In the early days of Vermont, travel was by foot, horse or stage coach, all of which limited the range that one could travel in a day’s time. Thus, an early fixture in most towns was the local tavern, and Jericho boasted several. One of the earliest was the Bass House, located at 365 VT Rt. 15, on the northwest corner of the intersection with the Raceway in the Riverside section of town. Little is known about this tavern, other than for a time Nathaniel Bostwick was the owner. He died February 10, 1807 at the age of 50, and as it was already known as the Bass House, he was likely not the original owner. The old tavern is now used as apartments.
By 1802, his son Arthur Bostwick kept the Bostwick House that stood a short distance below the Bass House, at 351 VT Rt. 15. Arthur’s son Julius Bostwick also kept the Bostwick House for a short time. Arthur’s daughter Sally married Rufus Brown in the Bostwick House February 2, 1843, and Rufus took over operation of the tavern from his father-in-law, purchasing it from him in March, 1849 for $4000. The tavern had started out as a two story building, and Bostwick and Brown enlarged it from time to time, including adding an ell.
The tavern was on the direct route from Canada to Burlington and Lake Champlain, and south to Troy, N.Y. and points beyond, and in the early days was much frequented by teamsters. They traveled up and down with their big covered wagons, drawn by four, six or more horses, coming in at dark and out again as early as three or four o’clock in the morning, loaded with such things as grain, pork, lumber, furs and dry goods. During the 1840s and 1850s, there was a strong temperance movement in this area, and it is interesting to note that as a result, in at least 1851, Mr. Brown was licensed by the town to sell small beer and cider in the hotel, but not wines, strong beer or spirituous liquors.
In February, 1866 the tavern was purchased by Leonard Dixon, and was soon renamed the Dixon House. Mr. Dixon expanded the building even more, adding a large three story addition and a dance hall. An article in the February 6, 1874 Burlington Free Press mentioned that Mr. Dixon was making arrangements for a considerable increase to his hotel accommodations for the summer of 1874, so this is likely when some of these additions were built. From the large three story porch on the east side, patrons had a spectacular view of Mt. Mansfield, and the Adirondacks could be viewed from the porches on the west side.
There were also croquet grounds adjacent to the hotel. An advertisement appeared in 1896 for a photographer temporarily setting up shop in “the old Dixon House bowling alley”, so apparently at one time bowling was also offered at the hotel. By the early 1870s they were advertising that stages connected with both morning and evening trains at Essex Junction. With the coming of the Burlington & Lamoille railroad in 1877 special trains brought patrons from Burlington to dances and other events held there. As the Free Press described it in July, 1877, “The road passes within a few yards of the hotel and will undoubtedly greatly add to its already extensive patronage.” Dixon’s soon became a flag stop on the B&L, and a platform was built so passengers could debark right at the hotel.
Mr. & Mrs. Dixon were genial hosts and their hospitality was well known, as was the good cooking. One banquet held there by the G.A.R. included various kinds of meats, oysters served in different styles, a nice variety of pastry and all fruits of the season. And an article from the February 20, 1874 Burlington Free Press gives a good idea of what an evening there might have been like:
“On the evening of the 12th inst., the Richmond Band and Dramatic Club gave one of their best entertainments at this place. After excellent music by the band the drama entitled the ‘Maniac Lover’ in five scenes was played. The scenery representing each act was perfectly adapted to the play, and all the characters well personated. Especially ‘Michael Earl’ by C.W. Jacobs, ‘De Arville’ by E.T. Jacobs, Mary Woodward’ by Mrs. E.T. Jacobs. Mrs. Christian, Miss Jones, Messrs. Greens, Gleason and Jones, were all in their right places. The closing piece of ‘Turn Him Out’ was mirth provoking in the extreme. Mrs. Jacobs, Mrs. Christian and E.T. Jacobs brought down the house with laughter at their many hits. After the play was concluded a party of nearly one hundred returned to the Bostwick House and partook of one of Dixon’s best suppers. After supper Bryants band of Richmond was found among the guests and the remainder of the evening was spent in dancing. What contributed largely to the enjoyment of the occasion was the presence of three popular Chittenden county landlords, Love of the Richmond Hotel, Cooper of the Jonesville House, and mine host of the evening. What they could not do to entertain such a large party, others need not try. The whole affair was one of harmony and good feelings, and the dramatic entertainment at the church [either the Congregational Church in the Flats or the Methodist Church in Riverside, but which is not clear] was well received by a large and appreciative audience.”
Several hundred visitors came to the hotel each summer, attracted by the popularity of the management and the scenic surroundings, with many hiking on Mt. Mansfield, taking carriage rides or fishing. For example, the Burlington Free Press mentioned in their July 24, 1874 edition that the hotel was well filled with summer visitors, including a number of Burlington people, as well as a family from Williamstown, MA and a number of Philadelphia guests.
Mr. Dixon died in the hotel December 23, 1886 at the age of 77 (the B&L ran a special train to bring mourners from Burlington to his funeral), and the hotel was carried on by C.W. Thurber and S.M. Barney. Apparently business had been declining, as in November, 1885 Mr. Dixon had mortgaged the hotel, Dr. Arthur Burdick holding the mortgage. In January, 1889, Dr. Burdick purchased the hotel from the Dixon estate, and that spring made considerable improvements to the property, including painting the outside, and installing a new floor and a new marble top counter in the office. By July 1st, the hotel was thoroughly repaired and refurnished, and ready to open, with Dr. Burdick as the proprietor and Capt. P.T. Hollenbeck as manager. At about 2 o’clock on the morning of January 11, 1891 fire was discovered in the attic at the rear of the old inn. This was covered in the January 16th edition of the Free Press as follows:
The entire building was burned to the ground, but, as the Free Press article mentions, due to the efforts of those who responded to the alarm, the piano and much of the furniture was saved. The fire was believed to have started from a stove being used while work was being done in that part of the building. The loss was estimated to be $14,000. The furniture which was saved was stored at Thompson's Hall (this was an assembly hall on the second floor of what is now Jacobs’ store on Park Street, before that space was converted to living quarters in 1892), and Dr. Burdick soon advertised that “$2000 worth of Dixon House goods will be sold at…private sale” starting on January 26. Through the years, the prosperity of the Calvary Episcopal Church in Riverside was quite dependent upon the summer visitors who stayed at the Dixon House, and after the hotel burned this support was lost. As a result, the church was largely closed from about 1901 to 1928, when it was refurbished and reopened by Father Ross and Edward Sinclair, proprietor of the Hotel Sinclair in Riverside. In the fall of 1896, Dr. Burdick had a new tenement house built on the Dixon House lot and the next fall, he had a second house built there.
In one of those curiosities of history, ten years to the day after fire destroyed the Dixon House, the Home Market building in Jericho Corners burned.
Images from Gary Irish's collection