The two buildings that
comprise The Inn at Montpelier have a rich and varied history intimately related to the
development of Vermont's Capitol city. Both buildings were originally constructed as
residences during the town's early settlement. They became connected through ownership at
an early date and, with the exception of the years 1924 to 1940, have remained under
single ownership throughout their history. The opening of the Inn at Montpelier in 1988
has highlighted the historic connection between two of Montpelier's structures.
Chester W. Houghton (1779-1826) built the white Federal style house located at 145 Main
Street probably about 1807-08, twenty years after Montpelier's first settlers had arrived.
After the town became the state Capitol in 1805, it grew rapidly as a commercial and
banking center. Main Street was soon lined with stately houses occupied by Montpelier's
prominent merchants, doctors and lawyers. Houghton and his wife, Hetty, were born in
Keene, New Hampshire. Their families must have migrated to Peacham, as they were married
there in 1802. Houghton operated a store briefly in Peacham but soon migrated to Danville
and then to Montpelier in 1807.
The house he built on Main Street, with hip-roof and large central chimney, is one of the
oldest frame houses in Montpelier. Four lovely Doric pilasters and a decorated frieze
grace the facade, evidence of a fine craftsman at work. The front portico with Ionic
columns was added later. During renovation work in the 1940s, the large kitchen fireplace
was uncovered, revealing a collection of early nineteenth-century cooking utensils.
Houghton invested heavily in Montpelier property and eventually operated a store, tavern and tin business in town. After leasing a distillery in 1809, he
advertised in the local paper for a few thousand bushels of potatoes to be delivered to
his distillery, for which he would exchange one quart of gin or twenty cents in English
goods per bushel. Houghton may have initially traded out of his house, but later he became
well known as the proprietor of the Union House Tavern, located at the corner of School
and Main Streets. He also invested in a store, mills and potash works in Northfield. By
1812 Houghton was overextended and he lost his house in Montpelier to Edward Blake and
Samuel May of Boston, to whom he was in debt for over $3,200.00. Houghton and his wife and
their three children moved across the street. He stayed active as a Montpelier businessman
until his death in 1826.
The stately house at 145 Main Street remained in Edward Blake's possession until 1822 when
William Upham (1792-1853) purchased the residence from Blake's estate. A prominent lawyer
and legislator, Upham had come to Montpelier in 1803 from Leicester, Massachusetts. While
still a youth, he had lost his hand in a cider mill accident and was therefore unfit for
manual labor. He studied law in Montpelier and was admitted to the bar in 1812. His wife,
Sarah Keyes, from Ashford, Connecticut, was known as a gracious politician's wife who
extended her hospitality to Montpelier's young people. She had five children, one of whom
died in infancy. William Upham became a United States Senator in 1842, and served until
his death in 1853. Sarah remained at the house in Montpelier during congressional
sessions, but traveled to her husband's bedside in Washington just before his death. Sarah
died in 1856, and the Upham children sold the house to their neighbor, James R. Langdon,
When William Upham and his family moved into their house on Main Street the
lot next door
was empty. Six years later, however, in 1828, Dr. Edward Lamb (1771-1845) bought the
property and built the brick house that is the central building of The Inn at Montpelier.
The brick was probably made at a local brickyard and laid in Flemish Bond. Built in
Federal style, the house resembles several brick buildings located on State Street and
also constructed in the 1820s. Lamb's house, however, has the distinctive Greek Revival
decoration, ( for example the frieze and the triangular design in the gable that mark the
transition to this later architectural period.) The gracious and imposing front porch was added much later in the 1880s, in response to a renewed focus on
classical detail and to the interest in outdoor leisure.
Dr. Lamb, who came to Montpelier in 1796 from Charlton, Massachusetts, was a revered
physician in the early settlement. D.P. Thompson, one of Montpelier's earliest historians
described Lamb as "medium height, rather stocky...slightly limping in gate...very
neglectful in all matters of dress and outward appearance." Yet, Dr. Lamb was devoted
to medicine, extremely well liked by all his patients and full of humorous anecdotes and
stories to help relieve pain. He treated numerous epidemics of dysentery, spotted fever
and typhus in Montpelier. He became famous in the medical community for his cure of fever.
Favoring emetics, especially a combination of ipecac and sulphate of zinc, Dr. Lamb hoped
to purge the body with evacuants.
Dr. Lamb lived alone in the brick house on Main Street though he may have had a hired hand
or two. He married Polly Witherall in 1803, but she died before he built his new house. By
all accounts Dr. Lamb lived in near poverty as he failed to bill his patients regularly
and cash was scarce in the new community. Thompson claims he was very careless in
financial affairs and lived an unusually "plain and cheap" existence.
Nonetheless, his substantial brick house and barn added significantly to Montpelier's
landscape. His tight financial circumstances forced him to mortgage his house several
times to James R. Langdon, a wealthy businessman. When Lamb died of fever in 1846, Langdon
took possession of the house.
For nearly a century, from 1846 until 1924, the brick house on Main Street remained in the
Langdon family. James R. Langdon (1813-1895) was one of the most prominent merchants in
Montpelier during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Building on his father's
successful career as a storekeeper, Langdon operated the grist mill at the falls on the
Winooski and later became president of Montpelier National Bank. He was instrumental in
the extension of the Central Vermont Railroad through Montpelier and invested in the
rapidly expanding granite business. At the end of his career he designed a new shopping
district in Montpelier on Langdon Street, which was completed after his death.
Langdon and his wife, Lucy Pomeroy of Middlebury, had four children. Two died in infancy,
leaving only Lucy R. and Elizabeth (Lizzie) living with their parents on Main Street. The
household, however, was rarely that empty, as the family employed several hired hands and
Irish domestic servants. The barn behind the house sheltered horses and probably a cow,
pigs and chickens. There were large gardens to maintain, as well. A carriage house and
woodshed were attached to the back of the house and a small icehouse stood nearby, storing
ice cut from Langdon Pond, near National Life Drive. The Langdons may not have lived on
Main Street continuously. The 1860 Census placed them on the Langdon farm on the banks of
After 1870 the city census listed James Langdon as a retired merchant. However, he
continued to remain active in Montpelier business life for nearly twenty-five years. Lucy
Langdon died in 1873 and their daughter, Lucy R., married and moved to New York City.
Lizzie stayed with her father in the house on Main Street.
During the 1880s and 1890s Langdon modernized the house by adding the large front porch
and installing gas lights. Steam heating, electricity and plumbing were probably added
before 1900. Langdon died in his room at the age of eighty-two, leaving his enormous
estate solely to his family. Lizzie Langdon's history is both intriguing and obscure.
Nineteenth- century historians claim that she "suffered a calamity" or
"received a shock", a surprisingly common predicament for women of the Victorian
era. We will probably never know the nature of her psychological problems, but we do know
that she needed constant care and attention. In the early 1890s the household included her
companion, Maria White, three nurses, two domestic servants and a coachman. The income
from her father's estate and from the many properties he owned in Montpelier provided a
leisurely existence for this unusual household. A small remnant of their life remained in
the kitchen: an electric intercom device wired to other rooms in the house. If she ever
needed help, Lizzie could summon servants from various locations. Montpelier residents
remember seeing her on the front porch waving to passersby, but she spent most of her time
in the right front bedroom upstairs. Although Lizzie died in 1923, her spirit lingered in
the house for subsequent residents who could sense her presence, accompanied by a familiar
smell of Lily-of-the Valley, a favorite flower found in beds near the front porch.
While the Langdons occupied the large brick house, they also owned the older white house
next door, which they rented to various tenants until Lizzie's death. In the late 1880s
and 1890s Levi Boutwell and his wife, Jennie, lived in the house. Boutwell was an engineer
with the Montpelier and Wells River Railroad and later operated a granite cutting
business. By 1905 he had relocated and Henry Farwell, a cashier at Montpelier National
Bank, leased the property. He and his wife, Lillian, and their son were tenants until
Lizzie Langdon's death, when the Farwells bought the property.
In 1924, at the settling of Lizzie Langdon's estate, the two adjoining properties on Main
Street were separated. Alton and Bertha Baird, from Orleans, Vermont, bought the yellow
house, and Henry Farwell remained
in the white house next door. Alton G. Baird, (1883-1951) was a skilled carpenter, who
originally came to Montpelier to work on the construction of a nurses' home near Heaton
House. Bertha Baird had run a small boarding- house in Orleans. When the Bairds purchased
the Langdon house, it had nineteen rooms and six baths. This was certainly more space than
they could use. Bertha rented the four front rooms, upstairs and down, for $5.00 each a
week, giving the family a steady income until Alton developed his construction business.
Bertha worked tirelessly to keep the large house running and feed and clothe their five
children, while Alton worked on distant construction jobs.
Three years after the Bairds bought the house, in November of 1927, Montpelier experienced
the worst flood in the town's history. Bertha Baird and her children watched nervously as
the water rose halfway up the stairwell in their brick house. Rescue workers arrived in
boats to take the family to high ground, but Bertha refused to budge! She sheltered her
family upstairs while she waded in water up to her waist in order to grab bedding and
food. The high water mark reached within two feet of the first floor ceiling. Alton Baird
was stranded in northern Vermont on a construction job and finally arrived back to direct
the clean-up a few days after the flood.
From the late 1920s until the 1970s Alton Baird and his sons ran a successful construction
business that significantly altered the Montpelier landscape. Baird built numerous
commercial buildings downtown, additions to the Bethany Church, Christ Church and many new
residences. He was the first developer in Montpelier to recognize the need for apartment
buildings to house the many clerical workers employed by the state and local insurance
companies. In 1926 he renovated the barn behind his residence as his first experiment in
apartments. Several years later, Baird used the open meadow behind the Farwell house,
which had been flooded for use as a skating rink in winter, for Montpelier's first brick
During the 1930s Baird ran a construction crew of about sixty-five to seventy men. Many of
the skilled carpenters were farmers who worked only part of the year. They assembled at
the Baird headquarters, dressed in white shirts and black bow ties, and pulled on their
overalls for the day's carpentry. Common laborers, mostly from the city, did the heavy work. In winter, after big
snowstorms, their first job was shoveling Baird Street by hand.
Baird's construction crew did relatively little work on his residence on Main Street. He
installed a new heating system in 1926, and repainted the house in classic yellow every
During the 1930s his eldest son, Kenneth, directed a renovation in the back of the house
that converted the carriage house and woodshed to an apartment for himself. The Bairds
also built the corner cabinets in their dining room, now the entrance hall from the side
porch. The cellar of the house became a treasure trove of materials salvaged from various
construction sites and reused whenever Baird needed a special door or piece of trim.
During this period Henry and Lillian Farwell remained in the house next door. They tried
to live in the grand style of the late nineteenth century, but found it increasingly
difficult to get sufficient help. Henry, an avid tulip grower, laid out a neat garden of
tulip beds bordered with grass paths behind his house. Displeased when the
traveled through his paths, Henry tried to frighten the animal with a BB gun. In
revenge, young Howard Baird, who was a terrific shot, began popping the heads off Henry's
tulips with a .22 caliber rifle, much to the old man's dismay. Despite his consultation
with a horticulturalist, Henry never figured out what had caused the "blight on his
tulips". Toward the end of his life Henry's health failed and he spent most of his
time as an invalid in one of the front rooms. The Bairds finally bought the house in 1940
and converted it into apartments.
The Baird family owned the complex of buildings, including the two houses on Main Street,
the converted barn and the brick apartment house, until 1985, when Ashtek Properties
purchased the properties from the estate of Edith Baird, Alton Baird's second wife. The
company, managed by Maureen Russell, kept the buildings as rental properties until the
1988 renovation plan was conceived. With the creation of THE INN AT MONTPELIER, two
historic buildings in the Capitol city are now opened to the public. They provide needed
hotel space and enrich the community in Montpelier by reminding us of its past.