This Place in History: Pratt Hall

Vermont Historical Society

MONTGOMERY, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History‘ we’re in Montgomery, Vt. with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“We’re standing in front of a really cool, old building here that’s got a great history. We’re going to go meet Scott Perry, Chairman of the Board of the Montgomery Historical Society, to tell us all about it,” explained Perkins.

“It was a church. It was Montgomery’s first church. It was started in 1832, finished in 1835. It was built by the Episcopal congregation here in town. They were the second congregation to organize, but the first to complete a church. And after the Civil War, it really took off when good times hit Montgomery and they were able to add a bell, a clock, crenulation on the tower up on top and all the stained glass windows you see around you now. That started in 1874 and going until about 1920,” began Perry.

“The church was renamed St. Bartholomew’s in the late 19th Century and stayed that way until the church had fallen into disrepair in the 1960s. That’s why we have it now and it’s used as a community event location, as well as a place where we can manage the legacy and artifacts that belong to the town,” added Perry.

“When we got the building, it had no electricity, no plumbing. It didn’t have any heat. It was in danger of being condemned because of the water damage to the front tower. The society made it weathertight, restored the clock and the bell, and put them back around 10 years later after they were able to raise the funds and come up with a plan. Even since then, we’ve done a lot of work to restore the timber frame structure and take care of the stained glass windows,” said Perry.

“We have two types of stained glass windows. We’re really not sure where they were made. They’re pictorial and allegorical. As you can see, they ran out of gas as it was, so they never got the last one done. But, they’re basically in memory and honor of some of the founders of Montgomery, the Clapp family. They range from the late 1870s to this one over here. which is Mary Magdalene, to about 1920.”

“That [portait] is Joel Clapp, up there. Joel was the first person born in Montgomery. He went off to UVM at some point to become a lawyer but decided he didn’t have a taste for that and instead became an Episcopal clergyman. He was the first pastor and Episcopal clergyman at this church. He went on to serve with distinction in a number of Vermont communities; Sheldon, Shelburne, Bellows Galls. He served in Maine and New York City for a while,” said Perry.

“If you look at the floors between the pews you’ll see that there’s a hinged cover. If you open that cover, there’s a slat that just looks down into the basement, which is kind of a half basement. The early heating was done by woodstoves and there were at least two woodstoves down in that crawl area. Probably some kid on an early Sunday morning would come over and get the fires going and then take coals from the wood stove, put them into a bucket and hang them on a hook below those slats in the floor. That’s how they would heat the building for that Sunday. It seems like a fire hazard, but they wrapped the beams with split sap buckets as heat shields and that helped keep it from catching fire,” explained Perry.

“If people want to come and experience this building and learn about the historical society today, how can they do that?” asked Perkins.

“They can pay attention to our sandwich board outside for when there’s something going on. We also have a farmer’s market all summer long and we have the building open so they can come in and get impromptu tours. We have a website that they can go to and get the latest information on what we’re up to as well as some of the background as to what’s involved with the windows and that kind of thing,” concluded Perry.

At ‘This Place in History”!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic markers, click here.

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