West Newbury Village Historic District
Municipality: Newbury, VT
Location: West Newbury village
Site Type: Historic District
Vt Survey No: --
UTMs: (Zone 18)
National Register Nomination Information:
The West Newbury Village Historic District, geographically isolated by surrounding hills, is comprised of 14 primary generally wood-frame structures dating from the early 19th through early 20th centuries. The basically linear layout of the village is dominated by the 1833 Federal style Union Meeting House (#4). A former school, (#7), a former commercial building (#13), and numerous residences and outbuildings complete the well-preserved, small-scale Vermont villagescape.
The village of West Newbury, Vermont is located in the southern part of the Town of Newbury almost equidistant between the Newbury-Topsham town line and the Connecticut River. With an elevation of approximately 940', the village is surrounded by hills which serve to isolate it from the more populous sections of the town. Two roads, Tucker Mountain Road (Town Highway 6) and Snake Road (State Aid Highway 1) form a T and help dictate the village boundaries. In addition, part of the primary road, Snake Road, runs along a ridge which confines the village to the flatter land southwest of the ridge. While this ridge may have contributed to limiting the village's growth, an impressive view of the distant White Mountains and intervening valleys is offered in return.
Although the first settlers arrived in this part of town in the 1770's, the Historic District buildings now postdate the eighteenth century and largely reflect conservative architectural styles of the nineteenth century. The layout of the village is essentially linear with most of the buildings clustered along the stretch of Snake Road which runs south. Composed of 21 buildings, the district is visually and symbolically dominated by the Union Meeting House (#4). Built in 1833, the meeting house rests on a prominent incline, drawing attention by means of its size and verticality while simultaneously registering as the spiritual center of the village. The earliest extant buildings are two Cape Cod style houses (#1 and #2) which are believed to have been built in the 1820s. Although both houses are simplistic in plan and form, the Smith-Kidder House (#1) is especially noteworthy for its vernacular, yet stylish, cornice.
Like the rest of the town of Newbury, West Newbury embraced the Greek Revival style which was tremendously popular during the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Two houses in particular, the H. Smith House (#11) and the Scales-Giroux House (#14), exhibit the exquisitely simple designs and functional proportions characteristic of this style. The H. Smith House (#11) is noteworthy for its entrance; the carpenter responsible for the Greek fret surround must have been inspired by the patterns found in Asher Benjamin's well-known guidebooks. The Scales-Giroux House (#14), also a gable front like the H. Smith House, is bolder in its appearance. The broad facade is divided into three levels with the number of bays ascending in a 5-3-1 pattern. Detail is simple yet pronounced: wide, plain boards outline the corners, sill, frieze, and door surround.
While the sum of buildings in West Newbury reflects the modest scale and design typical of a farming community, the Tyler Farms (#10 and #11) illustrates the evolution of a farm property. Counting the original house (#11), its ell and outbuildings, there are eight components which altogether exemplify that system of building known as "continuous architecture". Individually, each of these structures displays a particular style and purpose, and innovations representative of its era.
The West Newbury Village Historic District is now largely residential. The old Eastman-Tyler Store (#13), in operation for about 130 years, is now an apartment building and the schoolhouse (#7) was closed in 1970 when the Oxbow Union School was built. And yet, while the village has always been in a state of subtle transition, its quiet evolution has helped preserve the architectural integrity and cohesiveness of the village, increasingly rare features today.
The buildings comprising the Historic District are as follows (numbers correlate to the sketch map):
1. Smith-Holmes House, c.1825.
A wing was added later to the east side. It has a modern stone chimney and was also recently remodeled. Attached to the wing is a 1-1/2-story clapboard shed.
This was the second home built in Newbury by Colonel John Smith (1758-1851), one of the early settlers of the town. Smith was noted for his long years of military service having fought in the Revolutionary War as well as the War of 1812. After he built this house, he gave the land for the Union Meeting House (#4) and the West Newbury Cemetery, No doubt Smith enjoyed this home; although he was 68 years old when it was constructed, he lived here for another 25 years.
2. MacDuffie-Ansley House, c. 1825.
A 1-1/2-story ell composed of two sections is attached to the rear. It has vertical board siding and, along with other modern sash, has two large sliding glass doors and skylights.
3. Sheep Barn, c. 1870.
4. Union Meeting House, 1833.
Partially supported by the pavilion is the 3-stage belfry. The first stage has large, rectangular louvers on each of the four sides; these are repeated in the smaller second stage and in four of the eight sides of the third stage. Simple stick balustrades surround the second and third stages and enforce the rectangularity of the belfry which is finally offset by the octagonal shape of the third stage and its flared, bell cast roof surmounted by a spire with a ball finial.
The pavilion is actually a smaller, protruding imitation of the main gable front. The side elevations warrant attention: five bays of windows are embellished with semi-circular fans which surmount the 8/8 sash which, in turn, are flanked by louvered shutters. These fans have a type of sunburst motif with raised rays separated by small, diamond-shaped blocks. Surrounding each fan is a simple surround.
Although the interior has been altered throughout the years (see Wells' History of Newbury, pp. 191-192), there are some interesting features including the slip pews which are grained, and the coffered tin ceiling.
5. West Newbury Hall, c. 1890.
6. Parsonage, c. 1925.
6A. Parsonage Garage, c.1925. This is a 1-story, clapboard structure with a gabled roof and a 1-bay opening with a door on track rollers.
7. West Newbury School, 1894.
The schoolhouse is now owned by the Newbury Historical Society and is an important feature not only for West Newbury but for the entire town as it is the town's last remaining nineteenth century schoolhouse.
8. Marsh House, c.1900 and 1950.
8A. Marsh Garage, c. 1940. This is a two-bay garage with a gable roof and novelty siding. It does not contribute to the Historic District.
9. Eastman-Tyler House, c. 1830.
This house was built by Samuel Eastman who was the contractor for the Union Meeting House (#4) and owner of the first store in West Newbury (#13).
10. Tyler-Atwood House, 1906.
John B.C. Tyler, postmaster and storekeeper (#13), built this house in 1906. It is part of the Tyler Farms complex which includes the H. Smith House (#11) and outbuildings.
11. H. Smith House (Tyler Farms), c.1830.
A 1-1/2-story wing with gabled dormers is attached to the rear and has two carriage bays. A 1-1/2-story, clapboard barn is linked to the wing; both structures exemplify that trait peculiar to New England known as "continuous architecture".
11A. Cow barn, c.1870. Running perpendicular to the main structure is a large, clapboard cow barn. A louvered square cupola with a weathervane surmounts the gable roof. The barn has a drive-in entry located on the south gable end.
11B. Perpendicularly attached to this barn is a sheet-metal, gambrel-roof barn(1910) sporting two ventilator hoods. It has 2-1/2 stories and clapboard siding.
11C. Facing the drive-in entry to the large barn (11A) is an open, 4-bay tractor shed with a gable roof and vertical board siding.
11D. To the left of the tractor shed is a one-bay, gabled tractor shed with vertical board siding.
11E. On the left of the large cow barn (11A) is a modern (1973), 1-story barn with a low, metal, gable roof and metal siding and measuring approximately 30' x 100'.
11F. Between the tractor shed (11C) is a modern, 4-bay garage with a gable roof and weatherboard siding. It does not contribute to the historic district.
Altogether, the house and farm buildings illustrate the growth of this farm complex which has spanned about 150 years.
12. Mobile home. Removed from site.
13. Old Eastman-Tyler Store, 1841.
Although this building has been greatly altered, its massing still contributes to the Historic District and it is also one of the important buildings historically.
Eastman operated this store for about ten years and then sold it to Hazen K. Wilson. In 1870, Wilson sold the store to John B.C. Tyler. Tyler operated the store and post office until his death in 1969. The building was converted into apartments in 1973.
14. Scales-Giroux House, c.1845.
An ell and carriage barn extend from the east side of the house and also have clapboard siding. The 1-1/2-story ell has a central entrance, 2 gabled dormers, and door and window surrounds like those of the main house. The carriage barn has a rectangular opening with solid braced corners. Both ell and carriage barn have cornice returns.
14A. To the west of the house is a small, gabled shed with vertical board siding.
15. West Newbury Post Office, 1975.
One of the smaller villages in the town of Newbury, West Newbury Village is a good example of a well-preserved early 19th to early 20th century villagescape. Modest in scale, the buildings still convey the historic self-sufficient role played by such small settlements in Vermont through the early 20th century. A church (#4), former school (#7), village hall (#5) and former commercial building (#13) served residents in the village and the surrounding agricultural community. The latter pursuit is also represented within the district itself by a farm complex (#11) which exemplifies the concept of "continuous architecture".
When compared to the villages of Newbury and Wells River, West Newbury has always been a small and unassuming community with an economy largely dependent upon farming. Geographically separated by hills from the flatter, intervale region of the town and bypassed during the nineteenth century by major transportation routes, the residents of West Newbury concentrated on agriculture, an astute decision since some of the finest farmland in Orange County is found in the West Newbury vicinity.
Although the history of West Newbury is not extensively documented, it is believed that the land in this part of town was first cleared around 1770. It was one of the earliest sections of the back hill region tackled by settlers. During these years most townspeople were living along the intervale so those who chose to delve into the forest and cope with the hills must have been an extraordinarily ambitious group. By the time the Revolution began, four men had established farms: Samuel Hadley, Samuel Eaton, Josiah Rogers, and a man recorded only as Kelley. Yet development of the village as we know it today did not actually begin until the second quarter of the nineteenth century. After numerous attempts, beginning as early as 1808, the construction of a meeting house was finally realized in 1833 which helped enormously to begin physically defining a village center. The Union Meeting House (#4), like all New England meeting houses, served as a social and religious magnet for residents scattered about on farms. And because of this, it also spurred commercial and residential development.
One man connected with three of the Historic District's important buildings was Samuel Eastman (1803-1885). Eastman was the contractor for the Meeting House (#4) as well as for a house he constructed, the Eastman-Tyler House (#9). Several years later in 1841, he built the Eastman-Tyler Store (#13), an important commercial factor in the village's growth. Eastman also built a starch factory in 1847 near the meeting house, but this structure is no longer extant. Unfortunately, Eastman's business acumen never rivaled his carpentry skills and he eventually spent some time on the town farm.
With farms, small factories, a store and post office, and a meeting house generating activity and commerce, the village gradually grew with homes and several public buildings lining Snake Road. A schoolhouse (#7) and a grange hall (#5) were built in 1870s and 1890s respectively and these also served to draw people into the village center. During this century, the Parsonage (#6) and the Tyler House (#10) were built, further contributing respectable architectural variety to the village.
Within the past fifteen years or so, West Newbury has changed into an almost strictly residential center. The closing of the school (#7) has left the southern end of the District strangely quiet, and the conversion of the old Eastman-Tyler Store (#13) into apartments eliminated an important commercial service The village as a whole exemplifies a high degree of architectural cohesiveness and variety.
(1) Wells, Frederic P. History of Newbury, Vermont. (St. Johnsbury: The Caledonian Co.), 1902.
(2) Town of Newbury, History of Newbury, Vermont, 1900-1977. (Bradford: Fox Pub. Corp.), 1978.
(3) Davis, Janet. Town of Newbury, Vermont Historic Sites and Structures Survey, 1978.
DATE ENTERED: September 15, 1983.
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