“We are at an absolute time capsule of a building right here in Westminster,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “It’s the law office of William Czar Bradley. He was practicing law in the early 19th century, and it’s pristine. We’re going to go talk with Dan Axtell, who’s a member of the Westminster Historical Society, and super-dose it for this law office to give us all of the inside details.”
“He became a lawyer in 1802, at the age of 20,” Axtell said. “He couldn’t practice at the Supreme Court at that point in Vermont because of his extreme youth, but he then in 1810 built his law office.”
“Still visible today — some tokens of a particular piece of work in his life about which he spoke with a great deal of pride,” Mike Hoey said.
“That was in 1815, after the end of the War of 1812,” Axtell said. “(Under the Treaty of Ghent), the British Empire and the United States had to decide on the boundary line of the United States, and it was William Czar Bradley who went almost the entire length of the boundary of Maine, in deep woods. It took him three years. We have his old surveyor’s chain, and his sextant, and his pocket sextant.” (Bradley was also a Congressman, serving two terms in the House of Representatives in the 1820s.)
“You can walk through this door and still feel like you’re walking into the room exactly as William Bradley left it at the end of his career in the mid-19th century,” Perkins said. “How did that happen? How did this come to be?”
“(In) 1858, they closed up,” Axtell said. “There aren’t any journals from him or his family that we’ve uncovered yet. He was so important and famous, the family seems to have decided to keep this as sort of a shrine and not touch it. There are some things that survived just beautifully.”
“There’s a hat hanging from a peg inside,” Hoey said. “Was that his hat, that he’d (have hung) up on his last day?”
“We’re confident that it was his hat,” Axtell replied. “It’s a very nice hat, but it’s quite well-worn.
“The Willards bought (the property) — of Willard Hotel fame (in Washington, DC) — and they started taking good care of the building. 1998 came along, when the state of Vermont got the big surprise that it had been willed to the state of Vermont by the Willard family, and they first asked the Westminster Historical Society, and we were delighted to take it. We have gotten some excellent financial support.”
“So, the work is ongoing currently with the law office, but the public can come to visit this,” Perkins noted.
“We try to open it for a couple of hours every Sunday in the summertime,” Axtell said. “The general public is welcome, and we’ll point out some of the amazing things that you’ll find in there. Certainly, any researchers can just contact the Westminster Historical Society through our website.”