Laurel Hall (1882)

Laurel Hall (1882)
Image by origamidon
Rte 103, Cuttingsville (Shrewsbury), Vermont USA • Laurel Glen Mausoleum (1880) and Laurel Hall (1882) … are excellent examples of high style architecture. Laurel Hall, designed by architect G.B. Croff of New York City, is a Queen Anne style mansion with Stick and Eastlake style influence, the detail and integrity of which has few equals in Vermont. Laurel Glen Mausoleum, a mix of the Classical and Egyptian Revivals also designed by Croff, is one of the most elaborate mausoleums in the state. The property has statewide significance … as an excellent example of a Victorian era country estate, comprised of landscaped grounds, a carriage barn, an icehouse, and a caretaker’s cottage, erected by a native son who had made his fortune elsewhere. It also has significance … for representing Victorian era attitudes toward death and mourning. …

Laurel Hall (1882) is significant as one of the finest high style, Queen Anne residences in Rutland County. The Shrewsbury chapter of The Historic Architecture of Rutland County says, "Its marvelous display of jigsawn decoration and stickwork is nearly unrivaled in the Rutland area (p. 395)." Laurel Hall reflects the opulence of this period of American history. The large two story house with its three story central tower is a grand building that exudes a secure and gentle grandeur with the wide wrapping porch and conservative use of exterior decoration. Laurel Hall was built to be the summer residence of a man who had no family, yet commissioned a house to have four bedrooms in addition to two separate bedrooms for servants. The interior of the house truly reflects the wealth and social status of Bowman, with sixteen foot ceilings, large formal hallway with polychromatic painted archway, wide cherry Eastlake staircase, and large multi-hued windows in the stairwell. – From the quite extensive Statement of Significance and History, from the fine folks at the University of Vermont Historic Preservation Program.

In south-central Vermont, … we catch a glimpse of a stone man stepping up to the bronze door of a cemetery mausoleum.

The sad-looking man, top hat and coat on his arm, holds a large key over his heart while clutching a floral wreath in his other hand. In afternoon light, the sight is eerie (a night visit would be even more unnerving).

The slightly larger than life-size marble figure is of local tanning magnate John Porter Bowman. In 1880, Bowman’s wife passed away; he had lost a daughter in 1879, and another years earlier. To remember them, he had a grandiose mausoleum constructed in Laurel Glen Cemetery, dwarfing surrounding grave markers. Bowman commissioned an architect, stoneworkers and a famous sculptor to create his vision of post-mortem devotion. The structure, comprised of 750 tons of granite and 50 tons of marble, cost ,000 — a heap o’ money at the time.

The interior features sculpted busts of the deceased, and ornate stonework around the crypts. Mirrors are positioned to make the room seem larger than it really is.

When completed in 1881, the mausoleum became a local tourist attraction. Thousands converged on the cemetery to gawk. Bowman had a guest book placed inside the chamber, and hired an usher/guide to conduct short tours.

Then Bowman built an elaborate summer home — Laurel Hall — right across the road. While the house was under construction, he had the grieving version of himself created and installed on the tomb’s steps. Eventually he moved into Laurel Hall permanently. From that vantage, he could gaze over at the Bowman sculpture ready to unlock the mausoleum. It must have been weird. …

Bowman himself died in 1891, and joined the rest of the family in this unique sanctuary. – From the Field Review by the team at Roadside America.

☞ On November 23, 1998, the National Park Service added the Mausoleum and Laurel Hall (also known as John P. Bowman Estate) to the National Register of Historic Places (#98001429).

More Info: [1] An c.1882 Albumen print with a stereoscopic view of the Mausoleum’s interior; [2] An extensive summary from the Shrewsbury Historical Society; and [3] the GeoHack: 443°29′5″N 72°52′49″W.