Barnet Center Historic District
Municipality: Barnet, VT
Location: Town Highways 7 & 55, Barnet Center
Site Type: Historic District
Vt Survey No: --.
UTMs: (Zone 18)
National Register Nomination Information:
The rural Barnet Center Historic District is located on a hill above the Stevens River in the geographic center of the town of Barnet, and is composed of five wood-frame structures dating from 1790 to 1915 and a related church burial ground. The 2-1/2 story United Presbyterian Church of Barnet Center (#3), built in 1849 in the Greek Revival style, visually dominates the District through its height and its prominent siting at a high point on the hill. Downhill and adjacent to the Church lies the Church burial ground (#4a) founded in 1790, and its 1915 tool shed (#4b). Next to the Church, up the hill, is the c.1898 vernacular vestry building (#2). The 1790 Cape Cod style home of the original pastor of the congregation, Reverend Goodwillie, (#1) is located about 200 yards further uphill, and the Classic Cottage style Manse (#5), the present parsonage built c.1830, is situated approximately an equal distance downhill near the Stevens River. The group preserves the nineteenth century setting of a small rural hill village which centered its life around the church.
The district stretches along unpaved town highway #7 which climbs a hill to the north of the Stevens River. Because other villages within the town later developed along its various waterways at locations better suited to manufacturing, twentieth century development and consequent infilling of original open space have bypassed Barnet Center, which today still illustrates distances originally accorded various structures in early hill villages. The District aligns Town Highway 7 for a distance of about mile, with open fields and wooded areas linking the District's structures. From the Stevens River, the Manse (#5), the Church Burial ground (#4a) and tool shed (#4b), and the Church (#3) step up the hill amidst grassy fields punctuated by occasional trees. From the vantage point of the Church (#3), a magnificent vista of the surrounding countryside and the mountains beyond opens to the southeast. The vestry (#2) is situated next to the Church, but beyond it, again the spacing of buildings widens. Woods separate the vestry from the Reverend Goodwillie House (#1), rendering it visually isolated from the rest of the District. Originally, this may not have been the case, as early settlers typically cleared the land of trees in areas of anticipated village development. Occupants of the Goodwillie House may have looked down on the small crossroads development of the Church, and later the vestry and a district schoolhouse which stood across from the Church until circa 1950.
Descriptions of individual buildings in the District follow (numbers refer to the enclosed sketch map):
1) Reverend Goodwillie House, 1790.
Constructed with a post and beam frame on a fieldstone and brick foundation, the 5 x 3 bay house has a gable roof of asphalt shingles with two non-original interior chimneys of differing proportions. The surrounding terrain slopes to the south to expose the basement story at what is now the rear of the house. Sheathed in clapboards and trimmed with plain cornerboards and watertable, the house has 2/2 and 8/8 windows with plain trim. The eaves are uncommonly high above the windows and are articulated with a simple frieze, molded box cornice and modern metal gutters. A noteworthy characteristic of the north front facade is the unusually tall, three-light transom surmounting the center front entrance. The non-original door has four panels with the upper two infilled with glass.
A one story, shed roofed porch constructed of reused timbers projects from the front half of the east gable end. A small shed roofed wood storage shed is attached to the west gable end.
A photograph of 1912 reveals that the house has undergone some minor changes. It shows that the roof was of wood shingles, sash was 6/6 , and the interior ridge chimney stacks were square and identical to one another. The photograph also shows that a 1-1/2 story gable roofed wing was attached to the east gable end of the house. It was sheathed with vertical board siding and contained pigs in the open lower level with a woodshed in the enclosed upper portion. A gable roofed, 1-1/2 story horsebarn was attached to the northeast front corner of the wing. Across town highway #55 and not included in the district are the former locations of a c.1900 cowbarn and a c.1930 milkhouse that were then associated with the house.
The plan of the Cape is a variation of the Georgian type, the layout around two interior chimneys necessary because of the extremely large proportions. Actually a 2-1/2 story structure, the basement story opens at ground level to the former road which is said to have passed behind the house. A centrally located, infilled door on the rear hall portion of the first story indicates that this may have been the case.
The interior of the first story of the house has a central hallway with stairs. Flanking rooms are arranged around the two interior chimneys which originally had three fireplaces opening into each stack. Ceilings are quite high throughout, in keeping with the large scale of the house. The two most formal rooms are in the present rear, indicating that this indeed may have been the front at one time. The room in the southwest corner is the most formal. It has a molded chair rail and baseboard with wainscoting characterized by raised molded crosspanels. The room has four panel doors with norfolk iron latches and molded architrave trim around doors and windows. The chimney in this portion of the house has been rebuilt, is much smaller in scale and contains only one flue. A modern bath on the west side of this chimney occupies the space once used as Rev. Goodwillie's office - it also originally had a fireplace. The northwest corner chamber, now furnished as a bedroom, has a plain baseboard and lowered ceiling. A stove located here is served by the modern chimney existing in the space of the original massive stack. '"Gunstock" framing posts, tapered from the top, mark the corners of the house and hall. The parlor in the southeast corner is now furnished as a living room and has Federal style six panel doors and a fireplace in the rebuilt chimney stack. On either side of this eastern chimney stack are two small rooms: one used as a bedroom (borning room) which originally had a fireplace, the other serving as a warming room where the chimney stack has a shelf to serve this purpose. The northeast corner room is used as a kitchen and has a working fireplace. The hallway, which appears to originally have been open in the Georgian manner, currently has an entrance vestibule in the present north front that is articulated with simple wide board wainscoting, a plain baseboard and a molded chair rail. The stairway in the rear portion of the hall has a turned post, square balusters and molded handrail.
The straight run stairway to the basement descends below the off-center staircase to the second story. The kitchen was located in the southwest corner of the basement level; the old bake oven has been removed. Sash on the basement level is 8/8 and a door leads to the exterior at the south rear. In the northwest corner is a root cellar constructed of dry laid fieldstones. The southeast corner of the basement level has a door to the east side exterior of the dwelling and two windows, and contains the rubble base of the original chimney in that portion. A special feature of the basement is a "secret chamber" purportedly used to hide runaway slaves. A false brick wall constructed some two feet behind the interior dividing rubble wall leaves a narrow passage said to have been used for this purpose in the days it served as a "station" on the underground railroad. The portion of the basement at the northeast corner is a utility space. The finish of the two former front rooms on the lowest level is plaster and lath laid over the structural brick foundation. The rooms now house collections of the Barnet Historical Society, which owns the dwelling.
The attic story is partially finished with two small chambers on the east end, one large chamber on the west end and a central stairhall which remains unfinished. Framing here reveals rafters with purling, principal rafters and a ridgepole.
2) Vestry, c.1898 and 1967.
The front facade is given a Queen Anne character with its 3 bay, 1 story, hip roofed porch which has turned posts and incised, scrollsawn brackets. Sheltered under it are two entrances. The left one is original. The right one replaced a 2/2 window. The left entry has a door with two leaves, each articulated with a small cross panel above a large vertical panel, with two small cross panels and a square panel below. The newer entry door has a cross panel above a square light and three lower cross panels.
An enclosed, shed roofed covered stairway leads from ground level to the basement story at the south rear of the main block. The rear 28' x 24' 4 x 4 bay, 1-1/2 story gabled wing is sided with clapboards, has plain cornerboards and rests on a concrete block foundation. Sash is 12/2 with plain trim.
The interior of the main block is entirely finished with fir beaded tongue and groove sheathing. The wainscoting is vertical boarded and is separated from the horizontal sheathing above in the walls and ceiling by a molded chair rail. Floors are of narrow hardwood. The first story contains a kitchen and meeting room, with a dining room in the rear wing. The second floor contains a dormitory which is used in the winter for worship services when the neighboring church is closed.
3) United Presbyterian Church of Barnet Center, 1849.
The present simply articulated structure is a gable front, 5 x 3 bay, 2-1/2 story block of approximately 50' x 45'. The post and beam framed structure is set on a granite block foundation, is clad with clapboards and has a sheet metal roof with an interior brick ridge chimney at the rear. The Church's Greek Revival character is revealed in its complete eaves entablature with gable returns supported at the corners by paneled pilasters. Twin entrances on the west gable front facade repeat the articulation of the main block with flanking paneled pilasters supporting a complete entablature with a molded cornice. The doors each have two leaves with two long raised vertical panels. The doors are approached on wide granite block steps which were cut on Blue Mountain in Ryegate, Vermont and originally served the brick church of 1829 on the site. Window trim is plain with wood lintels and the sash is mixed: original 12/8 and a single 12 sash in the upper stories of the front facade contrast with Queen Anne stained glass sash of 1910 in the first story front and side facades. The stained glass sash consists of a large square frosted light surrounded by small colored lights. The square belfry rises in two stages and is capped by a slightly pedimented parapet with paneled pedestals at the corners. Each stage repeats on a smaller scale the Greek Revival detailing of the main block: a simple complete entablature with paneled corner pilasters. The second stage has a rectangular louver centered on each face.
The church, as seen in a photo of 1901, had 30/20 sash on the side facades with 12/12 sash on the first story of the front facade. All windows were flanked by louvered wood shutters. An interior chimney rising from the northwest front corner of the wood shingle roof indicated the presence of a kitchen on the second story. White hitching posts formed a semicircle around the front of the church, while long carriage sheds with segmentally arched open bays stretched behind. Another long carriage shed of similar articulation was located across the road (town highway #7).
The interior of the Barnet Center church contains a simple rectangular sanctuary of two story height and an entrance vestibule with an enclosed small upper hall above in the second story. At the northwest corner of the vestibule is a small room used as a sitting room, with the small room similarly located above used formerly as a kitchen and presently to store historic documents. The staircases to the attic and belfry and to the basement level are located in the southwest corner of the vestibule.
The pews in the simple sanctuary of the church face the twin inner doors that enter from the vestibule. The pulpit is centered between the doors. The floor of the sanctuary is not flat, but is raked upward toward the rear to allow for better viewing from the back pews. The pressed metal ceiling was added to the sanctuary in the remodelling of c.1908, replacing a former plaster ceiling. Its coved cornice edging and center geometric medallion pattern are painted a different color than the overall 4-lobed blocks pattern of the ceiling. A1908 Estey Organ purchased from the First Presbyterian Church in West Barnet c.1956, and now with electric motor, lies in the southwest corner of the sanctuary.
Original pine pews with wood graining have slats for stovepipe hats and shelves for handbags located under the seats. At the rear of the pulpit, which was lowered and widened c.1895, is wood grained wainscoting with a chair rail. A basket arched arcade with octagonal columns was painted on the full height wall behind the pulpit, but it is no longer visible. A late 19th century photograph also shows a sounding board behind the pulpit; it has also been removed. The twin entrances between the vestibule and the sanctuary have blind transoms and plain surrounds. The doors themselves have two vertical panels above a narrow cross panel. Interior window trim is plain with cornerblocks. Electric light fixtures added in 1951 have frosted glass globes on chains. When originally wired in 1911, the church had simple drop cords attached to sockets with fluted, molded shades. In a view of a c. 1890, a large kerosene chandelier hung from the center of the ceiling, and an 1870's 30-day Seth Thomas clock was located above the pulpit.
The timber framing of the roof which enables the 48' clear span over the sanctuary is unique and is evidently derived from hay barns where a similar large span was necessary to allow hay wagons to negotiate turns. In the case of the Barnet Center Church, the queen post framing system of a roof with shorter span has had the larger span superimposed above and beyond it through lengthening the queen posts and the tie beams. The six principal massive 12' x 12' rafter timbers are hewn and joined at the peak with no ridgepole. The six bays are joined to one another along each slope of the roof by two purlins and common rafters, all of which are up and down sawn. Braced "collarbeams" provide further rigidity across each of these six bays. Across the 48', three bay center span, hewn queen posts are attached on their lower ends to hewn tie beams with metal straps and are further strengthened by braced "collarbeams". These "collarbeams" are not tied in at the level of the intersection of the queen post with the principal rafter, as is customary. Instead, they are located further down on the queen posts where massive braces, running parallel to but below principal rafters join with the posts - these braces located where traditional rafters usually join the queen post. The framing system is quite uncommon and has been the subject of study by engineering students of several universities.
4a) Barnet Center Cemetery, 1791.
5) The Manse, c.1830.
The main block has an asphalt shingle roof with two interior end chimneys and sits on a granite block foundation. The post and beam structure displays Greek Revival detail in its paneled corner pilasters which support a complete eaves entablature with gable returns and a raking frieze with a molded box cornice on the gable ends. The recessed central entrance is detailed with a smaller scaled version of the facade detail: paneled corner pilasters enframe a recessed door with four raised molded panels and 3/4 sidelights - all trimmed with symmetrical molding with corner blocks decorated with a raised pyramid motif. A modern (c.1970) pedimented entrance hood with thin metal supports shelters the entrance. Sash on the front and side is 6/6; that on the rear is replacement 1/1. All fenestration features plain trim with wood lintels. Raking windows open over the roof of the wing. The 1-1/2 story wing appears to be original to the house and contains a summer kitchen and woodshed. It repeats the entrance motif of the main block with a 3 bay recessed entrance leading to the living space and featuring flanking plain pilasters, a four panel door and flanking fixed 8-pane sash with molded lower panels. The facade features a plain frieze and molded cornice. Windows are 12/8 in the south front and 9/6 in the gable end with plain trim and wood lintels. A sliding vertical board door replaces two original openings with braced corners. A 1 story, gable roofed privy projects from the northeast portion of the gable end. The roof of the wing is sheathed in asphalt shingles.
The 1-1/2 story, gable roofed barn ell of c.1850 features vertical board siding. It is a 3 x 1 bay, post and beam structure containing full length, circular sawn joists and has fixed 6-light sash. A large sliding barn door occupies the center of the front facade of the barn.
Interior detail of the main block remains largely intact throughout and is more ornate than most farmhouses, as would befit the residence of a minister. The front hall, parlor and dining room feature symmetrical molding with cornerblocks and patera around windows and doors. Window trim extends to the molded baseboards and encloses a molded cross panel. The dining room on the southeast front has been enlarged by removing a small passage hallway in the rear which originally led from the entry in the wing to a rear hallway leading to the parson's study at the northwest rear. The parlor in the southwest front portion of the plan features an arched recess in the rear wall. The entry hall is differentiated from the central stairhall by a large rectangular opening with the same symmetrical trim used in the formal rooms. The off-center stairway features a turned Doric colonette newel post with molded handrail and plain balusters. The central hall leads through a door into a horizontal back hall leading from the kitchen in the northeast rear to the parson's study in the northwest rear. A series of doors leads from the entry in the wing to the study, a unique plan that enabled persons to visit the minister without passing through any of the rooms in tile house. A small central borning room at the rear has been converted to a bathroom. The kitchen has horizontal board wainscoting with a chair rail and contains an original woodbox which is fed through the summer kitchen in the wing. A cold pantry in the wing opens into the kitchen in the main block. A small entry room in the South front of the wing opens into, the dining room in the main block. A north rear entrance on the wing leads to the summer kitchen. A rear stairway ascends to the attic and a passage to the privy opens into the shed.
The second floor of the main block features four bedrooms that have the timber plate exposed, finished with woodwork and serving as a shelf on the interior gable ends. An unusual feature is a trapdoor over the recessed center front entrance which can be opened to allow ventilation into the central stairhall.
A large cow barn was formerly located to the north of the Manse.
5A) Shed, c.1940.
The Barnet Center Historic District represents a survival in an exceptionally pure form of the type of rural town center typical in the first hill settlements of northern Vermont. Now, as then, the settlement is focused on the prominently sited United Presbyterian Church, illustrating the importance accorded to spiritual development by the original settlers of the area, Scotch immigrants. The other buildings in the District all owe their existence to the influence of the Church. Architecturally, the well preserved structures are good vernacular translations of high style design, dating from the late 18th to early 20th centuries. Uncluttered by later infilling with commercial and manufacturing structures typical of the development of later villages, Barnet Center has been bypassed by modern development and retains its pristine integrity of architecture and setting.
When lands in Barnet were purchased in 1775 by an association of farmers from Perth and Stirling in Scotland, they became among the first in Vermont to be settled by direct immigration from abroad.(1) With them, the immigrants brought a new form of church government, Presbyterianism, to the Connecticut River Valley, where towns had primarily been settled by old Yankee families from other parts of New England.(2) In today's changed times, with a multitude of religions existing within the original limits of the parish, all competing with one another for followers and survival, it is difficult to comprehend the overwhelming influence that one single church and its religion had on the townspeople. In latter 18th century, it was held that proper religious observance was of the utmost importance to the welfare of any community and that, consequently, taxes of all residents should support the minister and church. Accordingly, in the charter of every new town, grants of land were made for the first settled minister and the location of those lands often determined the location of the first church and thus, the location of the first town center. The calling of the minister by the town jointly with the church continued until 1810, when more liberal public sentiment abolished the connection between the civil and religious bodies.(3)
The importance of the church and meeting house at the time of the settlement of Barnet Center cannot be duplicated by any one building of the present day. It was the center of social as well as religious life of the times, and breaks between morning and afternoon services were taken up by discussions of the issues of the day, both the weighty and the trivial. Membership in the Barnet Center church increased from 46 in 1791 to more than 200 in 1830, while on special days, upwards of 1,000 people came to church from surrounding towns.(4) Evolution of the Presbyterian church remained tied to religious events in Scotland; in 1840, various factions developed over an issue and in 1854 the present United Presbyterian Church was formed.(5)
First settlers of Barnet traveled to Newbury to worship, or met at the nearby McLaren farm in Barnet Center. Tradition asserts that the first meeting house of logs was built near the present church and town records show that the frame of a more formal structure was raised in 1787. It was not fully completed until 1800. Other than the fact that it is described as having galleries and square pew boxes, further reference as to the design of this frame meetinghouse is not available. It was moved aside, after being used for many years, when a Federal style brick church was built in 1829. It was later bought by Robert Harvey, who used the timbers to construct the former Ballou Block in Barnet Village.(6) The Brick Meeting House is depicted in a painting of c.1878 by Mrs. Thomas Goodwillie as having a central palladian window, three entrances with a fanlight over the center, 12/12 sash and a large spire. It was larger than the present church, measuring 56' x 66' and rising 25-1/2' to the eaves, and was constructed for a cost of $4,365. The bricks were provided by Alexander Lang, who owned a brick yard at the nearby Stevens River. Unfortunate]y, this church burned in February of 1849.
The determined villagers built the present Greek Revival style structure in record time; the frame was raised May 1st and the first sermon was preached in it on July 22, 1849 by Reverend Goodwillie. Details of its construction are recorded in various records. The large timbers were squared by hand. Carpenters were Lyndon residents John McGaffey and Charles Folsom with their sons. Lumber was sawn by Henry J. Somers in his mill located upstream on the Stevens River. The finish lumber, including the pews, was furnished by James Roy, and all planing, doors and window sash, were done by hand. The church was remodelled several times in the years around 1910, when the metal ceiling and Queen Anne sash were added, the pulpit was altered and the church was wired for electricity.
When Reverend David Goodwillie of Scotland was ordained in 1791, the town had a population of 572 in 94 families, most of whom resided in log cabins, and only a few rough roads not passable for four wheeled vehicles.(7) He had received a grant of 340 acres and purchased a small piece of land where he built the first parsonage, the Reverend Goodwillie house, in 1790 and 1791. Known as the second oldest habitable house in town, Reverend Goodwillie seemingly spared nothing in its construction.(8) The larger than ordinary size of the dwelling when compared with cape houses typical of the era, as well as the fact that it had the first wallpaper and lead water pipe in town bear witness to the importance of the minister in the community.(9)
The Goodwillie family maintained the spiritual wellbeing of Barnet settlers for many years: both the first preacher, Reverend David Goodwillie, and his son and successor, Reverend Thomas Goodwillie, preached for forty years. "This is a remarkable record. father and son pastors of one church for eighty years, perhaps without parallel in the U.S."(10) Thomas Goodwillie built the Manse, c.1830, which continues to serve as the parsonage. Its vernacular Greek Revival style is well articulated, indicating the importance accorded the pastor at the time, and remains architecturally intact. The interior finish is rather sophisticated and reflects the prosperity that the times allowed.
The cemetery adjacent to the church has been in continuous use since it was deeded in 1791. Its presence has been important in establishing a deeper emotional and more concrete physical connection over the centuries with the settlers of Barnet Center, who helped shape the architecture and setting of the district.
The vestry of c.1898 is the latest major building in this group of structures that were built as a direct result of the influence of the church. A simple, utilitarian structure in a vernacular Greek Revival/Queen Anne style, it is important as the harbinger of continued usage for the district: its use as the Green Mountain Camp since 1941 will soon be expanded to include utilization as a retreat center, as well as serving as the vestry of the Barnet Center Church.
The architectural character and form of the Barnet Center Historic District are determined by the presence of the United Presbyterian Church - a pivotal structure in geographic as well as thematic terms. The various church related buildings are owned by religious, historical and philanthropic societies that are aware of their historic importance, thereby insuring the architectural integrity of this pristine hill town center for future generations.
Child, Hamilton, Gazetteer of Caledonia & Essex Counties, 1764-1887. Syracuse, N.Y.: The Syracuse Journal Co.,1887.
Wells, Frederick Palmer. History of Barnet, Vermont. Burlington, Vermont: Free Press Printing Co., 1923.
Gibson, Milo Albert. Sesquicentennial, United Presbyterian Church, Barnet Center, Vt.: History 1790-1941, August 8, 9, 10, 1941.
Goodwillie, D.H., M.D. Centennial Anniversary of the United Presbyterian Church of Barnet, Caledonia County, Vermont, August 27, 1981
Beers, F.W., County Atlas of Caledonia Vermont, F.W. Beers and Company, New York, 1875.
Walling, H.F., Map of Caledonia County, Vermont, Baker and Tildon, New York, 1858.
Reverend Stanford Blankenship, Barnet Center, Vermont, July 1983.
DATE ENTERED: October 30, 1989.
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