The march of improvement in the village of Brattleboro is hardly noticed by the residents of the town; yet when we go back in imagination three years, and contrast the present with what then was, we must conclude that we have made fair progress.
The change that has been brought about on Main street, on what was known as the "burnt district," is truly wonderful. Three years ago, one side of Main street was a heap of ruins. No one dared undertake the job of building it up. No plan could be devised to start the work. Capitalists from abroad could not be induced to take hold of it, and our moneyed men at home concluded it would not pay.
The people had almost given up the hope of a change, until about the middle of July, 1870, when it was reported that Crosby & Rice had purchased the section of it known as the Blake property. This was one step towards an improvement. Yet the public understood that the purchasers had undertaken a big job, and nothing but their energy and business capacity could carry them through, as the work required at least $100,000 capital to make it easy and safe for them to prosecute the work to be done.
Besides this, Crosby & Rice were so extensively engaged in the flour trade that it could hardly be expected that they could well accomplish what they had undertaken; yet they had the good wishes of the people, which gave them much strength and courage. The people were in doubt what they could or would do; but they did not long remain in that condition, for in less than ten days they had contracted for one million of brick and bought the most of their lumber, and commenced clearing away the rubbish left by the fire, and laying the foundation of what is now known as Crosby block.
Everything began to brighten up, and so energetically was the work pushed that in seven months' time the stores were all occupied. Mr. E. Crosby took an oversight of the whole matter, giving his personal attention to all the different departments of the work. In fact, we may here state that the entire plans of the four blocks now completed were drawn up by him and submitted to Mr. Geo. Hines to mature and perfect - who, by the way, has very few equals in this vicinity as an architect, his work being always substantial and in good taste.
Messrs. Crosby & Rice finished their front or Main street block (which is 70 by 196 feet, and three stories high) about the first of June, 1871. On the first floor are seven stores and the Vermont National Bank of Brattleboro. The second floor is occupied by lawyers, doctors, milliners and editors. The third floor is rented mostly to "roomers."
After finishing the Main street block with all the modern conveniences of water and steam, they commenced another on Elliot street, called "Market block." This building is 60 by 70 feet, two stories high, and contains three stores fronting on Elliot street, 100 feet from Main street.
The first store is used for a restaurant and the second by Mr. E. J. carpenter is a newsroom and toy shop, and is as complete an establishment as any in the State. Mr. Carpenter is also librarian for the Brattleboro Library Association. The third store is occupied by Mr. W. F. Richardson as a meat market, and is one of the best kept in the Connecticut valley. The second floor is used for tenements and the office of the Record and Farmer.
Farther north they have completed another block called Centre block. This building was built more particularly for Messrs. Leonard & Roess, cigar manufacturers, and is, without doubt, one of the largest cigar manufactories in Vermont. Messrs. L. & R. use the best of stock, and their goods are getting an extensive reputation. Mr. Roess is said to be one of the best judges of foreign tobacco in the country. There is also in this block a large engine room, in which is steam power enough to do a heavy business. There are also several small shops in this building.
Still farther north is what is called Printing House block, 25 by 75 feet, two stories. The Record and Farmer by F. D. Cobleigh, and the Household by the Household Publishing Company, are printed on the first floor, and in connection is the Household job printing office. On the second floor there are a screw factory and stencil works.
All of these are furnished with power by the engine in Centre block. In the screw factory is a most wonderful machine, invented and patented by Mr. Curtis, for making in a very rapid manner a most perfect screw for iron work of all kinds. Mr. E. M. Douglas's stencil factory does the best of work, as his orders from all parts of the country testify.
This completes the building improvements which Crosby & Rice have made since July 15, 1870; and the village of Brattleboro is largely indebted to them for their labors, and should, as they undoubtedly do, fully appreciate the beauty which they have added to the village as well as the advantage they have given the people who occupy and frequent their premises. These great improvements must be a lasting benefit to the village and town.
Farther north on the burnt district is the Brooks block, of which a full description has heretofore appeared in these columns. At the south end of Main street nice brick blocks have been erected by Messrs. Marshall & Esterbrooks and F. Tyler, improving very much what was left desolate by the flood of 1869.
As the above improvements have just been completed, we could not forbear referring to them at this time. Many other improvements have been made and are still going on in our midst. Although the growth of the town may seem slow to some, yet we feel it is healthy and sure.
Vermont Phoenix, August 8, 1873.