Municipality: Ryegate, VT
Location: Groton-Peacham Road
Site Type: House
Vt Survey No: --
UTMs: (Zone 18)
National Register Nomination Information:
The Whitehill House is oriented to the south, southeast perpendicular to the Groton-Peacham Road with the east gable end elevation facing the road and the front elevation facing south. The house is set back approximately 450 feet from the road part way up the side of a gently rising hill and is surrounded by expansive open fields.
The house is rectangular in shape measuring approximately 43 by 34 feet and is 1-1/2 stories high above the foundation with a gable roof, the ridge of which is parallel to the front and rear elevations. Attached to the southern end of the west gable end elevation is a clapboarded 1-1/2 story barn of braced, post-and-beam construction with a sheet metal covered gable roof, the ridge of which is parallel to the ridge of the house., Attached to the northeast corner of the house is a clapboarded 1-1/2 story ell of braced, post-and-beam and vertical plank construction with a sheet metal covered roof, the ridge of which is perpendicular to the ridge of the house, and with a shed dormer across the length of the roof's east slope. Both the barn and the ell are later additions to the house of undocumented date.
The house is primarily of uncoursed granite fieldstone construction throughout, including the foundation, with sections on the rear and east gable end elevations of post-and-beam construction sided with clapboards, The fieldstone construction runs the length of the front and west gable end elevations and returns for approximately 10 feet across the east gable end elevation and for approximately 25 feet across the rear elevation. The fenestration in the fieldstone sections has rough cut granite lintels and sills and the northwest, southwest and southeast corners are delineated by large rough cut granite quoins.
The front and rear elevations a re each five bays across with a center entrance. A brick chimney stack for two fireplaces is centered on the ridge of the west gable end elevation and a 1-story porch with one square intermediate post is recessed into the east gable end elevation between the fieldstone section of the elevation and the ell. A gable dormer is centered between the two east bays on the roof's south slope. Both the recessed porch and the gable dormer are also later additions of undocumented date.
The first floor plan of the house is, across the front, one large corner room on either side of a center entrance and stair hall, and, across the rear, one large center room with a small corner room on either side. The wall between the northwest and southwest corner rooms has been removed. A fireplace is located on the outside wall where the flue is an integral part of the fieldstone construction in each of those rooms but the fireplace in the northwest room has been blocked up. The fireplace in the southwest room is massive in scale and is constructed out of three large rough cut granite blocks; two end blocks measuring approximately 36 by 36 by 10 inches which are set on edge and which support a lintel measuring approximately 10 feet 6 inches in length, 20 inches in height and 6-1/2 inches in width. The second floor is unfinished except for a room in the southeast corner behind the gable dormer. With the exception of the vertical beaded tongue-and-groove panelling in the center entrance hall and the horsehair plaster and simple woodwork in the first and second floor southeast corner rooms, the interior finish has been either removed altogether or replaced by later materials.
A fine example of vernacular Federal style domestic architecture and load bearing stone masonry construction, the Whitehill House is the oldest surviving structure in the Town of Ryegate. Erected in 1808 by James Whitehill, an immigrant from Inchinnan Parish, Scotland, who settled in Ryegate in 1793, the house is also the oldest surviving structure erected by an immigrant from Inchinnan Parish. One of the large number of immigrants from Inchinnan Parish who emigrated to America and settled in Ryegate in the last quarter of the eighteenth century and the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Whitehill was a prosperous farmer and the founded of the Ryegate Reformed Presbyterian Church.
The Town of Ryegate was first settled in 1774 by Scottish colonists from Inchinnan Parish following the purchase (on October 2, 1773) of the southern half of the township, approximately 11,500 acres, from John Witherspoon by the Scotch America Company of Farmers of Inchinnan Parish. The Scotch America Company of Farmers was a stock company which incorporated on February 5, 1773, for the purpose of purchasing and colonizing a tract of land in America. John Witherspoon, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the President of Princeton College, who owned the entire township, reserved for his own use a 600-acre tract of land in the northwest corner of the township. It was this 600-acre tract of land, later known as the "Witherspoon Tract" which James Whitehill purchased and settled in 1798.
Throughout the last quarter of the eighteenth century and until 1820 when the company terminated formal operations, most of the Scottish colonists who settled in Ryegate were shareholders in the Scotch America Company of Farmers. The managers of the company took a special interest in the Ryegate colony and even made special inducements to desireable families to emigrate to the colony and settle. The company loaned money to the emigrants for their expenses on their journey between Scotland and America and financed the purchase of building lots and farm tracts with liberal payment terms. Even though James Whitehill emigrated from Inchinnan Parish, apparently he was not a shareholder in the Scotch America Company of Farmers and did not emigrate to Ryegate under the company's sponsorship.
The Whitehill House was continuously owned by the Whitehill family until 1928 when the ownership of the house and property was transferred to the Whitehill Home and Library Association.
Miller, Edward and Frederick Wells, History of Ryegate, Vermont; The Caledonia Company; St. Johnsbury, Vermont: 1913.
DATE ENTERED: May 30, 1975.
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