Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Brief History of the Miller Art Center

History of the Miller Art Center, home of the Springfield Art and Historical Society, from Fred Richardson's Nineteenth Century Springfield and A Touch of History: Historic Sites and Trails, Springfield, VT.

View looking towards Elm Hill.
"The Miller Art Center sits on a site which, over the years, has seen many changes. The first house was built on this site in 1827, a wooden structure owned by two Whitcomb brothers, Perez and Prentiss. Included with the property at that time were several acres on top of Elm Hill. A road leading from the house to the rest of the farm can still be seen although not in use today. Over the years, parts of the farm were sold and today the remaining property consists of six-and-a-half acres of wooded land.

The original wooden house was replaced between the years of 1861 to 1865 with a brick two-story structure having six gables and a center cupola, also owned by one of the Whitcomb brothers. At the front entrance, which looks down onto the center of town, steps led to the carriage road which began at the carriage house then located at the top of Elm Hill.

In 1883 the mansion and surrounding property, mostly on hillsides, were sold to a John K. and Emma C. Ford. They had some fine racing horses which were kept in stables on what is now Hillcrest Road. Mr. Ford was a major stockholder in several rubber manufacturing companies.

Downtown Springfield, mid 19th century
In 1898, the firm of Gilman and Son purchased the property which was transferred, a year later, to Wilbert F. and Nettie Gilman. They lived there until 1912 when the property was again sold, this time to Walter W. and Tirzah Slack who extensively remodeled the house and added the porch and the pillars in 1917. After a major remodeling, including the addition of the front pillars, the Slacks sold the property, in 1928, to Edward W. and Grace Spencer Miller. Mr. Miller held many positions in The Fellows Gear Shaper Company, becoming its president and chairman of the board. He held over 100 patents relating to machine tool design.

In 1956 the Millers transferred the property to the town of Springfield to be used as the home for a permanent art, craft, and cultural center. He stated that 'The practice and display of all the arts and encouragements of the other related activities contribute to the cultural prestige of a community and also are important to its business life.'

The Miller Art Center is now home to the The Springfield Art and Historical Society."

Collection of Springfield made doll carriages and other Springfield artifacts

The Miller Art Center, home the the Springfield Art and Historical Society as it looks today

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