National Register Nomination Information:
The Wells River Village Historic District is comprised of approximately one hundred buildings, and encompasses nearly the entire Village of Wells River, Vermont. The core of the district is a group of a dozen nineteenth century commercial structures which line either side of Main Street for two blocks. Surrounding this business district on three sides are neighborhoods of evenly spaced residences. The Village's overall architectural character is a broad reflection of nineteenth century Vermont's vernacular building traditions, with a full array of common building types and styles in evidence. Although little of the district's architecture is high style, it shows how local builders employed proven and time-honored plans and construction methods, and then applied exterior detail in the prevailing popular styles of the day. The Greek Revival predominates, although the Federal, Italianate, French Second Empire, and Queen Anne styles are all well represented. Several Colonial Revival structures represent early 20th century development.
The Village of Wells River is located in the northeast corner of the Town of Newbury, Vermont at the confluence of the Connecticut and Wells Rivers. These two water sources were determinant factors in the settlement and development patterns of the Town. Both rivers provided water power for mills, and the Connecticut River served as a major highway for transporting goods and facilitating migration throughout northern New England. Although Wells River Village does not have the same broad, expansive intervale farmland as the Villages of Newbury and South Newbury further south, the abundance of water power and easy access to the Connecticut River helped ensure the success of Wells River as a milling center and transportation junction.
Most of the buildings in the Village are clustered along the bend of the Wells River just west of its confluence with the Connecticut River. This area, once marshland, is relatively level and is bordered on the west and north by hills.
As its name suggests, Main Street (Vermont Route 5) serves as the major thoroughfare and runs in a north-south direction. Water, Maple, Cross, and Center Streets are perpendicular offshoots of Main Street. U.S. Route 302 runs generally east-west through the Village, although for two blocks, it runs along Main Street in the Village's business district. The northwest section of U.S. Route 302, formerly known as Paper Mill Street, follows the Wells River east to Main Street/Vermont Route 5 and then resumes its west-east direction crossing the Connecticut River and entering the Village of Woodsville, New Hampshire. Thus, with major north-south and east-west routes intersecting in Wells River, it is not surprising that the Village has always been "service" oriented to travelers. Before the automobile, Wells River was an important railroad junction and stagecoach stop.
The Historic District is composed of residential, commercial, and public buildings, but it is the commercial buildings that give the Village its predominant character. The business district, concentrated along two blocks of Main Street, is distinguished by a variety of architectural styles and by several especially large structures which serve as important anchors in the streetscape. The northern end of the commercial core is marked by the Baldwin Block Building (#29), a large 2-1/2 story structure that reflects a nineteenth century utilitarian design. Its long gable roof is similar to that of the Bachop Block (#21), another large building that helps dictate the height of the streetscape. These two buildings contribute greatly to the commercial core because their facades front so much of Main Street. The Mulliken-Davis Store (#18), composed of two sections, one gabled and the other mansarded, is another pivotal building, being located at the intersection of Main Street Vermont Route 5 and the southern extension of U.S. Route 302. This building also contributes to the general rhythm of the street facade while serving as an introductory message to westbound travelers on U.S. Route 302 that they are entering the Village. Between these three large key buildings, smaller commercial structures line Main Street. Of the contributing structures, all but one are woodframe, and all generally maintain the same roofline level and form a continuous facade line with little setback.
Residential structures, located at the north and south ends of Main Street and on the side streets, span a wide range of styles, sizes, and forms. New England's ubiquitous Cape Cod type house is seen in the Chamberlin-Taylor House (#10), built circa 1792 by the founder of the Village, Er Chamberlin. A popular version of the Federal style as found throughout the Connecticut River Valley, is the Gould House (#36), a 2-1/2 story, five by two bay structure which has architectural detail concentrated in its central doorway. Vernacular interpretations of the Greek Revival style are scattered throughout Wells River and of these houses, many have gable fronts with sidehall entrances and characteristic cornice returns and sidelights.
Later styles, such as Carpenter Gothic, French Second Empire, and Queen Anne, can also be found in the Village as can simple generic structures which appear to be Wells River's version of workers' housing.
The majority of buildings in Wells River date from the nineteenth century and, in general, display a respectable quality of style and design. Unfortunately, several landmark buildings have been lost or greatly altered. An example is Hale's Tavern, a large four-story hotel built in 1895 to replace the old Coosuck House hotel which burned two years earlier. Located near the intersection of Vermont Route 5/Main Street and U.S. Route 302, Hale's Tavern was torn down in 1956 and replaced by a gas station (#19). Some other buildings have lost important historic architectural details due to modern alterations or new sheathing .
Wells River is fortunate in being endowed with attractive natural and manmade features. This region of the Connecticut River Valley is one of the more scenic locations in the State, and the Wells River, which winds through the Village, adds considerable charm, particularly at the northern end of town. It is a reminder of the vital role water power had throughout much of the Village's history. Architecturally, Wells River retains a viable commercial center composed of stylish nineteenth century structures that have maintained their architectural integrity.
The individual structures are described as follows:
1. Callahan House, 87 Main Street, c. 1910.
Two-story, 3 x 2 bay, hip roof dwelling with off-center chimney, exposed rafters, clapboard siding, central entrance with hip-roof porch supported by Tuscan columns, windows with 1/1 sash, paired sash on first floor, enclosed one-story porch on south side under which is a one-bay garage.
2. Pinard House, 85 Main Street, c.1880.
Two-and-one-half story, 2 x 2 bay, gable front dwelling with sidehall entrance flanked by three-quarter-length sidelights and wide, plain surround with corner blocks. Plain corner boards support the frieze and molded cornice. Porch has Tuscan columns on first floor, sloted-sawn posts on sloted-sawn pedestals, and turned balustrade on second floor. Gable peak retains 6/6 sash; other windows now have 1/1 sash and three-part picture window is found on the first floor front facade. Small, one-story addition on south side.
2A. Garage. One-bay, gable roof, weatherboard siding. Non-contributing.
3. Adrian House, 83 Main Street, c.1850.
Two-and-one-half story, L-shaped, gable front with three-bay facade, asbestos shingle siding; two entrances (duplex) in left sidehall position; some 6/6 sash remains, gable peak has window with 8/8 sash.
3A. Garage. Gable roof, clapboard siding, two bays with accordion doors.
4. Hoffman House, 81 Main Street, c.1840.
One-and-one-half story, gable front with sidehall entrance, 6/6 sash, cornice returns at gable ends, frieze supported by panelled cornerboards. Entrance has panelled surround, corner blocks, and boarded-up sidelights. Shed dormer on right side. Ell has 1-1/2 stories, cornice returns, and a two-bay garage.
5. St. Johnsbury Trucking Company Terminal, Main Street, 1958.
Large, three-bay, commercial/industrial garage. Flat roof, concrete block construction, overhead doors in bays. Non-contributing.
6. Congregational Parsonage, 78 Main Street, 1876.
Two-and-one-half story, 3 x 3 bay, gable front, with sidehall entrance, woodframe, clapboard siding. Italianate Revival style seen in: bracketed cornice which returns at gable ends; paired circular-headed windows in gable peak; molded window lintels; arched panelled corner pilasters with denticulated capitals; the facade's one-story porch with chamfered posts resting on panelled bases, denticulated capitals and denticulated bracketed frieze. Window sash is 2/2. Main entrance has a double-leaf door. North side entrance has a gabled hood with consoles. A one-story, one-bay, flat-roofed garage with detailing similar to the main block and porch is attached on the south side; behind this is a 1-1/2 story ell.
6A. Barn (c.1880). Two-and-one-half story, gable roof, clapboard siding.
7. Wells River Congregational Church, Main Street, 1839, 1869,
Originally constructed in 1839 in the Greek Revival style, the church is a large rectangular gable roofed, clapboarded structure with a central projecting pavilion and tower. Wide Doric corner pilasters composed of flushboards support the deep entablature with molded cornice that encircles the roofline. On the front facade, the entablature forms the bottom chord of a full pediment which is interrupted by the pavilion and tower. The raised basement level of the structure is accentuated by diagonal board sheathing, probably dating from a later remodeling. The side elevations of the building have tall stained glass windows topped by pedimented heads supported on scrolled consoles.
The tower is the result of alterations made in 1869 and 1894. At the ground level is a double-leaf entry with hood supported by decorative brackets. Above, the base stage has a three-part window, now infilled with clapboards, and flanking are small vestibule wings and bay window projections, trimmed like the main tower stage, with corner pilasters supporting full entablatures with projecting box cornices. Under the main tower cornice is a Romanesque style frieze of continuous round arches in an arcade motif. The belfry stage has rectangular openings framed by trabeated panelling; the octagonal spire is topped by a finial.
Built in 1839 as a Union Church at a cost of $2,650, the church was altered by the addition of the belltower and Victorian detailing in 1869 and 1894. The clock was installed in 1934, and the spire replaced in 1964. The church's scale makes it a landmark in Wells River.
8. Wells River School, Main Street, 1874.
Two-story, brick, mansard roof clad with patterned polychromatic slate, central projecting pavilion with cupola, two entrance porches flank pavilion, brick quoins on both main block and pavilion, granite lintels, sills, and water table, paired bracketed cornice, and pedimented dormers.
The former schoolhouse is an excellent example of the French Second Empire style. Possibly designed by the well known St. Johnsbury architect, Lambert Packard, the building has been recognized for its quality of design and elaborate Victorian details. It was entered on the National Register of Historic Places, September 3, 1976.
9. Card/Kennedy House, Main Street, c.1835.
A well preserved Greek Revival house with flushboard facade on which a row of pilasters frame the windows and entrance and support the pedimented gable. One-and-one-half story, clapboard siding, three-bay gable front with recessed sidehall entrance which has three-quarter length sidelights, transom, and fluted pilasters. Facade has flushboard siding, panels underneath windows, pilasters framing windows and at corners. Wide, plain frieze under full cornice which extends across facade to create pediment with flushboard tympanum. Windows retain 6/6 sash and have louver shutters. Wall dormers on south and north sides and on wing. Later, five-bay porch on south side has plain posts on pedestals protecting side entrance.
Barn/garage: 1-1/2 story, gable roof, clapboard siding, two garage bays with overhead doors, (attached to main block.)
10. Chamberlin-Taylor House, 70 Main Street, 1792.
One-and-one-half story, Cape Cod type house with center chimney, central entrance with bracketed gabled hood, cornice returns; windows with 2/2 sash and plain surrounds, bay window on west gable end, gable dormer on north side. Connected in the rear is a 1-1/2 story, a one-story woodshed, and a 1-1/2 story horse barn with cornice returns and a decorative shingle pattern in its gable peak. These additions also have clapboard siding.
Built by the founder of the town, Er Chamberlin, this house is considered the oldest building in Wells River. When the Congregational Church was built, this house served as the parsonage until the present parsonage (#6) was built in 1876. It is a plain but good example of the Cape Cod house type which, after the log cabin, was the predominant form of housing in Vermont's frontier.
11. Rowe Clinic, 65 Main Street, c,1830.
Two-and-one-half story, 3 x 4 bay, gable front with sidehall entrance and clapboard siding. Decorative details include: louvered fan in gable peak, elaborately patterned shingles (c.1880) in gable peak, molded cornice which fully returns as pedimented gables, mutule blocks, full-length 9/9 sash on front facade and double-leaf door (c.1880); doors are framed by fluted pilasters supporting entablatures with incised and rosetted architraves; panelled reveals around doorway; panelled corner pilasters, and a one-story veranda on south and east elevations with turned posts (c.1880). A chimney in the north roof slope has an elaborately corbelled cap.
A two-story, gabled, clapboard wing is attached to the rear and has a one-story, projecting gabled entrance. Beyond this addition is a one-story wing.
The Rowe Clinic exhibits an outstanding array of transitional Federal/Greek Revival architectural detail, unrivaled in Wells River. Later Queen Anne style details, such as the shingle design in the gable peak and the porch, blend nicely with the original design. Particularly elegant are the full-length windows found on the first floor facade.
11A. Garage, Non-Contributing. Saltbox-shape, clapboard siding, four open bays.
12. Peach-Pelletier House, 68 Main Street, c.1840.
One-and-one-half story, gable-front orientation, asbestos shingle siding, molded cornice with full returns creating pedimented gables, cross gable and gabled dormer on north side, cross gable on south side. The recessed sidehall entrance in the gable front has a double-leaf door with Queen Anne style stained glass panes (c.1890). A one-story porch with plain posts extends the length of the north side and protects a side entrance. A wing is attached on the east side and has a carriage bay with a transom. A modest Greek Revival house with typical pedimented front gable and sidehall plan, now somewhat altered by the addition of asbestos shingle siding.
The Walling Map of 1858 lists H. Holton living in this house at that time. The Beers Map of 1877 lists S. S. Peach as the owner Peach (b. 1835) was a clerk before forming a partnership with Ferdinand Sherwin in 1871 as general merchants. He later had his own business in the Baldwin Block (#29) until he sold it in 1901.
13. Gilson Apartments, Main Street, c.1900.
Two-story apartment house, flat roof, wood shingle siding, bracketed cornice, central entrance, single and paired windows with 2/2 sash.
14. White House, Main Street, c.1880.
One-and-one-half story, gable roof, asbestos siding, sidehall entrance, bay window, cornice returns retained, ell on north side with side porch, one-story wing in rear.
15. Wells River Motel, Main Street, 1956.
One-story, gable roof, horizontal board siding, multiple motel rooms. Non-contributing.
16. Kaiser House, Main Street, 1970.
Contemporary, 1-1/2 story, 3 x 5 bay, Cape Cod with an off-center chimney, cornice returns, central entrance with transom, windows with 8/12 sash and louvered shutters, three gable dormers on south side and two gabled dormers on north side. Wing attached to west side has an open porch and an enclosed porch. After the original house (1793) burned in 1969, this house was built as a reproduction. Although it is considered an accurate copy, it does not contribute to the historic district because of its age.
Barn: One-and-one-half story, gable roof, no eaves overhang, clapboard siding.
17. Green Mountain Mini Mart Company, Main Street, 1937.
One-story service station with office section and two-bay garage; later, one-bay garage adddition on north side. Tiled, gable roof; sides have asbestos and wood shingles. Large storefront windows.
18. Mulliken-Davis Store, Main Street, c.1871.
Composed of two large sections joined by lower level center section. South portion has 2-1/2 stories, a mansard roof with dormers, a cornice with paired brackets, paired sash on the second floor facade, and contemporary storefront display windows on the ground level. The north portion resembles vernacular Greek Revival utilitarian design with 3-1/2 stories, a gable front with cornice returns and some paired sash. It also has a recessed entrance and display windows. The entire building has asbestos siding.
A two-story, flat roof ell is attached to the rear of the south section; the north section has a three-story porch on the right side.
Because of its scale and central location in the business district, this building plays a key role in the historic villagescape.
19. Gulf Service Station, Main Street, 1958.
One-story, hip roof, concrete block construction, two-bay garage and office. Non-contributing.
Originally the site of the Coosuck House, built around 1830. After destroyed by fire in 1892 the Coosuck House was replaced by Hale's Tavern which, in turn, was torn down in 1956.
20. Shell Service Station, Main Street, 1936.
One-story, flat roof, metal "tile block" siding, two-bay garage, office has two large picture windows and a central entrance. Non-contributing.
21. Happy Hour Restaurant, Main Street, c.1830.
Large, 2-1/2 story, woodframe structure with wood shingle siding and gable roof with pediment at the south end of the Main Street facade. Due to extensive changes and alterations throughout the years, little original detail remains, yet the building's general form and outline remain important to the historic district. The first floor has numerous storefronts stretching along Main Street. A shingle pent divides the first and second floors; second floor windows now have 1/1 sash. A 2-1/2 story, gabled ell extends towards the rear from the south side.
Originally the Hutchins and Buchanan Store, the north section of this building was added around 1855. It was later known as the Bachop Block.
21A. Garage. Modern, three-bay garage with gable roof and novelty siding. Non-contributing.
22. Rexall Drug Store, Main Street, 1904.
A large Colonial Revival commercial block with three stories, a flat roof with projecting molded wood cornice, and asbestos siding. Two oriel windows on the second floor of the facade a distinguishing features of this building. The first floor has a modern store and overhanging c.1950 neon "Rexall" sign.
Built in 1904, this building has always been a drug store. A grocery, harness shop, plater shop, and tin shop originally stood here and were destroyed in the fire of 1892. The Coosuck House hotel, located next door where the Gulf Station (#19) now stands, also burned in this fire.
23. The Village Trader, Main Street, c.1865.
Two-and-one-half story, clapboard, gable front, Greek Revival style commercial block. The well preserved storefront has a recessed central entrance flanked by large display windows; to the north it extends across the front of a shed as a door and bay window. On the main block, prominent corner pilasters support returns on the full box cornice with frieze. Upper story windows have 2/2 sash and splayed wood lintel boards. Along with #24 across the street and #26 and #28 to the north, this is one of the district's best preserved commercial buildings.
24. Newbury National Bank, Main Street, c.1834, 1912.
Colonial Revival, two-story, brick, flat roof, five-bay facade with central entrance. A wide wooden entablature with a modillioned cornice surrounds the top of the building. The first floor has recessed, keystoned arches that spring from granite capitals on piers. The entrance has panelled reveals, and Tuscan columns supporting a pedimented, denticulated entablature with consoles. Windows have 1/1 sash and granite sills and lintels supporting the cornice returns. The north and east sides have contemporary (1974) additions that, blend with the main structure, do not greatly detract from it.
Established in 1833, the first bank was built in 1834. The bank was extensively altered in 1912 when it was made into a two-story brick structure. The distinctly Federal style arcaded fenestration is original; the entrance frontispiece, second story, and modillioned cornice are 20th century additions.
25. Morale Law Office, Main Street, c. 1890.
A large, well preserved Queen Anne style house; 2-1/2 story, gable front with sidehall entrance, clapboard and wood shingle siding. Two-story bay windows on front facade and south side; latter has a gable roof and cornice returns supported by pendant brackets. Entrance porch has a pediment supported by turned posts, turned balustrades. Corner pilaster support plain frieze and cornice which returns at gable ends. Decorative shingle patterns in gable peak and between floors. Windows have 1/1 sash and window heads with molded lintel boards.
26. Burnham's Shoe Store, Main Street, c.1840, c.1880.
An important 2-1/2 story commercial block with mansard roof. Although sheathed with aluminum siding now, the fine wooden details of the first floor storefront have been retained: fluted surrounds with cornerblocks divide the four bays which consist of a side entrance with a transom, and two large display windows flanking the double-leaf doorway to the store. Also remaining are the plain frieze with brackets supporting the projecting molded cornice. The roof has patterned slate tiles and low pitched pedimented dormers with small console blocks. A two-story porch is attached to the left side.
A photograph taken before 1870 shows that this building originally had a gable roof with cornice returns. A later photograph, taken before 1892, reveals the newer mansard roof and the second floor side porch. Thus, sometime during this 22-year span, the owner (probably H. Holton) decided that his Greek Revival style store needed revamping and proceeded to alter it into a fashionable evocation of the French Second Empire style.
27. U.S. Post Office, 26 Main Street: (c.1840).
A small Greek Revival commercial building; 1-1/2 story, 3 x 2 bay, gable front with central entrance, asbestos shingle siding. Concrete block foundation. Cornice returns at gable end. Windows have 2/2 sash on first floor, 6/6 sash in gable peak. Pedimented entrance hood supported by brackets. Two-story addition in rear, side entrance with gabled hood on brackets, and second-story screen porch projects from rear elevation.
This may have been L. T. Whitcomb's store according to Walling's Map of 1858, or possibly Abel Underwoods office. Underwood (1828-1879) was a lawyer and president of the Wells River Bank at one time.
28. Baldwin Memorial Library, Main Street, c.1840.
A small, 2-1/2 story, vernacular commercial building with gable front, clapboard siding, corner pilasters, and cornice returns dating from the Greek Revival period. Windows have 2/2 sash, lintels, and louvered shutters. Recessed central entrance flanked by projecting display windows. A shed-roof addition, with a recessed porch and entrance, is on the right; this addition was built in 1976.
29. Baldwin Block (Ourant-Adams Block), 25-23 Main Street,
A large, 2-1/2 story, gable roof, clapboard commercial building. First floor has numerous entrances, one of which is recessed and flanked by bayed display windows, and two two-bay windows. Doors and windows have plain surrounds; 2/2 sash except for 6/6 sash in the gable peak. Roof has four gabled dormers.
Built on the site of the Wells River House, the Baldwin Block (or Durant-Adams Block) is an example of 19th century commercial/mercantile architecture. The building serves as an important focal point on the village streetscape, not only because of its size but because its vernacular period styling blends with the general architecture theme of the village.
30. Jock Oil Company, 22 Main Street, c.1820.
Originally this building was an elegant 5 x 2 bay, clapboard house with a broad gable front distinguished by an elaborate central entrance which had sidelights, an elliptical fanlight, and a keystoned molded surround. The building has since been dramatically altered and enlarged with many details lost or obscured by asbestos siding and a protruding, one-story storefront extension with large display windows. However, the molded cornice, which returns at the gable ends, and a frieze with tryglyphs remain.
Attached to the rear is a 1-1/2 stormy ell, a three-bay garage, and a four-bay truck garage.
30A. Office. Small outbuilding with gable roof and novelty siding. Non-contributing.
30B. Storage Building. Multi-bay structure with shed roof and vertical board siding. Non-contributing.
30C. Outbuilding. One-and-one half story, gable front structure with clapboard siding and one-story ell. Non-contributing.
31. Dole House, Main Street, c.1802, 1890.
Front section, built c.1890: 2-1/2 story, aluminum siding, gable front with central entrance, two-story porch with plain skirt and valance on second story; windows with 2/2 sash, full-length display windows flanking entry on first floor. Main entrance has double-leaf door framed by pilasters. The rear portion of this building was constructed around 1802.
Walling's Map of 1858 lists this building as a carriage shop. It later served as a furniture store and as Ferdinand Sherwins printing shop. Although plain and now clad in aluminum siding, the building maintains the commercial character and scale of the villagescape.
32. Paronto House, 17 Main Street, c.1855.
A vernacular cottage from the late Greek Revival period; 1-1/2 story, 3 x 3 bay, gable front with sidehall entrance,clapboard siding. Cornice boards, plain frieze board, cornice returns. Windows have 6/6 sash, plain surrounds, louvered shutters. Enclosed entrance porch on left front facade is later addition.
33. Boyce House, 14 Main Street, c.1820.
A Federal period house with a large central chimney and c.1890 alterations; 1-1/2 story, gable front, clapboard siding. Cornerboards support molded cornice which returns at gable ends. Sidehall entrance has half-length sidelights, corner lights in place of blocks, and a transom; door is flanked by panelled pilasters. Facade has one-story porch, c.1890, with turned posts resting on a clapboard base and a corner pavilion. South side has an added bay window with applied panels underneath the sash; c.1890 also. The wing has a porch, a gable dormer, and clapboard siding. Attached in the rear is a 2-1/2 story, clapboarded gable roof barn
34. Cattani Law Office, 10 Main Street, c.1870.
A large, 2-1/2 story Italianate style clapboard house built on the traditional five-bay central hall plan, but with a central cross gable in front. Common Italianate stylistic features are arched gable windows with drip moldings and paired brackets under the cornice. Corner pilasters support cornice returns. A one-story porch across the facade and a picture window on the right side of the first floor are c.1920 additions. The entrance has a panelled door framed by full-length sidelights and pilasters supporting an entablature. Window sash is 2/2 with molded headboards. The ell and barn have gable roofs and clapboard siding. They antedate the house. The plan and style typify vernacular architecture in its application of high style detailing to traditional building types.
35. Wells River Firehouse, Main Street, c.1940.
One-story, gable roof, asbestos shingle siding, two engine bays with overhead doors, gable roof tower on roof. Non-contributing due to age.
36. G. Gould House, 7 Main Street, c.1794, c.1830.
A large Federal period house now covered with asbestos siding. [Note: subsequent investigations indicate that the siding is composed of a pressed fiber material, not asbestos.] The facade employs the traditional five-bay, central entrance plan, set under a broad gable with molded box cornice, end returns, and a narrow molded entablature which crosses the gable as a pediment. Windows now have 2/2 sash, though 12/8 sash are retained in the gable peak. Recessed entrance has half-length sidelights, panelled door, corner lights, glazed transom, and a surround with projecting cornice. In the rear are tall, thick chimney stacks. The rear 1-1/2 story wing is the older portion and is believed to have been built c.1794.
Although modern siding has seriously compromised its appearance, most of its original Federal style detailing remains intact.
Walling's Map lists George R. Leslie as living here in 1858.. Leslie came to Wells River in 1820 and may have built the front portion of this house. After his death in 1865, his son, George, lived here. When the Newbury National Bank was established in 1833, its business was transacted in the south front room of this house until the bank building was completed a year later.
37. H. Gould House, Main Street, c.1885.
A large Queen Anne style house with outstanding shingled wall surface and other typical period detail. It has 2-1/2 stories, a gable front with a sidehall entrance, and clapboard siding. Persistent vestiges of earlier vernacular styles can be seen in the use of corner pilasters and cornice returns. More common Queen Anne style elements are the patterned shingle enrichment in the front table, the two-story bay window, the bracketed, gabled entrance hood, and the decorative shingled belt course which divides the first and second floors of the bay windows and the enclosed two-story porch on the south side. Windows have 2/2 sash and molded headboards, A two-story, gabled wing is attached to the rear,
37A. Garage; Non-Contributing to the historic District. One-story, saltbox roof, clapboard siding, two garage bays.
38. Lasseigne House, Maple Street, c.1895.
Similar in massing and plan to #3, this 2-1/2 story, clapboard structure with central entrance and cross gable shows the persistence of mid-19th century vernacular building types well into the late Victorian period. Each gable end has molded cornice returns, and most of the windows have small molded cornices. Characteristic of the emerging Colonial Revival style are the wraparound porch with Tuscan columns and slightly pedimented entryways, the first story picture windows, and the glazed porch on the east wing. The wing also has an open, arcaded porch leading to the carriage barn which has three carriage bays with keystoned arches.
Erastus Baldwin (1811-1889) arrived in Wells River in 1836 and worked as a farmer and harness maker. Beer's Map lists Baldwin as living here in 1877. Baldwin's son, Erastus, Jr., lived at the end of Main Street (#47) and is best known for providing the village with a library building (#28).
39. Cook House, 5 Maple Street, c.1900.
A modest turn-of-the-century dwelling with typical period detail. Two stories, T-shape, gable roof, clapboard siding. Sidehall entrance and one-story, enclosed, wraparound porch on west, north, and east sides. Corner pilasters, plain frieze board, and molded cornice which returns at gable ends. Windows have 1/1 sash and molded lintels. Queen Anne style paired windows (north gable peak) and patterned shingle designs in north and east gable peaks.' One-and-one-half story wing has enclosed porch and shed addition in rear.
39A. Garage. One-story, gambrel roof, novelty siding, two garage bays with overhead doors,hayloft door above.
40. Weeks House, 8 Maple Street, c.1870.
Now much altered, this post-Civil War worker's house has 1-1/2 story, L-plan, gable roof, asbestos siding. Tripartite window on south side, first floor. Ell has enclosed porch.
41. Symes House, 9 Maple Street, 1914.
A vernacular Colonial Revival village house; 2-1/2 story, clapboard siding, gable front with sidehall entrance, and one-story porch with Tuscan columns and turned balustrade. Plain corner boards and frieze board; cornice returns at gable ends. Windows have 1/1 sash and plain surrounds. Large picture window on first floor front.
41A. Garage (c.1945). One-story, gable roof, novelty siding, two garage bays with overhead doors. Non-contributing.
42. Hinman House, 11 Maple Street, c.1870.
A common 1-1/2 story clapboard house type of the Greek Revival period with Italianate detail. The gable front has a sidehall entrance, narrow corner pilasters, plain frieze board, and cornice returns. The entrance has scroll brackets supporting hood. Bay window at left has bracketed cornice. Sash is 6/6 with plain molded headboards. One-and-one-half story wing has gabled wall dormer and recessed porch.
Carriage barn has same cornice returns as house, hayloft opening, carriage bay, and modern garage bay with overhead door. A shed-roof, garage-bay addition is on the west.
Listed on Beer's Map of 1877, this house is an example of how the traditional Greek Revival style form was enlivened with Italianate Revival style details.
43. Mahnker House, 12 Maple Street, 1879.
One-and-one-half story, 3 x 2 bay, gable roof. One-story, wraparound porch with chamfered posts and decorative pierced balustrade. Plain cornerboards and narrow frieze board; cornice does not return. Bay window south side. One-and-one-half story wing has gable dormer, sirie entrance porch with square columns, one-bay garage with overhead door. A common vernacular Victorian period house.
43A. Shed. One-story, one-bay gable roof' "brick" pattern asphalt siding.
44. "Allivan" House, Vermont Route 5, c.1870.
One-and-one-half story, L-plan, clapboard, gable front with sidehall entrance and gable hood over doorway. Although simple and unadorned, this house is representative of late 19th century vernacular housing. This house is not listed on Walling's Map of 1858 but does appear on the Beer's Map of 1877 and shows J. Allivan as occupant.
45. Wallace House, Vermont Route 5, 1839.
Two-and-one-half story, gable roof, clapboard siding, and main entrance located on west side, oriented away from the street. The molded cornice, which returns at the gable ends, the 12/8 sash retained in the gable peak, and the main doorway surrounded by three-quarter-length sidelights, transoms, and molded surround, are indications that this house was built some time during the second quarter of the 19th century. The wraparound porch, with corner pavilion, turned posts, balustrade, and valance, is a later addition, probably c.1890. Similar, neighboring porches, namely those of #47 and #48, were likely built at about the same time.
Walling's Map of 1858 lists A. B. White as living here at that time; Beer's Map of 1877 lists B. Burt.
46. Savoy House, Vermont Route 5, c.1824.
One-and-one-half story, Greek Revival, gable front with central chimney and entrance, and a broad, five-bay facade with cornerboards and cornice with returns. The elaborate entrance has panelled pilasters supporting an entablature, sidelights and transom with tracery, and a panelled door. Windows have panelled surrounds;with corner blocks, and 2/2 sash. Although modest in size and vernacular in style, this well preserved house shows fine period detail.
46A. Savoy Garage (c.1970), Two car, gable-front garage, it does not contribute to the historic district.
47. Baldwin-Simonds House, North end of Main Street, c.1890.
Although it retains a rectangular, gable-fronted frame from an earlier 19th century building, this house is outstanding for its fanciful Queen Anne facade detail, including decorative patterned shingle enrichment in the gable peak, and the first floor stained glass decorated picture window in front and bay windows on the side elevations. The extensive, elaborately turned veranda, constructed of a turned balustrade, turned posts, quadrant-motif spindle brackets and valance, and an octagonal corner pavilion, as well as a similarly decorated porte cochere on the west side, is an architectural feature unmatched in the district except by the Wells River School (#8).
This was the home at one time of Erastus Baldwin, Jr. He was a prominent citizen of Wells River, best remembered for providing the village with a library building (#28) which was appropriately named after him.
Between this house and the Jock House (#48) is a trail which was once part of the historic Bayley-Hazen Military Road.
48. W. Jock House, 15 Water Street, c.1830.
A 1-1/2 story, gable roofed, clapboard house built on an early wood frame. An elaborate wraparound porch has a corner pavilion topped with a finial, balustrades, turned posts and spindle valance were added later, probably c.1890, as were a bay window and other Queen Anne period detail. Only the molded cornice with gable returns remain from the original house. An ell and one-bay carriage barn are attached to the west side.
Walling's Map of 1858 lists H. C. Jones as owner; Beer's Map of 1877 lists E. Slack.
49. Pollender House, Water Street, c.1830, 1910.
Originally built as a barn, this structure has had multiple uses throughout its history.. Reputedly it was a slaughterhouse during the Civil War and a tearoom during the 1930's. It now serves as a residence. It has 1-1/2 stories, a saltbox roof, clapboard siding, and continuous shed roof dormer and an enclosed porch on the east side.
50. Fyler House, Water Street, c.1840.
A typical vernacular cottage from the Greek Revival period with early 20th century alterations; 1-1/2 story, gable front with sidehall entrance, clapboard siding, cornice returns. Facade has pedimented single bay entrance porch and bay window; both probably added c.1910. The east elevation has an enclosed porch. Ell has been extensively remodelled with continuous shed roof wall dormers and a similar side entrance porch. Although vernacular and much altered, the form and clapboard facade maintain the character of the villagescape.
50A. Garage. Modern, gable roof, clapboard siding, two garage bays with overhead doors. Non-contributing.
51. R.J. Brock House, 23 Water Street, c.1855.
A mid-19th century frame cottage with vernacular Greek and Gothic Revival features and c.1890 porch addition; 1-1/2 story, cross gable plan, clapboard siding, corner pilasters, cornice returns, bay window on right, 2/2 sash. The facade's one-story porch has sawn balusters, turned pasts, and a sawn-pattern valance. The one-story ell and carriage barn with an arched opening also have clapboard siding.
51A. Brock Garage, c.1870. Small, 2-level, clapboarded barn.
52. Nelson House, Water Street, c.1880.
A large clapboard house with vestigial vernacular Greek Revival form; 2-1/2 story, five bay, gable front with central entrance, 2/2 sash, plain cornerboards, cornice returns. The chief architectural features is the one-story wraparound porch with turned balustrades, turned posts and spindle valance. Two-story ell and barn also have clapboard siding; barn has cupola and three sliding carriage doors.
53. Gilson House, 29 Water Street, c.1870.
A large vernacular Italianate house; 2-1/2 story. L-plan, gable roof with cornice returns, corner pilasters, 2/2 sash, 9/6 sash retained in gable peak. Sidehall entrance on right has bracketed hood; to the left is a bay window. Partially enclosed, one-story porch on elf; open portion has 2" x 4" pierced posts with scroll brackets. Attached to the ell is a 1-1/2 story storage shed with a gable roof, clapboard siding and windows with 9/6 sash. Attached to the storage shed is a smaller lean-to.
54. Carpenter House, 35 Water Street, c.1855.
A vernacular Greek Revival cottage with Gothic type wall dormer and c.1855 porch; 1-1/2 story, gable front with sidehall entrance, cross gable, corner pilasters, cornice returns, clapboard siding. Entrance has a finely detailed molded surround with corner and center blocks, two-third length sidelights and paneled reveals. Some 6/6 sash remains. Porch on south and east sides has turned balusters, and posts with scroll brackets. A one-story wing has a gabled wall dormer.
55. Goodsell House, 37 Water Street, c.1865.
A modest Civil War era clapboard worker's house; small, 1-1/2-story, gable front with sidehall entrance, cornice returns, clapboard siding. Enclosed porch across facade, added later, has a wood shingle skirt. Attached to the rear is a one-story wing which has a porch, and a small gabled stable section which now serves as living quarters.
56. George House, 39 Water Street, 1916.
A Colonial Revival house of a common early 20th century type; two-story, clapboard, hip roof, sidehall entrance, bay window, paired window second floor, wraparound porch has turned balusters, and Tuscan columns. A two-story addition on east has an enclosed screen porch on first floor.
56A. Garage. Modern, one story, gable roof, two bays, asbestos shingle siding. Non-contributing.
57. Angell House, 41 Water Street, c.1835, c.1925.
A vernacular frame house with unusually large gabled dormers on the roof; 1-1/2 story, gable roof, clapboard siding, plain cornerboards, molded cornice returns, 6/6 and 2/2 sash. Gabled dormers on side elevations have triple sash and wood shingle siding. Three-bay enclosed entrance porch has a shingle skirt and tapered, square columns. One-and-one-half story wing has dormers with paired windows and wood shingle siding. Although the frame may date from the first half of the 19th century, the house's most dominant features - the large dormers and east porch - were added c.1925.
58. Gadwah House, Water Street, c.1850.
A common Greek Revival period worker's house with c.1880 porch and modern windows; 1-1/2 story, gable front, sidehall entrance, cornice returns, clapboard siding. A porch with a corner pavilion, turned posts, balustrade and spindle decorated brackets extends across the facade. Original sash has been replaced by modern casement windows. A one-story wing and two-story carriage barn are connected to the rear.
The Walling Map of 1858 and the Beer's Map of 1877 list M. Morton living here during those years.
59. Sulham House, Water Street, c.1840.
A small Greek Revival worker's house, similar to #58 beside it, with c.1920 porch; 1-1/2 story, gable front, sidehall entrance, one-story partially enclosed porch across facade, clapboard siding, cornice returns at gable ends; 2/1 and 6/6 sash, wood shutters with acorn motif. A one-story wing and two-story carriage barn are connected to the rear.
The Walling map of 1858 lists H. Wells as living here at that time. The Beer's Map of 1877 lists Union Durant as owner. Durant was co-owner with H. W. Adams of the Durant Adams paper mill and the Coosuck House, and probably rented the house out for income.
59A. Garage. Modern, one-bay garage with gable roof and clatboard siding. Non-contributing.
60. Park House, Route 302, c.1845.
Two-and-one-half story, three-bay gable front with sidehall entrance, cornice returns at gable ends. Windows have 6/6 sash, louvered shutters, and cornices. Entrance has full-length sidelights, a later, Queen Anne style door, and a plain surround with lintel. An ell is attached to the rear west side.
60A. Barn. Two-story clapboard barn with gable roof.
61. Village Pump Houses, behind Baldwin Block (#29).
A) Small brick structure with hip roof sheathed with asphalt shingles and tile ridges; built in 1934 Non-contributing. B) Similar to earlier pump house except for its gable roof; built in 1956. Non-contributing.
62. Cummings House, 9 Cross Street, c.1890.
Two-and-one-half story, cross gables, asbestos siding. Queen Anne style influence seen in overall irregular form and massing and details such as the bay window with scroll brackets. Recessed entrance porch with modern iron post, brackets and balustrade.
63. Brock House, Cross Street, 1894.
Two-and-one-half story, gable front with sidehall entrance, asbestos shingle siding. Entrance has bracketed shed porch; corner bay window at northeast corner, both with imbricated slate roofs; cornice returns on gables.
64. Mayhew House, Cross Street, c.1870.
A plain clapboard worker's house with 1-1/2 story, gable front with sidehall entrance, high kneewall, 2/2 sash, wraparound porch with cornice, sawed bracket, modern iron posts and balustrade; ell with shed roof.
65. Wells River Creamery, Cross Street, c.1891.
Two-story clapboard structure with shed roof, addition in rear built of concrete block, two-story ell with asphalt shingle siding, two truck bays.
Organized in 1891, the Wells River Creamery grew to become one of the largest creameries in this region of Vermont. After a fire destroyed part of the building in 1950, the concrete block structure in the rear was built.
66. Wells River Village Hall, Cross Street, 1908.
Resting on a raised brick foundation, the Wells River Village Hall is a two-story Colonial Revival style structure topped by a hipped roof. The east side has a pedimented entrance porch with columns and balustrade. Pediments are repeated in the window and door cornices. There is a small hipped dormer. Although the building is now sheathed with asbestos shingle, the slate roof remains intact. Basement windows are segmental arched.
67. Holler House, Grove and Cross Streets, Frame c.1800.
A clapboard house showing vernacular stylistic elements from a number of 19th century alterations. The frame is purported to date from 1800; 1-1/2 story, gable roof with projecting pavilion, clapboard siding, molded cornice returns, cornerboards. Entrance has narrow half-length sidelights and a molded surround with cornerblocks, a design popularized by Asher Benjamins guidebooks. A later, one-story porch has turned posts and scroll brackets. A two-story gabled ell and a one-story wing are located on the west side. Sash is mostly 2/2 with molded headboards.
68. Wells River Village Barn, Grove Street, c.1895.
Remaining portion of former Hale's Tavern stable displaying partial hip roof, clapboard siding and a truck bay on the west side. A two-bay shed addition on the east side has novelty siding
69. Wheeler House, Grove Street, c.1840.
One-and-one-half story, gable roof, sidehall entrance, asbestos shingle siding, aluminum cornice and cornice returns. Windows have 2/2 sash and aluminum shutters but have retained wooden molded surrounds. Entrance has half-length sidelights with altered sash, fluted surround, and raised corner blocks, similar to #70 next door; 1-1/2 story wing has a steeply pitched wall dormer and two garage bays with overhead doors.
69A. Guest House. One-story, gable roof, clapboard siding, enclosed porch at east gable end. Non-contributing.
70. Bailey/Ashley House, Grove Street, c.1835.
Although aluminum siding has covered much facade detail, much of this house's transitional Federal/Greek Revival character remains; 1-1/2 story plus attic, 5 x 2 bay with unusually broad gabled front. Aluminum siding, corner boards, and cornice returns. Windows have new 1/1 sash. Entrance details have been retained; fluted surround with corner blocks, elliptically arched pediment, half-length sidelights, and a wide transom.
One-and-one-half story, extended, clapboard wing has a steeply pitched wall dormer and a carriage bay with horizontal sliding doors. Shed-roof wing at rear with three garage bays.
71. Van Hamant House, Grove Street, c.1850.
The Van Hamant House is Wells River's best example of the Gothic Revival style; 1-1/2 story, three-bay gable front with sidehall entrance, cross gable north and south elevations. Corner pilasters, frieze, and cornice returns which are somewhat hidden by scroll bargeboards. Entrance has pilasters, entablature with a raised cornice, and a transom and full-length sidelights with decorative stained glass. Windows have 2/2 sash and window heads with molded lintel boards. Tall, narrow first floor front windows. One-story additions on north and south sides; the latter has a bay window trimmed with the same bargeboard design, also seen on the south side's two-story enclosed porch. The two-story wing has two garage bays.
Although clad with asbestos siding, the cross-gable plan, bargeboard decoration, and stained-glass entry make this one of the more interesting buildings in Wells River. The house also illustrates how the common Greek Revival style was often combined or "updated'' with decorative features taken from later styles, in this case, the Gothic Revival.
72. Vigent House, Grove Street, c. 1940.
One-and-one-half story, hip roof, weatherboard siding. Enclosed porch and hip roof dormer at west end. Non-contributing.
72A. Garage. One-story, one-bay, hip roof, weatherboard siding. Non-contributing.
73. Behrends House, 19 Grove Street, c.1875.
A plain, 2-1/2 story clapboard house of post-Civil War vernacular construction, three-bay gable front has plain sidehall entrance, cornerboards, plain frieze, cornice returns. Windows have 2/2 sash and plain lintels and sills. Two-story wing retains some 12/8 sash. Very similar to #75 and #74. Although plain in style, it appears virtually unaltered.
73A Garage. One-story, clapboard siding, two-bay garage Non-contributing to the historic district.
74. Jasmin House, 20 Grove Street, c.1875.
A vernacular Italianate period house, plain in style except for decorative porch detail; 2-1/2 story, asbestos siding, three-bay gable front with sidehall entrance. Cornice returns and molded window lintels have been retained. Windows have 2/2 sash and louvered shutters (left bay of second floor has been covered with siding). Entrance porch wraps around to south side and ell and has turned posts and scroll brackets supporting a molded cornice. Ell has carriage bay and retains corner pilasters and cornice returns. This house is similar to #73 and #75.
74A. Garage c. 1920. One-story, one-bay, novelty siding with decorative shingle pattern in gable peak.
75. Swenson House, Grove Street, c.1870.
A vernacular style house built during the Italianate period, similar to #73 and #74; 2-1/2 story, clapboard siding, three-bay gable front with sidehall entrance. Panelled corner pilasters support a plain entablature; cornice returns at the gable ends. Windows have 2/2 sash and molded lintels. The entrance porch wraps around to the south side and has square posts and brackets with pendants. A 1-1/2 story wing with two gable dormers and a carriage barn with a horizontal sliding door are connected to the rear of the house.
76. Darling House, Grove Street, c.1870.
One-and-one-half story, 5 x 2 bay, gable roof, clapboard siding. Corner pilasters, plain entablature, cornice returns. Gable dormer on south side; shed dormer with paired sash on north side. One-story, two-bay addition on north side. One-story enclosed porch on south side has multi-paned windows. One-story ell. Two-and-one-half story barn also has cornice returns, two modern garage bays, and cupola.
77. Clark House, 27 Grove Street: First Story, c.1860; Upper
Reputed to originally have been a 1-1/2 story, 6 x 2 bay Cape Cod; now 2-1/2 story. Part of the original roof remains form a pent roof between the first and second floors. Enclosed screen porch has a flat roof, Tuscan columns, and panelled base. Entrance has oval-shaped sidelights and a large oval-shaped light in door. First story is clapboard, second story is shingled. Paired and single windows have 1/1 sash and molded lintels. One-and-one-half story clapboard ell with gable dormer, side entrance, and two garage bays.
77A. Barn. Shed roof, clapboard siding.
78. Ide House, 28 Grove Street, c.1870.
A well preserved example of the Italianate style; 2-1/2 story, clapboard siding, three-bay gable front with sidehall entrance. Windows have 2/2 sash, molded lintels, and sills supported by small console blocks. Entrance has a bracketed, flared hood with sawn pendant drops. Round-arched gable window with drip mold. Cornerboards support the bracketed cornice. Two-story porch in rear has turned posts and scroll brackets on each floor.
79. Mace House, Center Street, c.1850.
A small frame dwelling with vernacular Greek Revival detailing; 1-1/2 story, gable roof, aluminum siding. Corner pilasters support raking frieze; eaves overhang. Windows have 2/2 sash, louvered shutters, heavy window heads with molded cornices. Gable windows have 12/8 sash. Entrance has half-length sidelights and a "tabernacle" porch. A one-story, flat roof addition extends along the south side. Connected to the east side is a one-story wing with a series of garage bays, six in all, and a parapet roof.
80. Farley-Nelson House, Center Street, c.1880.
As Wells River's outstanding example of the French Second Empire style, the Farley-Nelson House must have rivaled its neighbor, the Former Deming House (#83), when it was built. Three-story with patterned wood shingle, mansard roof and peaked dormers, L-plan, clapboard siding, two two-story bay windows, sidehall entrance, porch along rear wing with turned and pierced balustrade, square columns. Stylistic details include: bracketed cornices, segmentally arched drip moldings, 2/2 sash, entrance porch with square columns.
81. St. Eugene's Catholic Church, Center Street, 1947.
One-story, gable roof, cross plan, gabled portico, aluminum siding. Non-contributing.
82. Nelson Apartments, Center Street, c.1875.
Two-and-one-half story, jerkinhead roof, clapboard siding, central entrance, two-story porch across facade, bracketed cornice, cornice returns, corner pilasters, some paired sash.
Now an apartment house, this building was a service structure for the Farley House, #81.
83. Deming-Cray House, Center Street, c 1875.
A large Italianate style house, now substantially altered by asbestos siding, it still retains much original detail. Two-story, flat roof, plain parapet, bracketed cornice, 1/1 sash. Wing has two-story porches with square posts, stick balustrades, and stairways on north and south sides. Numerous entrances now serving apartments. Once had a ballroom and large carriage barn. A banker and mill owner, Franklin Deming, built this house during or after the Civil War.
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
The Wells River Village Historic District is significant as a well preserved 19th to early 20th century mill town. From its first settlement - the construction of a grist mill shortly before the American Revolution - the Village's economic development has been closely linked to its proximity to mill sites on the Wells River and to transportation facilities on the nearby Connecticut River. The result has been an architecturally cohesive village comprised of a core of commercial blocks and surrounding residential neighborhoods, all of which substantially retain intact their historic character. All of the styles commonly found in Vermont's vernacular architectural heritage are represented, including the Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival, sometimes high style, but more frequently in a vernacular fashion, as interpreted by local builders in the context of their traditions and the demands of local conditions.
The history of Wells River has been marked by a continuous thread of mercantile, milling, and transportation activities that helped create a village more commercial than agricultural in layout and design. Located at the confluence of the Connecticut and Wells Rivers the Village of Wells River is provided with a surplus of valuable water power, and the early settlers sagaciously exploited the natural resource in a variety of ways.
This region of the Connecticut River Valley was once referred to as the Lower Coos Country by the various Indian tribes living in the valley. As Frederic Wells states in his History of Newbury, Vermont, the name Coos has many interpretations, some of which are, "a crooked river;'' "a wide valley;" "a place of tall pines;" "a place of deer;" and "a great fishing place."(1) The preceding descriptions suggest the abundance of game, fish and fertile land in the valley, and explain why the Indians held the region in such esteem. As colonists gradually pushed their way north through the valley, it was inevitable that they would claim the land aligning the river and begin settlements. The cessation of the French and Indian War in 1760 relieved much of the violent tension involved in conquering the wilderness and, as a result, the influx of settlers to this region grew in increasing numbers.
When the Village of Newbury was settled in 1763, it was the northernmost outpost along the Connecticut River. Several years later, around 1770, a parcel of land containing 500 acres and located north of the Village of Newbury was granted to a Newburyite, Er Chamberlin, by Governor Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire. Chamberlin's land, which encompassed what is the present Village of Wells River, was, as stated, fortuitously situated at the confluence of the Connecticut and Wells Rivers. Not only could these waterways be harnessed for mill power, a critical economic need in the frontier, but the Connecticut River then served as the arterial transportation corridor for the rapidly settling Coos Country.
One of Chamberlin's first projects was to build a grist mill. This was followed by a sawmill, a blacksmith shop, and a ferry operation across the Connecticut River connecting Wells River to Woodsville, New Hampshire. Chamberlin, an ambitious man, was also among the first to build a bridge connecting the two states. Although Chamberlin and others worked hard to improve the Village, by 1800, Wells River was still a relatively crude settlement, " . . . a hamlet of 10 buildings, without schoolhouse, church, store, or professional man of any sort."(2) Yet the nineteenth century proved Chamberlin's choice of locations to be an auspicious one.
From its earliest settlement, Wells River's location at the juncture of two rivers made it an important link in the Connecticut River Valley's transportation network. During the winter months, the Connecticut River was a natural, frozen highway clear of trees, although it sometimes thawed in parts. During the rest of the year, boats would sail downriver carrying lumber, potash, and other frontier produce to be exchanged for such manufactured necessities as iron and rum. A major drawback was that these bargelike river boats had to be poled upriver. Later, around 1835 and before the railroad superceded the boats, steam tugs were introduced in an effort to move northbound goods more quickly.(3)
In 1805, the first bridge between Wells River and Woodsville, New Hampshire was built over the Connecticut River. This structure proved to be vitally important because it directed road traffic to and through the Village. Thus, very early in its history, the Village served as a major intersection for stage and market routes. And as the volume of traffic increased, a demand for lodging evolved. The Wells River House was the first hotel in the Village and stood where the Baldwin Block (#29) is located. In the 1830's, the Coosuck House hotel was built and served the public until destroyed by fire in 1892. It was replaced by Hale's Tavern, a large four-story Italianate style hotel which stood until demolished in 1956. It, in turn, was replaced by a service station, the stage stop of modern travelers.
Besides its location along major transportation routes, much of the Village's growth during the first half of the nineteenth century can be attributed to milling activities. What was to become the predominant industry in Wells River began in 1808 when a paper mill was constructed on the Wells River. Within 50 years, a major street (now U.S. Route 302) was called Paper Mill Street and the paper mill complex owned by Union Durant and Joseph Adams was the largest employer in the Village.
With plentiful supplies of timber surrounding the Village, the lumber business also grew during these years. After lumber was cut in numerous sawmills, it was then shipped south on boats or, later, shipped by rail.
Other industries which arose during these years were fulling mills, additional grist milling, blacksmithing, brickmaking, a tannery, and slaughter houses.(4) Concurrently, various mercantile ventures began, serving the growing population with goods and wares. Whereas most of the industry was located along the Wells River, the stores began clustering along Main Street, creating the Village's first real commercial center, and the core of today's historic district.
The first railroad to arrive in Wells River was the Connecticut and Passumpsic River Railroad in 1848. Two years later, this line was extended to St. Johnsbury, thus connecting northern Vermont to industrial centers and markets in the south. Like early roads, the advent of the railroad meant increasing traffic, more efficient and faster transportation. In 1858, the major east-west railroad line, the Boston Concord and Montreal Railroad reached Wells River. Five years earlier, this railroad company had coerced the owners of a relatively new bridge over the Connecticut to build an even newer one which would support a train. This was done and an incredible arched wooden bridge was erected in which pedestrian and horse-drawn traffic passed through the lower, covered portion of the bridge while trains crossed on the roof of the bridge. When it was built, this bridge was unique and had the longest single-span in the country.(5) It was razed in 1903. The Montpelier and Wells River Railroad, completed in 1873, helped secure Wells River's position as an important railroad junction.
Although the fortunes of the Village were dependent for many years upon the two rivers, it is ironic that these same rivers often brought great misfortune. Wells River's essential bridges were continuously lost to flood and freshets. Perhaps even more destructive was fire. Extensive damage resulted in 1892 when, as stated earlier, the Coosuck House was destroyed by fire. This fire also extended west towards Grove Street and destroyed several neighboring shops north of the Coosuck House before stopping at what is now known as the Village Trader (#23). However, as in dealing with floods, the Village residents quickly repaired or rebuilt whenever disaster struck.
Like most other communities, change came to Wells River at an increasingly faster pace during the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of this century. Electricity and telephones were dramatic advancements, yet the automobile had the most visible effect on the physical appearance of the Village. To facilitate driving, Main Street was paved in 1928. And, since the road leading in and out of Wells River remained the principal east-west and north-south routes in this part of the state, the Village began accommodating an increasing volume of automobile traffic - and tourists. Service stations began sprouting at strategic locations, namely at the intersection of Main Street and the eastern extension of U.S. Route 302. The completion of Interstate 91, which provides an exit to Wells River, has no doubt also directed customers and business to the Village.
For the most part, the Wells River Village Historic District remains as it looked 100 years ago with very little insensitive construction or demolition occurring recently. The District reveals the Village's nineteenth century past and provides a viable and interesting backdrop for the future of Wells River.
(1) Wells, Frederic P., History of Newbury, Vermont, (St. Johnsbury, Vermont: 1902; repr. 1975), p. 6.
(2) ? [Note: There are a total of 5 footnotes but they are numbered: 1, 1, 2, 3, and 4.]
(3) Hemenway, Abby Maria, ed., Vermont Historical Gazetteer, II, 954.
(4) Wells, History of Newbury, Vermont, p. 157.
(5) Ibid., pp. 158-170.
MAJOR BIBLIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCES
(1) Beers, F. W. Map of Wells River in Atlas of the County of Orange, Vermont. New York: 1877.
(2) Bicentennial Committee, Newbury, Vermont. Newbury, Vermont Celebrates 200 Years. Littleton, N.H.: 1963.
(3) Butler, Rev. J. D. "The Early Annals of Wells River in the Town of Newbury" (1849) in Abby Maria Hemenway's Vermont Historical Gazetteer, Vol. 2, pp. 953-956, Burlington: 1871.
(4) Child, Hamilton. Gazetteer of Orange County, Vermont, 1762-1888. Syracuse, New York: 1888.
(5) History of Newbury, Vermont, 1900-1977, Bradford; Vt.: 1978.
(6) Town of Newbury, Vermont Historic Sites and Structures Survey, Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, Montpelier, 1978.
(7) Walling, H. F. Map of Wells River, 1858.
(8) Wells, Frederic P. History of Newbury, Vermont, St. Johnsbury, Vt.: 1902; reprint: 1975.
FORM PREPARED BY: Margaret DeLaittre, Preservation Consultant, 271 Elm Street, Montpelier, VT 05602. Tel: 802-229-0135. Date: July, 1981, Revised May 1983.
DATE ENTERED: July 28, 1983.
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