The Ely-Goddard House looks across Lake Fairlee like a vision out of one of Andrew Jackson Downing's nineteenth-century publications on rural architecture. The house is essentially Italianate with its square massing, hipped roof, belvedere, and tall, paired windows set within shaped frames. The board-and-batten siding and double-leaf pointed-arched door are Gothic Revival, while the broad roof overhang and wraparound second-floor gallery with cross-braced balustrade supported by bold triangular brackets show Stick Style influence. This distinctive eclecticism is exceptional in Vermont and was especially surprising given the house's original setting.
The house was built in a mining village in nearby Vershire for Ely Ely-Goddard, the spendthrift, European-educated grandson of the founder of the Ely Copper Mine. Between 1866 and 1881 the Ely Mine was among the top ten copper producers in the United States and one of Vermont's largest industrial operations. The mine facilities, located in a bowl-shaped valley polluted by sulfur fumes and denuded by lumbering operations that fueled the smelters, incorporated twenty-eight buildings, including a quarter-mile-long smoke flue to take fumes from smelters to an eighty-foot chimney atop a neighboring hill. The accompanying boomtown-like village accommodated a population in excess of 1,000 of mostly Cornish miners. In the midst of this, Ely-Goddard built this conspicuous house, one of the costliest and most elaborately furnished in the region. He named the house “Elysium,” staffed it with imported servants, and used it as a stage for elaborate entertainments. By 1883, the mine was failing financially, and unpaid workers staged a strike that was quelled by the Vermont National Guard. The house was spared the rioters' torch and survived intermittent reactivation of the mine until its final owner dismantled the operation and put the village up for auction. Sold for one hundred and fifty-five dollars, the house was moved to its present location on Lake Fairlee, a setting remote from its original blasted landscape but more in character with its design and its name.