The gift of a prosperous native son, this is the showiest building on Guildhall Common. The common, the dominant feature of this quiet rural county seat, was miller and entrepreneur Eben Judd's gift to Essex County in 1797, a donation that won shire status for the village. Over the course of the nineteenth century the common was bordered with a church, a jail, Vermont's smallest courthouse (1851), houses, small businesses, and at its eastern end the two-story, galleried Essex House hotel. The hotel burned in 1892 and the site was acquired by Everett C. Benton, a Boston insurance executive, summer resident, local historian, and a Guildhall native who was intent on preserving and enhancing the character of the village. He commissioned the Boston firm of Gay and Proctor to design a public library and Masonic hall (for a lodge of his founding). The result is a study in Colonial Revival eclecticism. The two-story, neo-Georgian block has a flared hipped roof crowned by a blocky clock base surmounted by an arcaded belfry and bell-shaped cap. Twin colossal Corinthian pilasters frame a slightly advancing pedimented entrance pavilion fronted by a semicircular Ionic portico with bronze antefix cresting that shelters an Adamesque door with an elliptical fanlight. Windows are varied in shape and include seven stained glass windows with Masonic motifs. Originally painted a dark color with white trim, the building has been vinyl-sided, though its rich catalogue of detail inside and out has been preserved.
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Public Library and Masonic Hall
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