Dartmouth College Library Bulletin
LOOKING AT VERMONTVIRGINIA L. CLOSE
IN 1988 the state of Vermont published a volume that could easily earn a designation as 'best state government publication of the year.' The Historic Architecture of Rutland County: Including a Listing of the Vermont State Register of Historic Places is a 438-page illustrated volume whose vital center is '. . . the town chapters, with their short histories, maps, and lists and photographs of historic structures....' 1 In the bicentennial year of Vermont statehood this volume can be regarded not only as a substantial contribution to that celebration but also as the exemplar for similar volumes to be attained for the remaining counties.
The preface (p. viii) describes the listings and maps in the town chapters as '. . . the definitive catalogue of pre-World War II, historic architectural resources in the Vermont State Register of Historic Places for Rutland County, including those listed in the National Register of Historic Places.' The appeal, as well as the use, of the volume is not only for the student or scholar of architecture. The historical introduction, with its three-page listing of sources, is itself a synthesis of information about Rutland County brought together under the rubrics of `Culture Region,' `Population and Housing,' ' Agriculture,' 'Industry and Labor,' and 'Commerce and Tourism.'
Following this introduction is the alphabetical-by-town listing. For each town (and the few cities) there is an historical preface, a map or maps, photographs, and listings. Those who prepared this volume have done it in a systematic, well-organized manner and have left no immediately discernible unanswered questions. Both the State Register of Historic Places and the National Register are described and the criteria for each explained. At the back of the volume is a guide, with illustrations, to the styles of Vermont architecture and house forms plus a glossary of terms. These are followed by a select bibliography, first for Rutland County sources and then for individual towns. The index includes family surnames and such topics as 'Architects and master builders,' 'Irish immigrants,' ' Howe Scale Company,' and 'Synagogues.'
Since 1933 there has been an additional record of historic architecture in the state. This is the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), which '. .. in cooperation with the American Institute of Architects, the Library of Congress and others, has produced a national architectural archive in the form of photographs, measured drawings and written, historical information.' 2 The Library has a microfiche copy of the Vermont HABS material issued in 1980; 3 Part II of the microfiche is currently on order. While the Vermont State Register, still incomplete, lists over 25,000 properties, the HABS records fewer than one hundred for the state (Norwich, for example, is represented by three buildings: the Congregational Church and the so-called Hatch-Peisch and Olcott-Johnson houses). The Rutland County representation in HABS can easily be compared with the record in The Historic Architecture of Rutland County to see how each supplements the other.
For our own Upper Valley region there is another unique resource, the Fellows Negative Collection of over 100 scenes, mostly of Connecticut River towns. These photographs were probably taken between 1900 and 1915, although George E. Fellows, the photographer, had been in business since the 1880s. These negatives, located in Special Collections, have no written text accompanying them, and they do not necessarily document historic buildings. Instead, they represent the everyday world that Mr. Fellows saw and that interested him as he travelled through the villages of this area.
Though Rutland County is the only county for which a published volume is available and the state-wide survey is not yet complete, the State Register of Historic Places maintained in the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation in Montpelier already contains information on over 25,000 properties. These records are available for examination and copies can be made as well. Together with the HABS records and the Fellows Negative Collection, they are of value for the study of communities, both pictorially and through the historical information gathered with them. This is in addition to their contribution to architectural history. They represent the non-printed visual materials that have increasingly become a part of the study of the past, and the background for the future.
1. (Montpelier. Vt.: State of Vermont, Division for Historical Preservation, Agency of Development and Community Affairs, 1988). For an appreciative evaluation see the review by Glenn M. Andres in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 50, no. 2 (June1991): 214-215; this was called to my attention by Barbara E. Reed, Art Librarian.
2. John C. Poppeliers, What Style Is It? (Washington, D.C.: Preservation Press, Historic American Buildings Survey, National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1983).
3. Historic American Buildings Survey. Vermont Microform (Cambridge, Eng.: Chadwyck-Healey; Teaneck, N.J.: Somerset House, 1980).