The Unitarian Church: An Itinerant Organ Maker

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

The Unitarian Church: An Itinerant Organ Maker

Montpelier, Vermont 05602, United States

Created By: Kiltumper Close Press


The Unitarian Church is on the site of the first tavern and inn in Montpelier, operated in the 1790s by none other than the ubiquitous Davis family. It became known as the Union House, and several versions of this accommodation literally went up in flames over the years. The last version was across the street where the bank is now, where Sherm Caswell spent his last years, and that eventually burned also.

When the Unitarian Universalists first formed a congregation in Montpelier, they had an arrangement that will probably never be repeated in the modern era. They held their meetings at the State House. This didn’t really suit anyone, though, so a committee of businessmen in the congregation commissioned Boston architect Thomas Silloway to design this church in 1865. It was originally painted a light gray. At some point, it was painted all over in wedding cake white, which oddly enough seemed to make it almost invisible. More recently it was repainted in this sage color with white accents and when it was finished it was like it had suddenly stepped from behind a curtain and we were all stunned to realize how beautiful it was.

If the church is open you should have a peek inside for a better look at the hand-painted windows, the dark walnut pews, and their gloriously restored 1866 pipe organ, built by George Stevens of Cambridge, MA, who was a sort of Johnny Appleseed of organs.

He is said to have installed about 800 of them in churches around the country. This church is also the venue of choice for many classical music concerts. If you are a fan of chamber music, check to see if anything is on during your visit, because for a fraction of what you’d pay in larger cities, you will get to hear world-class musicians in an amazing setting.

Let’s cross the street now for our next stop at the library. Its origin is a story of high drama, greed, and redemption, with yet another little ghostly angle thrown on top. There are some benches on the lawn if you’d like to rest your feet while I tell you all about it.

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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