Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Bread Loaf Campus

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Institution Name: Middlebury College
Original/Historic Place Name: Bread Loaf Inn
Location on Campus: VT Route 125, Ripton, VT
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1861original construction (Main Building) Smith, Clinton G.
1875-1895original construction (Guest houses) Unknown
1882renovation; expansion (Main building) Smith, Clinton
1885original construction (Mansard barn); additions of verandahs and annexes (Main building) Smith, Clinton
1930sadditions of separate structures (library, theater, and classroom buildings) Unknown
Type of Place: Building group
Style(s) of majority of buildings: Other: French Second Empire
Style(s) of minority of buildings: Other: other: Arts & Crafts
Building group type: Irregular; Other: bread Loaf was developed as a Victorian Inn complex set in a mountain meadow, framed by the forests of the Green Mountains.
Relationship to landscape:
The Bread Loaf Inn complex was built on the spacious meadows of a hill farm along VT Rte. 125 (the historic stage road connecting Middlebury, via Woodstock, with Boston). Set in something of a bowl, it enjoys views of the Green Mountain range and especially Worth Mountain (southeast) and Breadloaf Mountain (northeast). Joseph Battell, who built the Inn as his summer retreat, acquired everything that could be seen from the Inn in order to forestall development. He gifted Camels Hump to the State of Vermont and left a 30,000+ acre parcel to Middlebury College to be administered as a wilderness area for the people of the East Coast on the model of the national parks then being developed in the West. This landscape, which subsequently became the Green Mountain National Forest, preserves the setting for the striking complex of butter yellow inn buildings with their porches and galleries.
Ideas associated with building group:
It was not originally intended as an educational campus, but it was created as an early environmentalist’s vision of a preserved natural landscape to inspire a love of nature among future generations of Easterners.
1861-1915private residence (Joseph Battell)
ca. 1882-1915other (Victorian resort hotel)
ca. 1900other (Victorian resort hotel)
1920-present (2007)other (summer campus: Bread Loaf School of English and the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference)

Significance: architecture, education, history, landscape
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

The Bread Loaf campus is a preciously intact example of Vermont's Victorian resort architecture. The core group of buildings (inn, dormitories, barn, cottages) exists largely as it was constructed by Clinton Smith for Joseph Battell in the late 19th century: picturesque frame buildings, expansive lawns, mountain setting. It was supplemented in the 1930s with a little theater, library, and classroom structures in a colonial revival style, partly as a replacement for a theater and bowling alley that burned. It is well maintained and heavily utilized from May through October.

This landmark complex not only preserves a significant architectural and landscape setting; it also has important associations for the environmental movement and for American literature. It was developed over a period of three and a half decades by wealthy Middlebury eccentric and philanthropist Joseph Battell, who built the complex on a Ripton farmstead where he had begun summering for his health. He set out to amass and protect all of the salubrious mountain landscape he could see from his retreat, ultimately with the dream of assembling a wilderness area for the people of the northeastern United States on the model of the national parks being established out West. By the time of his death he controlled over 31,000 acres. At their core he built Bread Loaf, named for a nearby mountain, as his summer home and a place for paying guests. In 1882 he commissioned his favored architect/builder Clinton Smith to remodel and expand his large farmhouse-like structure into the larger, mansard-roofed Bread Loaf Inn, with its wrap of verandah and crowning belvedere. This was accompanied by a mansard barn (1885), two large annexes (1885) with porches and galleries--all by Smith--and an array of guest cottages across the road, ranging from Gothic Revival (c.1875), to Shingle Style (c.1890), to Colonial Revival (c. 1900), to Adirondack Rustic (1890, 1895).

At Battell's death in 1915, his vast mountain estate was left to Middlebury College, which was then faced with finding a way of managing the forestlands and utilizing the seasonal lodge. Beginning in 1920 they brought the Inn back to life as the summer Bread Loaf School of English, to which they added the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in 1926, drawing such luminaries to Battell's verandahs, mountains, and meadows as poet Robert Frost, who acquired a neighboring farm as his summer home from 1940-1963. In the 1930s the college sold the bulk of the forests (with the exception of the area around the Inn and the nearby Middlebury Snow Bowl) to the Federal Government for incorporation as the core of the northern range of the Green Mountain National Forest. In 1936 they utilized the proceeds by enlisting Dwight James Baum to build a major Georgian Revival dormitory on the school's main campus (appropriately named Forest Hall). The remaining wilderness is managed for cross-country ski trails and as part of the college's program in sustainable forestry, providing environmentally certified lumber for college building and furniture projects.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Bain, David Haward. The College on the Hill. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College Press, 1999.

Bain, David Haward. Whose Woods These Are: A History of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Hopewell, NJ: Ecco Press, 1993.

Johnson, Curtis, B., ed. The Historic Architecture of Addison County. Montpelier, VT: Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, 1992.

Lee, W. Storrs. Bread Loaf Anthology. Middelbury, VT: Middlebury College Press, 1939.

Lee, W. Storrs. Father Went to College. New York: Hastings House, 1936.

Lee, W. Storrs. The Green Mountains of Vermont. New York, NY: Holt, 1955.

Stameshkin, David. The Strength of the Hills: Middlebury College, 1915-1990. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1997.

Stameshkin, David. The Town's College: Middlebury College, 1800-1915. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College Press, 1985.

Wallace Floyd Design Group. Middlebury College Master Plan. [Boston, MA: Wallace Floyd Design Group], 2000.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections
Other: Henry Sheldon Museum, Middlebury, VT.

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