Municipality: Ryegate, VT
Location: Pleasant Street, South Ryegate
Site Type: Houses
Vt Survey No: --
UTMs: (Zone 18)
National Register Nomination Information:
The Lind Houses (#1-#7) were built at the turn of the twentieth century in Ryegate, a town on the Connecticut River in northeastern Vermont. Situated in the village of South Ryegate in the narrow Wells River valley, the seven closely spaced, frame row houses occupy a portion of an original farm property which borders Pleasant Street. The style and appearance of the houses are virtually identical and original, consisting of seven 2 story, gable front, balloon framed houses in the transitional Colonial Revival/Queen Anne style. All have 1 story, Queen Anne style front porches and rear 1 story, gable roofed shed wings. Houses #6 and #7 have rear 1-1/2 story carriage barn wings as well. The row houses retain their original architectural integrity and all but #2 have been sensitively rehabilitated by the present owner as rental dwellings. (#2 is scheduled for
Spaced approximately 10 feet apart and laid out with a transit on a slightly sloping lot, the 2 story main block of each dwelling measures 24'x32'. Each 3 x 3 bay row house rests on a brick foundation which is earth bermed on the interior below grade. Siding is wood clapboards and each exhibits an asphalt shingle roof (except for outer slopes of #s 1 and 7 which are sheet metal) with an interior brick chimney stack. The facades are articulated with corner pilasters and matchboard friezes which run continuously beneath the simple eaves. Sash is 2/2 with plain trim and cornice cap moldings. The principal entrances on the left side of the gable front facades have period doors, each with a large square light with a molded cross panel above and 3 similar panels below. All entrances are protected with modern aluminum storm doors and trimmed in the same manner as the sash. Each dwelling has a 1 story, 3 x 1 bay, Queen Anne style front porch with turned posts, scrollsawn angle brackets with turned elements, a balustrade with square balusters and molded handrail, a matchboard ceiling and lattice aprons.
The 1 story, rear, gable roofed shed wings originally contained privies (#1a-#5a) and are set on posts, with plain cornerboards, friezes and simple eaves articulating the facades. Each has a hinged, pass-sized door and a boarded window originally containing 2/2 sash on the east eaves facade. A small, square, boarded window originally lighting the privy section of the shed is situated on the rear gable end facades of #1a-#5a.
Houses #6 and #7 have 1-1/2 story, gable roofed carriage barn (#6b and #7b) which originally provided space for a privy in these two dwellings. The barns are attached to the rear wings (#6a and #7a) and are articulated with plain cornerboards, frieze and simple eaves cornices. Both have hinged, double, vertical board doors on the east eaves facade, a vertical board hayloft door on the gable rear facade and a small, square boarded window originally lighting the privy on the west eaves facade. Barn #6b also has a double, vertical board door on the west eaves facade.
The interior floor plans of the Lind houses are identical, consisting on the first floor of a sidehall and straight run stairway corresponding to the principal entrance on the east front portion of the plan, a living room on the west front, a kitchen and a pantry in the center and a dining room, bathroom and rear mud room on the south rear of the plan. The second floor plan features a corresponding side stairhall with a large bedroom occupying the north front of the plan and 2 bedrooms on the south rear. The front bedroom shares a closet with the southwest rear bedroom. Interior finish generally consists of plain trim, with plain cornerboards, simple baseboards and cornice moldings at the juncture of ceilings and walls. Doors have 4 raised panels set in molded rails and stiles and wooden doorknobs. Floors are narrow boarded and original plaster has been partially replaced (except in #2, which has not yet been restored) with sheetrock during 1985 rehabilitation efforts. Pantries exhibit vertical beaded boarding. Original pantry sinks have been replaced and adjoining counters have been finished with formica. The living room of row house #7 is embellished with an original pressed metal ceiling. The open stairways have iron pipe railings on the first floor with a plain wooden balustrade in the second floor hall. The interiors of the rear shed wings and carriage barns are unfinished, with exposed framing. There is evidence of wall paper in the portions of #6b and #7b that were formerly used as privies.
The Lind Houses, a series of seven closely spaced, identical row houses built c.1905(1) in South Ryegate, Vermont, are significant due to the uniformity of their style, siting and plans. The group of dwellings exists as the only row housing in the village and is unique in exhibiting plans atypical of traditional Vermont construction. George E. Lind, an independent speculator, built the units to provide worker housing to attract and retain the skilled immigrant employees of the flourishing local granite industry. Their noteworthy little altered state results from having been consistently maintained as group rental housing by one owner rather than having been company owned units generally sold separately and individually remodelled when industry declined. The relatively elaborate and generously applied detailing, fine finish and ample proportions in contrast with the tight spacing and uniformity of the houses are indicators of a shift in attitude toward the laboring class at the turn of the twentieth century.
The conditions endemic to a laboring immigrant were well known to the builder of the row houses, George E. Lind (also referred to as E.G. Lind). Llnd was 23 years old when he came to the United States from Germany in 1851(2) and was 31 when he married Eunice T. Wood of Groton, Vermont(3). It is not known whether he served as an apprentice tinsmith before his marriage and the subsequent birth of his son, George H. Lind, in 1864, but by 1880 he is listed as a tinsmith in South Ryegate with his son serving as his apprentice.(4) Lind bought a lot from Jennett Cochran next to the Reformed Presbyterian Church on the west side of Main Street in 1879(5), where he built a simple, gable front, 1-1/2 story house that also contained his tinshop. The dwelling was without basement and had a stone root cellar built into the hill at the rear of the land.(6) With his shop in his house, Lind typified the image of the hardworking, frugal immigrant American of this era and by 1885 was regarded as a man of "good financial standing."(7) As fireplaces and iron utensils gave way to cookstoves and tinware during this period, Lind expanded his business to cater to the changing mode of living by including the sale of stoves, pumps and lead pipe as well as tinware.(8)
Lind settled in South Ryegate as it was beginning to develop from a small village to a bustling industrial center. The southern portion of Ryegate had been settled by a group of Scotch-Presbyterian farmers, several of whom were experienced quarriers, who immigrated from near Glasgow, Scotland in the late eighteenth century. This group of settlers, whose lives were well-rooted in their religious faith and who were noted for "their habits of industry and economy,"(9) formed the core of the community before the wave of immigration at the end of the nineteenth century. South Ryegate, several miles southwest of the first village/church center, Ryegate Center, developed a different industrial/commercial character due to the water power provided by the Wells River and the advent of the Montpelier and Wells River Railroad along the river valley in 1873. The village of South Ryegate had begun in the mid-1800's as a cluster of houses around an up and down sawmill on the Wells River. A store was established in 1848 and in 1849 the Reformed Presbyterian church was built there. Granite of fine quality had been quarried in small scale operations from nearby Blue Mountain since 1793, used mainly for foundation stone and steps.(10) The quality and finish of the stone at South Ryegate was noteworthy and its monumental use began about 1854.(11) Before the railroad went through in nearby South Ryegate, the stone was hauled from the Blue Mountain quarries in the winter to the railroad station at McIndoes Falls in the town of Barnet to the north.(12) By the time the South Ryegate Railroad Station was built in 1873, the granite industry had developed in potential and awaited only better transportation to markets to spur its growth.
The development of the granite business and the opening of the railroad attracted other merchants as well as granite workers. It was during this period of rapid growth in South Ryegate that George Lind arrived with a wave of immigrant granite workers of generally Irish and Canadian extraction.(13) By 1885, with the establishment of several granite quarries and finishing sheds, the industry had grown to such an extent that workers had begun to form unions, beginning with the South Ryegate branch of the Granite Cutter's National Union forming c.1885 and the nearby Quarry Workers International Union of North America forming in 1903 in Barre, Vermont.(14) The granite industry experienced a new growth spurt after a fire of 1902 destroyed the large complex of the Ryegate Granite Works at the Old Quint Farm (Quint Place) outside of South Ryegate village, resulting in the centralization of the industry in the village after that time.(15) The volume of buildings expanded in the village to serve the needs of the workers, and many shops, houses and hotels were constructed. Also accompanying the growth of the granite industry beginning c.1895, a new group of immigrants came to the area from North Italy, with many Scotch-Irish Canadians and some Swedes.(16) Most of these new settlers were skilled stonecutters and sculptors who came to South Ryegate and nearby Barre, Vermont specifically to join in the thriving granite business.(17)
Perhaps since Lind was also an immigrant, he appears to have had sympathy for the plight of the newer immigrant workers early on. In 1885, Lind, together with other moneyed South Ryegate residents, supported granite workers attempting to unionize by posting bail for them after their employers had them arrested.(18) It is interesting to note that among those who posted bail was business entrepreneur, Martin H. Gibson, who c.1900 became the part owner with attorney Alex Bunnett of the Ryegate Granite Works.(19) Gibson and Dunnett were later owners of the Lind worker row houses after Lind's death.(20) This connection of the houses ownership with industry owner, Gibson, who supported worker unionization, points to the existence in South Ryegate at the time of the row houses' construction of enlightened individuals who associated growth of industry with better working and living conditions for laborers. At any rate, it appears to have been both Lind's public spirited empathy for bettering social conditions for immigrant granite workers as well as his affiliation with forward-looking industry owners who shared his vision which prompted Lind to construct speculative rental worker housing c.1905. It is noteworthy that Lind continued to take part in creative, innovative, lucrative schemes at this point in his life, when he was nearly 80 years old. Also interesting to note is the fact the workers' houses were larger and more substantial than his own home, which Lind continued to live in until his death in 1909.
The sources for the plan and styling of the Lind Row Houses cannot be determined. When Lind constructed his model worker housing c.1905 after purchasing the western frontage of the old D. Bone farm property on Pleasant Street, there were no other known examples of row houses in the immediate area. Shortly after, the village of East Ryegate on the Connecticut River developed several series of different styles of worker row housing that were constructed by mill owners after a dam, pulp and paper mill began operation there in late 1906. The row houses in East Ryegate vary considerably between groups, some relatively simple and small, with others rather large and more elaborate. Lind's housing is not similar to any of the East Ryegate groups, nor to known pattern books or traditional Vermont construction. Lacking definite information, it must be surmised that the design of the Lind Houses was arrived at by collaboration between Lind and the contractor. It appears that as many houses as possible were spaced closely to fill the size of the purchased lot and that only the two houses on the eastern end of the row (#6 and #7) were provided with small attached carriage barns because the close spacing would not allow access to such provisions for worker transportation. The fact that the eastern-most house (#7) is also the only house to have a pressed tin ceiling suggests that this residence may have been intended to have been used by Lind as his own dwelling, especially since it would have been of better finish and larger size than Lind's then current abode.
The tight spacing, the uniformity of style and original paint color, the fact that the houses were laid out with a transit to insure perfect alignment on a slopping lot, the clothesline posts raised in identical locations in each backyard - all of these details suggest an economizing influence associated with engineered, mass-produced housing at the lowest possible cost. The generous proportions and attention to architectural detailing freely applied were made necessary by the fact that this worker housing was meant to attract tenants as speculative rental housing for a profit to an individual owner, rather than to be merely an adjunct of the granite industry, in which case it would not be necessary to court occupants. The implied fact that these tenants would be immigrant granite workers who were crowding the village indicates a turn toward a progressive and benevolent attitude toward laborers during this period of history.
After Lind's death in 1909, all of this properties passed to the German Masonic Temple, his wife and son having predeceased him.(21) Later in 1909, granite industry owner and business entrepreneur, Martin H. Gibson, purchased the property, selling it to his former partner, attorney Alex Dunnett in 1917.(22) After Dunnett passed the row houses to his law partners in St. Johnsbury in 1920 (Shields and Conant), they were acquired by local blacksmith and land owner, Samuel Mills, in 1926 and remained in his ownership until his death in 1943. The granite industry declined in South Ryegate after 1930 and the loss of prosperity to the village was mirrored in the condition and appearance of the Row Houses. After John Paye became the owner in the late 1960's, the buildings were allowed to deteriorate to an extremely undesirable condition. Marking a recent upswing in business interest in South Ryegate, the Lind Houses are presently in the process of rehabilitation by their current owner, thereby preserved as models of speculative rental housing.
Beers, F. W., Atlas of Caledonia County, Vermont, Japan: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1969, Original 1875.
Brayley, Arthur W., History of the Granite Industry of New England, Boston: E. L. Grimes Co., 1913.
Child, Hamilton, Gazetteer of Caledonia & Essex Counties, Vermont, 1764-1887, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Journal Co., 1887.
Gould, M. E. Antique Tin & Tole Ware: Its History & Romance, Rutland, VT: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1958.
Hemenway, A.M. Vermont Historical Gazetteer, 1867-91, Brandon, VT: Mrs. Carrie E. H. Page, 1891.
Miller, Edward & Frederic P. Wells, History of Ryegate, VT., St. Johnsbury, VT: Caledonian Co., 1913.
Town of Ryegate, VT., Bicentennial 1963, Littleton, NH: Courier Printing Co., 1963.
Vermont Workers, Vermont Resources, Brattleboro VT: Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, 1984.
Walbridge, J. H. (compiled by), "Groton & Ryegate", supplement to the Groton Times, Nov. 7, 1901, Groton, VT: The Times Print, 1901.
Population Schedules of the Census of the United States, Caledonia County, VT., National Archives Microfilm Publications
Ryegate Land Records.
Notes of Leslie G. Goat, VT Division for Historic Preservation, Montpelier, VT, 12/85.
DATE ENTERED: September 27, 1988.
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