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Buck's Furniture

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1970–1983. Both sides of VT 15 at School St., Wolcott village

The ramshackle “evolved” commercial building, in which several wood-frame structures are erected, connected, and added on to over time, is a common vernacular type in sparsely populated rural areas throughout the nation. Buck's Furniture is a unique example of the form, indicative of Vermont's penchant for recycling old buildings and the declining population of the state's hill towns in the mid-twentieth century.

During the second quarter of the nineteenth century, Wolcott village developed on the Lamoille River with grist-and sawmills and two churches. The town reached its peak population of 1,166 in 1850. Construction of the St. Johnsbury and Lamoille County Railroad in 1877 kept the village the center of town, but as in many Vermont hill towns the farm population dwindled each decade in the twentieth century, reaching a low of 633 residents in 1960. By 1970 the Universalist church, its parsonage, and many village houses were empty. Floyd and Ruth Buck purchased the former Peters Fruit Store in the village in 1957 and began selling used furniture, antiques, groceries, hardware, and clothing. In 1969 they sold the antiques and other stock and began selling new furniture, enjoying such success that the next year they built a large addition with display windows onto the existing store. Needing even more floor space, they began buying vacant buildings on the other side of the highway, including the church, parsonage, and five early-nineteenth-century houses. By 1980 they had connected them to create twenty-five thousand square feet of display space and a similar amount of warehouse space. The buildings are unified by a coat of brown paint with a yellow and red stripe that runs the length of the seven buildings. In the era of big-box stores, Buck's holds its own by servicing the north-central interior of the state, far from the interstates, and using its low-cost recycled buildings to offer a competitive selection. An upscale version of the connected-building commercial type can be seen in the Vermont Country Store Outlet in Weston, where the nostalgia defining its product line demands that the old buildings connected be remodeled with a greater degree of sensitivity to their historic appearances.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson
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Citation

Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson, "Buck's Furniture", [Wolcott, Vermont], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/VT-01-LA8.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Vermont

Buildings of Vermont, Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 222-223.

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