Alice M. Ward Library (Jacobs Stand)
Municipality: Canaan, VT
Location: West Park Street
Site Type: Library
Vt Survey No: 0504-08.02, within Fletcher Park (Canaan Village) Historic District (State)
UTMs: (Zone 19)
National Register Nomination Information:
The Alice M. Ward Memorial Library is located on the westerly side of Fletcher Park in the village of Canaan, Vermont. It stands at the junction of West Park Street and the former Tannery Road, at the southern corner of the triangle-shaped park.
At the present time the library is a 1-1/2-story, 4 x 5-bay, timber-framed, gable-roofed, prostyle building with an asphalt shingle covered roof, clapboard siding, and a brick on coursed rubble foundation. It has an L-shaped plan with a 30'5" x 36'4" main section, a six-foot-deep portico, and a 16'2" x 42 2" wing. Subsequent additions to the original building include four pedimented, gable-roofed dormers added to the main roof; a shed-roofed lean-to with an enclosed gable-roofed entrance added to the rear wall of the main section; and a 1 x 1-bay, gable-roofed ell added to the south wall of the wing. In 1889 a 32'4" square, two-level, balloon-frame, hip-roofed barn, with a two-stage cupola, was added to the wing.
The building is a prostyle temple-form house with an Ionic portico in the Palladian manner. The portico is defined by a three-part Palladian composition consisting of a central elliptical-arched bay flanked by two smaller trabeated bays. In the broken-bed pediment of the portico is a recessed porch with a floor supported by the extended architrave of the flanking entablatures, and an elliptical-vaulted ceiling which springs from the cornice of the entablature returns. The porch exhibits a wood keystone, a wood-sheathed ceiling, and a railing with urn-shaped splats. It opens into the second-story hall through a doorway which exhibits full-length sidelights, fluted Ionic pilasters, and an entablature with a dentilated cornice. The doorway is flanked by double-hung sash windows with two-over-two lights. Originally the two columns that now support the recessed porch sustained the entablature below the bearing points of the arch. In their present position they defile the Palladian motif, and compromise the aesthetic quality and structural integrity of the portico.
The main body of the house exhibits a wall entablature with box cornices; double-hung sash windows with two-over-two lights; louvered window shutters; and a central entrance with full-length sidelights (originally half-length), four fluted Ionic columns, Scamozzi style capitals, and an entablature with a denticulated cornice.
A central hallway, flanked by coupled rooms on either side, extends from the front to the rear of the main block. Originally it had outside doors at either end, but the rear hall door now opens into the lean-to. The plan of the second floor repeats the layout of the first floor, so that the original main section had eight large rooms. Federal period details and an outstanding Adamesque staircase distinguish the building interior. Minor alterations made at various times to the interior finish and design have not destroyed the general character of the building.
The Alice M. Ward Memorial Library, originally known as Jacobs Stand, is historically significant as a stand on the Franklin, N.H., to Montreal, Canada, Stage route, and as the most northerly station in the United States on the Connecticut River route of the Underground Railroad. Architecturally,it is significant as a unique example of a Neo-Palladian temple-form house.
The stand was built in 1846 by Fernando C. Jacobs (1813-1889), a native of Warren, Vermont, who, in 1845 established a tannery on what was later known as Tannery Road, in Canaan village. According to his biographer, W.A. Fergusson, Jacobs moved to Canaan where he "enlarged his business, erected a tannery, and carried on tanning, shoe and harness manufacturing for sixteen years ..."(1) In 1860 he moved to Pittsburg, N.H., and built the Connecticut Lake House.
Jacobs Stand was the northern most stop in the United States on the stage route, established on January 1, 1847, between Franklin, N.H., and Montreal, Canada.(2) In addition to being a stand on the Montreal route, it was an accommodation on the Canaan to Lancaster stage route, established on September 2, 1846.(3) From October 22, 1849 to February 21, 1854, the Canaan post office was located in the building.(4)
Fernando C. Jacobs was actively involved in the public affairs of Canaan and Essex County. He was master in chancery in Essex County from 1850 to 1860; postmaster at Canaan village from 1849 to 1854; deputy sheriff for four years; a town lister; and a notary public.(5) In politics he was an ardent Republican. Pursuant to his political beliefs, he was involved in the antislavery movement. During the period he owned the stand, from 1846 to 1860, the building was reputedly used as a station on the Connecticut River route of the Underground Railroad.(6)
From 1860 to 1930 the building was used primarily as a residence. It was purchased in 1888 by Alice M, Ward (1863-1930), the wife of Dr, Artemas Ward, a local physician. Dr. Ward, who began his practice in Canaan shortly after graduating from the University of Vermont Medical College in 1881, located his office in a section of the house. While the Wards owned the building, the present hip-roofed barn was built and the gable dormers were added to the main roof.
In the Last Will and Testament of Alice M. Ward the property was bequeathed to the to the town of Canaan, with the understanding that it would be used as a "Public Library (and reading room if desired)."(7) At a special town meeting held on December 30, 1930, the town voted 120 to 31 to accept the bequest.(8) Since that time the building has been used partly as a public library and residence.
The erection of a Neo-Palladian style building approximately twenty-six years after the advent of Jeffersonian Classicism and forty years before the Neo-Classical Revival, is unusual. Jacobs' motives for building in the style are not known. The building may have been a formal expression of his social and political ideals; therefore, like Thomas Jefferson, whose principles were much revered in Vermont at the time, Jacobs may have found in Roman and Palladian architecture the appropriate symbolism for American Democracy,
Coos County Democrat. IX. (Lancaster, N.H., (September 2, 1846; February 2, 1847).
Fergusson, W.A. History of Coos County, New Hampshire. Syracuse: W.A. Fergusson and Company, 1888.
Holmes, Beatrice Shoff. History of Canaan, Vermont. Canaan: Beatrice Shoff Holmes, 1976.
DATE ENTERED: June 3, 1980.
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