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(114,904 posts)
Thu Aug 4, 2016, 02:19 PM Aug 2016

The first AA college graduate built this amazing structure; to this day how he did it is a mystery [View all]


Alexander Twilight alone constructed this four-story granite building which was used as a dormitory for out-of-town boarding students at the nearby Orleans County Grammar School. He called it "Athenian Hall." Granite was almost never used in building construction in the early 19th century in Orleans County. No one knows where the granite came from.[2]

The dormitory closed in 1859, two years after Twilight's death. The Orleans County Historical Society bought it in 1918 for $500. Today it is called "The Old Stone House Museum." It is one of the best-preserved institutional buildings of its era in the United States. Operated as an historical museum, it contains collections of 18th, 19th, and early 20th-century furniture, paintings, decorative art, folk art, tools and household items.[3]




The Old Stone House started as the grand vision of Alexander Twilight. The Rev. Mr. Twilight first saw Brownington in 1829, when he arrived to become minister of the Congregational Church and the Preceptor (Principal) of the Orleans County Grammar School. The co-educational “Brownington Academy,” as it was often called, had been founded only six years earlier, and was the only secondary, or high school, in the county.

Twilight felt strongly that if the Academy was to compete successfully with other institutions it would have to provide a well-equipped dormitory for its students. Unable to convince the school’s trustees of the need for such a building, he concluded that he would have to erect it as a private venture. One of the many unsolved mysteries about the Old Stone House is how one man, on the salary of a minister and schoolmaster, was able to finance the construction of this enormous building. He started to work on it in 1834.

There are hosts of fascinating legends about how he built the “Stone Boarding House.” Although there is evidence to the contrary, many believed Twilight himself quarried the granite blocks from neighboring fields and erected the building alone, using a wooden or earthen staging that rose as the building rose, together with a single ox that worked on a treadmill on the staging to raise the blocks into place. Local folklore has it that when the last stone was hauled to the top, it was found that the ox could not be lowered to the ground far below. Consequently the poor animal had to be slaughtered on the staging and was consumed in a great ox roast.

Twilight and his associates shared the popular veneration for Ancient Greece; they named the new building “Athenian Hall.” More commonly, it was known as the Stone Boarding House. Serving both boys and girls, the building was outfitted in a rather Spartan manner, without indoor plumbing or central heating. The huge kitchen fireplace and fifteen tiny charcoal fireplaces apparently supplied most of the heat. Wash water was collected from the roof in a huge underground cistern, from which it was fed by gravity into the kitchen.


On Monday, this is happening. I hope to be there:

40 oxen to move 1823 Vermont schoolhouse to original site

Vermont schoolhouse dating to 1823 will be returned to its original site with the help of 40 oxen.

The Burlington Free Press reports (http://bfpne.ws/2b1vxwL ) the oxen will pull the Orleans County Grammar School in Brownington one-third of a mile down the road next Monday to its original location.

Alexander Twilight was the school's headmaster from 1829 until 1855. According to Middlebury College, where Twilight studied, he was the first African-American known to have earned a degree from an American college or university.

The school was abandoned after the Civil War and didn't operate from 1865 through 1870. By then it moved from its original location in the Prospect Hill neighborhood to the village center.

With the addition of the schoolhouse, the Orleans County Historical Society now owns seven historic buildings in Prospect Hill.



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