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Middlebury in Addison County, Vermont — The American Northeast (New England)
 

The Battell Block

 
 
The Battell Block Marker image. Click for full size.
By Steve Stoessel, July 3, 2019
1. The Battell Block Marker
Inscription.  
Built from the Ashes

Middlebury's Main Street has been the commercial center of the town since its founding, but its character has changed many times, largely due to that great public enemy of the era-fire. In the first half of the 19th Century, the muddy dirt street was lined with the clapboard and brick businesses of shopkeepers and craftsmen. Large mills sat next door to smaller commercial buildings, with offices and apartments upstairs. In 1875, a large fire ripped through downtown, causing $172,000 in damages. A smaller one broke out in 1883. Then, on November 23, 1891, the worst fire in Middlebury's history leveled much of the downtown. The flames consumed much of the main bridge and most of the buildings northeast of the Creek. It was stopped just before it reached the stately new Beckwith Block (1883, now the main branch of the National Bank of Middlebury) and the old town churches on the Green. Downtown Middlebury was a smoldering blank canvas, ripe for rebuilding.

Joseph Battell

Middlebury was lucky to have a wealthy local businessman with the vision and resources to make
The Battell Block Marker image. Click for full size.
By Steve Stoessel, July 3, 2019
2. The Battell Block Marker
sure the new downtown would be as beautiful and fireproof as the age allowed. Joseph Battell (1839-1915) was the greatest philanthropist the Middlebury area has ever known. He invested his time and fortune into many ventures - amassing the forestland that would become the core of the Green Mountain National Forest, building and operating the Breadloaf Inn, establishing the Morgan Horse Farm, and publishing the local newspaper. After the 1891 fire, he put up much of the money to rebuild the downtown bridge (the "Battell Bridge") in stone. It crossed the Creek one floor higher than the old bridge, forcing the existing building owners to create new ground floor entrances on what had been their second floors.

The Fire of 1891 also provided an opportunity for Battell to build his own large, attractive commercial block on a prime downtown site. The first phase of the Battell Block, the large commercial building along Merchants Row, with its charming bay-windowed shop fronts, was completed in 1892. The Main Street section was not completed until 1898. Built to the era's highest standards in fireproof design, it has a steel frame clad in brick with stone trim. The rounded corner tower was topped with a jaunty cone, sadly removed for safety concerns after a 1950 hurricane and never replaced. The Battell Block set the style, and the standard, for new commercial buildings
Merchants Row image. Click for full size.
By Steve Stoessel, July 3, 2019
3. Merchants Row
Merchants Row, the brick buildings on the left, seen from South Pleasant Street
in downtown Middlebury.
 
Erected by Town of Middlebury, Lake Champlain Byway, Federal Highway Administration.
 
Location. 44° 0.818′ N, 73° 10.099′ W. Marker is in Middlebury, Vermont, in Addison County. Marker is at the intersection of Main Street and Merchants Row, on the left when traveling south on Main Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Middlebury VT 05753, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Middlebury Civil War Memorial (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); John Deere (about 400 feet away); Emma Willard (about 500 feet away); Emma Willard Memorial (about 600 feet away); Court Square (about 600 feet away); Town & Gown (about 600 feet away); Middlebury War Memorial (about 700 feet away); Samuel Miller, Esq. (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Middlebury.
 
Additional keywords. Philanthropy
 
Categories. DisastersSettlements & Settlers
 
The Battell Block NRHP plaque image. Click for full size.
By Steve Stoessel, July 3, 2019
4. The Battell Block NRHP plaque
Middlebury Falls from Battell Bridge image. Click for full size.
By Steve Stoessel, July 3, 2019
5. Middlebury Falls from Battell Bridge
<i>Middlebury, Vertmont. Battell Block.</i> image. Click for full size.
W.H. Sheldon, published by Raphael Tuck & Sons (courtesy of Middlebury College Library), July 13, 2019
6. Middlebury, Vertmont. Battell Block.
 

More. Search the internet for The Battell Block.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 14, 2019. This page originally submitted on July 11, 2019, by Steve Stoessel of Niskayuna, New York. This page has been viewed 60 times since then. Last updated on July 13, 2019, by Steve Stoessel of Niskayuna, New York. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on July 11, 2019, by Steve Stoessel of Niskayuna, New York.   6. submitted on July 13, 2019. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.
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