This Place in History: Montpelier State House Card Room Fireplace

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MONTPELIER, Vt.

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

“There are so many stories in this house. And of course everyone in Vermont can come visit it, which is really cool. So we’re going to look at some hidden history of the State House that maybe you haven’t thought about or have never seen before. David Schütz, the State Curator has joined us to give us a tour,” introduced Perkins.

“We are in the Card Room. This during the legislative session is a very busy place because it is booked by various organizations that use it on a daily basis to trot their stuff. The members of the legislature refer to this as the ‘gauntlet’ because the House Chamber is adjacent, the committee rooms and cafeteria are in these directions. They have to run this gauntlet on a daily basis hoping that they won’t be held too long by the people that are trying to secure votes for something. It’s how the State House works,” started Schütz.

“It is part of a wing that was added to west side in the rear in the 1880s. And it was built in that time to provide a new home for the State Library, which moved out of the Cedar Creek Room, and then a new home for Vermont Supreme Court on the lower level. So the Vermont Historical Society also joined the State Library in this very place. This was the Reading Room for that library for many years. And it was decorated in part with the help of former Governor and at that time US Senator Redfield Proctor, who gave fireplaces for both the Supreme Court Chamber and what we call today, the Card Room.”

“He was also the owner of the Vermont Marble Company. In fact, he had created it by buying up little marble companies in the area around Rutland and creating this monopoly around the creation of Vermont marble. So what better item for the new State Library in its Reading Room than to have this magnificent fireplace that is essentially a salesman’s sampler of all the marbles produced in the state of Vermont,” said Schütz.

“So it has a lot of brick. It has these magnificent brass andirons and most important of all, the over mantle is the salesman’s sampler. Examples of every single kind of marble that could be found within the boundaries of the little state of Vermont, which is pretty amazing,” added Schütz.

“Some of the better-known samples are from Swanton, the Swanton red was very popular back in the 19th century. This is the well known Rochester green that we have in restrooms in the State House. Danby white, which is of course in the Vermont Historical Society Museum and main lobby of the State House. An infinite variety of marbles that we never see anymore because they are no longer quarried. Back then they were trying to make these marbles available throughout the world and that is essentially what built the reputation and the bank account of the Vermont Marble Company,” concluded Schütz.

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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