The Vermont Steak House was a cigar manufactory?

The Vermont Steak House was once a place where cigars were made.
So says the 1896 Sanborn Insurance map. 

Here's how I found out.
Last fall the Bennington Banner’s front page photo showed the beginning renovation of the Steak House, lately known as Peppermills, by John Redding of the Safford Mill Inn and Cafe.*

 The column said that the structure was built in the 1930’s.
I knew the building was older than that, that its framing was ‘post and beam', a system used 200 years ago. I decided to do some detective work.

I checked the maps in the Bennington Museum Library.  
Beginning with the 1835 Hinsdill map, the building is on every map we have of the town.

This is part of the 1867 Beers Atlas map.The house is in the middle with the owner's name (which we can't read) jutting up. M C Morgan's house - the Safford Inn - is just to the right, across the Walloomsac River.

Here is partial view of the 1877 birds eye view  map which hangs in the entry of the Bennington Free Library.

The house that is shown in the 1877 map is still here. It is clearly drawn -  as is seen here in the middle of an expanded piece of that map.
The Walloomsac River swings under Main Street, past the Safford Inn on the right, and on past to flow under Safford Street. On the left side of the river, across from the Inn is what we have called the Vermont Steak House: 2 stories, a peaked roof with the gable facing the street, a back wing, and what seems to be a porch on the street and right side, and a chimney. 

The 1896 Sanborn Insurance map labels the house a
“Cigar Manufactory”. 

The 1893 Register for Bennington has this ad:
"R. Ovies, Manufacturer of Fine Cigars" 
 Ramon Ovies and his son, Raymond J.Ovies are listed as residents here.

 Making cigars in Bennington? Why?
I did some research. I found out that many bustling towns like Bennington had places where cigars were put together either for a regional company or for local use. 
Teenage girls - who were supposed to have nimble fingers and would work for little pay - usually assembled the cigars. They were often immigrants who could be hired even if they didn't speak English. 

The 1906 Sanborn map labels the house a Butcher Shop. R.J. Ovies now runs the store; his father is simply a resident. Note the Ovies' listings 
in the Register.
By 1921, the one story front entrance has been added to the Grocery. 
On the 1930’s maps it has become a restaurant.  

John Redding and I took a good look at the frame. It is the traditional post and beam construction  we expected in a 200 yr. old house. The ridge pole is the old style: 5 sided. The pegs are long, the sheathing boards wide. The rafters and joists show the marks of an ‘up and down’ sash saw, the kind of saw used before 1830, one that would have been at Safford’s saw mill which  was located right across Main Street on the Walloomsac River.
We also saw original clapboard, molding and roofing, in the style popular about 1825. All been left there, just covered up when the second floor of the back wing was built around it. The lines of the original rear shed were easy to see. The chimney location matched the chimney on the house shown in the 1877 map.

This house really was built almost 200 years ago. It has had a fascinating career as it has adapted to the needs of one era after another.   

John Redding and his wife, Lisa Harrington-Redding, have good plans for their new restaurant here, the Miller's Toll Dinner Club and Lounge. I look forward to enjoying what they will offer. 
I am also happy that the Safford Mills is preparing the house for its next century.  

* all pictures can be expanded for easier viewing by clicking on them 

1 comment:

Jane said...

iam posting a comment to see how the system works