Newbury Town House
Municipality: Newbury, VT
Location: Scotch Hollow Road
Site Type: Town Hall
Vt Survey No: --
UTMs: (Zone 18) E: 730010. N: 4887470
National Register Nomination Information:
The Newbury Town House is located near the geographical center of the town of Newbury in an isolated rural environment. Vernacular Greek Revival in style, the 3 x 5 bay, 1-1/2 story clapboarded structure has a gable roof, cornice returns and a central entrance recessed in a surround with fretwork and bulls-eye corner blocks. The interior retains plank wainscoting, chamfered posts and original benches.
The Newbury Town House is located on Scotch Hollow Road in Newbury, Vermont very near the geographic center of the Town. Throughout the years, the Town House has always been a relatively isolated structure, unclaimed by the environs of any village and surrounded by farmland and forest.
Built in 1839, the Town House is of a utilitarian design, sparing in detail except for the minimal amount found on the gable front. Measuring approximately 20' x 50', the 1-1/2-story building is 3 x 5 bays and projects a relatively squat, elongated appearance partly because it lacks a tower to give it vertical thrust. The structure rests on a stone foundation and has clapboard siding and an asphalt shingled roof. A 1-story, leanto shed with vertical board siding is attached to the rear of the building.
The scant architectural detail of molded cornice returns and a fairly elaborate entrance is confined to the facade. The centrally located entrance, which resembles patterns found in Asher Beniamin's guidebooks, is distinguished by the double-leaf doorway, each door having eight panels, and the molded surround. The two pilasters which flank the door have molded Greek fret patterns. Above these are corner blocks with circular, bull's-eye designs. The central block of the door head has a raised pyramidal surface and is flanked by recessed rectangular blocks, each of which has two simple hotizontal moldings. Altogether, thc pieces form an interesting geometrical entryway.
Some vernacular Greek Revival detail is also found on the four gable front windows. Again the surrounds are molded and meet at the lintels to form vague corner blocks. Although all sash is now 2/2, it is probable that the original windows were 6/6.
Other detail on the Town House is simple and functional. Plain corner boards support the cornice; the windows on the side bays have simple surrounds; and the raking cornice and cornice returns on the rear elevation are flush to the wall.
The interior is noteworthy because much of the original character remains. The large meeting room has a rustic version of wainscoting which is composed of three horizontal wideboard planks. Three sections (originally four) of pew-like benches rake and are divided by two aisles. Three chamfered support posts also remain. There are two smaller rooms in the rear; these appear to have been refurbished throughout the years.
Although the Newbury Town House is a very basic design lacking any architectural exuberance, its simplicity nonetheless reflects a quality of construction which incorporates principles of design and function.
Newbury Town House is an excellent example of town house design in rural Vermont from the early Greek Revival period. Constructed to house town meetings, it retains largely intact its historic exterior and interior appearance.
Like many rural towns with scattered settlements and farms, Newbury built its Town House near the geographical center of the town. This was done in an effort to be impartial to those residents located in distant corners of the town and because weather, hills, poor roads, and slow means of transportation made even short distances difficult to travel. A centrally located site seemed the most equitable location for the conducting of town business which concerned all residents.
The Newbury Town House was built in 1839 on a plot of land given to the town by Charles George. George (1796-1851) was born in South Hampton, New Hampshire and lived in Corinth, Vermont before finally settling in Newbury in 1820. Living in the backhill section of town, George manufactured lime until sometime in 1836 or 1837 when he sold his business to Isaac Eastman.
Before the Town House was built, munlclpal meetings were held in homes or barns throughout Newbury. When the town accepted George's offer of land, he also generously contributed lumber for the frame of the building. The remaining material cost about $800. The Town House was constructed quickly and the first meeting was teld there in 1840.
The Town House is essentially a simple structure and is restrained in style, common traits of public, non-sectarian buildings constructed by towns with a sharp eye for frugality. The Town House also reflects the widespread popularity of the Greek Revival style, a style which by its nature allowed its bold, linear hallmarks to be easily translated from stone to wood. Furthermore, it is not surprising that the Town House's details resemble patterns found in Asher Benjamin's guidebooks. Benjamin (1773-1845) was chiefly responsible for disseminating the neo-classical style to rural New England, largely by means of his popular guidebooks which explained and illustrated to the common carpenter and journeyman the basic tenets of the Federal and Greek Revival styles. It seems certain that his guidebooks were popular in Newbury because many buildings in the town exhibit Benjamin designs.
Although repaired and painted in 1888, the Town House has been spared major alterations; minor changes have been confined to the sash and interior. Ironically, its preservation may have been due to disuse. When town meetings were eventually moved, the building received little attention other than basic maintenance. The Town House is used occasionally now for election polling and sundry meetings.
Wells, Frederic P. History of Newbury, Vermont. (St. Johnsbury: The Caledonian Co.),1902.
Town of Newbury, History of Newbury, Vermont, 1900-1977. (Bradford: Fox Pub.Corp.)
Davis, Janet. Town of Newbury, Vermont Historic Sites and Structures Survey, 1978.
DATE ENTERED: July 28, 1983.
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