Fresh Start: The Renovation of an 1810 Beauty in Vermont

Stonecrop Ledge

As if in slumber, Stonecrop Ledge has stood, timeless, at the edge of the village of Middlebury. Its windows, long shuttered, clapboards in much need of paint and its crumbling stone walls, might suggest a story ended. But for Randall and Kathleen Brisson, and indeed for the house itself, this is a tale not finished but merely paused. The 1810 portion of this Federal-style home has not been inhabited for 30 years; the 1910 addition, even though more recently vacated, has been silent since 2007.

In this blog series, we invite you behind the scenes to witness the revival of Stonecrop Ledge on 51 Seminary Street. LandVest was proud to represent the buyers in the purchase.

It was in the fall of 2023 that Randall and Kathleen Brisson with extensive experience in historic renovations, decided to purchase the property and weave their own story into this 214-year-old home.

The Brissons are not just builders; they are specialists in renovating historic buildings, with plans to gently coax Stonecrop Ledge into a new era by converting it into two living quarters, all while preserving the authenticity and soul of the original structure. Their vision is a nod to the future that honors the past.

Story Jenks’ and my first visit to the property a couple of years ago was on a cold and raw winter’s afternoon, the kind where cold seeps into your bones. Without  heat and light, boarded up windows and dusk fast approaching, we donned layers of warm clothing and carried flashlights. Accompanied by Randall Brisson’s infectious enthusiasm, we were like explorers of a forgotten realm. The house, even in its worn state, displayed an understated elegance. Seven fireplaces, once the heartbeat of the house, stood like sentinels of a bygone era, each adorned with Middlebury Marble and Federal moldings—a reminder of early 19th-century life sustained by the simple, essential warmth of wood fires.
Randall Brisson in front of the original kitchen fireplace. Photo by Kathleen Brisson.

The kitchen on the east side, spacious and anchored by its original brick hearth and bake oven, spoke of a time when this room was the heart of daily sustenance and warmth. Within the common spaces, high ceilings and expansive windows stood in stark contrast to the peeling wallpaper and fading paint. As we ascended to the second level, up a curving staircase from the South door, a seemingly disordered array of bedrooms and bathrooms unfolded before us, their antique clawfoot tubs each marked with the year 1908, hinted at an early adoption of indoor plumbing, a luxury at the time. The enigma of the home’s upper floor plan was solved when Randall, always the architectural detective, uncovered the signs of another staircase, finally making sense of the upper floor’s historic flow. 

The attic revealed an intricate joinery, a testament to the skilled craftsmanship of past artisans.. Particularly striking was the high kneewall, a design choice that accommodated the home’s distinctive elliptical windows. Even the basement held its secrets, with steps leading down to a well-laid stone foundation and the discovery of moonshine bottles, perhaps a remnant from the days of Prohibition.


In 1784, Stephen Goodrich laid claim to this tract of land, erecting initially a cabin and subsequently, around 1797, a small house. It’s possible this house may be the small dwelling that sits on the East side of the property today. Randall in time will be able to identify the age of the building through a chronological study of the nails. Stay tuned.

At the turn of the century, Goodrich deeded ownership of the homestead and its accompanying fifty acres to Dr. William Bass, a young physician on the brink of a flourishing career. After the War of 1812, Dr. Bass built what would become one of Middlebury’s finest. It is likely he entrusted Lavius Filmore, a self-taught architect, the task of building his residence. Filmore had just finished the Middlebury Congregational Church, which is considered today to be one of the greatest Federal-style churches in New England. Filmore’s design, infused with the church’s architectural DNA and elements from the S.S. Phelps House on Main Street, gave birth to one of Middlebury’s most prestigious residences.  

The renovation of Stonecrop Ledge - Feb 2024
The beginning of work on the front door. More windows were discovered under the shutters over the front door.

The home’s grand western facade, crowned with a Georgian pediment and a Palladian window, and featuring a sunburst fanlight above the doorway, was crafted to command views from Washington Street. A smaller version of the front door with the same fanlight design is found on Seminary Street. The residence was embellished with a series of elliptical windows, adding an air of elegance to its exterior.

Renovation of an 1815 beauty.
Seminary Street entrance.  This side door is a smaller version of the front door with the same sunburst fanlight.
Renovation of an 1815 beauty.
The side stairs from the Seminary Street entrance.

The narrative of Stonecrop Ledge is further enriched by its later owner, Professor D. Gregory Means, who added his stamp in the form of a stately front porch and back apartments. Randall unearthed guest books from this period signed by scholars and dignitaries, a cultural cross-section of the home’s vibrant social past.

The house’s storied features—its circular drive, the stone walls, the beaded clapboards, and elliptical windows—are chronicled in its historic preservation application, a document that secures its legacy as much as the renovations will ensure its future.


Restoration has begun. Randall found stored in the barn original windows and a porch that had once crowned the facade. Many of these relics were in disrepair, but, with the skilled hands of Randall and his right-hand man, Ron Vincent, they have begun meticulously breathing new life into them.

Kathleen, with her keen eye for detail, has been peeling back the layers of time, stripping away wallpapers to reveal the plaster walls beneath – a historical chronicle in their own right.

Another early project has been to cut down and prune back the overgrown shrubbery and trees, unearthing the original stone steps and driveway bounded by a stone wall.

Restoration of Stonecrop Ledge
Story Jenks (left) asks questions of Randall Brisson about recent work done to clear away trees and brambles to reclaim the home’s original driveway and to reveal the front of the house. The plan includes restoring the stone walls and reconstructing the stone steps that ascend to the front entrance.
1815 federal house, historic home
As seen above, there is a lot of work to be done, but satisfaction is drawn from the care and attention each step receives and a sense of accomplishment.
Stonecrop Ledge
Without the distraction of peeling wallpaper and junk, the bones of the house are revealed.

Each day new discoveries are made and piece by piece, restoration progresses. The work is slow, but deeply fulfilling.  

Hope you will follow along with us, as we capture each step of the Brisson’s restoration adventure.


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