George Harper Houghton

George Harper Houghton

George Harper Houghton, Main Street, Civil War, Glassplate Photograph.jpg

George H. Houghton's Photograph From Autumn 1866

Char On Thomas Judge's Building After July 11, 1866 Fire

George Harper Houghton, Autumn 1866 Photograph, Detail Center.jpg

Detail From This 1866 Photograph

Probably no better picture of Brattleboro's Main street in the old days exists than the one from which was made the cut shown herewith. Most of the buildings which it shows were erected before the Civil war period, and only two of them are now standing, one on each side of the street. They are Exchange block at the right, with the blank wall, and Pentland block at the left, the stone building with the dormer window, and the latter building has been changed completely in appearance since the photograph was made.

This is a scene looking north from the old Van Doorn building opposite the end of Flat street, later known as Bond's block and now as Culver block. Incidentally it may be said that the location from which the picture was made was where the first building on Main street probably stood. The picture includes on the left the entire row buildings from Flat street to High street.

In the street, near the top of Main street hill is a covered wagon of the type once used for transporting freight up the West River valley. On the right-hand side of the street in the center of the picture is shown a row of horse-drawn vehicles, while on the opposite side, just beyond the covered wagon, is a Concord coach standing in front of the old Brattleboro House.

At the lower left-hand corner of the picture is shown a part of the old Ray building, the first building north of Flat street. It was erected in 1858. At an earlier period a row of horse sheds stood there. Not showing in the picture was the Main-street entrance, at the lower corner of the building, to the office of John L. Ray, liveryman.

The stable entrance was on Flat street. Ray's livery and boarding stable was the last reminder of the stagecoach period. Huestis & Burnap's harness-making shop occupied the south end of the Ray building and extended along Flat street over the stable.

Charles L. Brown, Cabinet Manufactures, Autumn, 1866.jpg

Charles L. Brown Cabinet Manufactures

Samuel Pike "Gun-Smith"

The entrance with the sign over the door was the entrance to C. L. Brown's furniture store at one time. Later the store was a men's furnishings store and occupied as such by several persons, including John L. Ray's son, the late John J. Ray of Boston, the late Ambrose Knapp and Ernest E. Perry.

In the same location at different times were Frank H. Holden's jewelry store and the stove store of White & Galvin. In the north end of this one-story building L. H. Barrett had a gunsmith's shop. H. M. Wood later conducted a similar shop there and afterwards C. W. Sawyer occupied the place as a jewelry store and watch and clock repair shop.

Adjoining this low building on the north is shown a much older structure, the last owner of which was the late Thomas Judge, from whom it took the name of Judge building. He had a boot and shoe shop there. At one time E. J. Carpenter's news shop occupied quarters there, known as the Windham County Periodical Depot.

A stairway on the north side led up to Alexander Capen's paint shop and to the place of business of Joseph S. Elliot, known as "Popcorn Joe." The late Hiram F. Stevenson for many years had a cobbler's shop upstairs.

The Ray building was burned in 1914, and in 1916 Herbert G. Barber began the erection of Barber block, which occupies the sites of the Ray and Judge buildings.

West Side Main Street, Autumn 1866, George H. Houghton Photograph.jpg

Above the Judge building is seen the former Cox block, now the Pentland block. It stands on the site of Ashbel Dickinson's tinsmith store. Joseph Clark at one time conducted an apothecary and hardware store in this block but sold out his drug department and devoted his time to the hardware business.

A. V. Cox for many years occupied the lower part of the present block as a stove store, and a similar line of business is carried on there by the present owner, William Pentland.

The second story of what is now the Pentland block was used as a dining room by the Revere House, the building next north, and the top floor was known as Revere Hall, where public meetings were held until the town hall was erected in 1855. The Revere House, the hotel with the two tall chimneys near the edge of the roof, which was burned in 1877, has been described in this series, as have the buildings farther north.

American House, Four Pillar Porch, Autumn, 1866.jpg

The American House Four Pillar Portico

The building at the right, the front supported by pillars, was at one time called the Phoenix House, afterwards the American House. It stood where the American Building now stands. More will be said about this building in another story in this series.

George Harper Houghton, Lame Horse, Autumn 1866.jpg

Just beyond the hotel was a brick building, the roof slanting toward the street, occupied in part by Fred C. Edwards. The small structure in front of it was the entrance to Edwards's shop. The sign on the entrance reads, "Blank Books and Stationery." In the basement was located for many years Hannibal Hadley's meat market, afterwards the lower Richardson market. The present Richardson building, erected a few years ago, now occupies the site.

American House, Brick Block, Exchange Block, Autumn 1866, George H. Houghton Photograph, Detail.jpg

Brick Row, One Door North Of The American House

Set Back From Main Street Twenty-Five Feet

Photograph By George Harper Houghton In Autumn 1866

The Richardson building adjoins the one with the blank wall in the picture, owned by Charles W. Richardson. On the top floor of the last named building is located Grand Army hall, which has been there for a long period. The late Charles A. Tripp conducted a jewelry store in one of the lower floor store for many years. Another of the old-time business men in the same building was George Salisbury, bookseller and publisher, and another was George Jennings, men's furnishings.

Vermont Phoenix, September 6, 1929.

Old-Time Series No. 22.

Photograph loaned by Charles W. Wilcox


Centre Congregational Church Steeple, Rooftops, Autumn 1866, George H. Houghton Photograph.jpg

A sudden tempest during Monday evening July 11, 1864 destroyed the first steeple of the Centre Congregational Church. This steeple was placed well within the church, the portico which fronted Main Street was supported by the four Greek Revival columns from the original Church on the Common.

The steeple and church repairs were completed by February 1865. The steeple then
was placed in its present position, outside the church, and much closer to Main Street. This new steeple is seen in George Houghton's photograph in the fall of 1866. This position is important for dating the George Houghton photograph---specifically, before or after the July 11, 1864 tempest.

Only three images are known which represent this interior steeple--the daguerreotype with its view of Brattleboro from the southwest in 1849, the ambrotype by John L. Lovell taken from east by south east in 1856, and the August 1854 drawing by John Cheney composed upon Prospect Hill---the view from the south.


Main Street Sidewalk Signs, George Harper Houghton Photograph, Civil War Times.jpg

The Union Billiard Hall was so named at the start of the War Between The States. Before then it was Wilkins Lilley's Billiard Saloon. This dates the photograph to no earlier than 1861. Red, white, and blue are almost certainly the colors in which this sign and its border is painted.

There is an oval sign appearing just below the Union Billiard Hall sign. The word "Dentist" fills the bottom arch in the oval. Dr. Anson Lewis Pettee, always known as A. L. Pettee, had his office in the Union Block until 1868, when he removed to the Blake Block.

Dentist Sign, Stoves, Union Billiard Hall, Autumn, 1866,MainStreet.jpg

The rectangular sign in the distance, at the very top in this photograph detail, represents the Thompson & Ranger watch and jewelry store. It reads---

Thompson & Ranger.
Clocks, Watches, Jewelry.
Silver Ware & Fancy Goods.

Behind this sign is seen what appears to be an extremely thin, tall white triangle. Newspaper advertisements as early as 1852 refer to this location as "At the Sign of the Tall Pole". This pole was striped, or banded---probably painted red and white.

Just in front and slightly to the right of the barber pole is a small pointing hand sign, standing atop an iron spike, upon which hangs what appears to be a long white, vertical scroll with a series of lines lettered on it. The hand points to the right, at the shop called "Watch Makers And Jewelers" by the larger sign hanging above.


Balcony, Barber Pole, Three Children, George H. Houghton Photograph, Autumn, 1866.jpg

Two children with hats are standing near the edge of Main Street.

Large flat stone walkways for when rain turns Main Street into---

as one editor commented---

black porridge

The barber pole belongs to John M. Edwards' shop in the Revere House Block, as recorded in Daniel B. Stedman's "Directory of Windham County 1867-8".


Alexander Capen's Paint Shop Sign, Autumn,1866.jpg

Alexander Capen's sign reads---


This sign has the upper right corner broken away.

The stairway right in front of the sign leads to the upstairs offices.

The large sign just above the roof eave and the rain gutter announces---

Joseph Clarke

A smaller sign below shows to the camera only the letters "rd ware".
The full lettering must read "hard ware".

A grind-stone, mounted in its frame with a crank handle attached, stands upon the porch before Joseph Clarke's hardware store---

Main Street Rowdyism, April 17, 1867.jpg

Vermont Record And Farmer, April 1867

The "Gilmore, the artist" signifies James Monroe Gilmore, the photography business partner of George H. Houghton during the latter's last years in Brattleboro.


Concord Coach At Brattleboro House, Autumn 1866, George Harper Houghton Photograph.jpg

The camera with its glass plate for the negative was placed in the north window of the Van Doorn House on Lower Main Street. The photograph required a long exposure, and anything that moved during the exposure appeared blurred.

At the start of the exposure, the child with the hat was standing in the gutter, then moved back two feet, then moved again, for the longest time, on the sidewalk edge. The blurred ghostly shadows in front of the child show where he stood briefly.

The four pillars stand before the old Brattleboro House stagecoach station.

Two hitching posts are standing front and center.

Brattleboro House, Central House, Steen's Corner, Express Office, Autumn, 1866,George H. Houghton Photograph.jpg

Brattleboro House, Central House, Steen's Corner, Express Office


Horses, Wagons, Tethered Along Sidewalk, Autumn, 1866.jpg

The barber pole stands sentinel.

The sidewalk pillar clock reads 11:22 in the morning.

Just in front and slightly to the right of the barber pole is a small pointing hand sign, standing atop an iron spike, upon which hangs what appears to be a scroll with a series of lines lettered on it. The hand points to the right, at the shop called "Watch Makers And Jewelers" by the larger sign hanging above.

The white horse stands across the road farther north.


Revere House Sign, Autumn 1866, George H. Houghton Photograph.jpg

The center design looks like
a questing squash vine clustering around---



Iron Filigree Work, Balcony, Main Street, George H. Houghton Photograph, Autumn 1866.jpg

The sign reads "Revere".

Balcony iron filigree work is worthy of New Orleans

Ionic columns


Freight Wagon, Concord Coach Before Brattleboro House, George H. Houghton Photograph, Autumn 1866.jpg

Freight Wagon, Concord Coach At Brattleboro House

Dark Horse In Harness In Peacock Alley Behind Coach


Clerk At Desk, Hogsheads, Planks, Sidewalk, Autumn1866 Photograph By George H. Houghton.jpg

This man stands before what appears to be a store ledger, which is propped up upon a slant-top desk. Is he a store clerk, recording the arrival of the hogsheads beside him? Or the owner himself---A. W. Walcott?

This advertisement appears in Henry M. Burt's 1866 "The Attractions of Brattleboro".

Walcott's Eating House.jpg

Lyman B. Morey's Eating Saloon stood "two doors north of the American House" in 1865, and Morey may be the man working at the clerk's desk. Mine host Morey was born in Orford, New Hampshire on May 16, 1828 and died in Stockbridge, Vermont on June 11, 1900.

The hogsheads that are stacked upon the plank sidewalk about him may be empty, or possibly filled with---

Lyman B. Morey's Eating House, December, 1865, Oysters.jpg

Lyman Morey was also the Brattleboro agent for Hammer's Champagne Ale, always fresh brewed with twenty-five per cent malt and hops in the manufacture, the secret process keeping the ale from souring in hot weather. Morey's advertisement in the Vermont Phoenix says---

For sale in Barrel and half Barrels


Frederick C. Edwards Stationery Store, Black Horse With Chaise, George H. Houghton Photograph, Autumn1866.jpg

Frederick C. Edwards described himself as "the successor to L. D. Salisbury". He has the large sign reading---

Blank Books

A small pointing hand drawing is seen to the immediate left of the last line in this sign.
Below this hand is a poster which lists the following---

Blank Books
Note Paper

The fairly large rectangular sign which depends from the wooden awning above the shop entrance reads in two separate lines---

F. C. Edwards
Book Binder

The black horse favors its back right foot, not placing its full weight upon it. This indicates an infection, or the lack of a farrier's care.


Thomas Judge's Building July 11, 1866 Fire

Fire was discovered last evening at 11 o'clock in Thos. Judge's building, communicated from a candle to a heap of rubbish. It was extinguished. Fifteen minutes time would have led to the destruction of a large amount of property.
Vermont Record, Friday, July 12, 1866.


Iron-Hooped Watch Signs

Benjamin K. Chase.jpg

John H. Wheeler's Former Grocery And Dry Goods Store

The Cutler Block

Brattleboro's Main Street was lined for decades with immense watch signs overhanging its packed ground, chestnut plank, flagstone, marble, and muddied sidewalks---

Big Watch And Spoon Advertisement, Vermont Phoenix, May 2, 1857.jpg

Vermont Phoenix, May 2, 1857.

Ten years after George Harper Houghton directed his lens from the window in Anthony Van Doorn's house, great changes had obliterated his view. The Sign of the Watch and Spoon still remains here. In this photograph the spoon seems almost to be a part of the new Brooks House tower---

Sign Of The Watch And Spoon.jpg

Sign Of The Watch And Spoon

Charles A. Tripp's Jewelry Store

Curiously, the great watch in this considerably later photograph reads a time very close to the time drawn in Benjamin K. Chase and Charles A. Tripp's May 1857 advertisement. The photographer may have been deliberately matching his photograph to the Vermont Phoenix advertisement.

"Tempus fugit"


George Harper Houghton

George Harper Houghton, Photographer, Self Portrait.jpg

George Houghton, Frederick, His Son.jpg

George Houghton With Frederick, His Son


Main Street, Wagon, Photograph By George H. Houghton.jpg

Detail From Photograph By George Harper Houghton

Man In The Wagon May Be Houghton


George Harper Houghton

George Harper Houghton was born in Putney, Vermont on May 11, 1826.

His father was Henry Hamilton Houghton, who had served a seven-year apprenticeship in carpentry and mechanics in Montreal, Canada. Henry Houghton built the pulpit and some of the front pews for the Dummerston Meeting House in 1817.

His mother was Sarah "Sally" Perry, the daughter of Dr. William Perry of Putney, Brookline, and Newfane, Vermont.

George Harper Houghton married Emma Rockwood Ward of West Brattleboro on July 27, 1846 and their marriage lasted until her death of consumption eight years later, at the age of twenty nine, on February 5, 1855. Houghton was studying the daguerreotype art with John L. Lovell during the three years following 1852.

Emma R.
wife of
Geo. H. Houghton
Died Feby AE 29


Emma Adeline
Daugh. of
G. H. & E. R. Houghton
Died Sept. 13, 1855

Here side by side the child and mother sleep
Faith smiles serene though nature fain must keep.

The rapidly succeeding deaths of his sister, his wife, his daughter, and finally his brother, all during 1854 to 1856, followed by the rippling effects of the Panic of 1857, sent George Houghton briefly to Kilbourn City, Wisconsin, now called Wisconsin Dells.

Before he departed, Houghton took many ambrotypes of his sister Harriet A. Houghton's in-laws, the Bennett family of West Brattleboro---

Mary Elizabeth Bennett, Ambrotype By George Harper Houghton.jpg

Mary Elizabeth Bennett

Ambrotype By George Harper Houghton

George Harper Houghton, Portrait Of A Young Girl.jpg

George Harper Houghton

Portrait Of A Young Girl

Young Woman, George Harper Houghton's Gallery.jpg

George Harper Houghton

Portrait Of A Young Woman In A Calico Dress

George Houghton is remembered in Kilbourn, Wisconsin for purchasing and setting up the first planing mill there. Houghton relied upon his carpentry skills for his entire life.

He returned to Brattleboro in November 1859 and established his photography studio in the Granite Block along the east side of Main Street. The first floor of the Granite Block now houses two emporia---Mystery On Main Street, and Delectable Mountain, at 119 and 125 Main Street, respectively.

This advertisement appeared in the Vermont Phoenix for Saturday, October 20, 1860---

Photographs as Large as Life. -- Call and see the Photograph of J. F. Burrows Esq., of Vernon, life size and beautifully painted, at G. H. Houghton's, No 2 Granite Block, Main Street. For thirty-five dollars Mr. Houghton can now produce a portrait that excells many which have hitherto cost a hundred or more. The photographic portrait when done in oil is life itself.

Houghton's advertisements refer specifically to No. 2 Granite Block, which is the central portion of the original building. His studio was on the third floor, which at that time did not have the top brick front which is seen now. The great skylight on the third floor, which was so necessary for providing light for Houghton's photographic process, was added to the original building at some time before 1861.


The Granite Block

Granite Block, Semi Weekly Eagle, September, 1850.jpg

Engraving From Semi-Weekly Eagle September 1850

The original Granite Block comprised the row of seven windows seen to the right in this engraving, with straight lintels, and two symmetrical chimneys perched above these seven windows. The north chimney was removed at some time between 1840 and September 1850.

George Harper Houghton arrived ten years after this engraving.

Granite Block, Modern Day.jpg

Granite Block, Modern Day


George Houghton bought a one-acre lot of land in Centreville on the south side of Western Avenue in 1862 and built a house on it. This house was later owned by Carl Hopkins the florist, with a greenhouse attached. This lot is located three hundred feet or so west of the Interstate highway. It is now an empty and wooded lot.

Houghton's photography assistant was Caleb Wright, Jr. born May 28, 1804, from Westminster, Vermont, a grandson of Azariah Wright, Jr.

Caleb Wright later lived in Guilford and kept copies of Houghton's work. He died in Newton, Massachusetts May 8, 1869.


Henry Houghton Bennett, Apprentice, Nephew, George Harper Houghton.jpg

Henry Houghton Bennett

Wisconsin Photographer

George Harper Houghton's Apprentice And Nephew


Propping his camera in one of the higher windows on the north face of the Anthony Van Doorn house, George Houghton canted his appartus at an angle to his left for the long view along Main Street. His glassplate measures thirty-two by thirty-seven centimeters, or nine by ten and a half inches. The complete lack of long shadows in the photograph indicates that Houghton chose high noon.

Anthony Van Doorn House, North Side, Modern Photograph.jpg

Anthony Van Doorn House


George Houghton's Photograph, Main Street, Civil War Times.bmp


Vermont 6th Regiment, Lee's Mill, Virginia, George Harper Houghton.jpg

Battle Of Lee's Mill, Virginia, April 16, 1862

Vermont 6th Infantry Grave Markers


Asylum For The Insane 1862 Fire

We have had another destructive fire here. it broke out last night, after mid night, in the Insane Asylum & burned more than half of the main block of buildings. the west wing including the centre block & one section of the building east of the centre, is all a mass of Black Ruins. it is thought that several of the poor crazy creatures perished in the Burning Building. it was an awfull cold night for the poor creatures to be pulled out of their beds & taken to the Centre Church & warmed up & after regulating the building they were carried back. I will send you a Phoenix which will have an account of the affair.

George Houghton's Letter To Harriet and George Bennett

December 21, 1862.


August 26, 1864

George Houghton's Main Street, August 26, 1864.jpg

Celebration For The Seventh Vermont Regiment

August 26, 1864

George Houghton's Photograph

The regiment arrived in Brattleboro at 11 o'clock A. M. on the 26th of Aug. It formed in line and marched through Main street to the field at the north end of the village, where it was reviewed. . .After the speech, the regiment was marched back to the Town Hall, where it was welcomed to a collation by the town of Brattleboro. . .

Vermont Phoenix, September 2, 1864.

This photograph shows the flags at the Town Hall, the Revere House, the Brattleboro House, the old Steen's Corner, and in the foreground, the hitching posts, rail and chain link fence bordering the St. Michael's Episcopal Church yard. Also seen here are men and boys in various activities, including a young player on the recorder, the harp, or the penny whistle.

Boys With Stacked Muskets.jpg

Seventh Regiment Main Street, August 26, 1864.jpg

Revere House, Brattleboro House, Steen's Corner

George Harper Houghton is remembered for his photographs taken during the Peninsular Campaign in Virginia, in the War Between the States, following the 2nd Vermont Regiment to Camp Griffin in November 1861, and to Wolf Run Shoals in April 1863.

In Brattleboro, Houghton photographed scores of veterans during June 1864 with the return of the 8th Vermont Regiment to Brattleboro, during August 1864 with the Seventh Vermont Regiment, in September 1864 with the Fourth Vermont Regiment, and for years before---

George H. Houghton, Photographic Studio, Vermont Phoenix Advertosement, October 9, 1862.jpg

Austin Harrison Ward, Eighth Vermont Infantry, Born December 17, 1840, Brattleboro.jpg

Austin Harrison Ward

George H. Houghton Cabinet Card

Austin Harrison Ward, Eighth Vermont Infantry, Cabinet Card, George H. Houghton.jpg

Austin Harrison Ward was born on December 17, 1840 to Nelson Ward and Jerusha Thomas, and lived on the West Brattleboro family farm until enlisting on December 8, 1861 as a Private in the Eighth Vermont Regiment, Company "I".

Ward mustered in on February 18, 1862 and spent several weeks at Camp Holbrook. He was promoted to Corporal on September 19, 1864, and promoted to Sergeant on May 2, 1865 before mustering out on June 28, 1865. Austin Ward worked for the Estey Organ Company for over twenty years and lived on Myrtle Street.


George Harper Houghton Kills A Rattlesnake, May, 1867.jpg

Vermont Farmer, June 1, 1867.

George Harper Houghton died in Kilbourn City, Wisconsin on July 7, 1870.


James Monroe Gilmore

James Monroe Gilmore, Partner, George Harper Houghton.jpg

James Monroe Gillmore and Elizabeth Plummer's son Charles Gillmore, born in 1870, was buried in the Prospect Hill Cemetery in 1902.

James Monroe Gilmore.jpg

Coffin Portrait, Child, George Harper Houghton, James Monroe Gilmore.jpg

Coffin Portrait By Houghton & Gilmore

Houghton And Gilmore.jpg

Roxelana, Mrs. Daniel Dexter, Photographer James Monroe Gillmore.jpg

Roxalana Johnson, Mrs. Daniel Dexter, Widow

Wardsboro, Vermont

Photograph By James Monroe Gillmore About 1867

Roxalana Johnson was born October 30, 1806 to David Johnson and Parnel Packard in Wardsboro, Vermont. She married Daniel Dexter on December 24, 1826. She died on June 28, 1888.


George R. Lindsey, "George Harper Houghton: The Civil War Photographer from Brattleboro, Vermont". (Vermont History News, September-October 1986, Volume 37, Number 5), pages 106-108.

"Houghton At The Front; A Portfolio", Volume VI "The End Of An Era", in "The Image Of War: 1861-1865", Edited by William C. Davis, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1984), ps. 122-145.


George H. Houghton's Autumn 1866 Photograph, Brattleboro, Detail.jpg

George Harper Houghton, Photographer, Autumn 1866, Main Street, Brattleboro.jpg

Eagle With Shield,  CabinetCard Reverse, George H. Houghton Gallery.jpg

George Harper Houghton, Self Portrait, Brattleboro, Vermont.jpg







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