Library opened in 1924. The house and library were funded by the East Middlebury community and with support of the Partridge family in memory of Sarah Partridge , a longtime resident of East Middlebury. The building houses documents and artifacts from East Middlebury and is the meeting place of the East Middlebury Historical Society.

4

429 East Main

Tupper House/Post Office

The house was built in 1867 by Almon P. Tupper (son of inventor Norman Tupper). He built across the river from his sawmill and sash factory. A few years later he moved into Middlebury and sold the house to his factory manager Bert Peck. The house was the site of the East Middlebury Post Office and a store from 1897 to 1958. Bert Peck, followed by his daughter, Rena, ran the post office for over 60 years-. The post office was relocated to Day’s Store at that time. The current post office (1 Case St.) opened in the 1970’s.

5

3 Grist Mill Road

Grist Mill

Just across the Grist Mill Bridge stands a large yellow building. This site was originally a tannery which was converted into a grist mill. This mill burned in the 1870’s and the current mill was erected in 1879. As demand for grain milling declined, the mill was converted into a sawmill to produce apple crates. In 1945 it was converted by new owners to make paint brush handles. In recent years it has served many purposes including a rental office, warehouse space, and a basement workshop operated by the current owner.


6

21 Piper Road

School #2

Public school for Middlebury children in 19th and early 20th Centuries. The pictures show children from the school (pictured in the background with a belfry) playing baseball on School House Hill Road and the class picture for 1912 (fifth from the left, front row, musician Milton Elmer). Now a private residence.

7

404 East Main

Day's Store

Currently the home of Otter Creek Currently the home of Otter Creek Engineering, the “Brick Store” opened in 1840 and served as the town post office until 1971. The cottage attached to the store was the home of Rufus Perkins who built the store. Perkins operated the store before moving to Rutland and establishing the Rutland Fire Clay Company.

8

406 East Main

Brown Novelty

In 1827 Norman Tupper built a factory and developed machinery to manufacture door and window sashes. Norman was the first person to graft teeth onto a circular plate and invent the circular saw. A portion of the original factory was devoted to manufacturing barrel staves. The factory was operated by a succession of owners, burned several times. Most recently (1916) the factory was used to manufacture small boxes, clothes pins, and since 1936, wooden toys.

9

376 East Main

Bidwell Tavern

Constructed in 1820. Purchased by Daniel Bidwell in 1836. Bidwell operated the “Bidwell Tavern” in the eastern ell of the house. The entrance to the tavern, though no longer used, is still visible to left of the current front door. Daniel Bidwell was the brother of Reverend Sedgewick Woodford Bidwell, a Methodist circuit preacher who lived from 1809 to 1914 and claimed to have heard cannon fire from the Battle of Plattsburg (1812). Rev. Bidwell’s son Emory died in the Shenandoah Valley during the Civil War.

10

2 Church St.

Methodist Church

Work started on the church building in 1845. It was originally built as a Congregational meeting house. Village Methodists originally met in a building located on Maple Court. In 1874 they left that space and began holding services in the former Congregational Church.

11

Case Street (116 N.)

Prospect Cemetery

This burying ground was first used about 1812 and contains 1,800 graves. Interred in the cemetery are many East Middlebury notables including Civil War veteran Emory Bidwell, inventor Norman Tupper, village matron Sarah Partridge, her husband Charles, and three unidentified victims of a triple homicide that occurred in the 1930’s.

12

450 East Main

St. Barnabas

The St. Barnabas Mission Chapel was consecrated on Sept. 12, 1889. Funds and labor were donated by village residents and others. It was renovated in 1950 but ceased holding services not long afterwards. In the early 1970’s the chapel was converted to a private home. The chapel site is near the location of Ephraim Jones circular brick building (constructed 1814) for the manufacture of glass. The glass had a distinctive blue green tint and was used for window glass and bottles. Fragments of this glass were found during the construction of the chapel. A fine example of a whimsical article manufactured by the company is a glass cane on display at the E. Middlebury Community House. Henry Schoolcraft, the factory superintendent, studied chemistry and mineralogy at Middlebury College.

13

458 East Main

Waybury "Annex"

Constructed in 1830. It served as a guest house and staff quarters for the Waybury in the 1930’s. This expansion reflected the expansion of tourism in Vermont. This deliberate strategy was supported by railroad interests and the State Board of Agriculture. As small-time farming declined there were opportunities for capturing tourist and part-time resident dollars. Long-time Waybury Inn owner Harold Curtis lived in the annex. Curtis a philanthropist and innovator modernized the Waybury and brought a new sophistication to East Middlebury.

14

464 East Main

Foote/Partridge House

This dwelling is possibly the oldest home in East Middlebury and is reputed to be the home of Jonathan Foote (circa 1810). The Partridge family moved into the property in 1822 and added to the original structure. Sarah and Charles Partridge lived here from 1860 until Mrs. Partridge's death in 1919. The Partridges added a wing to the original structure. The house served as the Episcopal rectory between 1971 and 2000.


15

East Main St. (Hwy. 125 E.)

Iron Works

Just downstream of the bridge over the Middlebury River Gorge (Hwy 125) stood the Middlebury Iron Works. Built in 1831 by George Chipman, foundation walls and waterways are still visible in the woods on the north side of the river. Most of the ore came from Crown Point, NY, by boat across the lake, then by wagon to the forge. Charcoal came from a kiln on the North Branch of the Middlebury River in Ripton. The forge operated until 1887, the last operating forge in Vermont.

16

448 East Main

Shady Rest Tourist Home

The home was built in 1890 and the one remaining tourist cabin (to the right of the house) was added in the 1930’s. East Middlebury’s transition from and industrial town to a tourist destination can be marked during the period just before World War I and continues to the present day. In 2021 the house is close to completion of restoration and renovation by current owners Renita and Toby Welch.

17

394 East Main

Emilo House

Constructed in 1820’s, the Emilo House reflects the growth of the tourist industry in Vermont. The “back to nature” movement of the 1890’s idealized bucolic Vermont as an escape from the crowded, dirty, and frequently violent cities. Vermonters were quick to take advantage of this trend and many homes saw the addition of tourist cabins, like the one below at the Emilo house, to their property.


18

402 East Main

Palmer's Dairy

William and Julia Palmer established Palmer’s Dairy in the early 1930’s to supply pasteurized milk. The operation grew from a one or two-person enterprise to one serving three counties. In the early 1950’s they established a six-chair dairy bar the location that served ice cream, soft drinks, and milk shakes. In the late 1950’s they established a restaurant on Route 7. This local favorite is now known as "Rosie's".

19

64 Ossie Road

Wakefield House

This house was constructed in 1860 on property belonging to Daniel Sessions. The Sessions' farm originally occupied much of the land between the Methodist Church and Highway 7. Like many homes in East Middlebury, it has seen changes over the years as the town has shifted from an extractive/agricultural economy to a residential/recreational setting.

20

2 Lower Plains Road

"Frost House"

This home, constructed in 1872, had as a frequent visitor poet Robert Frost. He may have found it convenient to visit with friends there after his morning breakfast at the Waybury Inn.


21

2 Maple Court

Black Smith's Shop

This corner was home to a blacksmiths shop 1870’s. The shop was in operation in 1872 and may have operated by the Arnold brothers, William and Wallace.

22

391 East Main

Sessions Home

Daniel Sessions is shown as the owner of this house on the town map of 1872. Daniel posted the advertisement below in the “Middlebury Register” regarding a stray cow that stated:

Stray Cow

Came into the enclosure of the subscriber on the 10th inst. a dun cow. The owner is requested to prove property, pay charges, and take her away.

This house was also the childhood home of noted musician and bon vivant Milton Elmer (at the left in the home as an infant) and below as band leader.

23

435 East Main

Cold Spring Temperance Hall

The house at 435 E. Main St. sits on the foundation wall of the Order of Good Templars- Cold Spring Lodge. This was a fraternal order of men and women who crusaded for temperance. The E. Middlebury chapter was founded in 1868 and had ninety-five members in 1896, the sixth largest lodge in VT. Prominent residents Almon and Mary Tupper were officers in the lodge.

24

Lower Plains

John Manney/Megyesi Home

Civil War veteran William Manney's home. Manney enlisted in the 9th VT Volunteers in 1862. He participated in multiple engagements in Virginia and North Carolina. Manney was made prisoner by Stonewall Jackson's troops at Harpers Ferry, VA, paroled and served until discharged in 1865. A commemorative record of his service was donated by the current owners of the home Louis and Beverly Megyesi. Their award winning garden is a joy to behold anytime of year.

25

447 East Main St.

Olmsted Wagons and Sleighs

E. J. Olmsted provided “made to order” wagons, carriages, and sleighs. He also repaired and stored horse drawn vehicles and provided winter storage.

26

East Main St.

Goodro Lumber

A steam powered sawmill was built on this site in 1923. In 1930 Harry and Mildred Goodro purchased the operation. Today the company is a major supplier of lumber, hardware, and other materials for the building trades. It is still operated by descendants of the Goodro family.

27

412 East Main St.

Tupper Law Offices

In addition to being a watchmaker and manufacturing entrepreneur, Almon Tupper became an attorney in 1853. His first law office was located in this building in the 1870’s. His biographer said of his law career-

…. his practice has been large and lucrative, and his familiarity with case law and precedents very remarkable. Always studious and untiring for a client’s interest, shrewd and unwary in conflict, keen to perceive the weak points in his adversary's cause and to conceal the vulnerable places in his own, he has had a large measure of success and enjoys a well-earned reputation as a trier of cases.

28

390 East Main

Milton Elmer/Desabrais House

The adult home of Milton Elmer and the current residence of the Desabrais family, this lovingly restored and elegant home has graced East Main Street since its construction in 1880.

An East Middlebury Tale:

As the story goes years ago a flatlander tourist, lost between Goshen and Mt. Abe, ends up in the suburbs of East Middlebury. Trying to get a look at his map as drives along, he rear-ends a local farmer at the intersection of North Branch and East Main. The flatlander and the farmer get out to examine their bent fenders. "Well, don't look like much," observed the farmer. "Why don't we just take a little sip on this jug of hard cider I’ve got here to steady our nerves." He hefted a jug from the bed of his dented pickup, pops out the cork and proffers the jug to the tourist. After taking a healthy swallow, the tourist hands the jug back to the local, who bangs the stopper down and puts the jug back in his truck. "Aren't you going to have some?" asks the tourist. The farmer shakes his head, smiles, and says "No, not till after the deputy gets here."