Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Emma Willard House

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Institution Name: Middlebury College
Original/Historic Place Name: Emma Willard House
Location on Campus: 131 S. Main St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1811original construction
Designer: unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Federal (Glossary)
Significance: education, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: stone
Walls: brick
Roof: standing seam metal
ca. 1811private residence
1959-present (2006)admissions office

Emma Willard House originated as a nine-room, hip-roofed, brick Federal style residence with a façade of four bays. It was expanded with an offset wing to the SE and remodeled with Greek Revival details in the middle decades of the century. It was carefully restored, and a one-story wing was added to the north in the 1980s, leaving the original house to read very clearly.

Emma Hart came to Middlebury in 1807 to teach in its fledgling female seminary but retired upon her marriage in 1809 to prominent citizen John Willard, who built her this home in 1811. Three years later the failure of the VT State Bank, of which Dr. Willard was an officer, left the family in financial straits, and Mrs. Willard decided to begin teaching young ladies again, this time out of her home and at a level more equivalent to that of the male Middlebury College (her goal being to train teachers). From 1814-1819 she operated her female seminary, in essence the first institution of higher education for women in America, in her home, and in 1818 published her model curriculum as A Plan for Improving Female Education. In 1819, with the encouragement of Gov. DeWitt Clinton and the New York State Legislature, the Willards moved her school to Troy, NY. The house was acquired by Middlebury College for use as an admissions office in 1959, and in 1966 it was declared a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its importance to the history of women's education in America.


Brainerd, Ezra. "Mrs. Emma Willard's Life and Work in Middlebury." Middlebury College Bulletin 13, no. 2 (1918).

Bradford, S. S., and Rettig, Polly M. Emma Willard House [Middlebury College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1966.

Swift, Samuel. History of the Town of Middlebury, Vermont. Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1971.


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Last update: November 2006