Canal Street Schoolhouse #6
National Register Nomination Information:
The Canal Street School stands on a very limited hillside site of approximately one acre, adjacent to a very heavily traveled street. The building measures approximately one-hundred feet by forty feet, with the entrance on the main facade. The building is constructed of local mountain stone. It is two-stories high, with a slated hipped roof, and a bracketed wooden cornice. The school is composed of two wings bisected by a slightly projecting stone bell tower with an open domed cupola.
The exterior stone walls are articulated with a projecting stone water table which surrounds the base, and a stone string course which runs beneath the second story window sills. The first and second story fenestration consists of groups of three, 6/6, sash windows with granite sills, granite jambs, and radiating stone voussoirs over the windows. The basement windows are similar, but have granite lintels. On either side of the bell tower is a 6/6 sash window with a granite sill at the first story, and an oval window with curvilinear muntins in the second story.
The entrance, at the base of the bell tower, has a semi-circular portico supported by four columns with doric capitals. Paired wooden pilasters meet the portico at the wall. Three stone steps lead up to the portico. Originally a wooden balustrade, similar to:the one surrounding the belfry platform, encircled the portico roof. The entrance consists of a semi-circular fanlight and 3/4 length sidelights with curvilinear muntins, each flanked by engaged columns with ionic capitals.
Above the entrance portico is a Palladian style window, at the second story. There is an operating clock above this window, the face of which is ornamented with a sunburst motif. The tower has a denticulated wood cornice, and is terminated with a platform enclosed by a wooden balustrade and an open cupola sheltering a 1118 pound bell, dated 1893 from the Meneely Foundry in West Troy, N.Y. The cupola consists of twelve columns supporting a copper clad dome. Eight of the columns are in pairs, and project beyond the diameter of the dome. Originally, wooden urns surmounted the cupola cornice, where it projects at the four paired columns.
Much of tile interior remains in its original condition. About seventy five per cent of the interior tongue and grove wainscoting remains unpainted with its original varnish. The wooden stair cases in each wing also remain unaltered.
Overall, both the exterior and interior of the building are in good to excellent condition, with the exception of the cupola. Most of the twelve columns supporting the dome show signs of rot. One column has decayed through its entire depth and others have badly deteriorated. The School District is presently investigating repairing the cupola to its original condition.
The Canal Street Schoolhouse is an extremely well-designed and well-built structure in the Neo-Colonial style which symbolizes civic pride and care lavished on ordinary public buildings of the late 19th Century. After its 1892 completion, it was said that "the building speaks for itself and like all things of beauty, it will always be a joy and an honor to the town." Furthermore, it is particularly noteworthy because of its use of local stone, rather than the traditional materials of the Neo-Colonial style.
It is uncertain which architectural firm prepared the plans for the building. In the Vermont Phoenix Newspaper (1/29/1892) it is reported that ... "Numerous plans have been considered by the committee ...., of these one submitted by McKim, Mead, & White of New York, seems especially desirable and the committee are united in so considering it." The article states that the McKim, Mead, & White design would be of brick or mountain stone. After completion of the building, a booklet entitled With Interest, by the Vermont Peoples National Bank, states that the Canal Street School ... "was designed by Robert Gordon Hardie, built of local stone, and has become not only one of the local landmarks of the town, but a building which students of architecture have admired as a real achievement." No mention of Hardie is found in the Biographies of American Architects, but it seems likely that he could have been employed by McKim, Mead and White, and perhaps prepared the original plans submitted by them. The contract for the construction of the building was awarded to Pellett Brothers of Worcester, Vermont, formerly of Brattleboro, for $17,585.
The stone was locally quarried from the Wantastiquet Mountain, and was used to face several other buildings in Brattleboro, including the Unitarian Church and Home for the Aged. The details of the exterior walls, normally found in a brick building of this style, are in stone. These features include the water table, stringcourse, and radiating voussoirs above the windows.
The clock was purchased and installed in the tower through local subscriptions. The face consists of a gold leaf sun burst at the center, with stylized numbers and hands. After the clock was installed the district bought a striking bell for the clock from the well known foundry of Meneely and Co., West Troy, New York; it was installed in 1893. The clock mechanism, which worked on a pully and spring principle, struck the bell on each hour and on the half hour. At present the cables have broken and are in the partitions of the building. The bell is currently rung by hand in the morning and afternoon. It is the only operating school bell in Brattleboro, and one of the few remaining in the State.
Rec, Arlene S., The Living Bell (A report on the Canal Street School), May 1972.
DATE ENTERED: August 19, 1977.
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