The Kellogg-Hubbard Hubbub - 135 Main Street

Five Walks Through Montpelier VT: Tour #3 - The Elm Street Mini Loop

The Kellogg-Hubbard Hubbub - 135 Main Street

Montpelier, Vermont 05602, United States

Created By: Kiltumper Close Press


The saga of Montpelier’s public library begins in the waning months of 1889 in a fashionable neighborhood of New York City, where Martin Kellogg, a Barre VT native who’d struck it rich in the real estate market, suddenly dropped dead of a heart attack. Less than three months later his wife, Montpelier native Fanny Hubbard Kellogg, followed him, and Montpelier soon learned their entire estate had been bequeathed to the city for two projects – the construction of a chapel and gates at Green Mount Cemetery, and the building of a public library in the center of town.

Hubbard Has His Day in Court
Any celebration was short-lived, though. Fanny’s nephew, John Hubbard, knew a thing or two about real estate himself. In the mid-1800s his family owned more real estate than anyone in Montpelier, including a substantial area of town known as Hubbard’s Meadow, which the family had laid out in streets and developed. You can visit that neighborhood on Tour #4.
John had been hoping for something quite a bit different from his aunt’s will, and he was a sore loser. When it was brought up for a ruling in probate court, the two witnesses to the will were present. They were learned men, not just some strangers who’d been pulled from the street and presented with a pen. One witness was Fanny’s physician and the other a law clerk, but once in court Fanny Kellogg’s attorney listened, no doubt with his jaw hanging open, as the two men suddenly sounded very unclear on the concept. “Will? That was a will? I had no idea that was a will.”
The will was declared invalid.

No Peace in the Village
The city erupted in outrage, cried foul and filed a suit, but just before the ruling was expected, the town selectmen suddenly calmed down and agreed to a compromise. They withdrew their claim in exchange for Hubbard’s promise to grant Montpelier a very modest sum to build the library.
There were enough suspicions over all this to rip the city apart. As construction of the new library continued, an effort was mounted to fund a rival library, hoping to ensure the Hubbard-funded library’s failure. The revered local artist Thomas Waterman Wood was recruited to the cause. He agreed to give 42 oil paintings to establish a gallery in the rival library.
Even after both libraries opened in 1896, the conflict continued. There were heated town meetings where Hubbard factions and anti-Hubbard factions hurled abuse at each other. Then, a most extraordinary thing happened.

Hubbard Has the Last Word
In 1899, John Hubbard died, ostensibly of liver cancer, but perhaps also from the strain of living as the town pariah. When his will became public, the people of Montpelier learned it had been dated two years before his death, and that Hubbard had left the bulk of his estate to the city. Not only was there a sizable bequest for the library and cemetery, he had also gifted the city 100 acres of the land known as Hubbard Hill, along with enough money to turn it into a city park.
Presumably, there were a lot of sheepish faces around town at the time, and the Montpelier Evening Argus reported what many must have been thinking: “Even those who have said very hard things about him previously are softened today, and some have acknowledged that they might possibly have judged him too harshly.”

With that, Montpelier’s love affair with its public library took root and has never faltered since. As to the building itself, the exterior is made of rusticated granite blocks quarried in Dummerston. The columns in the first and second story porticos are pink granite from North Conway, NH. The inside is gorgeously restored with oak staircases, marble fireplaces and an overhead central skylight, and there is a collection of marble friezes on the second floor, which ironically at one time housed the Thomas Waterman Wood collection!
Another large bequest in the 1990s made it possible to add a large wing to the back of the building. With the added capacity, there is ALWAYS something going on – language club meetings, spelling bees, lectures, book sales, author talks, you name it. If you walk by on an early winter evening, you’ll see all the lights are on, and the golden glow pouring out its many windows make it look like a lantern in the darkness.
It’s well worth a visit, and don’t forget to snap a selfie with the library mouse near the front door.

A Ghostly Codicil
At Green Mount Cemetery at the lower end of State Street, high up on its hillside you’ll find John Hubbard’s gravesite and the expansive memorial dedicated to his memory. There is a bronze sculpture of a seated male figure, weathered with verdigris. Its official name is Thanatopsis, a Greek word meaning “a consideration of death”, but the sculpture’s more popular name is Black Agnes. The folk tale is that the statue carries a curse, so that anyone who sits in the figure’s lap when the moon is full at midnight, will be haunted by misfortune and an early death. You can find out more from a book called Montpelier Chronicles by local historian Paul Heller, and yes, they do have a copy of it in the library.

Before we continue down Main Street, I’ll invite you to make a quick side trip with me to the house on School Street that’s right next to the library. I make it a point to visit this house often, and if you follow me, you’ll see why.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Five Walks Through Montpelier VT: Tour #3 - The Elm Street Mini Loop


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