Weathersfield Center Historic District
Municipality: Weathersfield, VT
Location: Weathersfield Center
Site Type: Historic District
Vt Survey No: --
UTMs: (Zone 18) A. 705137//4806200. B. 705550/4805750. C. 705100/4805325. D. 704650/4805750
National Register Nomination Information:
The Weathersfield Meeting House and the Reverend Daniel Foster House are located in Weathersfield Center, Vermont in the Connecticut River Valley. The buildings, while situated in a somewhat secluded area, are in the geographical center of the town where several roads converge. The meeting house stands on a low hill and faces a maple grove and the town pound. The parsonage is downhill about 200 yards away on the opposite side of the road and faces the backside of the meeting house.
1. The meeting house is an imposing 2-1/2 story brick structure topped by a bell tower. The building has long been appreciated by generations of Vermonters and tourists because it is part of the genre reverently, though incorrectly, referred to as "Colonial." Built in 1821, it is a relatively late execution of the Federal style. Three by six bays, the gable facade stresses verticality by means of the bell tower, gable pediment, Palladian window, and round-headed doors.
The bell tower, placed like a large ornament on top of the building, begins with a square clapboarded stage which has a keystoned bulls-eye window and is topped by a molded cornice and balustrade. The second stage is an octagonal, open belfry while the third stage, also octagonal, has louvres enclosing the bell chamber. The tower is topped by an inflected dome.
The facade has three entrances, each having a round-arch fanlight. The center entrance is slightly larger which corresponds proportionally to the Palladian window directly overhead which in turn, is flanked on each side by double-hung windows with 12/12 lights and molded cornices. The gable pediment has an elliptical fanlight with a keystone like the facade's other windows and doors. The raking and horizontal cornice has dentils and is continued along the side elevations and ending in cornice returns on the rear elevation.
Other windows are also double-hung sash with 12/12 lights yet, unlike the two on the facade which have splayed stone lintels, jack arches have been painted white to simulate stone. The second story windows appear somewhat refined because each has four louvred shutters.
The interior of the first floor is very plain and undistinguished and essentially a large open space convenient for meetings. Upstairs the church is similarly plain. A central pulpit faces the pews which are divided by two aisles. While the pews are simple in design, their white pine is camouflaged with decorative graining.
2. The Reverend Daniel Foster House is actually two houses combined. The ell is the original house built in 1785. It is a plain 1-1/2 story structure with clapboard siding, a steeply pitched roof, windows with 9/9 sash, and a door with a transom overhead. Attached to the rear of the ell is a kitchen and woodshed.
The newer house is more refined. Built in 1825 and attached in front of the ell, this portion is 2-1/2 stories and 5 x 2 bays. The central doorway has a fanlight and is enframed by a pilaster supporting an entablature. The windows are original with 12/12 lights. The molded cornice has short returns at the gable ends and louvre vents are in the gable peaks The south side has a transomed entrance which is slightly larger version of the ell's entrance.
Because the 1825 structure is a Federal-style I-house, the interior space is limited, though because of the ell, the entire area is large. Essentially, it is a respectable house with the simplicity one would expect in a parsonage.
Both buildings exhibit vernacular styles and decoration befitting the various stages of prosperity and development in Weathersfield and have been allowed to retain their architectural integrity.
3. The Old Stone Pound is a stone-walled enclosure once used for impounding stray animals. It is constructed of randomly-laid native rock without the use of mortar. Although all towns in Vermont were required to have this facility, very few remain today.
South of the Foster house is a modern 1-story structure (#4) of board and batten siding designed to serve as an interpretive blacksmith's shop. Because of the building's age and only recent association with the house, this structure does not contribute to the historic district.
The Weathersfield Center Historic District encompasses two structures which reflect the early history of the town: the Weathersfield Meeting House and the Reverend Dan Foster House. The Meeting House, built in 1821 and one of the finest of its kind in Vermont, exemplifies an excellent vernacular translation of the Federal style. The Reverend Dan Foster House, essentially two houses built in 1785 and 1825, was the dwelling for Weathersfield's first settled minister. Also significant is an old stone-walled pound in the southwest corner of the town land which was built after a state law of 1779 required all towns to impound stray animals.
A charter establishing the town of Weathersfield was granted by New Hampshire Governor Benning Wentworth in 1761 yet the town did not flourish until the end of the 18th century. There were 20 residents in 1771; by 1791, the population had jumped to 1,146. Attracted by rich farmland along the Connecticut River and abundant grazing land, settlers continued arriving until the town was saturated in 1820 with 2,301 people.
Until Reverend Dan Foster agreed to settle in Weathersfield in 1785, early settlers traveled across the river to attend church services in Claremont or relied upon itinerant ministers. The town promised to pay Foster an annual income paid in money and staple goods and levied a town tax of 60 pounds to build a parsonage.
The next step was to build a meeting house and a land tax procured funds for the building. Two years later in 1787, a wooden twin-porch meeting house was constructed near Foster's house and served as the assembly place for town meetings and religious services.
When the meeting house was destroyed by fire in 1821, the present brick building was erected by the Congregational Society at a cost of $3,500. While in ways characteristic of the common New England town hall-meeting house-church, this structure is unusually distinguished in design as well as by the use of brick as the building material. The interior was remodelled in 1861 and divided into two district [sic] spaces: the first floor was designated for town meetings while the Congregational Church used the second floor. This division was somewhat unusual because more often a new town hall or church was built which suggested a definite, physical separation of church and state.
The Foster House lacks the sophistication of the Meeting House yet is interesting for illustrating two stages of construction. The original portion (1787), the ell, is a simple l-1/2 story building in which structure is emphasized over style. The 2-1/2 story, Federal-style "I" section (1825) reflects the prosperity which later years allowed.
While the Foster House and Meeting House are somewhat isolated now, they are important contributions to the historical character of Weathersfield and the Meeting House is especially significant in illustrating the architectural development of Vermont.
Hurd, John L. Weathersfield - Century One Weathersfield Historical Society, 1975.
Aldrich, Lewis C. & Homes, F. R., eds., History of Windsor County, Vermont. (Syracuse: D. Mason & Co.) 1891.
Child, Hamilton, comp., Gazatteer & Business Directory of Windsor County, Vermont. (Syracuse: H. Child) 1884.
Fisher, Courtney, Weathersfield Town, Vermont Historic Sites & Structures Survey, 1973
DATE ENTERED: June 3, 1980.
BACK TO NATIONAL REGISTER PROPERTIES