George Jones Brooks poured his fortune from dry goods and paper businesses in San Francisco into erecting a hotel that is still the largest commercial building downtown. It occupies the site of the village's first public house, destroyed by fire in 1869. Brooks built the hotel as an act of philanthropy in his hometown, to create a grand hotel to match those in major eastern cities, and to give himself a Vermont pied-à-terre. Architect Boyden had recently completed the First Baptist Church (WH42) and in 1874 would receive the commission for the Brooks-supported Unitarian Church at 210 Main Street. For the hotel, Boyden provided a fashionable Second Empire design, framed in iron and faced in brick. Square granite piers and cast-iron columns divide the first-floor storefronts and windows. Mansard pavilions add variety to the long street facades, while a corner tower serves as the hotel's visual fulcrum into High Street. Once one of the leading hotels in northwestern New England, with an elegant lobby and clear-span ballroom, Brooks House was threatened with demolition by the late 1960s. It was saved by local developer Norman B. Chase and converted to stores, offices, and apartments, though at the expense of its grandest spaces. Damaged internally by fire in 2011, and with the exception of the earlier loss of a two-story, iron veranda and some modification of the ground-floor entrances and storefronts, the exterior remains generally as built.
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