PASSING BY: A sheltering roof, 353 Elm St., Bennington


This picture was taken on July 5. The date is important. Here you see how the roof extends, creating eaves that shade the windows of this house from the hot July sun.

In the summer, the sun here in New England is high in the sky. A 16" deep overhang will shade about 5' of the wall below it. Here you can see that the roof over the first floor extends the farthest, casting a longer shadow than the roof above whose shadow covers little more than half the second floor windows. The sun porch on the right side also has shallow eaves.

Later in the summer, the sun will be lower in the sky. The eaves will not cast as deep a shadow. But the tree will. Its shade will include the front of the house.

In the winter months, when the sun is at a much lower angle, the eaves will not block the welcome sunshine and heat. Nor will the tree: It will have lost its leaves.

The porch may have been all screens when it was built. It was set on the northeast side of the house and held back from the front corner to allow the house to protect it from the afternoon sun. Porches like this one have often been glassed in by later owners as they are delightful places on sunny late fall and early spring mornings.

In 1925, the house lot was sold to William L. Gokay for $3,600 by Charles and Elijah Dewey, descendants of Bennington's first minister, Jedediah Dewey. It was part of the minister's plot when Bennington was laid out in 1761. However, in the deed the land is referred to as the "Swift Farm." The Swifts were descendants of Bennington's second minister, Job Swift.

William Gokay was a local druggist, active in the Bennington Board of Trade and the Civic League. The June 5, 1914, Bennington Evening Banner reports that he is on the committee planning the Town's Fourth of July celebration. He was 47 years old when his house was built.

The style is called Colonial Revival, mostly because the house at first glance resembles houses built when Bennington was founded: A simple white box with a center entrance and balanced windows on each side. Really the house is wonderfully eclectic: The triple and double windows were not "Colonial" but modern in the ‘20s. The deep roof overhangs reminiscent of thatch along with the small windows over the entrance are a nod toward the Cotswold cottages of rural England. The clipped roof on the gable end is referred to as a "jerkin head" after a monk's cowl.

Since this picture was taken the balustrade on the roof over the sun porch has been rebuilt to the specification of the original blue prints. The rail adds excellent scale and finish to the house.

In 1935, the house passed to Wm. Gokay's daughter, Hazel, and her husband Raymond Dunigan. He was a manager for the A&P. Christopher and Margaret Buckley bought the house in 1941. They owned the General Stark Theater. Margaret Buckley lived here until 1987.

For the history of the General Stark Theater please talk to Ted Bird!

Jane Radocchia is a Banner columnist.


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