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Delta Psi (Edward Wells House)
Edward Wells was president of Vermont's third-largest bank and head of one of the world's largest mail-order patent-medicine companies. Purchasing this lot from the estate of Lawrence Barnes for its view of the lake and the Adirondacks, he instructed his architect and builder to give him “the best that money can buy.” The architect was Bostonian E. A. P. Newcomb, who designed numerous houses in that city. The builder was A. B. Fisher, who was responsible for other Wells family structures. The result was a Queen Anne mansion of an elegance unsurpassed in Burlington.
This two-and-a-half-story residence is dominated by a main block of quarry-faced dolomite on the first floor, purplish brick on the second floor, and a high, truncated hipped roof. These establish strong organizing registers within which the architect composed a picturesque range of window types, dormers, bays, and oriels. Around this he disposed a service wing, a half-timbered gable, a Tudor-arched entrance porch, a porte-cochere, a three-story tower with a conical cap, and a terrace with a grand west-facing elliptical veranda. The interiors, organized around a living hall and a grand staircase that leads to a third-floor ballroom, abounded with the newest technology (an elevator, electrical lighting, huge plate-glass windows) and traditional craftsmanship in balusters, paneling, coffered ceilings, marble and tile inglenook fireplaces, and elaborately carved mantels.
Particularly notable is the wood carving of Albert Whittekind. Many of the details were executed according to Newcomb's drawings (preserved in the house), but the foliate and mythological ornament of gables, friezes, spandrels, and pediments were of Whitte-kind's invention, paralleling the floral and mask motifs on his Burlington houses at 282 Pearl Street and 376 and 384 College Street.
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