Lee Farm complex
Municipality: Waterford, VT
Location: NW & SE sides of TH25 ca. 450' SW of Route 18
Site Type: Farm
Vt Survey No: 0316-03
UTMs: (Zone 19)
National Register Nomination Information:
The Lee Farm is a complex of five buildings situated in a small agricultural valley at the base of Waterford Mountain in the northern part of the town of Waterford. The house (#1), small barn (1c), harness shop (#3), and remodeled tenants' house (#4) date from the mid-nineteenth century. The large barn (#2) and equipment shed (#5) from the early twentieth century were constructed when the farming intensity and number of livestock were increased. The Greek Revival, 2-1/2 story, wood frame main house of 3 x 2 bays was built c.1859. This eaves front dwelling is distinguished by paneled corner pilasters and complete entablature, facade details mirrored in the central entrance surrounds. The main block is connected with two wings (1a and 1b) and a small barn ell (1c of the same period to a large gambrel roofed barn (#2), which was built in 1911 and is situated to the southwest. Existing as separate structures in the complex is a former hen house now used as a harness shop (#3),built c.1875, a tenants' residence (#4), built c. 1870 and remodeled c. 1970, and an equipment shed (#5) of c. 1920. The Lee Farm retains its architectural and agricultural integrity despite recently completed Interstate 93 with entrance and exit ramps just to the northwest.
Located near Stiles Pond and what remains of the once thriving village of Waterford Hollow, the large Greek Revival farmhouse and related outbuildings attest to their original location of considerable importance in the retention of the architectural grandeur of a thriving farm complex in a rural area where homes were more often far more modest of scale and detail. The Lee Farm originally encompassed about 300 acres (a portion of which is included in the nomination), its surrounding acreage integral to the architectural cohesiveness of the complex in being utilized in agricultural pursuits since the early nineteenth century.
The main block (#1) of the Lee Farm built in c. 1859, is 2-1/2 stories, 3x2 bays, with an asphalt shingle roof, two interior end chimneys and clapboard siding. The fieldstone foundation is topped with brick and faced on the exterior with hewn granite blocks. The framing is dimensionally sawn with rafters, floor joists and studs fastened with cut iron nails. In keeping with its rural vernacular character, elements of the Greek Revival style are articulated in details rather than in overall form or in large scale structural elements such as a portico. The principal facade is enframed with paneled corner pilasters and a complete, though simply articulated entablature, with a molded box cornice and gable returns. The fenestration is uniform with 6/6 sash, lintels with molded cornices and flanking louvered wooden shutters. The main entrance repeats on a smaller scale the details of the facade treatment. Approached by a series of granite steps stretching the width of the entrance surround, the four raised panel door is flanked by 3/4 sidelights and simple pilasters supporting a complete entablature with a projecting moulded cornice.
A 1-1/2 story, gable roofed wing (1a) with a ridge chimney carries through the Greek Revival character of the main block with its six bay shed roofed front porch with three fluted Doric columns. Fenestration and door surrounds repeat the details of the main block; the dining room four panel door is distinguished by two vertical lights. Simply articulated with plain cornerboards and entablature with gable returns, elements of more recent vintage appear to be a long continuous shed dormer piercing the front southeasterly slope of the roof and a shed roofed porch at the northwest rear. The framing visible in the unfinished attic portion of this wing is mixed post and beam with sawn dimensional members.
The plan of the main block is a variation of the Georgian type, with the living room/ library opening into each other by the apparent removal of the partition wall on the southeast portion of the plan. The interior of the main block features shouldered architrave window and door trim in the central entrance hall and first floor front rooms, which also have molded rectangular cross panels below the windows. Plain trim and architrave trim embellish the remaining rooms of the main block. The central entrance hall is distinguished by an open straight run stairway with a turned newel post characteristic of the period. The four panel doors vary between raised panels, which are painted, and plain panels, which are hand grained, in both the main block and residential wing (1a). Floors in the main block and wing are softwood with boards varying in width from 8" to 12". A painted corner china cabinet in the living room/ library with semicircular arched glass multipaned doors, square keystone and spring blocks with patera and molded cornice is fastened with cut nails and appears to be of the period of 1830-1860; it was brought from Philadelphia c. 1890. The southern end chimney stack forms a corner chimney in the dining room of the wing which features a fireplace with a molded rectangular cross panel below a cornice mantel and raised panel cabinet doors above. Wainscoting in this dining room is horizontal beaded boarding with a simple chairrail. The attic in the wing contains a large built-in floor loom with various spinning wheels and yarn winders used by the early members of the Lee family.
The residential unit is connected to the 2-1/2 story, gable-front studio/barn ell (1c) by a 1 story, 1 bay, gable roofed carriage shed with a full width opening with braced corners (1b). The barn, built c. 1860, is 2x3 bays, constructed with hewn timbers and features a ridgepole and bents with purlins in the roof structure. Distinguished by plain cornerboards, frieze and box cornices, the siding varies between clapboard and shingles and the roofing material is sheet metal. Fenestration is varied, with original 6/6 sash having plain trim. Two 3-part picture windows pierce the southwest and northwest facades, while the first story gable front features horizontal sash with vertical muntins. Altered in the mid-twentieth century with a central entrance, the gable front as seen in a view of the 1920's shows only two windows with 6/6 sash and a double barn door on the northeast half. These changes do not significantly detract from the primary contribution of the barn as an example continuous architecture, for the structure retains its original massing, form and location. The original barn (1c) is connected to the large, 3 level gambrel roofed barn (#2) by a small shed at the rear of the small barn where formerly was located a round wooden silo. Built in 1911, this barn is post and beam of 3x7 structural bays, and has a gable roofed inclined covered ramp with multilighted transom (2a) providing access to the southwest end of the third level. Stanchions on the second level have hinged feed doors opening onto the central drive. The third level exhibits large hay bays on either side of a central drive. The lowest level is a free stall area with access from the northwest facade. The barn has a concrete foundation, vertical board siding, sheet metal roof and a central square cupola with rectangular louvered vents, hipped roof and weathervane. A gable roofed milkroom projects from the southwest facade (2b).
Located across town highway #25 to the southeast of the small barn wing (1c) is a former chicken coop which was built c. 1875 (#3). Now used as a harness shop and woodshed, this 1-1/2 story, gable roofed structure is post and beam with 1x3 structural bays set on a fieldstone foundation. The roof is sheet metal with a ridge chimney located off-center. The novelty and clapboard siding is enframed with plain cornerboards and frieze and simple eaves. The open woodshed bay on the northwest facade has braced corners.
The tenants' residence, remodeled c. 1970, was built c. 1870. It is a simple 1-1/2 story, gable roofed, wood frame structure on a fieldstone foundation with concrete facing. Plain cornerboards, frieze and cornices articulate the facade, which originally had 6/6 sash. Most of the fenestration has been replaced by modern single and 1/1 sash. A large shed roofed porch changes the pitch of the front northeast slope of the roof, while a gable ell extends to the southwest rear. Although it has been altered, it contributes to the farm complex through historical association and location and could be restored to its original appearance.
The large equipment shed (#5) located at the southwest corner of the nominated property may have been built c. 1920. This long, 1 story gable roofed structure is open on 6 of the 7 bays on its front wall. The shed is of post and beam construction with reused timbers and sawn lumber.
The roof is sheet metal and the siding is novelty and horizontal boards. Each bay is framed by canted braces; the far right bay is enclosed and has a sliding barn door.
The Lee farmhouse is a fine example of the Greek Revival style as it was interpreted in rural Vermont. The large 2-1/2 story structure is uncommon in the area, as farm dwellings were most often of the 1-1/2 story variety. Together with its various wings and ells extending to the barn to provide shelter from the harsh northern climate, the whole is an excellent representative of the "continuous architecture" indigenous to the state. The barn of 1911 is a particularly large and well designed structure, indicative of the prosperity resulting from the Lee family agricultural pursuits.
The current 187 acres of the Lee farm has been in agricultural use since settled by John Lee of Moultonborough, N.H. in June of 1801.(1) The first homestead was located farther to the southeast, where the present town highway once passed over Waterford Mountain. Crumbling foundations are still evident on the spot where the first house is said to have burned.(2) Nathaniel Lee, John's only son, built the present large and commodious residence using lumber sawn at his own mill and the assistance of his five sons shortly before the Civil War.(3) Judging from the Beers map of 1875, various outbuildings, including a barn, may still have been in use at the site of the first settlement on top of the mountain, perhaps explaining the late construction of the large barn near the present house. Nathaniel bred Durham cattle; when his son, Albert E., took over farming the homestead of 300 acres, by 1887 he produced maple sugar from 400 maple trees and kept 14 cows and 15 head of other stock.(4)
This sizable farmstead served in its early days as a haven for travellers as well as a farm. The Lee farmhouse was noted in Nathaniel Lee's obituary of Feb. 26, 1885: "... Some 25 years ago he built a new and commodious house on the place, which has not only been a pleasant home for his family, but a hospitable retreat for all who came to it..."(5) The hospitality of the Lee home was mentioned again in his wifešs obituary, when it was noted that the rich and poor were equally welcome there and that "for years, a comfortable bed was kept for tramps and the "Prophets' Chamber" was also there."(6) Just what exactly this chamber was used for is a matter of conjecture today; perhaps it was used to house travelling preachers. However, it seems to have been a familiar term of the period and its existence in the Lee home was considered significant at that time. Bertha Lee, who acquired the farm in c. 1920, took travellers in as a business when she ran a summer tourist home, as well as farming with the help of a hired man, Ray Matthews, who assisted with some 50 head of Guernsey cows.(7)
The large farm complex alludes in its relative grandeur to the early days of what was then known as Waterford Hollow, when that village was formerly of "considerable importance, having a church, store, hotel, oil-mills and saw mill" and when the proximity of Stiles Pond "rendered the locality a pleasant summer retreat."(8) The Stiles family, who settled nearby, were developers of the various mills at the outlet of the pond. After business passed to nearby East St. Johnsbury and Concord, the village declined until now all that is left is the nearby cemetery and several farms bypassed by the newly constructed Interstate 93.
The majority of the buildings on the Lee Farm remain intact as originally built and, although the main house is presently occupied only during the summer months, the farm continues to display the characteristic features of a prosperous and well maintained hill farm. The extensive library and the original furnishings and equipment oŖ the house give one the impression that the original Lee forebears have never left their beloved home. Steps have been taken by the current owners to insure the continued agricultural use of the farm and to preserve its architectural and historical integrity; this concern necessary due to potential development pressure from the nearby interstate. One plan for the future includes sensitively converting the original small barn into a studio/apartment.
Beer F. W., Atlas of Caledonia County, Vt., N.Y.: F. W. Beers & Co., 1875.
Child, Hamilton, Gazetteer of Caledonia & Essex Counties 1764-1887. Syracuse, NY: The Syracuse Journal Co., 1887.
Interview, Mr. Edward B. Lee, Jr., Nov. 1982.
The St. Johnsbury Caledonian, St. Johnsbury. Vt . . vols. 48 & 63.
DATE ENTERED: May 26, 1983.
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