National Register Nomination Information:
Set amidst informally landscaped grounds on the west side of the Connecticut River south of Windsor village, the Twing Buckman House faces away from the river and towards U.S. Route 5 and a low hill across the highway. The one-and-one-half story, three-by-four-bay, brick-veneered, stone-trimmed main block with a slate-shingled gable roof shows a slight Greco Gothic stylistic influence. The two-and-one-half-story, four-by-two-by, clapboarded, gable-roofed rear (east) wing with an asphalt-shingled gable roof stands on a ground level one story below the main block; a one-story, one-by-two bay, shed-roofed garage is attached to its north side. The main block's front gable façade lacks a porch while twin thee-bay, shed roofed porches with square columns shelter the eaves facades. The main block's plainly finished interior combines a sidehall and cross-passage plan. The house is being maintained in excellent condition, and retains a high degree of historic integrity to terms of location, design, setting, materials, feeling, and association.
The Twing Buckman House is situated on the east side of the two-lane U.S. Route 5 about one-quarter mile south of the south edge of Windsor village. The broad Connecticut River flows southward on a gentle gradient behind the house. (The state boundary between Vermont and New Hampshire follows the mean low water line on the west or Vermont bank.) The six-span, plate girder bridge of the Central Vermont Railway crosses the river on a diagonal alignment behind the house; the single-track railway extends northward from the bridge through Windsor village. The partly developed narrow river floodplain extends southward from the house, flanked on the west side by wooded low hills.
The main block of the house rests on a partly filled site adjoining the highway embankment and at a level slightly below the present highway grade. Both north and south of the main block, the ground slopes generally downward towards the bank of the river behind the house. The east wing stands on the lower level, banked on the concealed west end of the ground story.
The house's grounds are landscaped informally by a variety of perennial flowers and deciduous shrubs and trees within the mowed lawns. The front (west) grounds have been reduced by 20th-century widening and paving of the highway. A sugar maple tree of medium height provides shade near the northwest corner of the house and a clump of lilacs stands near the southwest corner. The north grounds are traversed by a partly gravel driveway that descends to the lower level at the rear of the house, providing access to the garage in the east wing.
The more expansive south grounds are reached from the house by a flight of brick steps with a single iron railing that leads down the slope opposite the south entrance. From the east side of the steps, a retaining wall built of textured cinder blocks curves toward the main block's southeast corner, becoming more exposed by the downward slope in that direction. Mature honeysuckle shrubs stand near the east ends of both the south and north porches. Several mature apple trees dating from the Buckman period of ownership survive on the relatively broad south and east lawns.
Along the northeast side of the property, an earth embankment rises abruptly to the original (1848) grade of the railroad at the curved west approach to the bridge over the Connecticut River. This embankment formerly terminated at the cut-stone bridge abutment; the abutment has been dismantled and the stones are mostly buried near its site. (In 1934, the railroad was shifted slightly northward when the present bridge was constructed.) Deciduous trees of medium height now stand on the slope of the former railroad embankment and along the bank that slopes downward to the river on the east side of the property.
Oriented perpendicular to the highway, the one-and-one-half-story main block of the Twing Buckman House rests on a mostly concealed fieldstone foundation. It possesses a post-and-beam frame sheathed with brick veneer laid in stretcher bond. The gable roof of the moderately steep pitch is shingled with slate over the original wood shingles. On the main (west) gable façade, the raking eaves deeply overhang the wall plane and carry a box cornice above the frieze. The latter feature continues under the porch roofs on the north and south eaves facades. A tall brick stove chimney emerges from the north slope of the main roof near the center of the ridge.
The main block is fenestrated mostly by 19th-century, if not original, six-over-six sash (plus one-over-one wood storm sash). The window openings are enframed by rectangular dressed stone lintels, wood sills, and louvered wood shutters.
The three-bay main (west) gable façade presents to the street an unsheltered entrance at the right corner. The trabeated opening is enframed by a stone lintel and stone sill. The doorway is recessed about one foot within the opening; the vertical reveals repeat the panel division of the door. The right-hinged door is paneled with two vertically elongated upper and two short lower panels. Sidelights of three-quarters length flank the door, their multiple small lights arranged in a rectangular pattern. A transom with similar multiple lights spans both the door and the sidelights. The center and left bays on the first story and the two bays centered on the gable half-story share the window treatment common to the main block.
The north and south eaves facades are arranged in four-bay mirror images of each other, excepting only a small additional window on the north façade. Both the north and south entrances occupy the west-of-center position, and are treated in a simpler manner than the main (west) entrance. Each has an unrecessed four-panel door (plus a recent metal storm door) surmounted by a three-light transom.
On the south façade, the left (west) side is punctuated by a single window bay while the right side has two closely spaced bays. This pattern is reversed on the north facade, where the right (west) side has the double bays. The left (east) side differs by the addition (for a bathroom) at the corner of a reduced second bay with a two-over-two sash placed nearly at lintel level of the full-sized sash.
The identical three-bay north and south porches extend the full length of each façade under the extended slate-shingled slopes of the main roof. Square solid wood columns support the box cornice along the horizontal eaves. The ceilings are sheathed with single-beaded wide flush boards. The decks have been rebuilt in recent years with medium-width planks.
The rear (east) gable façade of the main block is exposed only at the left (south) corner and above the gable roof of the east wing that stands on the lower ground level. A single reduced four-over-two sash lights the left corner. Above each (north and south) slope of the wing's roof, a raking window with a four-over-four sash parallels the eaves.
The interior plan of the main block is arranged along perpendicular axes linking the three exterior entrances. The stair hall traverses the right (south) side of the front half, and leads to the cross-passage that bisects the first floor into the front and rear halves. The parlor occupies the remaining (north) part of the front half while the present kitchen occupies the diagonally opposite (south) part of the rear half. An elongated pantry/utility room on the north side of the kitchen corresponds to the stair hall but its doorway into the cross-passage has been plaster-infilled for a long period. On the second floor, the three bedrooms correspond roughly to the positions of the first-floor rooms and are reached by a partial cross-passage.
The rooms are finished with common materials and nearly lack decorative features. The walls are sheathed with plaster-and-lathe, now mostly covered with wallpaper. The ceilings are also plastered; acoustic tile has been applied over the plaster in the parlor and kitchen. The floors on the first floor have been relaid with narrow tongue-and-groove boards (yellow pine in the parlor) while the second-floor floors retain the original medium-width softwood boards. The woodwork lacks molding except in the parlor and stairhall where the door and window surrounds display a simple hand-planed profile. The interior doors are four-paneled. The main stair balustrade incorporates a heavy turned newel, stick balusters, and a molded handrail.
The rear (east) wing of the house stands on the lower ground level a full story below the main block. Although concealed by exterior sheathing, an open space about one foot in width separates the main block's brick wall and the wing's post-and-beam frame. Furthermore, the mortar joints in the brick wall within the shadow of the wing are not tooled, indicating that the bricks were laid from the inside of the main block. These factors suggest that the wing was constructed before the main block, and may relate to an earlier house on the site.
The two-and-one-half-story, clapboarded wing carries an asphalt-shingled gable roof that matches the pitch of the main block's roof although at a somewhat lower level. Smaller-dimensioned extensions of the rafters are exposed along the deeply overhanging horizontal eaves; these suggest that the eaves were originally closely cropped. An interior brick chimney (built in the 1970s) emerges from the south slope near the east end of the ridge. A rectangular skylight has been installed recently toward the opposite end of this slope.
Recessed slightly from the south façade of the main block, the wing's south eaves façade is arranged somewhat irregularly. The three-bay first story is dominated by a central set of double-leaf, vertical-boarded, hinged vehicle doors. The side bays contain single twelve-over-twelve sash. Partly blocking the left window, a recently rebuilt exterior wood stair with square posts and dimension railing ascends to a central landing on the four-bay second story; the landing serves an entrance with a four-panel door (plus a metal storm door). On the left side of this door, two window bays contain six-over-six sash (plus one-over-one metal storm sash) like those in the main block. A large plate-glass fixed window has been installed on the right side.
The wing's two-bay rear (east) gable façade rises the maximum two-and-one-half-story height of the house. Blank on its first story, this façade is lighted by two bays of six-over-six sash on the second story. A single twelve-over-twelve sash is centered at the gable peak.
Flush with the north façade of the main block, the wing's north eaves façade is exposed only on the three-bay second story. The left and center bays are occupied by six-over-six sash while the right bay consists of coupled, reduced two-over-two sash. All the window openings are headed at the top of the wall surface.
The interior of the wing contains garage space on the ground level with access provided by the double-leaf doors on the south façade. Both the second floor and the attic half-story are finished for domestic uses, and are approached by the exterior stair on the south façade (or from the first floor of the main block). The rooms on the upper floors have been renovated since 1970; now the dining room, the southwest room on the second floor served previously as the house's kitchen.
Attached probably in 1939 to the clapboarded first story of the wing's north façade, a one-story, one-car, shed-roofed garage is banked against a concrete and fieldstone retaining wall at its rear (west) end and extends the full length of the wing. The clapboarded garage rests on a concrete foundation, and its shallow-pitched roof is covered with standing-seam sheet metal. Double-leaf, vertical-boarded, hinged doors enter the single-bay front (east) façade. The two-bay north façade is punctuated by six-light fixed sash.
A photograph taken about 1897 shows both the house's main block and the mostly connected series of rear outbuildings that were removed during the middle 20th century. Several medium-height maple trees stood closely aligned to the main block. A low wood fence with slender pales surrounded the main block just outside the line of trees. Opposite the front (west) entrance, a gate provided access to the dirt-surfaced road (later U.S. Route 5).
The main block appears in the c. 1897 photograph as virtually identical to its present appearance a century later (1995). The east wing differed somewhat in the fenestration on its south façade; twelve-over-twelve sash are visible in at least two bays on the second story. (These sash also suggest that the wing predates the main block.) A tall brick stove chimney (removed in the 1970s) rose from the interior of the wing's roof near the main block.
Connected to the east wing's east gable façade and flush with its south façade, a one-story, gable-roofed shed wing then extended eastward on the lower ground level. The shed wing was sheathed with vertical boards and its roof was covered with material secured by vertical strips. A doorway is partly visible on the south eaves façade.
Connecting in turn to the shed wing's east gable end and projecting forward of its south façade, a somewhat larger-scaled, one-and-one-half-story, gable-roofed barn extended eastward in the same orientation. The barn was sheathed with wide clapboards at least on its west gable façade, and its roof was covered with wood shingles. A similar-scaled, vertical-boarded ell with a wood-shingled gable roof projected southward from the barn's south eaves façade. Double-leaf, vertical-boarded, hinged doors entered the ell's west eaves façade.
Also visible in the c. 1897 photograph, a small detached shed stood in the barnyard south of the shed wing. This one-story, vertical-boarded, shed-roofed building was entered on its west raking eaves façade by a vertical-boarded exterior sliding door.
STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
The Twing Buckman House in Windsor, Vermont, holds significance for embodying the distinctive characteristics of a type and period of construction, specifically a modest brick house built c. 1840 with Greco-Gothic stylistic influences and unusual twin eaves-façade porches whose roofs are continuations of the main roof line. This blend of the characteristics gives the house a distinctive architectural identity that is possibly unique in Vermont. The house relates to the statewide context. Historic Architecture and Patterns of Community Development in Vermont.
Within the context of Vermont's historic architecture, the Twing Buckman House constitutes a rare anomaly. The vernacular brick main block shares basic form, massing, materials, and Greco-Gothic stylistic influence with many houses of its period (c. 1840) in the state. A markedly similar brick house of sidehall plan exists on nearby Bridge Street in Windsor village. In contrast, the twin side porches and interior cross-passage of the Buckman House distinguish it with an overall architectural character not known to exist elsewhere in Vermont. Furthermore, a counterpart is not known in adjacent New Hampshire either along the Connecticut River valley or the remainder of that state.
The source of the house's design may have been southern New England, possibly brought to Vermont by an itinerant builder. Indeed its cross-passage interior plan derives ultimately from English houses built in the 15th and 16th century and then used in colonial American houses during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Georgian plan with a center hall had supplanted the cross-passage by the period of Vermont's settlement during the latter 18th century.
Bounded by the Connecticut River on the east side and the Connecticut River Road (later U.S. Route 5) on the west, a 30-acre parcel of land surrounding the site of this brick house passed through a series of short-term, probably speculative ownerships during the late 1830s and 1840s. The house was undoubtedly constructed during that period but the specific year and original owner are not known.
John P. Skinner, a prosperous local landowner and speculator, acquired this land in 1820 as part of a somewhat larger tract. By 1830, a modest house stood on the property; the Windsor Grand List of taxable property for that year lists its value (excluding the land) as $243. The present (1995) rear wing of the brick house may relate to this early house. Then in 1839, Skinner sold the 30-acre parcel to John Dunbar for the inexplicably high price of $3,000; the house itself was valued at $250 on the Grand List for the same year.
The first of three short-term owners, John Dunbar held this property for four years while living in a brick house on Windsor Common. The 1841 Grand List records the house at a value of $250 along with the name of a tenant, F. McCue; the parcel of land, however, is listed as only 16 acres worth $691. An abrupt change in the value and acreage of the property appears on the 1842 Grand List; a house and barn are listed with the 30-acre parcel, and the entire property was appraised at $2,142. While this might suggest that the brick house was built then, the same tenant continued to live on the property; it seems improbable that Dunbar would have built the brick house for a tenant.
In 1843, Dunbar sold the 30-acre parcel to William White but the price was only $2,000. Although the deed refers to Dunbar as being "of Windsor," he appeared before a notary public in Milwaukee, Territory of Wisconsin, on the date of signing suggesting that his sale of the property accompanied a move to the West. White, in turn, kept the property only two years, selling in 1845 to Gilbert Denison for the same amount, $2,000, that he had paid for it.
Gilbert Denison married the widow of Caleb Stone, who owned a farm along the Connecticut River at the south edge of Windsor village. The farmhouse (later removed) where Denison lived stood north of the present brick house. The Grand Lists for the early 1840s record that Denison owned a 25-acre lot with a house and barns worth $1,326. The 1845 Grand List records the 30-acre parcel valued at $2,142 as belonging to Denison along the 25-acre lot; buildings, however, are not specified.
The 1847 Grand List shows changed in Denison's holding and again identifies the existence of buildings. A 15-acre lot with house and barns worth $1,320 undoubtedly corresponds to the previous 25-acre lot. Similarly a 90-acre parcel with house and barns worth $2,970 corresponds to the previous 30-acre parcel; the increase in value of $828 reflects the larger acreage.
The first of four generations of his family to own this property (and brick house), Twing Buckman (born 1803), of Bethel, Vermont may have been the first owner actually to reside here, and he stayed for three decades. On November 16, 1847, Buckman purchased 63 acres of land from Gilbert Denison for $2,650. The land was divided into two pieces. One was the 30-acre parcel lying between the river and the road. The other of 33 acres lay adjacent to the first on the hillside across the road; it was bounded on the south by land belonging to one Jasper Buckman, indicating that another member of the family had already settled in Windsor. In order to pay the $2,650 price for the property, Twing Buckman immediately mortgaged it to two different persons for $1,000 each. One was the seller, Denison, while the other was Daniel Campbell of Orford, a town farther north on the New Hampshire side of the Connecticut River.
The name of Twing Buckman appears in the Windsor Grand List for the first time in 1848. Reflecting the transfer of the previous November, his property is listed as 63 acres with house and barns worth $2,700. The listing for Gilbert Denison, accordingly, shows a 27-acre remnant lot (without buildings) worth $270 in addition to the 15-acre lot with house and barns. These listings confirm that a house existed on the land that Twing Buckman purchased in 1847.
The history of the 30-acre parcel indicates, therefore, that this brick house was built probably during the early 1840s. Not only is the original owner not known; neither is the mason/carpenter. The vernacular design exhibits certain contemporary Greco-Gothic stylistic influences. Although virtually devoid of the usual decorative features, the brick main block possesses the elemental temple front and trabeated openings typical of the Greek Revival. These characteristics are blended with the rather steeply pitched gable roof and the deeply overhanging eaves lacking cornice returns of the Gothic Revival.
The most unusual aspect of the house's exterior design involves the twin full-length porches that shelter both eaves facades and their secondary entrances. The porches lack decorative features other than the plain square columns that support the extensions of the main roof slopes.
The entrances sheltered by the twin porches reflect the most unusual aspect of the main block's interior plan. It incorporates the sidehall common in contemporary house plans, approached by the gable-front entrance. Additionally, however, a secondary perpendicular hall exists to link the porch entrances and divide the first floor into more formal front (parlor) and more vernacular rear (kitchen) halves.
One exception from the property conveyance to Twing Buckman was specified regarding the 30-acre lot next to the river: "the lands taken thro' the first piece, by the Vermont Central Rail Road Company, for their road." In the 1848 Grand List, Buckman was allowed $250 for railroad damage to 1.75 acres. The first railroad along the Connecticut River valley was then under construction.
The land taken by the Vermont Central was located at the point where the railroad crossed the river into New Hampshire and connected with the Sullivan Rail Road through that state. The west abutment for the first multi-span, timber-truss railroad bridge was placed directly behind the brick house. The first northbound Sullivan passenger train crossed the bridge and met a southbound Vermont Central train at the Windsor depot for a great celebration on January 31, 1849.
Twing Buckman seems never to have profited from the proximity of his land to the railroad. Railroad-related commercial and industrial development in Windsor took place mostly in the vicinity of the depot about one mile to the north. Twing and his wife, Amanda, spent the remainder of their lives on the small farm. The couple had three sons, including Hosea B (born 1832), who would stay on the farm.
Twing Buckman died in 1874 although his name appears on the Grand List for the last time in 1876. The following year, 1877, Hosea is listed as the owner of the 64 acres of land and buildings valued at $2,970. Actually, Amanda and the two other sons as heirs of Twing conveyed the farm to Hosea for $3,500 in 1878. The sale specifically included all of Twing's personal property, the farming equipment presumably being among it.
Hosea and his wife, Louisa (born 1852), carried on the small-scale farming for about three decades. The Windsor County gazetteer published in 1884 by Hamilton Child records that Amanda Buckman continued to reside here, and Hosea B. Buckman is listed as a farmer with 45 acres of land. In 1887, the farm was reduced by nearly one-third in area when Hosea sold for $1,000 the 13.5-acre portion lying across the railroad track northeast of the house.
The family's modest circumstances are evident in a photograph taken about 1897 with Hosea, Louisa, and two children standing next to the house. According to local oral history, the Buckmans never owned horses; this photograph shows a small two-wheeled cart being drawn by a young ox and driven by a boy, probably the elder son named Henry (born 1884). The other boy was probably the younger son, Albert E. (born 1890).
The same photograph shows partly the agricultural outbuildings behind the house. A connected series of one-or one-and-one-half-story, gable-roofed shed(s) and barn(s) extended eastward from the rear of the main block and formed an ell projecting southward. A detached one-story, shed-roofed shed stood in the barnyard on the south side of the house. Both the house and the outbuildings display the effects of weathering and the need for painting and other deferred maintenance.
Hosea retained ownership of the house and farm until his death in 1909. His sons, Henry A. and Albert E., inherited undivided interests in the property. The elder Henry remained a bachelor and continued to reside here with his widowed mother, who lived until 1932. Albert built another house on part of the family's land to the south. In 1933, Albert transferred to Henry his undivided interest in the homestead.
Most agricultural activity ended with Hosea, and the removal of the agricultural outbuildings occurred probably during Henry's ownership. In marked contrast to his father's farming, Henry became involved in the development of hydroelectric power; he served as the operator of the Windsor Electric Light Co.'s small generating station on Mill Brook a quarter-mile north of this house. Probably in 1939, Henry added the one-story, one-bay garage wing on the north side of the house's rear wing.
A major change in the railroad adjacent to the house occurred in 1934. The bridge over the Connecticut River was replaced for the second time, and the track was shifted to a new alignment slightly farther north in order to reduce the curvature at the west approach to the bridge. The present six-span, plate girder bridge was constructed to accommodate heavier and faster trains. Remnants of the original stone abutment were left in place at the northeast corner of the Buckman property.
Henry died in 1944, and the property was transferred in 1945 from his estate to his brother, Albert E. Buckman; the house and land were then appraised at a value of $4,000. Albert and his wife, Gladys H. Buckman, were the last members of the family to own the brick house. They proceeded during the latter 1940s and early 1950s to subdivide the land, selling partly to their children (including Albert E., Jr.) who built houses on the smaller lots.
The ownership of this house by the Buckman family continued ultimately for 115 years. In 1962, Albert and Gladys sold the house to absentee owners, who subsequently rented it to tenants. The house was not given appropriate maintenance during the remainder of that decade.
The present owners, Eugene R. and Joan E. Holzwarth, purchased the Twing Buckman House in 1970. During the succeeding years, they performed a thorough rehabilitation of the house's structural and cosmetic condition. The historic fabric has been mostly conserved; where necessary, a small portion has been replaced in kind. The appearance of the main block now virtually matches that shown in the c. 1897 photograph, and its physical condition is markedly improved over that evident in the photograph.
The Twing Buckman House is now one of the most carefully preserved 19th-century houses along the primary historic travel route through the town of Windsor. Distinguished by its twin side porches and sidehall plus cross-passage plan, the house constitutes an outstanding if not unique representative of middle 19th-century domestic architecture in the Connecticut River valley and the state of Vermont.
MAJOR BIBLIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCES
FORM PREPARED BY:
Hugh H. Henry, Historic Preservation Consultant
Route 2, Box 226, Chester, Vermont 05143-9418
DATE ENTERED: February 1995
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