White River Junction Historic District
Municipality: Hartford, VT
Location: White River Junction
Site Type: Historic District
Vt Survey No: 1408-30
UTMs: (Zone 18) A. 716130. B. 716405/4836142. C. 716300/4835822. D. 716005/4836000
National Register Nomination Information:
The White River Junction Historic District centers around a large, roughly triangular open space which is bounded on the south and west sides by a pair of "legs", and on the northeast side by a slightly convex "hypotenuse". This open space, originally a shallow swamp and later a tree-covered park, is presently a treeless parking lot.
The gentle curve of the "hypotenuse" is defined by the tracks of the Central Vermont Railroad (C.V.R.R.). The C.V.R.R. tracks follow the south bank of the White River as it flows in a southeasterly direction into the more southerly course of the Connecticut. Connecting with the tracks of the Boston and Maine Railway which cross the White and Connecticut rivers from the north and east, respectively, the main trunk of the C.V.R.R. curves around to the south along the west bank of the Connecticut. Besides defining the northeast side of the triangular parking lot, the tracks more importantly form a visual boundary between the railroad yard and warehouses along the river and the village's central business district.
The south and west "legs" of the triangle are, respectively, Gates and South Main Streets. Gates Street jogs across South Main and dead ends into the tracks of the C.V.R.R. at its east end. Directly across the tracks, but slightly off-center to the street, stands the Boston and Maine Railway depot (#l). A Colonial Revival style building crowned by a cupola and a copper weathervane in the form of a steam locomotive, the depot acts as a terminal focal point at the head of the street. Partially obscured behind the high chain link fence which separates the central business district from the railroad yard, the depot is reached through an underground tunnel beneath the tracks.
The intersection of South Main and Gates Streets is dominated on each corner by a large, multi-story commercial block. On the northwest corner stands the Coolidge Hotel (#12) with its paired clock towers; on the northeast corner, the Colonial Revival style former U.S. Post Office building (#13); on the southeast corner, the Richardsonian Romanesque style First National Bank Building (#5); and on the south west corner, the Greenough Block (#11). Originally, the northeast corner of the intersection opened directly onto the triangular open space but was visually closed off in 1934 with the construction of the post office building.
South of Gates Street, South Main Street remains commercial in character. The historic district continues down the east side of the street only to include six commercial buildings directly behind the First National Bank building (#5). The historic district also continues west along Gates Street to the corner of Currier Street but includes only the rear wing of the Coolidge Hotel (#12) on the north side of the street with its numerous storefronts.
North of Gates, and immediately beyond the post office building, South Main opens out onto the triangular parking lot. To avoid dead ending into the tracks of the C.V.R.R., the street makes a sharp left-hand turn to the northwest and becomes North Main Street.
As if to mark the turn, across the tracks and behind the high chain link fence, a high warehouse false front emblazoned with "Twin State Fruit Company" visually terminates the street. The inside of this corner is dominated by one continuous, multi-story commercial building, the Gates Block (#14), which runs from the Coolidge Hotel (#12) around the corner to the intersection of Currier and Bridge Streets.
West of this intersection, North Main Street becomes visually less cohesive and changes in character from commercial to a mixture of uses and building types. The historic district continues down the south side of the street only to include the Neo-Gothic Revival style Gates Memorial Library (#18).
North Main and Bridge Streets are the principal vehicular routes into and out of the village. Bridge Street descends beneath the tracks of the C.V.R.R. through a narrow, stone-walled underpass, and continues out to and across the White River. Acting as a kind of gateway to the village, the hose-towered, former White River Junction Fire House (#23) stands on the river-bank on the west side of the street. On the east side, between the C.V.R.R. tracks and the river. is a collection of warehouses of various types and dates of construction. These are serviced by Railroad Row which also serves as the principal access to the C.V.R.R. depot (#1).
The buildings and structures included in the White River Junction Historic District are as follows (numbers refer to enclosed sketch map):
1. Boston and Maine Railway Passenger Depot, Railroad Row; Colonial Revival Style, 1937.
Both wings are irregular in plan with corners truncated on a roughly 45 degree angle. The southeast wing, facing the intersection of the Boston and Maine Railway and Central Vermont Railroad tracks, serves as a waiting room and is approximately one-quarter the size of the northwest wing which serves as a baggage facility. On the waiting room wing, each truncated corner contains a transomed doorway with a flat-arched lintel identical to the windows. On the baggage wing, two round-arched wall panels and a transomed doorway enframed by classical architrave and pediment are located next to the southwest facade of the central section. These wall panels are stuccoed and contain a window and doorway, and relate visually to the round-arched recess on the main facade.
The central section is crowned by an octagonal, domed cupola with six-over-nine windows and classical cornice. The dome is sheathed in copper and supports an octagonal bird house with arched openings, spire and weathervane ball. The hall, in turn, is surmounted by a beaten copper vane in the form of a nineteenth century 4-6-2 steam locomotive with tender.
Alterations: An open, leanto shed has been attached to the northeast side of the baggage wing. A free-standing platform canopy has been constructed between the tracks immediately to the south of the waiting room wing.
2. White River Paper Company (originally Cross-Abbott Wholesale Grocery), 1 Gates Street; Italianate Revival style, 1895.
3. Commercial block, 6 Gates Street; vernacular Greek Revival style, circa 1875.
Alterations: The building was originally located on the corner of Gates Street and South Main Street on the site of the Inter-State Bank, No. 5.
4. Inter-State Bank (originally First National Bank of White River), 10 Gates Street; Richardsonian Romanesque style, 1912.
5. Inter-State Bank (originally First National Bank of White River), 10 Gates Street; Richardsonian Romanesque style, 1892.
On the Gates Street facade, fenestration is one/one/one on the ground floor, and one/three/one on the second. The main entrance is located on this facade and projects from the facade as a one-story, flat-roofed vestibule. The vestibule has a denticulated cornice and is reached by a flight of three cut granite steps.
On the South Main Street facade, the fenestration is two/two/two on the ground floor, and four/four/four on the second. However, in-between the second and third bays (left to right) and the third bay and the corner, an additional opening has been inserted where there should be a solid pier as between the first and second bays. On the ground floor, these additional openings are doorways.
The building is capped by an elaborate entablature with denticulated architrave and corbelled cornice. The frieze is punctuated by a line of recessed bull's-eyes, one over each window and each with a Greek cross.
Alterations: The original entrance doors have been replaced with aluminum. A revolving time/temperature clock has been affixed to the building at the second floor between the first and second bays.
6. Inter-State Bank (originally White River Savings Bank), 26 South Main Street; Colonial Revival style, 1912; Louis Newton Sheldon, Architect.
7. Colodny Block, 30 South Main Street; 1920's Commercial style, circa 1925.
8. Commercial block, 38 South Main Street; circa 1890.
9. Commercial block, 42 South Main Street; circa 1890.
10. Commercial block, 46 South Main Street; circa 1890.
11. Greenough Block, southwest corner of Gates Street and South Main Street; circa 1910.
12. Coolidge Hotel (originally Junction Houss Hotel), northwest corner of Gates Street and South Main Street; 1924.
The ground floor of both facades is composed of a series of storefronts. On the Gates Street facade, there are seven storefronts with separate plate glass display windows and doorways. The doorways are enframed by fluted pilasters and broken colonial style pediments with decorative acorn. On the South Main Street facade, a plate glass and bronze frame storefront with marble skirt is located on the Gates Street corner. The rest of the ground floor is punctuated by randomly alternating plate glass display windows and transomed doorways. The double-door entrance to the hotel lobby is located near the right end and is distinguished by a canvas sidewalk canopy and a pair of wall-mounted flagpoles.
The second and third floor windows are all six-over-one double-hung sash but are randomly positioned across both facades. Where the walls are faced with a brick veneer, the windows are detailed with soldier course lintels. On the Gates Street facade, smaller bathroom windows are randomly positioned in-between. On the South Main Street facade, three triple section windows define the end and center "bays" on the third floor, as well as the fourth floor of each tower.
13. Vermont District Court building (originally U.S. Post Office), northeast corner of Gates Street and South Main Street; Colonial Revival style, 1934.
A receiving room, three bays wide with transomed windows, is attached to the rear elevation.
14. Gates Block, corner of South Main Street and North Main Street; Colonial Revival style, 1890.
On the second and third floors, both facades are divided into six bays by projecting piers which support an entablature with denticulated stamped, sheet metal cornice. On the South Main Street facade, second floor fenestration is typically two flat-arched, six-over-six double-hung windows with sandstone lintels flanking a wood frame oriel window with transoms which is recessed into the wall beneath a segmental arch of three courses of soldier. Third floor fenestration is segmental arched, six-over-six double-hung windows with sandstone sills and arches of two courses of soldier. On the North Main Street facade, the left-hand bay has fenestration similar to the South Main Street facade. The remaining five bays are punctuated by pairs of round-arched openings which have been closed down to hold small aluminum sash, awning type windows. The truncated corner between the two facades is also enframed by piers and punctuated by a recessed oriel window on each floor.
15. Powers Block, Currier Street; circa 1915.
The second floor of the facade is punched by two oriel windows which are recessed into the wall. The windows are enframed by quoins of cream-colored brick and denticulated entablatures. The entablatures are supported in center span by window mullions in the form of slender columns. Directly above each bay window, on the third floor, are two groups of three double-hung windows. A continuous cast stone sill runs the width of the facade, and each group is tied together by a continuous cast stone lintel with shoulders. The roof cornice is corbelled. Windows on the side elevations are a combination of double hung and casement, each with cast stone sills and lintels.
16. Greydon-Freeman Block (originally White River Paper Company), southwest corner of Currier Street and North Main Street; circa 1895.
On the ground floor of the Currier Street elevation, four bay windows with granite sills are recessed into the wall beneath segmental arches. The North Main Street facade is three bays across. On the second floor, the corners of the building are defined by brick quoins which support a continuous third floor sill course. Second floor fenestration is six-over-one double-hung windows with granite sills beneath a recessed round arched panel with granite impost blocks and keystones. A brick panel is located directly above each window. Third floor fenestration is paired triangle-paned casement windows enframed by brick architrave moldings. On the side elevations, paired casements alternate with single.
17. New England Telephone Company, North Main Street; 1968; non-contributing intrusion because of architectural configuration and date of construction.
18. Gates Memorial Library, North Main Street; Neo-Gothic Revival style, 1907.
19. Commercial block, northeast corner of Bridge Street and North Main Street; 1950; non-contributing because of architectural configuration and date of construction.
20. Polka Dot Restaurant, North Main Street; circa 1955; non-contributing because of architectural configuration and date of construction.
21. Central Vermont Railway bridge, Bridge Street; circa 1910.
22. Inter-State Tire Company (originally Vermont Baking Company), Bridge Street; vernacular Greek Revival style, circa 1880.
23. Old White River Junction Fire House, Bridge Street; circa 1890.
24. Warehouse, Railroad Row; circa 1960; non-contributing because of architectural configuration and date of construction.
25. Twin State Fruit Company, Railroad Row; circa 1890.
26. Warehouse, Railroad Row; circa 1900.
27. Warehouse/Garage, Railroad Row; circa 1965; non-contributing because of architectural configuration and date of construction.
28. Renehan and Akers Lumber Company (originally Henry Perkins Company, dealers in hides, skins and raw furs), Railroad Row; vernacular Greek Revival style, 1896.
29. Commercial block, 50 South Main Street; vernacular Greek Revival style, circa 1880.
The White River Junction Historic District represents a unique example of a village community which developed around river and rail transportation. Centered around a major transportation facility which has recently been revitalized by Amtrak, the historic district includes within its boundaries a significant grouping of historic resources which reflect the urban architectural trends of the late nineteenth century through the first half of the twentieth.
Because of its commanding location at the junction of the Connecticut and White rivers, the site, which before 1847 was occupied by nothing more than a farmhouse, was destined to develop into a thriving, nineteenth century commercial center. On the other hand, because of its dependence on the railroads, the village's commercial prosperity was also subject, traditionally, to the economic vicissitudes of the railroad industry, especially following the First World War. With increased competition from trucking, and with the completion in 1969 of interstate highways I-89 and I-91 less than one mile to the south and west, respectively, the village has suffered a severe commercial decline in recent years.
The intersection of the White River with the Connecticut, and the heavy river traffic which these two rivers supported; the construction of a bridge in 1803 by Elias Lyman across the Connecticut River from the north bank of the White River to West Lebanon, New Hampshire, and the construction of another bridge in 1815 across the White River approximately two and one-half miles further west at Hartford Village (the White River Junction bridge across the White River was not opened until 1868); and the construction of five railroads between 1847 and 1863, all of which joined together on the banks of the two rivers adjacent to Samuel Nutt's farmhouse - the Vermont Central Railway in 1847, the Connecticut River Railroad in 1847, the Connecticut and Passumpsic Rivers Railroad in 1848, the Northern New Hampshire Railroad in 1849, and the Woodstock Railroad in 1863, were the determining factors in establishing the future site of White River Junction as a commercial and transportation center. Samuel Nutt, in 1847, was the first person to recognize the site's potential and to develop it. A postcard distributed by the Green Mountain Card Company in the early 19O0's (see accompanying photograph No. 5) suggests that White River Junction's potential was still being promoted and exploited fifty years later.
In 1817, Samuel Nutt purchased from Elias Lyman, one of the town's original founders, a forty acre tract of land on the south bank of the White River at the point where it joins with the Connecticut. The following year, he built a farmhouse. In 1847 when the tracks of the Vermont Central Railway were laid along the river banks adjacent to his farm, Nutt recognized the future need for a hotel and decided to build one.
In 1849, Nutt bought the Grafton House hotel in Enfield, New Hampshire. Over the next year, he had the building dismantled and moved to his farm where it was re-erected and renamed the Junction House. This hotel was the first of three which would ultimately occupy the site, the third one being the present Coolidge Hotel (#12) constructed in 1924. The first of four railroad depots was also erected in 1849 directly opposite the hotel on the other side of the railroad tracks.
The area immediately in-between these two buildings was a large, triangular-shaped swamp which was used as a dump. A footbridge traversed the swamp and connected the depot with the hotel. It was not until 1902, through the continuing efforts of numerous public spirited citizens and the Central Vermont Railroad, that the swamp was finally filled in and converted to a tree-covered park.
The early development of the village centered around the Junction House and the railroad depot, and the triangular area in-between (see accompanying photographs No. 2 and No. 3). Besides providing the obvious transportation facilities and services to the surrounding area, the railroads were also responsible for encouraging the development of a specialized commercial activity within the village - wholesaling. Numerous wholesale businesses, such as groceries, bakery goods and paper products, to name but a few, grew along with the village to take direct advantage of the convenient distribution potential the railroads provided. By the turn of the century when the swamp was finally filled in, the perimeter of the park was well defined by prosperous commercial blocks, and commercial development had spread out along the curve of the tracks, along South and North Main Streets.
The village's original configuration remains virtually unchanged, even today. Fires destroyed the Junction House in 1878 and again in 1924, and destroyed the railroad depot in 1862, 1880 and 1911, but these buildings were quickly rebuilt in the current architectural styles of the day. (Following the last railroad depot fire, a new depot, however, was not built until 1937.) Consequently, the architectural integrity of the village never changed significantly. To underscore, for example, the Junction House's continuing importance as the visual and commercial focal point of the village, the towers which first appeared on the 1878 Junction House were kept on the new, 1924 Junction House, renamed the Coolidge Hotel in 1926. The only drastic change to the original integrity of the village occurred in the mid-1920's when the park was converted into a parking lot.
The boundary line for the White River Junction Historic District was established so as to include all of those surviving historic resources which were integral ingredients in the historic development of this predominantly railroad oriented community. The district boundary was extended along Bridge Street on the north to include the former White River Junction fire house, the architectural focal point on the north, Vermont Route 5, entrance into the village. The district was extended along North Main Street on the west to include the Gates Memorial Library, the architectural focal point on the west, Vermont Route 5, entrance into the village. The district was extended to the south along the east side of South Main Street to include a significant grouping of commercial buildings. The west side of the street was not included because the existing commercial buildings are contemporary replacements of the original, historic resources. The rather irregular shape of the boundary outline also reflects, in part, an attempt to avoid, wherever possible, the inclusion of non-historic intrusions.
The White River Junction Historic District is located in the town of Hartford, Vermont at the confluence of the Connecticut and White Rivers. The Connecticut River serves as the border for the States of Vermont and New Hampshire and was an early north-south transportation - settlement route. The White River, one of the Connecticut's major branches, flows roughly northwest - southeast and also served as an early transportation settlement route. The years 1847-1863 brought the site added importance and prosperity when five railroads were completed with terminal points at the site continuing its history as a junction for transportation and commercial activity. Even today Interstates 89 and 91 form an intersection at White River Junction continuing its long held position as the transportation center for eastern Vermont and western New Hampshire. It is this importance and history .as .a transportation center which makes White River Junction an especially unique example in Vermont village development.
St. Croix, John. 1761-1963 Pictorial History of the Town of Hartford, Vermont. [Private publication] Hartford, Vermont: 1963.
St. Croix, John. An Album of the Town of Hartford Vermont 1761-1969. [Private Publication] Hartford, Vermont: 1969.
Tucker, William Howard. History of Hartford, Vermont. The Free Press Association; Burlington Vermont: 1889.
DATE ENTERED: August 8, 1980.
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