Rutland was ushered into existence in 1761 on the pen of Benning Wentworth, accidental colonial governor of New Hampshire. In the 1740s Wentworth had been involved in some messy financial dealings with Spain over some timber sales which resulted in his personal bankruptcy. Meanwhile his father was agitating for the creation of a separate governorship for New Hampshire, which had been an overlooked slice of the Massachusetts Bay colony. Attempting to winch himself out of his financial morass Wentworth went after the British government and rather than pay him real money they gave him the governorship of New Hampshire.
Wentworth spent a quarter century in the office doling out land grants in what is now southern Vermont to pad his wallet. There was not always clear title to those lands, however, as residents of the Province of New York would attest. No matter to Wentworth - he would be in the grave twenty years before those matters would be sorted out when Vermont became a state in 1791. One of those grants went to John Manners, 3rd Duke of Rutland. The good duke never saw his verdant new lands but flipped the property to settlers along Otter Creek. For the better part of three generations the Village of Rutland trundled along like most New England towns - there were merchants and craftsmen and farmers all around. Raising merino sheep to provide high-quality wool was a popular endeavor. In 1784 Rutland became the county seat for Rutland County so a courthouse was erected.
The course of Rutland’s future changed in the 1830s thanks to circumstances thousands of miles away. In Tuscany, Italy the easily extractable marble from the quarries of Carrara - the world’s best stone - were becoming exhausted and ever greater depths were required. The locals in Rutland had been using top quality marble for headstones from outcroppings in the ground for headstones ever since the first burials in town. Now the first commercial quarry was opened in Dorset, considered to be the first marble quarry in the United States.
In the 1850s the railroad arrived in Rutland, which immediately made the town the transportation center of southern Vermont. So much marble was shipped out of Rutland that after the Vermont Marble Company was formed in 1880 it became powerful enough to control the rights to all the marble in Vermont, Alaska and Colorado. About that time the town split off. West Rutland and Proctor, where the quarries were, became separate municipalities and Rutland incorporated as Vermont’s third city.
The men who ran the marble quarries filtered their profits through businesses in Rutland and beat a steady path into politics, further wielding influence for the city. Much of the downtown area reflects the wealth from that era around the turn of the 20th century and the entire area, including 108 buildings, has been registered as a National Historic District. Our explorations to see the Marble City will begin with a work from the architect most responsible for the Rutland cityscape. Spoiler alert: we’re going to see a lot of marble...
Rutland City Hall
52 Washington Street at southeast corner of Merchants Row
The new century had scarcely begun in Rutland when on March 24, 1901 city hall burned to the ground, taking with it most of the furniture and much of the municipal records. The city received $11,547.40 in insurance. For a new government house another $20,000 in bonds were issued. The work for designing the new city hall was won by Arthur H. Smith. Smith was born in London, England in 1869 and sailed to America at the age of 20 with a University of Edinburgh education on his resume. He came to Rutland in 1892 to start the architecture branch of the Chappell & Burke civil engineering firm. He was on his own by 1897, becoming the area’s most prominent architect. For City Hall he delivered a modified Beaux Arts design for the three-bay red brick building with a projecting center block, crowned by a pediment. The building features brick pilasters with Doric capitals, a heavily dentillated cornice, stone stringcourse and ornate recessed entranceway topped by a small balustrade.
FACING CITY HALL, TURN LEFT AND WALK NORTH ON MERCHANTS ROW. TAKE A RIGHT ON WASHINGTON STREET.
Rutland Masonic Temple
51 Washington Street
Center Lodge #34 received its charter on January 11, 1855, bringing Freemasonry to Rutland. Rutland Lodge #79 of Free & Accepted Masons came into existence on June 11, 1868. The city’s masons moved into this three-story Neoclassical lodge in 1910. The architect was Frank Lyman Austin of Burlington. Austin was the third generation in a family of Vermont builders; he would eventually design a number of civic buildings and become the Vermont state architect. The Cairo Shriners also took space in the temple after their founding in the 1920s.
REVERSE YOUR STEPS TO MERCHANTS ROW AND TURN RIGHT. ‘
142 Merchants Row at northeast corner of Washington Street
Jay Gould was destined to become one of the most powerful railroad barons in United States history and his career started when he was 21 years old, buying up distressed shares in the Rutland and Washington Railroad in 1857 for pennies on the dollar. The line had been built n 1852 between Rutland and Rensselaer County, New York and the little railway became the foundation of Gould’s empire. That same year E. Foster Cook and Otis Bardwell erected this guest house and it is here that Gould made his home while staying in Rutland. He is reputed to have met his future partner, Jim Fisk, on the premises. The two became infamous in 1869 when they attempted to corner the U.S. market on gold. John Willey Crampton, then a 37-year old tinsmith, purchased the hotel in 1864 and managed the property for the remainder of the 19th century; his stables were said to contain some of the finest horses in all of Vermont. Under his direction the Bardwell was one of Vermont’s best railroad hotels. The corner building now does duty as low income subsidized housing.
128 Merchants Row
The 1920s and 1930s were the American age of the skyscraper. The Chrysler Building. The Empire State Building. In Vermont this is what passed as an awe-inspiring building. Although only seven stories high, the Service Building was Vermont’s tallest building when finished in 1930. Its Art Deco design emphasized its verticality, making the building seem taller than its 101 feet. The moneyman for the project was Carl B. Hinsman. Hinsman began his working life out of Rutland City High School as a mechanic for the Howe Scale Company in 1891. He worked his way up to the president’s office and also ran Baxter City Bank. The Boston firm of Franklin H. Hutchins & Arthur E. French handled the design of the building which Hinsman called the Service Building as a way to thank the community for its support of his career. For many years an amber glass globe shone from the tower atop the building that was used as a navigational beacon for pilots plying Vermont skies.
110 Merchants Row
Carrying the name of Vermont’s first governor, this four-story round-edge brick building stands as the brow of Merchants Row. The ground level is graced by dark green serpentine stone quarried from the Green Mountains, a mid-20th century alteration from its original appearance as the Rutland Savings Bank in the 1860s.
98 Merchants Row
Merchant’s Row was the most impressive commercial thoroughfare in Vermont in the 19th century. Even though downtown Rutland had been visited several times by fire in its early years, including the conflagration that destroyed City Hall, the city’s most destructive blaze occurred on this corner on February 16, 1906. The fire started in the Ripley Block but as the flames engulfed victims on Merchants Row and Centre Street the building on this corner was the largest casualty. The Bates House, as it was called, was the largest mercantile structure in Rutland. The large Second Empire style structure was owned by John Abner Mead, the president of the Howe Scale Company. Howe had been born in Fair Haven, Vermont in 1841 and after a stint in the Union Army during the Civil War he completed studies at Middlebury College and took a medical degree at Columbia University in New York City. After practicing in New York for two years he returned to Rutland where he mixed business and politics with his medicine. Mead was the first mayor of Rutland in 1893 and was serving in the Vermont House of Representatives when the “Bates House Fire” erupted. The fire claimed no lives but damages were estimated at $700,000; Mead’s loss, uninsured, was pegged at $150,000. The city fire department, which had organized in 1829 as the Rutland Fire Society, came under criticism for its response to the Sunday morning blaze and the fallout cost Chief George W. Dunton his job. The new Mead Building was a five-story Renaissance Revival showplace highlighted by dark green serpentine window trim and John Mead was settling into the governor’s office as it was being opened.
Clement Bank Building
85-89 Merchants Row
Charles Clement was an early player in the area marble quarries. Percival Wood Clement began clerking in the family business and became a partner at the age of 25 in 1871, along with older brother Wallace in the newly organized Clement and Sons Marble. Percival was also in charge of the Clement National Bank and the Rutland Board of Trade. Inevitably drawn into politics, Clement, a Democrat, was elected mayor of Rutland twice, served in the Vermont House of Representatives and took the oath of office as the 57th Vermont governor before dying in Rutland at the age of 80. The family bank building was constructed in the 1880s with a hint of Romanesque styling; subsequent alterations have provided unsympathetic classical ground level entrances.
88-92 Merchants Row
This is another building that rose from the ashes of the 1906 fire; it stands out along Merchants Row for its Renaissance Revival styling rendered in rusticated gray stone. You need to look up to appreciate its charms, however, as the lower levels have been compromised by an unfortunate Vermont Verde Antique stone dressing.
Ripley Bank Building
73-77 Merchants Row
Here is another heritage building with a compromised ground floor but up above you can see the Italianate stylings of this mid-19th century commercial building. It boasts corner quoining and narrow roundhead windows. The white stone building is currently the home of the Boys & Girls Club.
Rutland Opera House
69-71 Merchants Row
You will need to crane your neck once again to appreciate the remains of the Rutland Opera House. Rutland native Edward H. Ripley enlisted in the 9th Vermont Infantry in 1862 at the age of 23. He was continually promoted throughout the Civil War until reaching the rank of brevet brigadier general for his gallantry. Wounded twice, he was given the assignment of leading Union troops into the Confederate capital of Richmond after surrender. Back in Vermont, he ran a marble business with his brother before selling out to become a developer and horse breeder. One of the buildings he bankrolled was the Rutland Opera House in 1881. The original, designed by William Appleton Potter, who would go on to become supervising architect of the United States Treasury, burned in 1875. Ripley’s opera house has been many times altered as it has been converted into a department store and then retail and office space.
TURN LEFT ON WEST STREET.
United States Post Office and Courthouse
151 West Street
For many years this site was occupied by Memorial Hall, a meeting place and museum dedicated to the Civil War, constructed in 1883 with donations of marble from local quarries. But with the onset of the Great Depression the federal government went on a building spree to kickstart jobs and one of their missions was to give many American towns, big and small, a handsome new post office. For many towns it would be the first significant piece of architecture on the streets. Rutland’s in 1931 took the shape of a Neoclassical four-story temple with three stories of brick facade above an oversized ground floor of rusticated marble. A sextet of fluted Corinthian columns support a full pediment. Corner quoins and a balustraded parapet complete the presentation. Government work was also created for artists in the form of post office wall murals; six by Steven Belaski depict events in Vermont history.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS TO THE CORNER OF WEST STREET AND MERCHANTS ROW. ON YOUR LEFT IS...
Marble Savings Bank
47 Merchants Row at northwest corner of West Street
This Renaissance Revival ornament arrived in 1924. The Marble Savings Bank was Edward Ripley’s bank, the son of the pioneering marble merchant William Ripley. Ripley died in 1915 at the age of 75 and did not witness the move down Merchants Row of his bank to this location. The white jewel box has lasted nearly a century near to its original form.
121 West Street at northeast corner of Merchants Row
All buildings can do is stand and take it when the winds of architectual tastes change direction. This was the Quinn Block when it was raised in 1895. By the middle of the 20th century many downtowns began to consider their inventory of brick buildings tired and dated. Often sheets of aluminum were attached to facades to radiate modernity. In the 21st century an appreciation for heritage buildings is leading to the removal of those shiny dresses and classical decorations crafted from - in this case - styrofoam. Such is the case with Clement Building where the metal casing was removed in 2016 and the brick saw sunlight for the first time in half a century.
56 Merchants Row at southeast corner of West Street
This five-story commercial block with a chamfered corner is the “new” Gryphon Building, from 1915. It is fashioned from buff brick and trimmed in white marble. It carries its classical sensibilities from the “original” three-story Gryphon that stretches along West Street and boasts oriel windows on the upper floors. With a single bay, the new Grypon also executes on the transition with an oriel window. Both buildings were done by architect Arthur A. Smith; he kept his offices in the new section. A large pressed metal depiction of the mythical gryphon - part lion, part eagle - once graced the cornice over the corner entrance. Now you can look up on the east facing brick facade of the original Gryphon for your fantasy fix.
112 West Street
This simple brick structure hides it well but it began life in 1910 as a performing stage. Frank J. Tighe and Thomas W. McKay were the co-lessees of the building; Tighe’s father Thomas had managed a New England touring company previously. The classical affectations remain, including the pressed metal denticulated cornice and stone trim on the rounded openings. When converted to a movie house, operated by Mullin & Pananski out of Boston, the well-proportioned building picked up a marquee and ticket booth. Arthur H. Smith drew up the plans for the Grand Theatre.
Unitarian Universalist Church of Rutland
117 West Street
Rutland’s only specimen of High Victorian Gothic architecture was dedicated as St. Paul’s on January 23, 1890. The congregation incurred debts of $7,000 to raise the distinctive rock-faced grey marble church with three-story conical tower. Henry Safford Fiske arrived to take over the ministry and had settled the bill by 1894, all the while able to promote his own art career.
Trinity Episcopal Church
85 West Street
The first Episcopal services in Rutland were conducted in the Old State House on West Street on March 4, 1794. Bishop John Henry Hopkins spearheaded the drive to crate the current house of worship in 1863, with consecration delivered on August 16, 1865.
6 Church Street at northeast corner of West Street
This handsome structure composed of red brick and rough-faced stone trim blending Richardsonian Romanesque (the broad arched entry), Queen Anne (the decorated roofline with dormers) and Georgian (quoins, lintels and fenestration) elements was constructed in 1890 as the first grade school in the city. Rutland children were among the first in Vermont to escape the one-room, all-grades schoolhouse. The Church Street School, as it was then known, educated in four levels: Primary, Intermediate, Grammar and High School.
TURN RIGHT ON COURT STREET.
8 Court Street
The congregation traces its origins back to 1788. New Hampshire-born Silas Aiken, who made his reputation with the Congregational Church in Amherst, New Hampshire, came to Rutland in 1849 when he was 50 years old to take the reins of the East Parish Congregational Church. Aiken oversaw construction of the sanctuary, with a mix of Italianate and Gothic influences, in 1860. Grace Church is one of the largest meeting houses in the state; a brick chapel was added in the back in 1874.
Rutland Free Library
10 Court Street at northeast corner of Center Street
This building was the first federal presence in Rutland, designed by Supervising Architect for the United States Treasury, Ammi B. Young, in 1856. Young tapped the Italian Renaissance style for the three-story brick structure. Its original intent was as a courthouse and post office. When the Feds moved out and the library took over, details from Young’s original plan - the cast iron staircase inside and marble trim outside - stayed in place under the hipped roof.
Old Bank of Rutland
86 Center Street at southeast corner of Court Street
This ornate corner building enjoyed much humbler beginnings in 1861 as the new home of the Bank of Rutland. J.B. Reynolds, whose marble business specialized in vaults and crypts, purchased the building in the late 1860s and began the transformation into an opulent French Second Empire styled residence.
TURN RIGHT ON CENTER STREET.
Rutland County Courthouse
83 Center Street at northwest corner of Court Street
The first seat of justice in Rutland County was constructed on Main Street in 1792. It burned in a fire in 1868. This is the replacement that arrived three years later, in the Italianate style. The price tag was $72,000. Look up to see a clock tower over the pediment.
First Baptist Church
81 Center Street
The First Baptist Church settled in next to the courthouse at around the same time, in 1872. The congregation was organized in 1823 and occupied its first meetinghouse four years later. The Gothic-flavored church features a large rose window in the front facade, amidst spires and round-headed window openings. The red brick building is trimmed in white marble.
Loyal Order of Moose
78 Center Street
John Henry Wilson, a physician in Louisville, Kentucky, thought he and his friends needed to organize a social club in order to properly drink. The year was 1888 and Wilson hosted the first get-together in his house. The group fashioned themselves after the Elk’s Club and so adopted the moniker of an even larger cud-chewing forest dweller, the moose. As the Loyal Order of Moose expanded beyond its intended base along the Ohio River, Wilson grew disenchanted and left after barely a dozen years but there are now over 2,400 lodges in every American state; Rutland is Number 1122. The lodge predates the founding of the Loyal Order of Moose by about twenty years. If the proportions of the current building seem out of whack that is because the original hip roof and cupola have been hauled down.
Metzger Brothers Block
60 Center Street at southeast corner of Wales Street
The Metzger Brothers sold awnings, tents, flags and porch curtains across New England; the company once held the trademark on automatic roller awnings. This three-story commercial building with decorative brickwork across the top of two elevations, was their headquarters. It was built in the 1860s as the home of the Verder Steam Bakery. There were two adjoining two-story buildings back then and no fancy brickwork.
58 Center Street at southwest corner of Wales Street
After several renovations there is not much left of historical interest on this corner, save for the circular corner turret and the fine work on the denticulated cornice at the roofline.
northwest corner of Center and Wales streets
This is the site of the city’s worst fire of modern times, a conflagration that erupted in the Hotel Berwick on January 7, 1973. The fire claimed five lives from the 28 residents who were living in the hotel at the time. The scene is remembered as one of the last times a net was used to catch jumpers from the top floor. Nothing has been built on the corner since, and many around Rutland know this as “The Pit.”
30 Center Street
If there was something going on in Rutland around the turn of the 20th century it is likely George Thrall Chaffee was in the middle of it. He had business interests in machine shops, lumber and retailing. In 1913 Chaffee bankrolled the construction of this Colonial Revival theater, called the Playhouse. That the stage is here on Center Street is testament to Chaffee’s ability to suppress bad memories - he picked up one of Rutland’s first speeding tickets on Center Street in 1905 - he was blistering through downtown at 10 miles per hour. With demand for live performances on the wane the Playhouse was converted to a movie palace in 1931. The Paramount went dark in 1975 but dodged the wrecking ball long enough to receive a facelift and reopened in 2000.
9-13 Center Street
This is another creation of Arthur H. Smith. The clients were brothers-in-law Charles Egbert Tuttle and Charles Solomon Caverly. Tuttle was the fifth generation of his family to be born and raised in Rutland. The family opened its first business in 1832 and the Tuttles were involved in printing, newspapers, paper goods, and bookselling. Charles became a noted publisher of black American literature and a go-to antiquarian in the rare book world. Charles died in 1943 and his son, also Charles, founded a publishing company that became a leader of producing English language books about Japan. His network of bibliophiles around the world brought Rutland international renown.
TURN LEFT ON MERCHANTS ROW TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.