The Colonial Revival academy building that dominates the common in Lyndon Center is heir to more than a century of support from the community's leading citizens. Chartered as the Lyndon Literary and Biblical Institution in 1867, the school was housed in a mansard-roofed brick and granite building designed by Boston architect George C. Ropes, who had also designed a house for building committee member Dudley Hall (1866; Lily Pond Road at Red Village Road, Lyndon). From 1884 to 1909 the school was under the patronage of Theodore N. Vail, first president of American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T). In 1883 Vail assembled a neighboring estate of twenty-five hundred acres as a progressive farming operation (its house was demolished in 1974). While serving as Lyndon Institute's administrator, Vail expanded its holdings to surround most of the common as a campus quadrangle. In 1910, he founded an agricultural school here, drawing on the practical experience gained on his model farm. Vail willed the farm to the state for educational purposes, and it became home to Lyndon State College.
The institute took its distinctive form under Vail's successor, fellow gentleman farmer Elmer A. Darling. Following a fire in 1922 that destroyed the main building, this replacement was commissioned from the then-three-year-old Hanover, New Hampshire, partnership of Larson and Wells. Jens F. Larson was at the beginning of a career specializing in academic and campus design that would reshape such colleges as Dartmouth, Colby, Bucknell, and Wake Forest. For Lyndon, he produced a simple brick block with large twelve-over-twelve sash windows, advancing end bays, and a central Ionic portico crowned by a cupola. At the commissioners' request, Larson modeled the cupola after those of Independence Hall in Philadelphia and Dartmouth Hall in Hanover. This mix would be more overt in Larson's Baker Library at Dartmouth four years later. Overlooking a green, the white-trimmed structure presents the very image of a model New England academy.