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“Johnson Village”

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1775–1878. U.S. 5, 0.9 miles north of Romance Ln.

At the end of the French and Indian Wars in 1763, Colonel Thomas Johnson of Haverhill, Massachusetts, and his brothers Jesse and Caleb joined with Colonel Jacob Bayley of Newbury, Massachusetts, to secure New Hampshire patents for the towns of Haverhill, New Hampshire, and Newbury. Johnson became a proprietor of Haverhill but chose the prime west side of the Great Oxbow of the Connecticut River, adjacent to Colonel Bayley's site, to settle and build his first house in 1766. In April 1775 Johnson was erecting the oak frame for a new two-story house when news of Lexington and Concord reached him. He served as a minuteman, as captain of the Newbury militia in the 1777 campaign, and then as a colonel in the state militia. He was captured in 1781 while building a sawmill in Peacham. Though paroled in October of that year, Johnson spent the rest of the war under confinement on his farm. That is when he began to make real progress on the house he started in 1775. The result was one of the earliest Georgian houses in the state. With modillion cornices and pediments and fluted pilasters that flank each of its formal entrances, the house befits Johnson's stature. Its enclosed entrance porch facing the river road (now U.S. 5) may have influenced similar porches found on houses from Norwich to Bradford and Orford, but uncommon elsewhere.

Johnson spent the next two decades farming, keeping a store and tavern, and serving as town representative. In 1800 he built his third house, a larger two-story, wood-frame building across the river road. He left the older homestead to his son Moses, who continued to run the tavern. The new central-hall house had a cove-ceilinged second-floor ballroom across its width. Subsequently, the roof was changed to a gable-front design, which, based on the Gothic window surrounds in the gable pediment, probably occurred around 1855, or it may be one of the earliest five-bay gable-front dwellings that became popular in the Connecticut River Valley.

In 1807 Johnson's son David built a wood-frame I-house with a rear ell to the south of the 1775 house and tavern, adding another traditional type to what by then was known as “Johnson village.” In 1819, Johnson's youngest son, Hanes, inherited the 1800 house and the barns, and in 1833 David built a fine two-story, central-hall brick house with granite trim just to the north. He, too, established a store, which was entered in the north end of the main block. Among the many farm buildings built by the Johnsons, the most intact and visible is the c. 1860 bank barn built by Hanes and his son Thomas between his house and David's store. By 1885 only one of David's sons, Sidney, remained in “Johnson village” (in the 1807 I-house), and a farmer soon began using the old brick store as a corn house. A series of twentieth-century owners recognized the value of these Newbury landmarks and worked to preserve them. As a group they illustrate the evolution of early houses along the Connecticut River and the influence of a single family on the landscape of Vermont.

Writing Credits

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

Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson, "“Johnson Village”", [Newbury, Vermont], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/VT-01-OG12.

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Vermont

Buildings of Vermont, Glenn M. Andres and Curtis B. Johnson. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 333-333.

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