Bellows Falls Island Multiple Resource Area
Municipality: Rockingham, VT
Location: Bellows Falls
Site Type: Multiple Resource Area
Vt Survey No: --
UTMs: (Zone 18) A. 708220/4779010. B. 707460/4778280. C. 708100/4779110
National Register Nomination Information:
The Bellows Falls Island MRA encompasses the so-called Island, a thirty acre semi-circular area lying between the Bellows Falls Canal and the Great Falls of the Connecticut River. Three prehistoric sites are known on the Island. These include the Bellows Falls Petroglyph site (Vermont site VT-WD-8), an unevaluated lithic site (VT-WD-62) and an unevaluated Native American burial site (VT-WD-79). Sites VT-WD-62 and VT-WD-79 have not been evaluated and, therefore, are not being nominated for the National Register. The Island House Hotel, an historic archaeological site (VT-WD-63) and a large railroad complex (VT-WD-61), which includes the subsurface remains of the Vermont Valley Railroad roundhouse, have not been evaluated and, therefore, are not included in this nomination. The petroglyph site represents a type of prehistoric graphic communication which is seldom found in durable media. Several regional railroad and highway routes intersect on the Island, and railroad tracks (now partly disused) occupy much of its perimeter. Diverse industrial and commercial buildings stand within the MRA; four multi-building complexes and nine individual buildings are either now being nominated to, or previously have been entered in, the National Register. The industrial buildings include examples of mill, factory, milk-processing, electric-generating and railroad types from the latter 19th and early 20th centuries. The commercial types include newspaper publishing, roadside (gas station), and warehouse, predominantly of early 20th century origin. While most of the buildings exhibit vernacular design, distinctive interpretations of Colonial Revival style appear on three industrial/commercial buildings. Several of the original enterprises have ceased operation, and their buildings have been adapted to other uses.
The town of Rockingham, Vermont is located in the northeastern corner of Windham County on the west side of the Connecticut River valley. The town is bounded on the east by the Connecticut River (and the state of New Hampshire), on the south by the town of Westminster, on the west by Grafton, and on the north by Springfield. The Bellows Falls "Island " is located at the interior of an eastward bend of the Connecticut River at the village of Bellows Falls in the southeastern corner of Rockingham. The floodplain is virtually nonexistent in the vicinity of the Island, but expands in width both north and south of the area, particularly at the confluence of the Cold River one-half mile to the south.
The 30-acre "Island" is separated from the Vermont mainland on the west side only by a power canal that was originally constructed in 1792-1802. The Island is naturally bordered on the north, east, and south sides by a steep-walled gorge of granitic bedrock that has been exposed by the Connecticut River. The river is restricted to a relatively narrow channel along which it cascades some 60 feet (the so-called Great Falls) amidst huge boulders. A prehistoric petroglyph site (Vermont site VT-WD-8) is located on the bedrock wall at the northwest end of the Vilas Memorial bridge which crosses the Connecticut River.
The topography of the Island itself varies from flat to steeply sloped. A flat shelf nearly encircles the perimeter, being interrupted only along the south side. This shelf flanks a rounded knoll that occupies the central part of the Island. On the south side, the terrain slopes irregularly downward from the knoll to the river.
Several engineering structures link the Island with both the Vermont and New Hampshire mainlands. Two railroad and two highway bridges cross the power canal to the Vermont side, and a hydroelectric generating station (Building #l) straddles its south end. Two other railroad bridges and one highway bridge cross the Connecticut River to the New Hampshire side, and a power dam stands athwart the river to divert most of its flow through the canal to the powerhouse.
Regional transport routes converge on the Island from several directions. The principal north-south railroad of Vermont and New Hampshire, the Boston and Maine, follows the Connecticut River and crosses same at Bellows Falls by way of the Island. A secondary railroad, the Green Mountain (successor to the Rutland Railroad), intersects the north-south main line on the Island and leads northwestward across Vermont. A Boston and Maine connecting line across southwestern New Hampshire completed the four-way junction until its abandonment during the 1970s. A mostly disused (and partly overgrown), multi-track switching yard curves along the northeast side of the Island. Although the number of tracks has been greatly reduced in recent decades, the Island remains virtually ringed by railroad main lines and sidings.
A major highway link between Vermont and New Hampshire crosses the Island and spans the Connecticut River on the successor (Vilas Memorial Bridge, excluded from the MRA nomination) to the first bridge ever constructed across the river anywhere along its 400-mile course. Three paved streets - Bridge, Island, and Depot - plus a few minor roadways comprise the network on the Island. Bridge Street extends roughly east-west across the southern part of the Island. Island Street traverses the middle in north-south direction, intersecting perpendicularly both Bridge and the east end of Depot, a short street that enters the Island from the village (west) side and terminates at the Boston and Maine Railroad passenger station (#11). Along the west side of the Island next to the canal, two paved parking lots have displaced railroad sidings since 1976.
Two groups of buildings within the MRA have been previously entered in the National Register. The three railroad buildings (MRA #s 11, 12, and 13) near the curve linking Depot and Island Streets were entered on August 16, 1982 as Nos. 3 (Boston and Maine Railroad passenger station), 2 (former Railway Express Agency office), and 1 (former Rutland Railroad freight house), respectively, of the Bellows Falls Downtown Historic District. Situated between Bridge Street and the south edge of the Island, the 18 connected buildings of the Moore and Thompson Paper Mill complex (MRA #10) were entered on March 16, 1984.
There exist on the Island within the MRA boundary three industrial complexes (#s 4, 8, and 9) together with six individual buildings (#s l, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7) not previously entered in the National Register. The total number of these contributing complexes and individual buildings is 13. Several non-contributing buildings, owing either to age or alteration, are scattered among the contributing buildings, and are not included in the nomination.
Buildings of industrial type overwhelmingly dominate the Island's historic built environment. These range from 19th-century, multi-story, gable-roofed, brick mill buildings to 20th-century, single-story, flat-roofed factory buildings together with a diversity of warehouses, sheds, and other outbuildings. The industries represented include paper-making, milk-processing, and electricity generation. The few other buildings are commercial in type, related especially to railroad and highway transport. The 19th-century presence of residential buildings, primarily tenements, has disappeared.
The industrial and commercial character of the Island's buildings limits the range of their architectural expression. Vernacular buildings comprise the largest group, showing in some cases vestigial stylistic details. Only one style, the Colonial/Georgian Revival, appears in fully developed form. The New England Power Co. powerhouse (#1) and the former Bellows Falls Times newspaper headquarters (#4) constitute outstanding representatives of same while the gas station (#5) on Bridge Street provides a much more modest example; all three of these buildings were constructed within a ten-year period from 1927 onward.
1. New England Power Co, Hydroelectric generating station; 1927.
The powerhouse stands athwart the south end of the canal, near the south tip of the Island. The equivalent of three stories in height, the powerhouse consists of an 8x2-bay, flat-roofed rectangular main block together with a 2-story, 6x1-bay, flat-roofed wing on both the north (canal) and south (river) facades. Its fully developed Georgian Revival design exhibits a rich array of stylistic features, expressed partly in precast concrete for contrast with the brick masonry laid in Flemish bond.
The north facade is articulated into eight bays by brick wall pilasters with stepped-out heads at the main cornice. The main entrance occupies the left-end bay; the oversized, vertically sliding, copper-sheathed, paneled oak door (with internal pass door) is crowned by a molded concrete cornice below a semicircular fanlight with corbeled brick surround. The right-end bay contrasts by having a full-height, multi-light, metal-framed (with hinged panels), round-arched window crowned by a corbeled brick surround with scrolled keystone. The building corners are reinforced by diagonal stepped buttresses with concrete caps. A molded concrete cornice encircles the main block, surmounted by a brick parapet with molded concrete coping. The parapet is peaked over the end bays of the north and south facades as well as the entire lengths of the east and west elevations. On the north facade, a raised central section of the parapet bears a concrete sign panel inscribed "New England Power System,˛ terminal horizontal concrete scrolls, and a central date stone ("1927") with carved foliated surround.
Surmounting the canal intake, the north wing is lighted by large rectangular, multi-light, metal-framed windows above a concrete lower wall. A steel bridge supported by curved brackets spans the canal facade and wraps around both end walls, protected by a 2-rail fence with ball-headed square posts. A horizontal cornice and parapet like those on the main block encircles this wing. The opposite (south) wing rises two stories with similar appearance modified by full-height windows.
The main block's 2-bay east and west elevations appear almost identical, being dominated by full-height, round-arched windows like that on the north facade. A molded concrete beltcourse interrupts the windows between the equivalent of the first and second stories. The relieving arches share foliated concrete impost blocks, and a circular concrete cartouche bearing a lion's head is mounted on the spandrel between the arches.
The interior of the main block contains the generator room, open the full height of the building. A gantry crane with capacity of 95 tons, manufactured by Niles Crane Corp., travels the length of the room for lifting heavy equipment. Three vertical-shaft generators rated at 17,000 kilovolt-amperes and 6,000 volts, manufactured by General Electric Co., occupy the main floor. Directly below, three vertical Francis-type turbines, manufactured by S. Morgan Smith Co., are rated at 20,000 horsepower each under the 60-foot head, turning at 87.5 r.p.m. Water approaches the turbines through two Broome-type head gates, manufactured by Philips and Davies, Inc.; these are raised by a traveling hoist located inside the north wing. A trash rack with a traveling mechanical rake protects the intake, the rake apparatus also being inside the north wing. The south wing contains the switchboard room, office, and workshop.
The turbines discharge water downward into individual draft tube tunnels of elbow plan excavated from bedrock and lined with concrete. The tunnels discharge into an open tailrace also excavated from bedrock. Electrical switching yards flank both the east and west sides of the tailrace, the yard on the east side being 66 kilovolt and that on the west being 110 kilovolt.
The related canal extends about 1,700 feet upstream from the powerhouse to the Connecticut River at the northwest corner of the Island. The canal has a surface width of 100 feet and slopes downward to a bottom width of 36 feet at a depth of about 29 feet. It is lined with cut stone (salvaged from earlier head works) and riprap placed between concrete ribs 20 feet apart along the slopes below a concrete headwall. The normal discharge is 10,000 second-feet, although the turbines will take almost 12,000 second-feet at full gate. Most of the canal is already listed in the National Register.
2. Former Fall Mountain Paper Co. Stockhouse; c. 1880.
3. Hydrant House; c. 1880.
4. Bellows Falls Times Building; 1931.
The one-story, 4-bay-deep, shed-roofed rear (north) wing shares brick masonry but is laid in more utilitarian 5-course American bond. The left-bay west entrance (formerly served by a railroad siding) has a 6-panel door, full sidelights, and reeded pilasters below large transom windows. The other bays are occupied by triplet 12/16 sash. A stepped parapet with coping surmounts the west facade. Two metal-sheathed sawtooth skylights rise from the roof, glazed on their north slopes.
4A. Warehouse; c. 1935.
4B. Garage/Office; c. 1935.
5. Gas Station; c. 1935.
6. Adams Gristmill Warehouse; c. 1925.
7. Howard Hardware Storehouse c. 1895.
(8, 8A) Bellows Falls Co-operative Creamery Complex.
8. Bellows Falls Co-operative Creamery; c. 1918/1932/1938/c. 1955.
8A. Heating Plant; c. 1932.
9, 9A, 9B) Robertson Paper Co. Complex.
9. Robertson Paper Co. Factory; c. 1890, later.
Offset to the southeast, the 157 x 50-foot, brick Building No. 2 essentially repeats the design of No. 1. Its 8-bay exposed west facade is mostly sheltered by a 6-bay, open-sided, shed-roofed loading dock. A monitor extends the length of the main roof, but its windows are now wholly covered or replaced with vertical boards. The 4-bay south elevation includes a 2-story, 2-bay central portion (the monitor) having segmental-arched window openings with stone sills and 9-light fixed sash on the upper story. A second-story, 2 x 3-bay, shed-roofed projection marks the rear (east) elevation.
Attached to the north end of No. 2, the 113 x 50-foot, brick Building No. 3 lacks a monitor and is flanked on the east side by a shed-roofed wing added c. 1960. Three small interior buildings, Nos. 6-8, occupy the north part of the space between Nos. 1 and 3. The 31 x 40-foot, brick Building No. 5 has two exterior walls (east and north) while abutting Nos. 1, 6, and 7 on the other sides. Projecting northward from No. 5, the enclosed passage containing an inclined freight elevator descends to Building No. 4, the shipping shed served by a railroad siding. This one-story, 47 x 18-foot, metal-sheathed and vertical-boarded, shed-roofed building has two freight entrances with interior, 4-panel sliding doors on its trackside (north) facade and double-leaf freight doors on its west end.
9A. Machine Shop; c. 1898.
9B. Garage; c. 1917.
10. Moore and Thompson Paper Mill Complex; 1880-81, 1924-25.
11. Boston and Maine Railroad Passenger Station; 1922.
12. former Railway Express Agency Office; c. 1880.
13. former Rutland Railroad Freight House; c. 1860.
14. Bellows Falls Petroglyph site VT-WD-8.
The site consists of two west-facing petroglyph clusters, approximately 20 feet apart, carved into massive, steeply angled, water worn granite bedrock. Both clusters of petroglyphs depict lifesize, oval or round, anthropomorphic "heads" with "eyes" and "mouths"; a number of "heads" have "horn" or pronged projections. As observable to date, the northernmost cluster of carvings exhibits eight "heads" occupying a surface approximately five feet in length and thirty inches in height. The southernmost group of carvings is larger, consisting of sixteen "heads" across a ten foot by three foot section of rock.
Prior to the construction of the Turners Falls dam in 1798, the Great Falls of the Connecticut River was the focus of tremendous concentrations of salmon and shad. Historic aboriginal use of the fisheries both above and below the Great Falls is well documented (Hayes 1929:170-175). While neither the upper Connecticut River Valley nor the immediate vicinity of the petroglyphs have been subjected to systematic or intensive archaeological surveys, collectors have identified a number of prehistoric occupation areas and burial sites upstream of Bellows Falls. These range from the Late Archaic (and Transitional Archaic) to the Late Woodland periods, although at present there is no evidence of Early Woodland occupations within the Upper Connecticut drainage basin.
The Bellows Falls petroglyph site has been of interest to historians and travelers since at least the late eighteenth century. The Reverend David McClure (Bowen 1958:508) noted them in 1789 and, in the mid-nineteenth century, Schoolcraft (1857:606-607) published a sketch illustrating their appearance at that time.
It is unlikely that the petroglyphs will ever be assigned a date of origin. Similar petroglyphs elsewhere have been attributed to the latter end of the Woodland period (Vastokas and Vastokas 1973:27) but, based on what is known about other rock art sites in the eastern United States, these could date from the European Contact period to the Middle Woodland period or even earlier.
The petroglyphs were carved within a massive bedrock outcrop forming the down cut river bed; any habitation or resource procurement site(s) that might have been contemporaneous with them would be located on higher river banks. Although rumor indicates that prehistoric cultural materials have been found in the past on the bluff to the west of the petroglyphs, this has not been verified to date and the heavily built up, disturbed nature of the adjacent bluff areas suggests that any sites that once existed have since been destroyed. However, even if intact occupation loci were identified in the vicinity, assigning them contemporaneity with the petroglyphs would be spurious at best.
The physical appearance and context of the petroglyphs has been altered within the past fifty years. In the early twentieth century, massive boulder riprap was placed to the west of and abutting the petroglyphs (between the petroglyphs and the retaining wall). Inadvertently, placement of the riprap has a significant preservation effect on portions of the site for it covered up an as yet unknown number of carvings and protected them from both human and natural agencies. In 1930 or 1931, a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution hired a professional stone carver to "recarve" the figures exposed above the rip rap (Lilley 1931). Also, in the recent past, the carvings have been highlighted with bright yellow paint. Periodically, when not obscured by siltation from snow-dumping activities over the bluff (now halted) or flooding, several unaltered, somewhat water worn figures are evident behind portions of the riprap which protected them both from the misguided stone carver and the occasional paint jobs. The riprap has also protected the site from the full force of severe flood waters although flooding has eroded the carvings to an unknown extent. Accumulation of cinders, silt and other fine particle material periodically alters the observable evidence of the petroglyphs. In 1977, sixteen " heads" were visible on the southern cluster; in 1979, only thirteen were apparent. As in the case with the riprap, this silt has obscured some of the carvings and protected them from additional vandalism.
The survey on which this nomination is based included comprehensive archaeological. historical and architectural background research, with limited field testing of the interior portions of Bellows Falls Island excluding all areas and structures that are already listed in the National Register (Mulholland et al. 1988). The survey had two basic components: Architectural/historical and archaeological. The latter spans prehistory and history. The primary effort of the study concerned background research to identify and evaluate the existing features, structures and sites which appear to be eligible for inclusion in the National Register. The survey provided an inventory of standing structures, assessment of the potential eligibility of those structures, stratification of the area to determine its potential for containing historic and prehistoric archaeological sites (with limited subsurface testing for the purposes of verification), and recommendations for nomination of portions of the Island to the National Register. Survey of above-ground historic/architectural features was emphasized.
The research project was conducted in three separate steps: 1) background research; 2) subsurface field testing, and 3) interior and exterior survey of standing structures. The Island was stratified prior to field testing into areas of low and high potential to contain historic and prehistoric sites. Environmental features such as slope, topography, soils and distance to water, as well as past ground disturbance were considered for stratification.
The field study was conducted in the late summer and fall of 1985 and in the Spring of 1988. The majority of the field and laboratory team are presently or have been recently associated with the Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Field crew included Edward Hood and Joannah Whitney. Whitney also served as Assistant Historian. Historical research was conducted by Ellen-Rose Savulis; prehistoric and paleoenvironmental research by George Nicholas; Hugh Henry served as Architectural Historian.
In order to accomplish the historical and archaeological background research, several methods were employed. These included:
Numerous environmental attributes are considered in predicting areas of high archaeological site potential. These are based on previous studies in areas that have environments similar to that of the Island. The following is a list of the major criteria used during the investigation to assess the archaeological potential of the Island:
The Bellows Falls Island survey identified 14 complexes and individual buildings and one prehistoric archaeological site which appeared to be eligible for inclusion in the National Register. The properties were selected after evaluation according to National Register criteria, and are being nominated for their archaeological, historical and/or architectural distinction.
The resources of Bellows Falls Island represent the varied prehistoric and historic uses of Bellows Fallsą principal industrial district, an island-like area within a bend of the Connecticut River. The Great Falls here have attracted significant prehistoric activity through the past five millennia, as represented by the Bellows Falls Petroglyph site and other habitation and burial sites on the Island. The Bellows Falls Canal both separates the Island from the mainland and has provided the water power during a nearly 200-year period of industrial development dominated by the paper-making industry and, since 1927, large-scale hydro-electric generation. Since c. 1850 the Island has served as an important railroad junction which enabled a short-lived tourist trade in the third quarter of the 19th century, and subsequently the emergence of major industrial enterprises. Two late-19th century, paper-related industrial complexes and a 20th-century creamery survive, although now disused, to represent the dominant economic activities on the Island during the past century. Although generally vernacular in design, the buildings include significant examples of Colonial Revival style as applied to industrial/commercial architecture from the second quarter of this century.
The prehistory of the central Connecticut River Valley is relatively well documented for the river valley lowlands and adjacent upland areas. Archaeological sites in these areas demonstrate an occupation of the region for at least 11,000 years and span the range of recognized cultural and technological traditions. Drainage of glacial Lakes Hitchcock and Upham created a diverse habitat for prehistoric populations who likely exploited both riverine and upland resources. The Great Falls in the Connecticut River were probably established between 10,000 and 7,000 years ago. At this time, prehistoric subsistence likely focused on seasonal anadromous fish runs. The reported archaeological sites in the area represent a variety of functions and a considerable time span (approximately 5000 B.P. to A.D. 1600).
The Bellows Falls Petroglyphs site (VT-WD-8) consists of two related sets of petroglyphs located on the eastern side of the island on exposed bedrock. These petroglyphs are associated, at least spatially, with a number of other prehistoric sites in the area. These include evidence of a habitation or special activity site on the Island (VT-WD-62), an unevaluated Native American burial site on the Island (VT-WD-79), a number of burials in the center of Bellows Falls Village, and a variety of archaeological sites both upstream and downstream, on both the Vermont and New Hampshire sides of the Connecticut River. Sites VT-WD-62 and VT-WD-79 have not been evaluated and, therefore, are not being nominated for the National Register. While contemporaneity cannot be documented between the petroglyphs and any of these sites, there is some evidence to suggest that they may be correlated with burial ceremonialism. This suggestion is made on the basis of similar circumstances elsewhere (e.g. association of "thunderbirds" with burials at the Smyth site of Amoskeag Falls, Manchester, New Hampshire (Foster et al. 1980)). This motif interestingly appears on two late prehistoric or European Contact period sheet copper gorgets from the Smyth site in Amoskeag Falls, New Hampshire (Foster et al. 1980) where a number of burials are also present.
In 1735 the Massachusetts General Court, which claimed all of Vermont as its territory, ordered a survey of the area in order to divide it into townships. The area now known as the town of Rockingham was called "Township Number Two", and 60 individuals received the land grant. Hayes (1906:11) suggests that one reason for this early proposed settlement was to increase the Massachusetts Bay's involvement in the Indian trade in the area. However, "Great Falls", as Rockingham was then known, was either not settled or briefly settled and then abandoned at this early date (Derby 1891:493; Hayes 1907:11).
In 1752, the first governor of New Hampshire, Benning Wentworth, awarded a charter of the same six square mile area to 72 proprietors. In 1753 the first recorded settlement was initiated by three men from Massachusetts. It was soon abandoned due to the French and Indian War, but then reorganized in 1760. Hull (1858:101) claims that these early settlers were attracted by the abundance of salmon and shad below the falls in the Connecticut River. Another attraction was the abundance of white pines potentially harvestable as masts for the Royal Navy. Both resources were exploited during the early years of settlement and, as result, the growing of agricultural produce for export was neglected and the local population grew slowly.
The first land divisions in Rockingham included both meadow and house lots which ranged in size from five to 350 acres depending upon quality. A lot of 500 acres in the southeastern part of Rockingham, covering almost all of what is now Bellows Falls Village, was reserved for use by the governor, Benning Wentworth. However, Wentworth exchanged this acreage for land on Fall Mountain directly across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire. The exact location of the first settlement in Rockingham is unknown. Hayes (1907:25) suggests several sites of which the most likely were either a meadow north of the Williams River or the present-day town center of Rockingham.
Throughout the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the population of Rockingham and Bellows Falls Village slowly increased. By 1771, 225 people are listed in the first community census. The population remained devoted to fishing and the transportation of freight around the "Great Falls" on the Connecticut River, and both activities played an ever increasing role in the local economy. In 1785 the first bridge across the Connecticut River was built at Bellows Falls signaling the beginning of important transportation routes which were expanded later in the 1840s when several railroad lines were built through the community. Such economic growth was reflected in the 1791 census which recorded 1,235 inhabitants, an increase of over 1,000 people within a twenty year period. However, this growth was not felt in the village of Bellows Falls at this time.
Prior to the turn of the nineteenth century, local industries in the town of Rockingham were confined to small enterprises which only served immediate community needs. Hayes (1907:111-113) notes a saw and grist mill on the north side of the Williams River about one mile below Rockingham Station near the mouth of O'Brien's Brook by c. 1762. Other such mills were located on streams with natural falls scattered throughout the town. By 1800 several pearl ash and potash works had been established to meet local needs and for export down the Connecticut River to more urban areas. By 1820 the raising of merino sheep developed into an important livelihood (Crockett 1923:599).
In 1792 a group of British investors formed the "Company for Rendering the Connecticut River Navigable by Bellows Falls" (Hayes 1909:278). Ten years later in 1802, the first canal in the United States had been constructed in the village which, in effect, created the Island of Bellows Falls. The canal was constructed with an elaborate series of locks which enabled river boats to bypass the Great Falls in the Connecticut River. Most of the canal is already listed in the National Register as a part of the Bellows Falls Downtown Historic District. In addition, several mills were soon erected on the banks of the canal to use the newly available water power. These industries included two sawmills, an oil mill, a wool carding shop, two paper mills, two grist mills and a cotton factory (Hayes 1907:278,285). Such industrial expansion resulted in an increased population size of 1,954 by 1810 (Walbridge 1899:5).
By 1834 Rockingham had a population of 2,272 inhabitants, and the Village of Bellows Falls received its charter from the State of Vermont. The next decade brought a dramatic expansion in the transportation networks through the town, and Bellows Falls Island became a major railroad junction serving a variety of new industries and a newly developed tourist trade. By about 1850 the railroad system had been developed and the newly remodeled Island House attracted hundreds of wealthy tourists from the southern states (Hayes 1907:379-380). The subsurface remains of the Island House Hotel (VT-WD-63) have not been evaluated and are not included in this nomination for the National Register.
In the late 1840s and early 1850s, several major railroads were extended through Bellows Falls Island, and, as a result, the Island became a center both for the tourist trade and for new industries. During the third quarter of the 19th century, the Island developed into a major industrial center and important junction for freight and passenger service in southeastern Vermont. By the 1930s, however, the importance of the rail system began to decline as automobiles and truck transport became popular. Today, the railroads provide freight service and limited passenger service through the area.
The rise and decline of railroad development on the Island is reflected in the changing density of railroad related buildings since 1850. There was substantial building construction during the third quarter of the 19th century, followed by a decline in the early 20th century. Between 1849 and 1856, an engine roundhouse with attached repair shop was constructed at the northwest corner of the Island northeast of the railroad bridge over the canal, and in the late 19th century the Vermont Valley Railroad constructed an engine house on the western part of the Island, northeast of the railroad bridge over the canal. In addition several unused railroad tracks form a small switching yard along the north edge of the Island. The subsurface remains of the Rutland Railroad roundhouse and the railroad complex (Vermont archaeological site VT-WD-61) was severely damaged during sewer construction in 1988. The Rutland Railroad freight shed was destroyed intentionally by the Bellows Falls Fire Department. Therefore, this site is not included in this nomination.
The 1870s saw the beginning of a dramatic shift in the land use of Bellows Falls Island. The rural character of the Island, particularly attractive to tourists, was transformed into a landscape dominated by increasingly large industries. Paper manufacturing began to develop in Bellows Falls in the 1870s and became the principal industry for the next half century. During this period, Bellows Falls became one of the largest paper manufacturing centers in Vermont. The most notable enterprises established during this period included the Vermont Farm Machine Company, the John Robertson and Son Paper Company, the Moore & Thompson Paper Company (already listed in the National Register as a part of the Bellows Falls Downtown Historic District), and the Fall Mountain Paper Company (later the International Paper Company). Most of these major industries either manufactured paper-making machinery or different kinds of paper products.
The Vermont Farm Machine Company responded to the expanding dairy industry in Vermont by manufacturing such labor-saving devices as the Cooley Creamer, the Davis Butter Churn and a host of other dairy and creamery supplies (Walbridge 1899:10). The Robertson Paper Company was one of the first producers of wax paper in the country and it played an important role in the development of the local Bellows Falls economy.
These and other paper-related industries dominated the regional economy into the twentieth century, and the Rockingham town population reached over 6,000 by 1900.
The economic climate of the area began to change when the Vermont Farm Machine Company suffered major setbacks during and shortly after World War I. That company went bankrupt in the mid-1920s, about the same time that the International Paper Company closed its Bellows Falls mills after a lengthy strike. With these two events, Bellows Falls lost its two largest industrial enterprises.
About the same time, a different economic enterprise appeared in greatly expanded form on the Island. Construction began in 1926 of the Bellows Falls hydro-electric generating facility. A new dam was built, the canal was widened and deepened, and a powerhouse (#1) was built at the south end of the canal. This was the second major hydro-electric generating complex that was developed along the Connecticut River, the first having been at Vernon, Vermont about 15 years earlier.
Also during the 1920s the milk processing industry expanded significantly on the Island. The Bellows Falls Cooperative Creamery was formed in 1921 and an existing concrete industrial building (#8) was converted to a creamery. The cooperative gained a major contract with a chain of Boston grocery stores and rapidly increased its production. During the next decade the creamery complex was expanded considerably and became a major contributor to Bellows Falls' economic vitality.
The construction of the modern concrete arch bridge (Vilas Bridge) across the Connecticut River to North Walpole, New Hampshire marked the emergence in the 1930s of highway transport as a major competitor to the railroads for both passenger and freight traffic. A modest gas station (#5) built c. 1935 on Bridge Street represents this trend.
In the early 1930s newspaper publishing emerged as an economic activity on the Island. The Vermont Newspaper Corp., publishers of the weekly Bellows Falls Times constructed a complex of three buildings (#4, 4A and 4B) on the southwest edge of the Island. The Bellows Falls Times was later merged with other newspapers and the complex was adapted to other uses.
After about 1950, the built environment of the Island experienced drastic changes. The massive Vermont Farm Machine Co. factory on Island Street was mostly destroyed by fire in 1952, leaving only a small remnant (now a warehouse). In 1963, the largest remaining paper firm in Bellows Falls, the Moore and Thompson Paper Company closed, and its buildings have remained largely unused. At about the same time the Island lost a major railroad building, when the Rutland Railroad roundhouse was demolished. (In 1988, the remains of the foundation were extensively disturbed during sewer construction). At the end of 1965, the Bellows Falls Cooperative Creamery closed after losing its contract with First National Stores. In 1987 the Robertson Paper Company went bankrupt and the machinery was removed from the buildings.
Significance - Architectural/Historical Resources
New England Power Co. Hydroelectric Generating Station Site No. 1.
Large-scale development of hydroelectric generating facilities along the Connecticut River began in the early 1900s. The purpose of this development in rural areas was to export the power to the industrial centers of eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The New England Power Company became the dominant developer of such facilities in Vermont. In 1909, that company completed the first generating complex on the Connecticut River in Vermont at Vernon, 31 miles downstream from Bellows Falls. The Vernon installation had an original capacity of 28,000 horsepower; that was expanded to 40,000 horsepower in 1921.
Five years later, a subsidiary of the New England Power Association, the Bellows Falls Hydro-Electric Corp., undertook a substantially larger project at Bellows Falls. The site selected for the generating station (near the south end of the existing canal) was then occupied by numerous interconnected, 19th-century, brick paper-mill buildings owned by the International Paper Co. That firm had recently abandoned operations in Bellows Falls after refusing to settle an acrimonious strike by its employees. The mill buildings were mostly demolished to clear the area for redevelopment.
Construction of the hydroelectric generating complex was started in May, 1926. The contractor was the Sherman Power Construction Co. of Worcester, Massachusetts while the New England Power Construction Co. of Boston provided engineering services; the architect of the powerhouse is not known. The $4,500,000 project involved the construction of a new concrete dam across the Connecticut River at the north tip of the Island, enlargement of the existing power canal, and erection of this powerhouse and adjacent switching yards. Some 800 men were employed on the project at its height. The initial generation of electricity occurred in March, 1928, delayed only somewhat by the record flood of the previous November. Most of the power was transmitted southward to Pratt's Junction, Massachusetts, and thence to large consumers.
The powerhouse has subsequently retained intact its original design and most of its original equipment. The building constitutes an outstanding representative both of Georgian Revival style applied to industrial architecture and of its functional type. Among a handful of counterparts in Vermont, the Bellows Falls powerhouse possesses the highest significance for its architectural quality and integrity. The entire facility constitutes an important representative of early twentieth century hydroelectric power-generation complexes in the state.
Former Fall Mountain Paper Co. Stockhouse Building No. 2.
This vernacular industrial building was constructed c. 1880 for the Fall Mountain Paper Co., then probably the largest paper company in Bellows Falls. The main block appears on the 1885 Sanborn map as "Stock House No. 2." A one-story, wood-framed gate house spanning the canal was then attached to its west side. By 1891, the south wing had been added and the gate house removed (the canal having been widened during the interim). The stockhouse was spared from the 1926 demolition of the then-International Paper Co. mill complex to clear the area for construction of the adjacent powerhouse (#1). Although somewhat altered for use by the New England Power Co., this building remains a good example of its type and represents the most important mill complex of Bellows Falls' dominant late 19th- and early 20th-century paper industry.
Hydrant House, Building No. 3.
The 1885 Sanborn map shows a hydrant house (built probably c. 1880) on this site that corresponds to the present building. It then contained a hydrant and 500 feet of 2-1/2-inch linen hose for fire protection among the adjacent paper mills, including the Fall Mountain Paper Co. across the driveway to the west. The source of water is not indicated until the 1896 Sanborn map, which shows a 6-inch pipe connected to a municipal water main along Bridge Street. The present hydrant house may have been partly rebuilt but it continues to serve the original function. The small building represents a type of 19th-century vernacular industrial architecture that is uncommon in Vermont.
Former Bellows Falls Times/Vermont Newspaper Corp. Complex Buildings No. 4, 4A, and 4B.
After a late 1930 fire destroyed its offices on Bellows Falls' central Square, the Vermont Newspaper Corp. constructed a complex of three buildings on the southwest side of the Island. The company published the Bellows Falls Times together with similar weekly newspapers in Springfield, Ludlow, and Windsor, Vermont. The headquarters building (#4) was erected in 1931, and contained the editorial and business offices in the head block and the press room the rear wing. The building was designed by Harold Holmes Owen, an architect from Concord, New Hampshire, in fully developed Colonial Revival style. Entering private practice in 1926, Owen had designed numerous public and private buildings in New Hampshire prior to this commission; little is known about his subsequent activities. The Vermont Newspaper Corp. continued to use the building until after the consolidation of the four weekly newspapers into a single daily newspaper, the Connecticut Valley Times-Reporter, in October, 1965.
Although later adapted to law offices in the head block and a storefront in the wing, the building retains intact its original exterior appearance. It constitutes an outstanding representative both of Colonial Revival style and of its functional type as headquarters of a small-town newspaper. The building possesses exceptional historic integrity, evoking clearly the civic pride of the newspaper's ownership (the Belknap family) in a building that rivals the adjacent New England Power Co. powerhouse (#1) in architectural quality if not scale. Sited to the rear (north) of the headquarters building (#4), the warehouse (#4A) was built probably c. 1935 and used by the Vermont Newspaper Corp. for storage of newsprint and other materials. A Boston and Maine Railroad siding formerly passed the rear of the building, providing access for shipments of these materials. The warehouse shares several design characteristics, e.g., the peaked parapet, concave cornice, and metal-framed windows, with the adjacent former garage (#4B). Now occupied by a furniture manufacturer, the warehouse retains much of its architectural and historic integrity as part of the newspaper complex.
Fronting Island Street to the east of the warehouse (#4A), the main block of this building (#4B) was constructed probably c. 1935 as a garage for the Vermont Newspaper Corp. Its original appearance was similar to that of the adjacent warehouse (#4A): the peaked parapet, concave cornice, and metal-framed rear window match those of the other building. The garage was converted c. 1980 to an office by the now-defunct Robertson Paper Co. (#9) across the street, losing its historic fenestration and sheathing on the east and north sides in the process. The exterior appearance (as well as post-and-beam framing) of the office ell suggests that it predates the garage and was moved to the site and renovated when the garage was built (it does not appear on the 1927 Sanborn map). Despite the alterations, the garage continues to suggest its original character as part of the newspaper complex.
Gas Station, Building No. 5.
Constructed probably c. 1935, this gas station shows the lingering influence of Colonial Revival style in roadside commercial architecture. Its form and stylistic features, especially the paired pilasters supporting an applied pediment on the office front, suggest the image of a house while beginning to evolve toward the more strictly functional box that emerged as the dominant form of this building type during the 1940s. It is not known whether this gas station's appearance derives from the standard design program of an oil company. The original cupola was blown off by a storm and not replaced. Apart from that feature, the gas station remains an intact example of a period historic resource that is becoming increasingly scarce in Vermont.
Adams Gristmill Warehouse, Building No. 6.
This building was constructed c. 1925 for Frank Adams and Co., operators of a grist mill located south of Bellows Falls' central Square, to serve as its warehouse with railroad access via a Rutland Railroad siding. The Adams firm used the building for storage of flour and sale of feed, some of which was ground at its mill. The Adams mill ceased operation in the 1960s, and this warehouse has been adapted for use by Cota and Cota, Inc., fuel-oil dealers and owners of adjacent buildings. The warehouse remains a good example of its type of early 20th-century, railroad-related, vernacular commercial architecture.
Howard Hardware Storehouse, Building No. 7.
This building was constructed c. 1895 as a "store house" for L. G. and C. E. Howard, who founded in 1877 what became the largest hardware and farm supply business in Bellows Falls. This storehouse was attached perpendicularly to the south end of an earlier coal shed and connected storehouse (both later removed) also belonging to the Howard firm. The latter buildings paralleled the tangent then-Fitchburg Division track of the Boston and Maine Railroad; this storehouse was given a unique tetrahedral plan to conform to a curved siding at its west end. This group of buildings provided railroad access and storage for the Howard firm's retail store located on Bellows Falls' central Square. The surviving storehouse retains nearly intact its distinctive historic character, and is an excellent representative of railroad-related vernacular commercial architecture from the late 19th century.
Former Bellows Falls Co-operative Creamery Complex Buildings No. 8 and 8A.
An earlier creamery, a two-story, wood-framed building, was constructed c. 1906 for the Boston Dairy Co. on the site of the present southeast block of the multi-part main building of this industrial complex. Then c. 1918 the present central block was constructed of concrete for the Liberty Paper Co. as a "paper gumming factory," abutting the earlier creamery. The use of fireproof building material reflected the company's loss to fire of its previous factory on a different site.
The newly organized Bellows Falls Co-operative Creamery acquired the buildings in 1921, and its first superintendent, James MacLennan, designed their conversion to a modern milk-processing plant. It opened in November, 1921 as "the best equipped and most complete of its kind in New England," handling milk received from some 215 member-farmers. The bottled milk and cream were shipped by the Boston and Maine Railroad (the former Fitchburg division line across southwestern New Hampshire) to Boston for sale in the chain of John T. Connor and Co. (later First National) grocery stores under the brand name of "Brookside Milk."
The creamery quickly became successful. In 1932, despite the national economic collapse, a major expansion added the polygonal southeast block (replacing the original wood-framed creamery), probably the heating plant (#8A), and much new equipment; the Robie Construction Co. of Manchester, New Hampshire was awarded the contract for the project. This enabled a 50 per cent increase in maximum output. Another expansion in 1938-39 added the southwest wing and more equipment to handle the great volume of milk then coming from 1200 member-farmers in Windham and Windsor Counties in Vermont and Sullivan and Cheshire Counties in New Hampshire. In 1943, the Edelstein Co. leased space in the creamery for making cottage cheese, most of which was shipped to New York.
The shipments of bottled milk to Boston were usually made in milk cars owned by the Mystic Terminal Co., a subsidiary of the Boston and Maine Railroad. During the 1920s and early 1930s, these cars were painted in a colorful "billboard" scheme; later they were identified by metal placards bearing the Brookside brand name. The Bellows Falls creamery continued to ship packaged milk long after most other milk plants in Vermont had switched to bulk-tank shipments. Indeed the Boston and Maine Railroad purchased new non-bulk milk cars for this service as late as 1957 and 1958, probably the railroad's last new cars of that type. Those new cars were justified by the contemporary volume of the shipments from Bellows Falls; during 1956, the creamery sent 1,498 carloads to Boston.
The fortune of the creamery changed abruptly in 1964, when the cooperative lost its major contract with First National Stores. Rail shipment of packaged milk ended in July of that year, and the shift to bulk shipment of milk by tank truck eliminated most processing at the creamery. (The concrete-block truck garage added to the southwest wing the same year marks that change of transport.) In November, 1965, the rapidly decreasing membership of less than 200 decided to-join a larger Massachusetts co-operative. Active operation of the creamery ceased on the last day of the same year.
Subsequently the creamery complex has been used mostly for storage, and its physical condition has deteriorated. In 1972, the firm of Flock Fibers, Inc. in nearby North Walpole, N. H. purchased the complex for storing bales of rags and scrap cloth. A series of fires followed, during which the northwest (railroad) shipping wing and the roof of the central block were destroyed. A new shed roof and third story have been constructed but the plywood sheathing of the latter contrasts sharply with the historic wall materials. Vandalism has also caused much damage, especially to the window glazing.
Nevertheless the creamery buildings retain their basic architectural character, especially of the 1932 and 1938-39 expansions. The prevalence of unornamented concrete and hollow tile materials together with oversized metal-framed windows and metal doors continues to evoke strongly a modern milk-processing plant. The Bellows Falls Co-operative Creamery achieved the rank of being one of the largest and most progressive enterprises of its type in Vermont during the second quarter of this century. Only a small number of such large-scale contemporary plants oriented to railroad shipment were constructed in the state, and the Bellows Falls creamery remains a distinctive representative.
8A. Heating Plant.
This heating plant was constructed probably during the major 1932 expansion of the Bellows Falls Co-operative Creamery to supply the greater requirements for heat and steam. The original pair of steam boilers, manufactured by the D. M. Dillon Works of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, remains in place. The parapet treatment matches that of the south facade of the creamery's central block, thereby serving to unify the complex. Although now unused, the heating plant remains a good example of its type of 20th-century vernacular industrial architecture.
Former Robertson Paper Co. Complex, Buildings No. 9A, and 9B.
The main factory block (identified as No. 1 by an internal numbering system) of this industrial complex was erected c. 1890 for C. W. Osgood and Son as a machine shop for the production of paper-making machinery. By 1896, the firm had been reorganized as Osgood and Barker. The 1901 Sanborn map shows both another change of ownership, then the Bellows Falls Machine Co., and the first major expansion. Two more principal buildings, Nos. 2 and 9, had appeared; the brick No. 2 repeated the monitored design of No. 1 (but without the present connection) while the pattern shop, No. 9, imitated the others with its pressed-metal sheathing of brick pattern.
The Robertson Paper Co. did not acquire this complex until its merger with the Bellows Falls Machine Co. in 1909. The Robertson firm derived from John Robertson and Son, which since 1881 had manufactured tissue paper in a brick mill (later burned) on the south edge of the Island. The decade between 1897 and 1907 was a period of growth for the Robertson firm. It expanded from one 40-inch waxing machine to five of the largest capacity waxing machines, able to produce more than one carload of wax paper per day. In 1905, the firm bought the Coy-Babcock Waxed Paper Co. of Bennington, Vermont, and added its equipment to the mill on the Island. By 1907, the Robertson company was one of the largest producers of waxed paper in the United States, employing 100 workers. This success led to the merger with the Bellows Falls Machine Co. and the move to the Island Street complex.
During the 1910s, the Robertson ownership expanded this complex to its ultimate extent and adapted it to the manufacture of waxed paper. The 1920 Sanborn map records all 13 of the numbered buildings, with only Nos. 9-13 being detached. The additions included the brick No. 3 (the northward extension of No. 2), used as a "paper box shop;" the mostly interior No. 1-A, connecting Nos. 1 and 2-3; the metal-sheathed No. 4, the railroad shipping shed; the metal-.sheathed No. 10, a 1-1/2-story, 30 x 45-foot storage building later removed; and No. 11, the garage. The latter may have been constructed to shelter the motor truck that Robertson Paper Co. purchased in 1917, the first such vehicle in Bellows Falls.
The Robertson Paper Co. continued to make wax paper under successive ownerships until succumbing to bankruptcy in 1987, then being probably the longest continuously operated paper manufacturing firm in Vermont. The now-vacant complex retains its historic architectural character with only minor alterations, the parallel roof monitors and the rythmic fenestration of the factory's elongated Island Street facade give special distinction to the vernacular design. The Robertson buildings constitute an important representative of late 19th-and early 20th-century industrial complexes in the state.
Significance - Archeological (Prehistoric) Resources
Bellows Falls Petroglyph Site (VT-WD-8) Site No. 14.
The Bellows Falls petroglyphs site (Vermont archaeological site VT-WD-8) is one of two positively documented aboriginal rock art sites known to exist in Vermont. The other petroglyphs, also in the Connecticut drainage but on the West River in southeastern Vermont, were inundated by dam construction in the early twentieth century. Relatively few petroglyph sites are known in the northeastern United States and even fewer depict the design configuration evident at this site. While anthropomorphic figures, some exhibiting horn or prong-like projections from the head, are widespread in the imagery of North American rock art and are known from sites in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts (Grant 1967:142) and the Hudson River Valley (Vastokas and Vastokas 1973:73), none other are known to exist in New England.
Studies (Vastokas and Vastokas 1973:71-76) of "horned" figure petroglyphs within the Canadian Shield area as well as ethnographic data suggest that special significance was assigned to horns or prongs attached to head representations, which generally characterized superior power or attributes. Vastokas and Vastokas (1973:74-75) suggest that the majority of these representations portray either shaman's spirits or figures of the shaman himself. While any similar interpretation of the Bellows Falls petroglyph is pure speculation, their resemblance to central and eastern Canadian and Great Lakes rock art imagery and their deviance from the more typical Eastern Woodland emphasis on animal figures suggests one profitable direction for research. This research pertains to regional cultural differences, or similarities, that may be hypothesized or clarified on the basis of this uncommonly occurring set of data.
At this time, the upper Connecticut River drainage is virtually unknown archaeologically and a great amount of research needs to be undertaken along its main stem and tributaries. As more and more information is obtained on regional patterns of subsistence and settlement, the Bellows Falls petroglyphs have the potential of yielding information on social, religious or ritualistic aspects of that prehistoric or European Contact period system, for which tangible evidence is so rarely available. Research on correlations between petroglyph sites, their imagery, and specific kinds of resource procurement areas should also be conducted for the purpose of better understanding their function, context and meaning. The relationship between the Bellows Falls site and the fisheries at the Falls constitutes key baseline data for this type of study and its relationship that requires further examination. In conclusion, the Bellows Falls petroglyphs constitute an aspect of aboriginal culture that is under-represented and poorly documented in the northeastern United States.
Although the petroglyphs have been altered through time, both by human and natural forces:
Relatively few petroglyph sites are known in the northeastern United States, and even fewer depict the design configuration evident at this site. While anthropomorphic figures, some exhibiting horn or prong-like projections from the head, are widespread in the imagery of North American rock art and are known from sites in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts (Grant 1967:142) and the Hudson River Valley (Vastokas and Vastokas 1973:73), none others are known to exist in northern New England. The petroglyphs represent a type of prehistoric graphic communication thought to be relatively common in other less durable media, but there are relatively few examples in the archaeological record. Motifs or designs similar to the anthropomorphic "horned heads" at the Bellows Falls site appear in rock art elsewhere in the Northeast (Grant 1967; Vastokas and Vastokas 1973; Peebles 1981). The bird motif found on the Brattleboro petroglyph site also appears in Maine (e.g., Snow 1980:64-65) and in other locations in the Northeast. The age of the site is unknown but is presumed to be relatively recent in the prehistoric period. This should not detract from the significance of the site in any way. Even if the Bellows Falls petroglyphs are found to date to the European Contact period, they will provide important information on ideological values during a period of significant cultural transition.
The site provides a rare glimpse into the ideological aspects of the prehistoric Native American culture for the following reasons:
The petroglyphs are associated, at least spatially, with a number of other prehistoric archaeological resources in the area. These include a number of Native American burials and evidence of a habitation or special activity site (VT-WD-62) on Bellows Falls Island. The petroglyphs in conjunction with the various prehistoric resources in the Bellows Falls area may provide evidence of the following changes in land use patterns during the prehistoric period:
The Bellows Falls petroglyph site is considered a significant archaeological site on the basis of the following:
2. Fall Mountain Paper Company Stockhouse
3. Hydrant House
4. Vermont Newspaper Corporation Complex
5. Gas Station
6. Adams Gristmill Warehouse
7. Howard Hardware Storehouse
8. Bellows Falls Co-operative Creamery Complex
9. Robinson Paper Company Complex
10. Moore and Thompson Paper Mill Complex
11. Boston and Maine Railroad Passenger Station
12. Railway Express Agency Office
13. Rutland Railroad Freight House
14. Bellows Falls Petroglyph Site
3. Hydrant House.
6. Adams Gristmill Warehouse.
7. Howard Hardware Storehouse.
9. Robertson Paper Company Complex.
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DATE ENTERED: January 22, 1990.
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