This house is wary about you. It is set back from the road, quite a distance, on a rise, so it looks down at you, or you look up at it. Yes, it has a door in the middle, flanked by windows on each side and one above. Clearly that's the place to go in. Still, especially when you imagine this modern door with its fan light replaced by the original plank one, you don't sense that door saying, "Please come visit!"
Then there's that blank wall to the left, and only one tiny window on the second right side is hardly better -- more windows, but still that stone wall around the whole first floor, solid, no frills.
When I first passed by, I thought it was just an early stone house built by the original Shaftsbury settlers from Dover Plains, N.Y.
The lack of windows? Well, glass for window panes would have come by boat up the Hoosick and Walloomsac Rivers, then up to Buck Hill Road by wagon. Glass would have been expensive and hardly a priority for people who needed to provide food for themselves.
Herbert Wheaton Congdon, in his "Old Vermont Houses," published in 1946, wrote that Parker Cole built this building in 1770, as a farm house; that it was used as a storehouse during the American Revolution.
Today we think it was intended to be a storehouse from the beginning, similar to the one which was in Old Bennington, where the Benningtion Battle Monument is today.
Here is why:
This house has no full basement, a necessary space for winter food storage for families in 1770. It was built without a chimney, so the building was not intended to be warm in winter. Its framing is more solid than would be needed for a dwelling.
Was it a barn? No. Our early barns had a lower level facing south into the sunshine to give farm animals warmth in the winter, shade in the summer. There is no lower level here.
Most wagon doors on early barns in this area faced north, opening onto the level above the animals so that loading hay into a barn mid-summer could be done in the shade and the hay stored just above where it is needed. Wagon doors were also close to the road making for a short trip from the hay fields.
The wagon door here faces south around on the back and opens onto the main floor. It is out of sight, away from the road, allowing inconspicuous, stealthy, delivery of food, hay, guns, ammunition.
The sturdy second floor frame easily bore the weight of those supplies.
This was a storehouse for munitions, built in anticipation of war with England. It was set on the rise of the hill, aware of its surroundings, to allow those inside to inspect anyone who approached. It was, and is today, wary of you!
The storehouse has been a home for the Howard family since about 1850. Over the years, as stewards, they have seen most of the original frame. I thank them for their care of the storehouse and for sharing what they know.
A correction: The 322-324 Gage Street duplex which I wrote about last month was built by Henry W. Putnam. A newspaper article from 1888 notes his plans to build several cottages on Gage Street, now numbers 304, 311, 315, 316, 318-320, and 322-324.
Jane Griswold Radocchia is a Banner columnist.