Touring Old Mill With Local School Children

I recently had the opportunity to lead a group of six Edmunds Elementary second graders on a tour of Old Mill. The students were from the classrooms of Mrs. Bellevance and Ms. McMorris, and were visiting as part of a curriculum unit called “If These Buildings Could Talk.” The goal of the unit was to connect the students with the history of their community by learning about historic buildings and the ways they have been used.

Old Mill Visit

Chris Burns, Curator of Manuscripts and the University Archivist, is on the far right.

The tour started on the University green with an overview of the long history of Old Mill, drawing on Special Collections resources to illustrate the many changes to the building over time. A quick timeline of Old Mill’s history includes the following:

1802 – Original College Building constructed on site of Old Mill.
1824 – Fire destroyed College Building.
1825-1829 – North, South, and Middle College buildings constructed, with eight-foot fire breaks in between them. Middle College was topped with a Gold Dome.
1846 – North, South, and Middle College buildings were joined, and the long building was soon known as “the Mill” and eventually “Old Mill.”
1882 – Old Mill underwent a major renovation, with funds provided by John Purple Howard. Front and side facades were completely rebuilt, a fourth floor with dormers was added, and the dome was replaced by a tower.
1918 – A fire caused major damage to Old Mill. The fourth floor was closed off and the dormers were removed.
1957-1958 – Lafayette was constructed and Old Mill’s interior was altered.
1995-1997 – Old Mill and Lafayette undergo major renovations, which include restoring the fourth floor and bringing back the dormers to Old Mill.

UVM’s Historic Preservation program has produced two online histories of Old Mill that are great sources for anyone looking for further information on the building, available here and here.


Old Mill circa 1835

As we toured the outside of the building, the students took note of many details on and around Old Mill, including Lafayette’s cornerstone, the UVM Boulder, the bust of John Purple Howard, the sundial, and the bell that used to hang in the tower.

Our tour of the inside included a stop in the John Dewy Memorial Lounge to look at the four stained glass windows and a trip up to the tower with its stunning views of campus, Burlington, Lake Champlain, and the Adirondacks. A little know fact about the tower is that it houses a webcam used to document haze levels in Burlington. You can view the images from the webcam here. The site also has a handy guide to landmarks visible from the tower when looking toward the lake.


Upon returning to school, the students spent the next few weeks creating eBook reports and a three-dimensional model. They did a wonderful job on the model, paying close attention to architectural details such as the stained glass windows. While most of the students we work with are enrolled here at UVM, this was a great opportunity to contribute to the education of some younger minds and dig a little deeper into the history of Old Mill.

Contributed by Chris Burns,
Curator of Manuscripts and University Archivist

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