1901 House "mystery" solved

MIDDLEBURY Go to the Marble Works District, stand with your back to Costellos Market, and face north. Youll see a charming Victorian-era cottage faced in Rutland white marble with a gambrel roof and a riot of flowers. Above the buildings entry the year 1901 is inscribed deeply in the lintel you can see it if you stand in the railroad right-of-way just outside the door. Youre looking at the 1901 House, a bit of Middlebury architectural mystery that was solved recently. For years, local residents wondered why a circa-1901 marble cottage would have been built so close to tracks at a time when Rutland Railroad steam locomotives passed by the buildings front walk belching sooty coal smoke. Theories abounded. But the correct answer, usually the simplest one, was found in the rich history of Middleburys Marble Works District itself. One hundred years ago, Vermont supplied much of the nations finished marble used for architectural and decorative purposes. Perhaps the most famous example of Vermont architectural marble is a prominent hall within the nations domed Capitol building, built in the 1800s; the hall is faced with stunning Vermont marble. Middlebury stands as a monument to the mighty local marble industry that reached its peak in the early 1900s the downtown bridge over Otter Creek, St. Marys Roman Catholic Church, a number of Middlebury campus buildings, and the rough-cut industrial buildings of the Marble Works itself are just a few examples of the near-eternal beauty of Vermont marble. Vermonts marble industry consisted of several small firms until, roughly, the end of the 19th century. Middlebury lured one such small firm to town in 1898 during the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. The Brandon Italian Marble Company suffered a major mill fire earlier that year. Inexpensive land and superior hydropower, thanks to the Otter Creek Falls, clinched the deal and the firms big move to Middlebury was made. Rough marble ore from the companys nearby quarries was shipped by rail and offloaded from flatcars at the Marble Works mill. The ore was then processed, stored in various adjoining warehouses and yards, and eventually reloaded on trains for delivery to customers nationwide and beyond. Records found not too long ago tell an interesting story and solve the old mystery: outgrowing a nearby facility, Brandon Italian apparently built a small, stand-alone office building near the Rutland Railroads tracks during the opening months of the 20th century (correctly reckoning 1901 as the first year of the 20th century). Thus a local mystery was finally solved: Middleburys 1901 House was in fact built as the marble companys office. At the time the house was built, the marble company employed 175 workers at its Middlebury milling and shipping facility. Unlike Middlebury College today, it was the Brandon Italian Marble Company that held the crown as the towns largest employer in the early 1900s. During the boom years of the 1920s, Vermont Marble Company of Proctor acquired Brandon Italian in the hope of expanding its operations. But in less than a decade, Vermont Marble became a victim of the Great Depression. By the start of World War II, the writing was on the wall for Vermonts marble industry, at least as the areas prime employer. What happened to the quaint 1901 House after the demise of Vermont Marble? Well, the building appears to have undergone its first rebirth as a private residence. The Morgan family lived in the building for many years. In a second, much later, rebirth the building became the home of hairstylist Brett Weeks Bretts Making Waves salon. But within the past month, Weeks salon fixtures have come down and the 1901 House has been reborn yet again. Early in September, the old marble office building became the office and counseling space for the small nonprofit organization Care Net Pregnancy Center of Addison County. I dearly love our new location in the 1901 House, said center director Nancy Sunderland. Were much closer to downtown and the college, and our walk-ins have noticeably increased. Care Net counselors comfort and help a group of citizens almost nobody wants to deal withyoung women (and some men), caught up in the trauma of crisis pregnancies. They face a moral dilemma of either choosing an abortion or bringing a baby into the world. Sunderland said the center is avowedly Christian and seeks to live out the words of its founder that whatever you do for the least of your sisters and brothers, you do for me. According to Sunderland, Care Net volunteers in Addison County act as family of sorts for teens who might not have the support-network they need; they help frightened, and sometimes desperate young women choose a different path on the rocky road of crisis pregnancy.

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