61 Summit Street: The History of a Home

By Jesse Keel and Evan Haley

Click here for a PDF version with images!


The Hill Section of Burlington is crowded with beautiful homes built at the turn of the 19th century by Burlington’s most prominent citizens. 61 Summit Street is the crown jewel of this eclectic collection. Built in 1892 by a wealthy Burlington business man, Edward Wells, it stands today as a portal to over 126 years of local history.

As interns shifting through this history, we were faced with a unique set of challenges that were completely unexpected. Uncovering the lives of the people who built the house was our first goal and, as it turned out, our hardest. It took almost a month to even find a picture of Edward Wells, which we finally discovered in a book of prominent Vermont men from the era. We never found pictures of Edgar Allen Poe Newcomb, the architect of the house, or Alfred Fisher, the contractor. In the search for information about their lives, we discovered that Alfred Fisher served in the Civil War and that Newcomb died in Hawaii and enjoyed writing operas.

What was not a struggle was uncovering information about Wells, Richardson and Company, the patent medicine business through which Mr. Wells made his fortune. The company not only produced patent medicine like Paine’s Celery Compound, an internationally dispersed cure-all, but also butter color, diamond dyes, and lactated food. Part of their business model involved diverse and aggressive advertisements. UVM’s Special Collections served as our primary resource for the information and visuals we were searching for and that was doubly true for their collection of Wells, Richardson and Co. adverts.

After the Wells family left the house, it was purchased by a local fraternity, Delta Psi. The Fraternity was founded in 1850 by J.E. Goodrich and in 1924, when they purchase the house, they dedicated it to him. In this case, we were interested to learn that they hired James Sykes, the son-in-law of Edward Wells, to do the redecoration of the house. While Special Collections holds a great number of files pertaining to Delta Psi from photos to rush pamphlets and a few money ledgers, we spent a lot of time tracking the brothers and the house through their yearbook pages in Ariel. The pictures they often included of their house reflected the physical changes the house went through and the events the brothers hosted around and inside the house. At the same time, the photos truly demonstrated the everlasting nature of the property that stood true through the ages, through war, through hard use by college men, through everything.

However, without a national organization to fall back on, Delta Psi’s numbers slowly declined from once being the largest UVM fraternity to a defunct one. Of course, 61 Summit remained a beautiful house ready for a new chapter and thankfully the UVM Alumni Association saw that possibility, as well. Not only were able to raise the money needed for the enormous restoration all through private donation, but they then took that money began a careful and conscious restoration of the historic home. In this way, they were able to restore 61 Summit Street to preserve its historical features such as the wood carved fireplaces and original light fixtures as well as seamlessly update the house to have offices and high-end event spaces.

With much wrangling, we managed to find the direction and scope of this exhibit within the research we spent months on. Eventually the story we wanted to tell became clear. 61 Summit Street is a fixed address with a one-of-a-kind house that, through three transformations, tells a story about what it means to be a home. As it turned out, designing the exhibit was only half the battle. For two history majors, the physical (and mathematical) hanging of the exhibit was a newfound challenge. With the assistance and patience of the staff at both The Fleming Museum and UVM Print and Mail, we were able to slowly but surely, piece by piece, hang the images. It was satisfying to see the sketches and ideas we held in our mind take shape on the wall. Of course, it didn’t look exactly how we pictured it. For example, The Vermont State Almanac published by Wells, Richardson and Company was originally supposed to be hung on the first wall as part our explanation of Victorian Vermont. However, it fit the spacing and color themes of the wall about Wells, Richardson and Company.

The text was a whole other story. It is hard to condense over 100 years of history into a dozen short paragraphs that are both self-explanatory, interesting, and educational. Next to hanging the exhibit crafting the text to fully express our ideas without covering the walls in text, was our biggest challenge. Perhaps especially because it can feel like a task that never fully seems completed. In the end, we reduced our words to the most critical and interesting facts and hoped that the exhibit might find a way to fill in the gaps and speak for itself. Though the wall text still is about 3000 words all together.

In a space that was used over 100 years ago as a parlor to entertain guests, we successfully captured a series of snapshots that give insight into the diverse history of this house, a house that went from a home for a family, to a home for a fraternity, to finally a home for alumni and perhaps even a home for us.



The University of Vermont History Department and Historic Preservation Program are pleased to announce the appointments of Nora Mitchell and Rolf Diamant as Adjunct Associate Professors. Nora Mitchell is internationally known for her leadership in cultural landscape preservation efforts and scholarship. As the founding director of the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation at the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, Massachusetts, as well as through her leadership with the Stewardship Institute and the Conservation Study institute at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and as a board member of US/ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites), Nora brings a wealth of experience in testing new methodologies for preserving cultural landscapes. Rolf Diamant has worked in historic preservation through his 37-year career with the National Park Service, serving as superintendent of several national historical parks and sites including Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site and Olmsted Archives, Lowell National Historical Park, Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. The UVM Historic Preservation Program looks forward to the opportunity to engage with Nora Mitchell and Rolf Diamant through a broad range of potential collaborations, research and public service networking endeavors that could be of great value to our students, faculty and the University of Vermont, as well as to the field of cultural landscape studies, nationally and internationally.

As part of our  upcoming celebration of the many publications by members of our department in 2016 and 2016 this Friday (4 PM, at Alumni House, 61 Summit Street, Burlington, VT 05401), we are featuring several of the books that will be celebrated.

This last (but certainly not least!), featured title is by Professor Emeritus Mark Stoler.

This seventh and final volume of The Papers of George Catlett Marshall covers the last ten years of Marshall’s life, when he served as secretary of defense from September 1950 to September 1951 following a year as American Red Cross president. Dramatic swings in fortune for US and UN forces in Korea consumed him as defense secretary, yet Europe remained Marshall’s strategic focus and with it the establishment of a NATO military command, efforts to convince the French to accept German rearmament, congressional approval for a major US military buildup, and a Mutual Security Program for America’s allies. Marshall also participated in the decision to relieve General Douglas MacArthur, sparking public uproar and a Senate investigation.

Marshall remained active and honored in retirement, particularly in 1953, when he led the US delegation to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and then became the first professional soldier to win the Nobel Peace Prize, a tribute to the Marshall Plan. Through it all, he maintained an extensive correspondence with national and international leaders. When he died on October 16, 1959, George Catlett Marshall was hailed by many as the nation’s greatest soldier-statesman since George Washington.

Please join us this afternoon at Alumni House! Refreshments will be served.

As part of our  upcoming celebration of the many publications by members of our department in 2016 and 2016 this Friday (4 PM, at Alumni House, 61 Summit Street, Burlington, VT 05401), we are featuring several of the books that will be celebrated.

This featured title is by Professor Emeritus Patrick Hutton.

Image result for patrick hutton phenomenonIn this book, Hutton provides a comprehensive overview of the intense and sustained work on the relationship between collective memory and history, retracing the royal roads pioneering scholars have traveled in their research and writing on this topic: notably, the politics of commemoration (purposes and practices of public remembrance); the changing uses of memory worked by new technologies of communication (from the threshold of literacy to the digital age); the immobilizing effects of trauma upon memory (with particular attention to the remembered legacy of the Holocaust). He follows with an analysis of the implications of this scholarship for our thinking about history itself, with attention to such issues as the mnemonics of historical time, and the encounter between representation and experience in historical understanding. His book provides insight into the way interest in the concept of memory – as opposed to long-standing alternatives, such as myth, tradition, and heritage – has opened new vistas for scholarship not only in cultural history but also in shared ventures in memory studies in related fields in the humanities and social sciences.

Please join us this afternoon at Alumni House! Refreshments will be served.

As part of our  upcoming celebration of the many publications by members of our department in 2016 and 2016 this Friday (4 PM, at Alumni House, 61 Summit Street, Burlington, VT 05401), we are featuring several of the books that will be celebrated.

This featured title is by Senior Lecturer Charles Briggs.

Dr. Briggs was kind enough to share some insights into the process of creating this work:

Image result for Companion to Giles of Rome“Over a decade ago at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Leeds, England, I was approached by one of the commissioning editors at the Netherlands-based publisher Brill about organizing and editing a volume on Giles of Rome (c. 1243/7–1316). The volume would be published in Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition series, which describes itself as “a series of handbooks and reference works on the intellectual and religious life of Europe, 500-1800.” I agreed with the commissioning editor, Julian Deahl, that such a volume was needed. Giles of Rome was not only one of the most influential intellectuals of the European later Middle Ages, he also was (and still is) the Doctor (i.e., most authoritative theologian) of the Hermits of Saint Augustine, one of the four orders of “mendicant friars” which had originally formed in the thirteenth century (the other three being the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Carmelites). Giles was, arguably, the most talented student of Thomas Aquinas at the University of Paris, and a brilliant and prolific scholar who played a key role in the study and interpretation of the recently rediscovered works of the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. Some sixty works can be plausibly credited to his authorship, the most famous of which, both in his own times and today, is his treatise on statecraft, the De regimine principum (“On the Rule of Princes”). He also managed to become embroiled in several important controversies, first gaining fame for his principled stand against the censorship of new, Aristotelian ideas by university authorities in 1277 (which got him kicked out of the university, though he soon returned to teach there) and later for being the chief architect of the theory of papal supremacy in Pope Boniface VIII’s acrimonious dispute with King Philip IV of France, and then for supporting that same king’s bid to destroy the military order of the Templars (for more on this last, see the work of my colleague, Sean Field).

Given all this, it comes as no surprise that a prodigious body of scholarship has been published over the last few decades on various aspects of Giles’s works and ideas. Yet, for all the mass of published articles and monographic studies, no one had yet attempted to produce a comprehensive, interpretive study of Giles’s life, works, and contributions to intellectual history. This is likely because the shear enormity of such a project had frightened off people less foolish than myself. Still, since I had already published a goodly amount of work on Giles, I felt like I might be up to the task. But the fact is that I am an intellectual historian, not a philosopher. So, I knew I could only manage the task if I could secure the partnership of a co-editor who knew more about the philosophical aspects of Giles’s works, and I found him in Peter Eardley, a professor of medieval philosophy at Guelph University in Canada. We got together in Toronto and came up with a proposal for the volume, which included a rough outline of chapter topics and of scholars who were qualified to write those chapters. I agreed to write the introductory chapter, on Giles’s life, works, and legacy, and Peter volunteered a chapter on his moral psychology. Then we started approaching the other scholars. To our great good fortune, we secured contributions from seven of the very best scholars in the field. It was to be a truly international collaboration, with five Italian, one German, and one British contributor, and the Canadian and American editors.

Had I known how much time and effort Peter and I would have to expend on the volume, I likely never would have agreed to Julian’s request. Because the Companion to Giles of Rome (published in 2016) is meant to be a work of reference, Peter and I had to compile a massive comprehensive bibliography of Giles of Rome scholarship, as well as a chronology of Giles’s own works and a bibliography of all the published editions of those works (including all the early printed editions, starting in the fifteenth century). Moreover, in addition to having to write our own chapters, Peter and I had to coax chapters out of some of the more slow-moving of the contributors, and then do substantial editing of several chapters, especially because English was the second (or indeed third or fourth) language of several of the authors. One chapter I translated from Italian. Fortunately, despite whatever linguistic, stylistic, and formal quirks which had to be ironed out, the scholarship of the chapters was universally excellent, so the volume made it through peer review, and has, so far, been reviewed positively in scholarly journals. For the foreseeable future, then, the Companion will likely remain the “go-to” resource for people working on Giles of Rome, on the Augustinian Order, and on later medieval scholastic philosophy and theology. Indeed, from time to time I actually find myself consulting it.”

Please join us this afternoon for our celebration of all of our authors!  Refreshments will be served.




As part of our  upcoming celebration of the many publications by members of our department in 2016 and 2016 this Friday (4 PM, at Alumni House, 61 Summit Street, Burlington, VT 05401), we are featuring several of the books that will be celebrated.

This featured title is by Professor Sean Field.

Professor Field’s most recent book is a collaborative translation project, Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome: The Lives of Margherita Colonna by Giovanni Colonna and Stefania (University of Notre Dame Press, 2017). Margherita Colonna (c. 1255-1280) was a fascinating holy woman from one of medieval Rome’s most powerful families. Her brother Giovanni was Senator of Rome; her brother Giacomo was a cardinal. Margherita herself is a striking example of a certain kind of medieval sanctity–she was a visionary, dedicated to poverty (in spite of her family’s wealth), working with the poor and sick, but uninterested in becoming a nun. Instead she led an informal group of like-minded women who gathered at the family compound atop Mt. Prenestino (overlooking the town of Palestrina). This project is an English translation of the two contemporary “lives” written about Margherita, as well as a number of associated documents. The lives were written in Latin, and exist in a unique manuscript in the Biblioteca Casanatense in Rome, from which they were edited by a Franciscan scholar in 1935. But even though this kind of text about this kind of medieval holy woman has been the subject of immense interest in recent decades, Margherita’s “lives” have remained almost unknown to scholars. Thus they are an exciting “find” to bring to wider attention, because they are quite unusual in a several ways. The first “life” was written by Margherita’s own brother, the Senator Giovanni Colonna; it is extraordinarily rare to have a Latin life from the thirteenth century written by a layman (not a member of the Church). The second “life” was written by a woman named Stefania, who was one of Margherita’s followers. Although women wrote far more in the Middle Ages than people might assume, this is also a very rare dynamic to find a woman writing a saint’s life (in Latin) about another woman she had known well. Moreover, the texts are just flat out fascinating, filled with visions and family battles and miracles and conflicts of all kinds. For this project, the initial translations from the Latin were done by Larry F. Field (Western New England University), and the texts were then edited and introduced by Lezlie S. Knox (Marquette University) and Sean L. Field (UVM).

The editing process for something like this involves going through the unique manuscript word by word to make sure the printed edition is reliable, making any necessary changes, identifying all sources quoted or alluded to by the texts’ authors, and adding critical notes to explain the medieval context to readers. The substantial introduction helps students and other readers to understand the world in which Margherita Colonna and her family lived. It was a really rewarding project to work on, and one that promises to make Margherita Colonna much more widely known to scholars, students, and interested readers. Professor Field learned from this project that if you take on an Italian topic, you get to have some really cool art on your cover.


Please join us on Friday afternoon at Alumni House! Refreshments will be served.

As part of our  upcoming celebration of the many publications by members of our department in 2016 and 2016 this Friday (4 PM, at Alumni House, 61 Summit Street, Burlington, VT 05401), we are featuring several of the books that will be celebrated.

This featured title is by Professor Boğaç Ergene.

Image result for The Economics of Ottoman Justice: Settlement and Trial in the Sharia CourtsThe Economics of Ottoman Justice: Settlement and Trial in the Sharia Courts (Cambridge University Press, 2016), is an assessment of Ottoman legal practices, which identifies gender-, religious-, and class-specific patterns of court use and demonstrates how the early modern court reproduced socioeconomic hierarchies in its operations. The manuscript, based on a systematic analysis of thousands of contracts, settlements, and litigations, also explores how the legal functions of one provincial court changed in tandem with major fiscal, economic, and administrative transformations in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Methodologically, the book makes significant contributions to Ottoman legal studies by systematically engaging the insights from recent developments in the Law and Economics literature and by employing sophisticated quantitative (as well as qualitative) techniques designed specifically for research on Ottoman legal practice. The Law and Economics scholarship help the authors to offer theoretically-based hypotheses regarding how different segments of the Ottoman population behaved in the court and how they performed against other groups in disputes. The authors test these hypotheses by using sophisticated quantitative techniques designed specifically for their sources. Quantitative research has been rare in the field of Islamic-Ottoman legal studies, confined to a handful of recent journal articles. The investigation offered in the book not only poses empirical challenges to some of the established, yet mostly anecdotal, observations of previous researchers, but it introduces new questions about court behavior and performance of various client groups, questions that require state of the art quantitative techniques for systematic analysis.


Please join us on Friday afternoon at Alumni House! Refreshments will be served.

As part of our  upcoming celebration of the many publications by members of our department in 2016 and 2016 this Friday (4 PM, at Alumni House, 61 Summit Street, Burlington, VT 05401), we are featuring several of the books that will be celebrated.

First up:

Holocaust Memory in a Globalizing World
Edited by Jacob S. Eder, Philipp Gassert, and our own Alan E. Steinweis. Goettingen: Wallstein, 2017.

Cover Holocaust Memory in a Globalizing World

The memory of the Holocaust is central to the historical consciousness and political culture of Germany, Israel and, to a lesser extent, the United States and the countries of Europe. But is this also true for other parts of the world? How do societies that were not affected by the occupation and extermination measures of the Nazi regime deal with the legacy of the Holocaust? How have nonwestern minorities with their own collective experiences of colonialism and persecution responded to the institutionalization of Holocaust memory in the western countries where they live? How does demographic change affect memory? In what form have immigrants grappled with the centrality of the Holocaust? From a global perspective, and in different national and regional contexts, international experts analyze the worldwide transformation of Holocaust commemoration. The fourteen case studies contained in the volume focus on the genesis and cultural impact of Holocaust commemoration in Europe, North and South America, Israel, North Africa, South Africa, and Asia. The book examines contradictions and challenges in a process that is often referred to as the “globalization” or “universalization” of Holocaust memory.

The volume is based on a series of international conferences co-sponsored by the Universities of Vermont, Augsburg, Jena, and Haifa.

Please join us on Friday afternoon at Alumni House!  Refreshments will be served.

This Friday, our department celebrates our the books published by members of our department in 2016-7, as well as scholarly articles.  Please join us!

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Skip to toolbar