Kevin's, Main St, North Bennington

     H. Clayton Simmons built this practical store and apartment block in 1903. He manufactured fire tube boilers, a heating system he invented, across the street. * 

     The economic panic in the late 1890’s – when unemployment had topped 13% - brought an end to extravagant Victorian buildings. Simmons’ Block was modern yet classical. It was symmetrical, with the traditional three parts: a base, a middle, and a top. The glass store fronts on the bottom floor are the base; the large windows above the middle. The top is emphasized by the flourish of the wide sheet metal cornice.
     The pattern came not from exterior decoration but from the elements of the building itself: the windows’ size and placement, the marble lintels and sills, the brick corners and fretting supporting the sheet metal cornice. 
     All of it is practical. The lintels support the bricks above the windows, the sills are an impervious surface. The brick corners provide stability; the brick fretting and cornice extend out to help keep the rain off the brick face. They hide the slope of the roof to the rear. The brick, marble, and sheet metal were fireproof.

     Earlier Mr. Simmons had dealt in hardware. He would have been familiar with the companies which sold embossed metal facades by mail. The parts would have been shipped to him by rail to the depot just up the street.
     Here, as well as on his own shop, he used this new technology for the cornices. Inside he installed ‘modern’ tin ceilings. The pattern, however, is Victorian: the simple center grid is surrounded by a wide band of leaves with rope edgings and flower corner blocks. It not only turns the corners but also morphs into the crown molding on the wall.

     The current dining room was once the post office. The post master’s window is still here.

     I wrote this in 2011. The post master's window may be gone now in 2017.

*     On Sept 3, 2017 I published this on face book, on Tim Wager's "Bennington History after Dirt was Invented" page. This reply came from Tim Rice. With his permission I add it here with my comment.

Ted Rice:     All steam locomotives used fire tube boilers, long before 1903. Water tube boilers weren't as common but also predated this time. They are usually used in heating systems. Flash tube boilers are more modern and safer as they only have a small amount of steam in them at a time. But Simmons certainly didn't "invent" fire tube boilers.

I answered:   Thanks Ted! The history I used: Walbridge's History of N. Bennington tells about Simmons. I know little about boilers. I suspect Simmons saw the opportunity to bring them to Bennington which made him the 'inventor ' .

Ted:    In fact, that seems to be the case: .

Me:      That's interesting and not just about inventions. WB Simmons was born in 1888, so he is too young to be the builder of Kevin's brick building unit. His father, HC Simmons, would have been the builder.


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