William Fessenden's Brattleboro Bookstore

William Fessenden


Old Book-Store And The American House, 1907

The Brattleboro Bookstore

William Fessenden died suddenly in Northampton, Massachusetts on January 20, 1815. His widow was Patty Holbrook, the daughter of John Holbrook of Brattleboro. Mrs. Patty Fessenden owned the large two-and-a-half story brick building that William had built specifically for a bookstore.

This bookstore is mentioned in an August 20, 1817 deed that was drawn up when Patty Fessenden bought the strip of land that became the lane, or alley between the present-day Richardson Block and the American Building.

A few feet north of our old hovel is a block or row of brick buildings, used principally for merchants' stores. One of them is a bookstore and bindery, in which extensive business is carried on in connection with the paper-making and printing establishments before mentioned.
Stephen Greenleaf, Jr.

Letter Written In Brattleboro 1836

Stephen Greenleaf also says in this letter that the Phoenix or American House "covers the ground where once stood our old hovel".

The Brattleboro Reformer for September 19, 1899 reports this reminiscence from Franklin H. Wheeler---

Then running down into Elliot street was the John R. Blake block, the most attractive structure on the street. Opposite on the east side was Widow Patty Fessenden's home. The land adjoining was largely used by Mrs. Fessenden and Mr. Wheeler for garden purposes.


The Brick Row In 1848

Thomas Chubbuck Engraving For The Semi-Weekly Eagle

William Fessenden took out a mortgage from John Holbrook on a long strip of land extending from Main Street to the stump of a White Pine tree standing on the bank of the Connecticut River for $1800 on April 23, 1810. Fessenden built his brick bookstore on this narrow lot, the construction most likely beginning during the summer of 1810, for housing his rapidly expanding "Brattleborough Bookstore".


The Brattleboro Bookstore stood back from Main Street about twenty or thirty feet. A warranty deed granted by John Birge to Patty Fessenden for twelve rods of land and the buildings thereon, dated May 7, 1818, that concerned the area adjoining north of the Fessenden bookstore, mentions the "Garden" that lay in front of his bookstore.

The Brattleboro Land Records that are relevant to William Fessenden's Brattleboro Bookstore include the deeds transcribed in Book F, Page 284; Book H, Page 226; Book I, Page 460; and Book N, Page 191.

Before the establishment of the Bank of Brattleboro, an account with Fessenden's bookstore could partly serve the purpose as well---


The Reporter, February 25, 1817.

Since William Fessenden accepted payment in produce, his bookstore took on the nature of a general merchandise store, with consignments for 200 pairs Cow Hide shoes, factory cotton and flax yarn, Harvard College lottery tickets, school slates, paper hangings, pocket knives, green sheep-skins, flour barrels, and French crayons, along with the saddles, bridles, and halters scattered amongst thousands of books---


Brattleboro Messenger, July 2, 1820.

Francis Goodhue's Tavern stood to the south, adjoining William Fessenden's property. This tavern was originally built by John Holbrook for a warehouse for his Connecticut River flatboat trade to Hartford. It was later called the Phoenix House, and after a four-pillar portico was added in 1834, it was called the American House.

Uriel Sikes was one proprietor here when Goodhue still owned it, so another early name for this building was Sikes' Hotel---before Sikes built his own temperance tavern farther north along Main Street.


The Reporter, January 15, 1814.

A library was added to the Brattleboro Bookstore in 1821, but this was not the first library in the East Village---this Fessenden bookstore service later took on the name Franklin Circulating Library.



Simeon Ide

Simeon Ide published the American Yeoman. His apprenticeship began in the fall of 1809 in the offices of the Vermont Republican in Windsor, Vermont. Throughout 1813, Ide worked as a pressman for William Fessenden in Brattleboro, printing Daniel Webster's new spelling book.

William Fessenden paid Ide eighty cents a day and he operated, according to his diary, "8 two-pull hand presses; each requiring two able-bodied men to work it. Ide could also borrow any book that he liked from William Fessenden's bookstore.


Asa Houghton

William Fessenden published the astronomical calculations of Asa Houghton, who compiled a popular series of almanacks---


The scientific Houghton was a nephew of the celebrated Dr. Samuel Stearns. They owned a forty-by-sixty foot house in East Dummerston, which stood by a crossroads near the Tavern and Isaac Miller's place. This house later became Roger Birchard's red store museum, which burned down in 1870.

When Asa Houghton, Esq. died of consumption on September 10, 1829, aged fifty-four, the Brattleboro Messenger followed with his obituary---

Mr. H. sustained with honour the various relations of life in which he was placed. As a magistrate, he judged impartially; as a member of society, he was exemplary; as a husband, parent, friend, he was kind, affable and obliging.

The Christian's course is run---his sun has set---
His body rests in dust---his spirit lives---
Upborne on wings ethereal, it mounts
Triumphant to the realms of everlasting day.






The first masthead for the Brattleboro Messenger that names its new address appeared in their newspaper for February 23, 1827. For the previous month, the masthead named no address. Before that the location given was always "Next Door South of J. H. Wheeler's Store".


The Brick Row was ever since closely associated with bookbinding and printing. The Brattleboro Bookstore advertised its Library and Reading Room arrivals from No. 2 Brick Row following April 12, 1827---


No. 2 Brick Row In 1827

The Brick Row housed the publishing firm of Holbrook & Fessenden, containing its inventory, workers, and offices---


George Draper at the general merchandise firm Draper & Fessenden conducted his enterprise from No. 4 Brick Row on February 22, 1827---


The Brattleboro Typographic Company was chartered on October 26, 1836 and later occupied this tenement when it was owned by the widow Mrs. Patty Fessenden.




Samuel S. Leonard, Hatter

Samuel Smith Leonard was born in West Springfield, Massachusetts on July 29, 1801 and lived in Bolton, Brattleboro, Millbury, and finally Worcester, Mass. In August 1840 he established Leonard's Express between Worcester and Boston. Samuel Leonard gradually went totally blind, but was one of the first Odd Fellows in Worcester, and contributed to John Adams Vinton's 1894 genealogical work, "The Giles Memorial". His wife was Adeline Eliza Newton.


William Hyde, John Hyde, Brothers

Opposite George Bugbee, Proprietor, American House

John and William Hyde supposedly made renovations to the southwest corner of the original mansion, most likely for better access to the basement for the chemicals needed in the hat manufacturing process. This cellar later housed different meat markets.


Brick Row

With The Exchange Block And The American House Stables

Engraving By Thomas Chubbuck In The Semi-Weekly Eagle March 1848

Hyde & Hardie, Hat Manufactory of John Hyde and Robert G. Hardie, Sr.

Lucy Bascom, Bonnet Manufactory, T. J. Bascom of New York

George A. Morse, West Indies Goods, Grocery



Vermont Phoenix, September 26, 1929

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.


The Photographs


Brick Row In Center Foreground

Salt Box Shape, Four Small Windows Under The Eaves

South End Chimney

Storage Shed Attached To East Side

John Batchelder Lithograph After John L. Lovell Ambrotype May 1856


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


Anthony Van Doorn House In Stereoscope View

American House And Salisbury Block


George H. Salisbury's Restaurant


Brick Row, American House, Late 1880's

Photograph By Arthur D. Wyatt

The American House to the right is decorated for the Valley Fair, held annually in late September or early October.


Old Brick Row And American House In 1907

Sign On Brick Row Reads---


William F. Richardson And Lucius H. Richardson's Market



Former William Fessenden Bookstore, American Building.jpg



Main Street Landmark Being Removed

Oldest Business Building Going

Salisbury Building Giving Way for Modern Structure


Considerably More than 100 Years Old---

Safe of Ancient Vintage Brought to Light---

Some Historical Data.

The exact age of the old Salisbury building torn down to make way for a modern structure is a question over which local historians have been concerning themselves of late, and while no definite data seems available it is generally believed that this venerable property just north of the American building is the oldest business property on Main street and was built more than 100 years ago.

H. R. Lawrence, who can remember when his father used a windlass to haul merchandise up the bank from the docks where it was unloaded from the "swfit water" boats that plied the Connecticut, is of the opinion that the block was erected by Samuel Dickinson. If that is the case the building is considerably more than 100 years old because Dickinson died previous to 1818.

So far as records in the town clerk's office reveal, the building was standing in 1839, as a deed of that year refers to the "brick store occupied by Blake & Lawrence."

It is also mentioned in a deed dated Aug. 21, 1845, when Joseph Goodhue conveyed his interest in the property to his brother, Wells. Apparently these brothers inherited the property from their father, Francis Goodhue, and it is believed to have been included in a parcel of real estate that Francis Goodhue bought from the estate of Samuel Dickinson in 1818.

Wells Goodhue owned the property for nearly 20 years, deeding it to Lestina Salisbury, sister of George Salisbury, in July, 1863. It remained in possession of the Salisbury family until October, 1889, when William F. Richardson, father of the present owner, bought it of the Lestina Salisbury estate.

In tearing down the old building the contractors, Pellett & Skinner, have noted the extra size of the bricks used in its construction. They are about 10 inches in length, an inch longer than bricks used nowadays, and are somewhat wider than present-day bricks, but the thickness is practically the same.

Herewith the Phoenix presents a picture of the old building. It shows at the left the southwest corner of the Devens building and on the right the northwest corner of the American building together with the entrance to the American building annex. The front of the new building is to be on a line with the others.

In tearing down the shed in the rear of the Salisbury building and in removing the contents of the old Richardson lower meat market the contractors, Pellett & Skinner, brought out a safe of ancient vintage, and most of those who have seen it say it is unlike any they ever saw before.

Its length, breadth and height dimensions are two feet four inches, exclusive of the legs, and it is made of thin and narrow strips of iron fastened together with rivets. The rivet heads are the size of boiler rivet heads. The safe reminds one of the immense cubical pin-cushion stuck full of pins in even rows. It was discarded years ago and is very rusty, but the doors came open when it was tipped over. The safe was empty.

Those connected with the Richardson market knew the old safe was in the basement of the building, and Fred A. Richardson says that when he opened it a few years ago he put the key inside when he closed the doors, but the key has not come to light. The key was of large size, several inches long.

The safe has been bought by Frederick L. Houghton, secretary of the Holstein-Friesian Association of America, who will take it to his farmhouse in Putney as a curiosity.

John C. Pellett, who is assisting his son, C. Arnold Pellett, in removing the old building, says his brother, the late William Pellett, bought years ago a safe like this one and that it came out of the same building and was used by George Salisbury when he conducted a restaurant therein.

Markings on the inside showed it was built in Providence, R. I. about 1805 as near as he can remember. An iron plate on the inside of the door of the safe just brought to light bears the lettering, "C. J. Gayler, Patentee, New York." . . . .


Vermont Phoenix, April 11, 1924.

[The Land Records reference in this article to the August 21, 1845 deed concerns lands that are not related to William Fessenden's Brattleboro Bookstore in any way.]


The Salamander Safe


A massive black iron safe, studded with one inch rivets, and enormously heavy, was recovered from the rubble after the razing of the Salisbury Block in April 1924. This safe is now housed in the museum of the Historical Society of Windham County in Newfane, Vermont---

The inventor C. J. Gayler was well known in New York City---

C. J. Gayler in 1833 patented his 'double' fire-proof chest. This consisted of two chests, one so formed within the other as to have one or more spaces between them, to inclose air or any known non-conductors of heat.

In the same year, one of these double chests was severely tested in a large building that was entirely destroyed by fire. The chest preserved its contents in good order. This excited the public admiration, and one enthusiastic writer described it as a 'Salamander,' which name has ever since been popularly applied to safes. According to mythology, salamanders could survive and extinguish fires.

C.J.Gayler, SalamanderSafe.jpg

The agent for Gayler's patent double fire proof wrought iron chests and safes advertised that it had 50 models weighing between three hundred pounds and five thousand pounds and suitable for banks, insurance offices, town records, and merchants. C. J. Gayler described himself as a "manufacturer of fire proof iron chests" at No. 128 Water Street in New York.


C. J. Gayler's 1833 Patent Double Fire Proof

Wrought Iron Chest


The Building's Later History

Patty Holbrook, the widowed Mrs. William Fessenden, acquired No. 4 Brick Row in 1845, adding this property to her adjoining tenement, which was then occupied by the Brattleboro Typographic Company. This building had a long association with Brattleboro printing and publishing.

This tenement was later occupied for hats by Samuel S. Leonard in 1827, Hyde & Hardie, and Lucy Bascom. The firm Draper & Fessenden, then G. C. & C. G. Lawrence, and George A. Morse sold groceries and West Indies goods. In the next century the Brick Row housed the Vermont Printing Company, the Vermont Phoenix, the Springfield Printing Company offices, the Brattleboro Publishing Company, and the Brattleboro Reformer.

The small structure in front of this tenement, which had a cellar, was in place by 1866. It housed the Frederick C. Edwards bookstore, the Hannibal Hadley meat market, the William F. Richardson market, a custom tailor, Walter E. Sturges the barber, Ernest M. DeAngelis, Charles W. Bond, the Uwanta Lunch, and the Over Sea Shoe Shop.

This large two-and-a-half story brick building has been called the Brick Row, the Stone property, the Bank Block, the Bank Court---for the steep bank down to the Connecticut River in back. This court contained a bricked archway through which widow Patty Fessenden walked on her way to see her four adopted grandchildren.


The Brattleboro Press

The Brattleboro Messenger for June 5, 1829 describes its own "Brattleboro Press"---

This new power press has now been in constant operation for a considerable time, and the rapidity with which it throws off the work while at the same time it executes it in the most beautiful manner, would seem incredible were we not eye witnesses of its operation. It is the second one which has been constructed on the same plan, but it contains many important improvements, which render it now perhaps the most perfect machine of the kind in existence.

The first one has been in operation nearly a year & has worked extremely well, but this one has not only surprised but delighted us by the regularity as well as the rapidity of its motion.

It works two forms at a time, which are linked by the same appartus, the impression being given by two platens, one at each end. Two girls are required to put on and lay off the sheets which is all the labour required. The ordinary rate at which it runs is three tokens an hour, although on newspapers or other common work fifteen sheets a minute may be thrown off; indeed it has been run at the rate of eighteen a minute, though this is more sheets than can be handled for any length of time.

In fact we see not how any more can be done on a press of any construction, for there is no delay in any part & the sheets may be put on as fast as they can be handled. If we mistake not, the great Napier press cannot do much more than this does, with twice the number of hands.

The length of the machine is about eight feet, and the whold does not occupy many more square feet of room than a common press; the machinery, which is exceedingly compact, is all contained between the ribs and the floor. The workmanship does great credit to the ingenious manufacturer, Mr. E. H. Thomas of this place.

The price will be very moderate and such as to bring it within the reach of nearly all who require one. Ther proprietors are now manufacturing them for sale, and any communication addressed to Messrs. Holbrook & Fessenden will meet with prompt attention. We earnestly recommend it to the notice of all interested in printing, as the most perfect machine of the kind of which we have ever heard.


[This press was not housed in Holbrook & Fessenden's Brick Row, rather down by the Whetstone Brook for its available power. The description here is included for general historical reference to the times of William Fessenden's heirs.]



This brick on the south side of the present Richardson Block appears to be from an earlier time than that building's construction. Could part of the original Brattleboro Bookstore have been recycled? When Fessenden's brick building was torn down, the Vermont Phoenix reporter noted that---

In tearing down the old building the contractors, Pellett & Skinner, have noted the extra size of the bricks used in its construction. They are about 10 inches in length, an inch longer than bricks used nowadays, and are somewhat wider than present-day bricks, but the thickness is practically the same.



The Reporter, March 14, 1820.





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