Twilight Tidbit Thirteen
As we prepare to close down the Old Stone House for the winter, our thirteenth Twilight Tidbit takes a look back at the history of this impressive building. Today it is the centerpiece of the historic village in Brownington, Vermont, but nearly two centuries ago its value was not so obvious. Stay tuned next week for our next Tidbit from the life and times of Mr. Twilight.
Shortly after arriving at the Orleans County Grammar School, Alexander Lucius Twilight built a dormitory so that his school could house students from all over the region. But this dormitory was not large enough for Mr. Twilight’s vision for the school, so in the early 1830s he asked the school’s board of trustees to fund the construction of a larger dormitory. They declined. Mr. Twilight was not deterred. He funded the construction himself with help from neighbors like Cyrus Eaton. He also did much of the actual work himself. This self-sufficiency has led to legends that he constructed the entire building by himself with only the help of a single ox. Although the truth is he likely needed many helping hands and hooves to build such a grand structure. Many say it’s modeled after Painter Hall, a building at Twilight’s alma mater of Middlebury College. Construction was completed in 1836.
Perhaps the completed dormitory, and the many students it attracted, helped the Orleans County Grammar School Board of Trustees come to understand the value of the Old Stone House. When Mr. Twilight temporarily left Brownington to teach in Quebec in 1847, the board purchased the Old Stone House from him. Here is the deed acknowledging the transfer of ownership.
This deed might have represented validation for Mr. Twilight as an acknowledgement of the success of his vision from those who had once rejected it. But the Old Stone House’s fate was not secured forever.
Mr. Twilight and his wife Mercy Ladd Twilight soon returned from Quebec and continued to run the dormitory. Once Mr. Twilight died, Mercy turned it into a boarding house to make ends meet. But soon enough it was left vacant and allowed to fall into disrepair. That was until the Orleans County Historical Society purchased it in 1918 and turned it into a museum in 1925. In a few years, we’ll celebrate 100 years of education and preservation fostered by this museum. That’s why we so carefully close it up each season: To ensure that Mr. Twilight’s hard-won vision stands proudly for generations of future visitors.